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Gorgeous Grit: Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Gorgeous Grit: Naples and the Amalfi Coast

“Hey, just so you guys know, I was reading some of the guidebooks, and apparently, this place is kind of dangerous. So watch out.”

My friend Joy did not reveal this fun fact until we were in the cab, well on our way to a hostel…IN NAPLES.

With an audible gulp, I cleared my nervous throat and peered outside the rain-streaked window. The coastal city seemed harmless enough, with its plethora of pastel colored buildings and its sidewalks lined with palm trees. The only offensive thing so far was the faint smell of fish market. Little did I know, these fish markets would produce some of the best seafood I’ve ever tasted in my entire life…and I grew up in Maryland!

Our hostel was located off Piazza Dante, a town square of sorts that was adorned with a statue of none other than (you guessed it!) Dante.

What if Naples inspired the seven rings of hell described in Dante’s masterpiece Inferno? I shuddered at the thought as we strolled through the neighborhood.naples night

Almost immediately, mynaples castle fear melted away into fascination. Naples exhibited a handsome hodgepodge of handmade crafts and historical artifacts!

The most impressive Medieval monument we saw in the city was Castel Nuovo (which translates to New Castle). Situated on the Port of Naples, with the backdrop of mountains and the Mediterranean, this castle was home to many noblemen and women, most famously Charles I of Anjou. It amazed me that this castle was still standing after all this time, considering that it was first built in 1282! The inside of this humongous structure contained beautiful artwork, precious crown jewels…and even skeletons!

In order to spend our Saturday in Sorrento, a beach town on the Amalfi Coast, we took a 40-minute ferry ride across the Bay of Naples. After eating a seafood lunch of pasta with squid and clams (it tastes way better than it sounds), we climbed a fortress to the top of the mountain and peered out at serene Sorrento. Colorful striped umbrellas dotted the shore, and speedy Vespa motorcycles streaked the cobblestone streets.

How could someone experience this much beauty, I thought, and not believe there is a God?

amalfi 2 

Finally, it was time to dive into the perfect Mediterranean Sea. I am not exaggerating when I say it was perfect! I felt like a mermaid submerging myself underneath the cool salty waves. Peering with squinted eyes, I examined shells and barnacles through the clear abyss.

I wish we could have stayed longer (forever, actually), but we had to catch our ferry back to Naples before sundown. You can probably guess that the seafood we had eaten, combined with the violent rocking of the boat, reaped some interesting results. I’ll leave it at that.amalfi 1

That night, to calm our uneasy stomachs, we ate dinner at a pizzeria that was over 100 years old!

We woke up bright and early Sunday morning to go to Mass at the local church. Although it was relatively small compared to some of the churches I’ve visited in Rome (especially the Vatican!), this little church still possessed the ornate flourish characteristic of European Catholic churches. One thing I really admire about Catholicism is how the Mass is the same all over the world. So even though the priest spoke in Italian, we whispered the corresponding responses and said the same prayers under our breaths in English. It was truly a spiritually transcendent experience.

However, my spiritual bubble burst shortly after leaving the church.

As our small group explored the older section of the city, we were coaxed in by a passing parade. These Naples natives looked like they just left the Renaissance fair, dressed in historical garb. Beating drums, waving flags, and blowing horns, they seemed to be celebrating some cultural event. As the parade people climbed the steps of a nearby church, we noticed other spectators plugging their ears, so we tentatively plugged ours as well. This was a smart choice because, all of a sudden…


Men dressed as soldiers shot antique rifles that sounded like cannons! After about ten shots, the crowd applauded and the parade marched on.

naples parade

Joy had to rub my shoulder in order for me to return to consciousness. They burst my spiritual bubble, after all!

But I think that event really sums up this place. Through all the gorgeous castles, coastlines, and cuisine, there lies a gritty undertone that makes Naples notorious!

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