Local Secrets: Naples (an Interview with Travelling Dany)
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Want to know the best tips for exploring the fascinating Italian city of Naples? There’s no better way to find out than to ask the locals.
Danila Caputo is the bilingual Italian blogger behind Travelling Dany and lives in Naples with her husband Aldo and a bunch of furries. She works as a freelance translator and travel writer, while her husband specialises in photography and videomaking. They both explore the world, showcasing their trips on the blog and on their social channels. And she loves her home city in the South of Italy.
Read on to discover the legend of the egg castle, wallet pizzas, and—most importantly—how to order your coffee.
INTERVIEW WITH DANILA CAPUTO
Where do you live?: Naples, Italy
What inspired you to start a blog? What’s the focus of your blog?:
I started posting travel tips and stories on Instagram but there was never enough space and so many people kept asking me the same questions, because often the answers got lost in the flow of comments. So I decided to start a blog where I could write about our trips, and I wanted it to be useful. I am a traveller and I research my destination before to go. I noticed that many blogs and websites write a lot but don’t offer good content that I could actually use to plan my itinerary. And I didn’t want that for my blog. Now we mainly blog about Italy, Europe and the USA, which are the countries we have visited the most and thus we know them better, so we feel confident enough to offer good advice.
What do you love most about Naples?
The colours. The warmth. The sun. Our people. Naples is a sunny city where people love to smile and are very friendly. I realize that those who aren’t used to our warmth feel sometimes out of place, but we are the kind of people who sincerely love a good hug, and we tend to invade your personal space. Not because we aren’t polite enough: we just don’t think there’s anything wrong! When I’m not in Naples I feel like there’s something missing. Ours is a city you either love or hate, there are no in-betweens. If you love it, like me, you’re eternally bound to it. There’s no way I’d be able to just pack my stuff and leave for good. Which doesn’t mean that everything is always perfect, or that we live in a fairytale. Yet… any other place on Earth feels a bit dull if compared to Naples. You wake up in the morning with the sun. In spring the city is full of flowers, and you can just sit near one of the most beautiful castles in Europe to watch the world go by, with the sound of the waves filling your ears and the salt in the air.
What frustrates you about Naples?
Sometimes people don’t realize that by doing the things they do, we give the chance to the international press to say that Naples is a dangerous or unclean destination. We had a huge crisis a few years ago, but now things have changed a great deal. Yet not always people are willing to give us a chance. All it takes sometimes is one person leaving trash on the street and we immediately become a city full of garbage. If one thief steals from a distracted tourist who is flaunting the latest iPhone at night near the train station, we all become criminals.
I feel very much offended and I get hurt whenever I read bad press or stereotyped articles by people who have only visited Naples for a few days. We are working very hard to improve, and we’d appreciate it if people could just visit with an open mind. Of course, we aren’t perfect, but I don’t think Naples is a city much more dangerous than, for example, Milan or Rome. I wish people here would understand that we have to work even harder to erase the stereotypes on Naples.
What should everyone do at least once in Naples?
Absolutely eat pizza. Naples has invented pizza margherita, among others, and is a great destination for the foodies who love to try the traditional recipes. So if you are visiting for the first time, by all means, eat your way through the city, especially out of the beaten path, where the locals eat. Nothing beats eating a pizza a portafoglio (wallet pizza) while strolling through historical buildings!
A cool story about Naples is . . .
A legend states that Castel dell’Ovo (also known as ‘Yellow castle’) was built by Merlin the wizard. He hid an egg under the castle (hence the name, translated from Italian, “Egg castle”) to protect our city. If the egg breaks then the city would fall. In the past, after the city was invaded (and it happened often because of its strategical position), a few Kings and Queens had to reassure the population that the egg was intact or that it had been replaced. People got in fact very scared that bad things would happen! Even today… we are very, very superstitious. And we feel ‘safe’ from the Vesuvius because Castel dell’Ovo is still intact and because San Gennaro (the saint protecting the city) won’t let anything bad happen to us!
Naples smells like . . .
…pizza. No, really! I was walking a friend through the narrow streets in Naples, to show her my favourite out of the beaten paths areas, and she was also baffled. Everywhere you go there’s a nice scent of food, but you’ll smell it especially in the narrow vicoli. Pizza is basically baked everywhere so its scent is strong in the air. It’s a mix of flour, of the wood burning in the oven, the delicious tomato sauce and the mozzarella slices on the top. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
The best thing to drink in Naples is . . .
Espresso. Coffee in Naples is a cult. We have a real ‘ritual’ to drink it, and you won’t find a bad cup anywhere in the city. It can be very strong for those used to the American coffee because it’s tiny and powerful. But the scent is mouthwatering. We generally have a glass of water before to drink our espresso, to clean the palate and our mouth. Some places also offer small butter cookies or dark chocolate that you have to eat before to drink, to enhance the flavour of the coffee. Then we finally drink our cup of coffee. We even invented espresso variations with hazelnuts or white chocolate!
The best thing to have for breakfast in Naples is . . .
Absolutely a warm sfogliatella. It’s our signature pastry (well, we have a lot but this one is ‘specific’ for breakfast because there is no liquor in it) and can be ordered in two versions. Sfogliatella riccia is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Sfogliatella frolla has shortcut pastry on the outside and a cinnamon-scented filling. They are to be eaten warm to enhance the cinnamon scent!
The perfect place to watch the sunset in Naples is . . .
Lungomare Caracciolo, near the sea. From there you can see the fishermen boats, Castel dell’Ovo and the public park. At your back you have the Posillipo Hill, with the “rich” houses. It’s our Malibu, with incredible views and villas worth millions!
The thing I wish most tourists knew about Naples is . . .
That we genuinely love to welcome visitors. As I already mentioned we are very warm and friendly. So even if we don’t speak the language, we’ll definitely find a way to make you understand.
The best time of year to visit Naples is . . .
Anytime! The weather is usually always good and doesn’t get too cold in winter unless there are (very rare) storms. Yet my personal suggestion is to avoid the summer (June/July/August) because it’s very warm, crowded and expensive. Even the locals tend to stay home, in the company of their air-conditioners!
Thanks to Dany for sharing her side of Naples (I was drooling over the delicious descriptions of the pastries and pizza streets as I typed this up). I highly recommend checking out Travelling Dany for more tips and itineraries for Naples, the Amalfi Coast and beyond.