– Napoli Seen by a Foreign Student –
I want to share with you these words and this video about a guy who, thanks to the Erasmus program, spent a few months in Naples.
For those who do not know, the Erasmus project (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students), founded in 1987 through the work of the European Community, gives European university students the chance to perform, in a foreign university, a period study legally recognized by their university. The program’s name derives by the Dutch humanist and theologian Desiderius Erasmus (XV century), who for several years traveled across Europe to understand the different cultures. Currently more than 4,000 universities from 31 countries are participating in the project and, up to 2009, within the European Community, the students who participated in this initiative have been more than 2.2 million.
It does not matter the country this student comes from, and although I do not know what information (which described in such a bad way our city) he found and read on the Web before coming to Naples, I think there is no need to add other, apart from telling him “Thank you too, and come back here again.”
(I have translated what the student wrote and published on this website.)
<< I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in Bilbao when received the news that I had been selected for the Erasmus project. I quickly went on internet and typed the word “Naples”. Oh my good! It didn’t seeme true what I was reading! Was I going to relocate into the worst place in the planet? I could not believe in the things written on the first pages that I found on internet, but, fortunately, I am quite curious and went on reading, until a point where the bad stories transformed into beautiful stories about people who had been in Naples and had discovered the heart of the city. It can be said that from that moment I felt the wish to become part of those people. I arrived on September 21 and from the start I found myself really well. I remember my first way from Garibaldi square, where I got out of the bus, going ahead through the colorful Corso Umberto I, turning right towards the long Via Duomo, while I was leaving behind the sea, until to reach my street: “via Anticaglia”. I threw the suitcase on the bed, and so my first day began, the first pizza, the first beer and early acquaintances that later would become my first friends. It’s amazing how the city and its citizens open the doors of their hearts as soon as I arrived in the street “Via dei Tribunali”.
It is said that “when someone goes to the South, he cries twice, once when he comes and another when he leaves (note: a phrase taken from a recent famous Italian film). It may be true, but in my case this occurred rather between arrival and departure. In fact, I lived some of the most intense emotions of my life during the time I have lived in the city. There are many things that I learned there and I’m not able to say all of them. I was living in the historical center, a place that every day is full of life. A place where at the beginning it was impossible to sleep after seven in the morning, because of scooters’ noise that honk at every intersection, even if, after a while, you get used. A place where you can find: from secondhand books in Port’Alba to musical instruments in Via San Sebastiano, from the bar “Café Carini ” in Piazza Bellini, to the best pastries in Domenico Maggiore square. And, above all, the greatest thing that you can find, the one that makes me nostalgic, it is the sunrise seen by “Via San Biagio dei Librai”, with the sun that crosses SpaccaNapoli, from Forcella to Montesanto street.
There is no city equal in the world, I called and still call it “Naples: the city where anything is possible”. I think it’s a city full of noises and music, that you hear from when you wake up until you go to sleep. One of those cities that you cannot judge before staying there, a city that needs to be discovered by everyone without any kind of prejudice, and so and just so you can feel what Neapolitans feel, a true love for the simple things that are simply the things that make you happy in the easiest way: having coffee with your child, drinking a beer in the square with friends or eating a piece of pizza together your dad, like you did many years ago…..
Eventually, living in a special way like only the Neapolitans know. For this reason, there is not a day that I do not remember the aroma of the small “Morenita”, the smell of pasta ready at home, of Peroni (note: an Italian brand of beer), of buffalo mozzarella, of sfogliatelle, public transport links that work in that particular way, the order in the disorder. Above all, I miss my home and people I met and which I still feel nostalgia. A nostalgia that sometimes brings me back to Castel Sant’ Elmo, where I looked at those sunsets with the sun disappearing behind Pozzuoli. I miss Naples… >>
– TOURISM AND SOUVENIR –
If we put pilgrimages and explorations aside, tourism can be traced back to the early 1800s, when the custom to send their offspring around the world for educational purposes (Grand Tour) became established among the British aristocracy.
