In Naples, Mt. Vesuvius looms to the east, the fumaroles of the Campo Flegrei hiss and steam to the west, and the isle of Capri floats phantomlike across the gleaming waters of the bay. For all the splendor and drama of this natural setting, one of Italy’s most intense urban concoctions is the real show. Naples shoots out so many sensations that it takes a while for visitors to know what’s hit them. Everything seems a bit more intense in Italy’s third-largest city, the capital of the south. Dark brooding lanes open to palm-fringed piazzas. Laundry strewn tenements stand cheek by jowl with grand palaces. Medieval churches and castles rise above the grid of streets laid out by ancient Greeks. No denying it, parts of the city are squalid, yet in its museums are an embarrassment of riches. It seems that most of life here transpires on the streets, so you’ll witness a lot. The pace can be leisurely in that southern way, and amazingly hectic. When you partake—in a meal, in a passegiata, or just in a simple transaction—you’ll notice the warmth, general good nature, and a sense of fun. You get the idea—but you won’t really, until you experience this fascinating, perplexing, and beguiling city for yourself.
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