Naples was the first European city I was in. I flew in a few days before class. I decided to be (more) adventurous and stay in a hostel, to see if I could really survive internationally. This wasn’t just a vacation; this was me testing myself and my limits to see if I am truly a world-traveling adult like I think I am.
What I’d heard
So many people were nervous for me going to southern Italy. Then I’d tell them I was flying into Naples, and they’d be terrified. My grandmother begged me to choose a better place. Her suggestion was Canada. Suffice to say, I stuck to my decision. I hadn’t been nervous about going until multiple people voiced their concerns. None of them had been there though, so I decided to trust my gut and go.
How I prepared
I was a little nervous for going abroad in general, and all the websites I read had one common rule: don’t look like a tourist. I didn’t even know what that meant, so I just googled Italian fashion and picked the best clothes that were the closest to those photos. Unfortunately for me, I dress like a summer camp counselor year round, which means bright clothes, socks and sandals, and comfort over cuteness. None of those are European fashion.
I also tried to refresh my Italian, since I hadn’t practiced in three months. I should have never stopped practicing. I might have been a bit better off in Naples if I had just remembered a few basic phrases.
The streets were so hard to figure out for me, though now they are second nature. They are narrow and one way, twisty and usually lined with buildings with no sidewalk. For a girl who grew up with cookie-cutter streets and avenues, at least 2 lanes, and a standard sidewalk, it was stressful and confusing. It’s just a thing that I had to adjust to, along with the language and customs. It was all overwhelming for me. When I get stressed and overwhelmed, I tense up like a spring. One of the hostel workers noticed this and made me do deep breathing exercises and yoga, which halfway through I started crying. Have you ever been in the downward dog and started sobbing? Because I have.
Lucky for me, the hostel I booked is apparently one of the top 25 in all of Europe: the Hostel of the Sun. The staff were helpful and told me places to go that locals went, which is great because my goal of traveling is to get to know the places I go, instead of see the cool things and be done. Don’t get me wrong though, I definitely went to all the castles and saw a bunch of historical sites. I want to know the culture and the customs of the cities I travel to.
I love Naples; Castel dell’Ovo, the pizza, Cappella Sansevero, the Spanish quarter, Santa Chiara, Gesu Nuovo, the piazzas, and the friendly locals who will help a small town girl from the Midwest United States. Napoli has a special place in my heart.
I am basically the best target for nefarious activities: I was small, alone, a woman, didn’t speak the language well, didn’t really know what I was doing, and knew no one in the entire continent. If nothing happened to me in three days, I doubt anything will happen to any tourist who uses common sense. Maybe it’s my Midwestern personality, but I tend to find the American tourists and act as a friendly guide and translator, complete with tips on how to do Naples right. Sometimes they talk down on Naples, but I am always quick to defend it.