For a recreational tourism we will have to wait a few more years, after the publication of the books “Journey to Italy” (Italienische Reise), published in 1817 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and “Memoirs of a tourist” (Mémoires d’un touriste), published in 1838 by the French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, known as Stendhal.
In the first case, it is the account of a long journey made by the author in Italy between 1786 and 1787, where among other sites he visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Palermo. Goethe was so impressed from Naples that he wrote:
|« Neapel ist ein Paradies, jedermann lebt in einer Art von trunkner Selbstvergessenheit. »||Naples is a paradise that everyone lives in a kind of drunken self-forgetfulness.|
|« Man sage, erzähle, male, was man will, hier ist mehr als alles. Die Ufer, Buchten und Busen des Meeres, der Vesuv, die Stadt, die Vorstädte, die Kastelle, die Lusträume! »||You can say, tell, paint what you want, here is more than anything. The shores, bays and bosom of the sea, Vesuvius, the city, the suburbs, the castles, what a pleasure!|
|« Aber weder zu erzählen noch zu beschreiben ist die Herrlichkeit einer Vollmondnacht, wie wir sie genossen, durch die Straßen über die Plätze wandelnd, auf der Chiaja, dem unermeßlichen Spaziergang, sodann am Meeresufer hin und wider. Es übernimmt einen wirklich das Gefühl von Unendlichkeit des Raums. So zu träumen ist denn doch der Mühe wert. »||I can’t begin to tell you of the glory of a night by full moon when we strolled through the streets and squares to the endless promenade of the Chiaia, and then walked up and down the seashore. I was quite overwhelmed by a feeling of infinite space. To be able to dream like this is certainly worth the trouble it took to get here.|
|« Ich finde in diesem Volk die lebhafteste und geistreichste Industrie, nicht um reich zu werden, sondern um sorgenfrei zu leben. »||I find in this people the liveliest and wittiest industry, not to get rich, but to live carefree.|
|« Wir sind auch noch abends in die Grotte des Posilipo gegangen, da eben die untergehende Sonne zur andern Seite hereinschien. Ich verzieh es allen, die in Neapel von Sinnen kommen, und erinnerte mich mit Rührung meines Vaters, der einen unauslöschlichen Eindruck besonders von denen Gegenständen, die ich heut zum erstenmal sah, erhalten hatte. »||In the evening we went to the Grotto of Posillipo,just when the setting sun shone on the other side. I have forgiven all those who lose their heads for this city, and I remembered fondly of my father, who had kept an indelible impression on the things I’ve seen today for the first time.|
|« Von der Lage der Stadt und ihren Herrlichkeiten, die so oft beschrieben und belobt sind, kein Wort. »Vedi Napoli e poi muori!« sagen sie hier. »Siehe Neapel und stirb!»||From the location of the city and its glories, which are so often described and praised, not a word. “Vedi Napoli e poi muori,” they say here. See Naples and die!|
|Even here I seem to be another. So there are two things: either I was crazy before coming here, or am crazy now.|
|Today, I am given the mad joy, devoting all my time to these incomparable beauty. Towards folks I already find myself much better. Here one does not know anything of the other and it’s barely noticeable that they run here and there next to each other. They come and go every day in a paradise, without too look around them.|
Stendhal, instead, tells of his journey through parts of France still little known at that time, describing culture, dialects and traditions.
Since then, many others followed, although they still were travelers elite, whose memoirs and travel notes, like Goethe and Stendhal, were later used by travelers such as real guides.
At that time, the grand tour did not generally reach the south of Naples, until – but we are already in the nineteenth century – Stendhal wrote :
« To seize the whole essence of the Bel Paese is a must visit Sicily with its beautiful Greek ruins. »
What we now call tourism – ie organized and mass trips – can be traced back to the English entrepreneur Thomas Cook, who in the summer of 1841, taking advantage of the new possibilities offered by the railroad, organized a trip of just 11 miles (from Leicester to Loughborough), for 570 people at a cost of one shilling each. The success was such as to push Cook to organize more complex package tours, giving rise to the tourism industry. From that day onwards, thanks to new and faster means of transportation, tourism has been one of the most profitable businesses in the world, as it still is today.
Thanks to mass tourism, a growing number of people from all walks of life, had and have the opportunity to visit countries, cities and sites of cultural interest, albeit in far distant lands.
Tourist agencies that live and feed on “images”, the same that tourists capture and take home as a relic. To paraphrase the saying “there’s no trip without return,” we could say “there’s no trip without a memento”!
It’s one way to “authenticate” the journey, as if to say “I’ve been there!”
The huge success of the picture postcards that reflect sceneries and objects of a location (bought to send or keep), is the most striking example. But other items bought on the spot and referred to as “souvenirs” became common and a must in the years. The memento in all its forms, bought for themselves or for others, appears to become, though unconsciously, like a “certificate of visit,” a way to demonstrate that the trip did not disappoint our expectations, which we then keep to have memory and publicize our journey. It does not matter where the souvenir comes from or who has built it, whether it’s a plastic gondola “made in Taiwan” and bought in Venice, or a music box that plays “‘O sole mio“, built in China but bought in Naples, you put them on display in your home as to affirm “we have visited Italy.”
Another item that has made good fortune in past years, is the small “glass ball” with the fake snow inside which, after shaking the globe, falls on the landscape below. It does not matter if inside the sphere is represented the pyramid of Giza or the Colosseum in Rome in miniature, places that, in truth, hardly have a snowfall! ù
It’s the memory that counts and the place where you bought it.
Long since that the so-called “fridge magnets” are fashionable, a gadget now universal with which we conspicuously upholster our fridges’ doors. So that at first glance, any guest becomes aware that we have visited many places.
Not to mention the souvenir photo (or video)! Our photo albums and hard drives are full of souvenir photos (or video) taken during our travels and outings. Some have tried to even calculate the impact that cities such as Venice have had in the photographic industry’s business worldwide.
Landscapes and portraits which in most cases will be destroyed along with our house because our children will be too busy to collect their mementos, and we know that old things are thrown. While we will be a little less than a far memory for our grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Like psychologist P. Handke says, we (parents) are the foundation, but we then remain in the basement because the everyday life is above! Our memories remain so as long as we live…. alas everything is on the go and a passing on this earth!
Nowadays, with a simple internet search, especially if referring to famous destinations, you find thousands photos shot by tourists, and between maps, pictures, reports and sale of local products, you could even “virtually” travel without move from home.
The Italian website Tripadvisor has selected the ten best Italian beaches. On Tripavisor’s site, you know, the judgment is expressed by travelers and tourists staying somewhere. Here’s the traveler’s choice out of a total of 276 locations examined.
1 – “Spiaggia dei conigli” (Beach of rabbits) – Lampedusa, Sicily
The islet of Rabbits is a lovely place in the south west of the island of Lampedusa. It is an isle located in the center of a wide bay, where the real gull nests.
Caribbean’s colors and a white beach that give a unique landscape. The wonderful sea, instead, does not make easy your departure.
2 – “La Pelosa Beach” – Stintino – Sardinia
A long and wonderful beach at the bottom of Capo Falcone, northern extremity of the island, close to the small fishing village. The sand is extraordinarily white and thin and the seawater is transparent.
3 – “Cala Mariolu” – Baunei – Sardinia
Its name is due to the fact that the beach was frequented by a monk seal. The fishermen called this place “mariolu”, ie thief, because the seal often managed to steal the fish directly from the networks. The beach of Cala Mariolu is gorgeous, characterized by small pebbles of pink marble mixed with sand. The water is clear blue.
4 – “Cala Brandinchi” – Capo Coda Cavallo, Sardinia
Cala Brandinchi is located in the village of Capo Coda Cavallo, in the municipality of San Teodoro. The beach has a background of white and very fine sand, bright hues, and surrounded by a pine forest and dunes.
5 – “Spiaggia di Tuerredda” – Teulada, Sardinia
Situated in a beautiful bay between Cape Malfatano and Cape Spartivento is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia for its clear and fine sand and the transparent color of the sea, which seems a Caribbean landscape.
6 – “Spiaggia di San Vito lo Capo”- Sicily
The beach of San Vito lo Capo is enclosed in a small bay between the beautiful Natural Reserve of Zingaro and the Reserve of Mount Cofano, near the village of San Vito. Picturesque and popular seaside resort nestled in a landscape of great effect. The beach is beautiful, long and very wide, with fine white sand, lapped by a turquoise sea, clear and transparent.
7 – Tropea seaside – Calabria
With its different bay and inlets, Tropea is very attracting. Some of these bays and beaches are accessible only from the sea. The sand is white and fine and the sea clear and transparent.
8 – “Baia del Silenzio” (Bay of silence) – Sestri Levante, Liguria
Sestri Levante is a promontory called “island”, which extends towards the sea remaining united to the mainland by a thin strip of land that separates the Bay of silence from the Bay of Fables. During the summer the water is not as clear as in Sardinia, but it is a very lovely place.
9 – “Spiaggia del Fornillo” – Positano, Campania
The main beach in Positano is set like a precious jewel between Amalfi and Sorrento coast. This stretch of coastline has often been described as the most beautiful in the entire Mediterranean. One after another, green and rocky mountain lunge dramatically into the Mediterranean blue sea.
A TOUR IN NAPLES
Often some foreign people, intending to visit Naples, ask me for advice and tips for their tour.
In general, the questions are always the same: where to stay, places or things not to miss, or possible risks.
Tourists are not all the same, everyone has their own preferences, as well as a Spanish tourist can be different from an American, or a couple with children with different needs from a guy in search of adventure. Therefore, the advice may be different according to the type of people and from what they intend to do, and depending on the length of stay, of course.
One thing I tell everyone about their stay’s length is to take into account that such a journey happens once in a lifetime, so, they should plan a longer stay to be able to see things and places that really deserve to be seen.
Naples and its surroundings have so many interesting things to see that it would be a shame to come here and leave without having visited them. Therefore, I always pray everyone to stay a few more days, and they will not regret, for sure.
PLACE TO SEE
One thing is certain, places of cultural interest and natural beauties are so numerous that you should prepare in advance a program of things to do day by day, as long as you also are willing to move and travel if necessary. The advice that can be given to the tourist who prefer a holiday more on history and art, will be different from those given to that who is more interested in beauty and landscape or to Neapolitan’s culture and traditions.
In addition, for lovers of novelty or unusual places, Naples offers many attractions that are often unavailable or not even mentioned among the usual excursions found on most leaflets. It is true that a trip to Capri or Sorrento coast are a must, popular locations advertised by all travel agencies and therefore visited by any tourist coming to Naples, but believe me, there are other places, less known and not advertised, that will give to your trip a touch of uniqueness that few others will have the luck to see. Not so many tourists know that in less than one hour drive by Naples they can enjoy a visit to the Royal Palace in Caserta, with its beautiful furnished rooms and its large garden with fountains that can also be visited at night by beautiful lighting effects.
If you are among the fortunate few who have planned a very long vacation, then, after having spent most of the time to visit the city with its many monuments, churches, ruins and museums, and after an excursion to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, if you have other time available, please note that Naples is a few kilometres from the province of Rome where there are other fascinating places to visit, and I advise “Villa d’Este” and “Hadrian’s Villa” in Tivoli, or the “Sanctuary of Montagna Spaccata” in Gaeta, for example.
Naples is not an expensive city and being in the South is certainly cheaper than Venice or Florence. However, if you are a young tourist or have a more limited budget, a “bed & breakfast” at a hotel in the outskirts could be a solution, rather than in a hotel located in the center.
And what about the RISKS?
To this question I usually say that Naples is not riskier than New York or Madrid. However, everybody who contacts me I advise a few (behavioural) rules to follow in order to decrease the risk, concluding then to come here without trouble and enjoy anyhow this city that has no similarities in the world.