Tis Returns to Italy! Day 78: Exploring the Heart of Old Napoli
On day 78, I was ready for my first full day exploring Napoli
My Initial Explorations of Napoli
Today was my first full day to explore this crazy city to which I was so drawn. This city seems so perfect for me. I love all the contrasts from the chaos of the streets in the center to the peaceful beauty of the bay. All of this is located in the shadow of an always simmering Mt. Vesuvius which seems the perfect symbol of the city.
I could not wait to experience it all.
The Colorful Chaos of the Pignasecca Markets
The very first thing I wanted to see was the markets of La Pignasecca. Of all of the images of Naples that I have seen, none seem more symbolic than the open markets where banks of fish, fruits, and vegetables fill the street. The market was a quick 10-minute walk from my apartment so I headed there first.
The scene I was greeted with exceeded my expectations. Trays of fish spilled into the street, displaying today’s catch. The many carts of fruit and vegetable vendors added the color. Locals on the ever-present Vespas fearlessly zipped through the heart of it all.
Shoppers evaluated the vendor’s offerings with determination, searching for the ingredients that would become tonight’s dinner. When they located just what they needed, they began haggling for the best price. Sometimes when the negotiations were completed, you might think the two parties would part bitter enemies. However, they often exchanged pleasantries before parting.
Venturing into the “Heart” of Napoli
After a quick stop for lunch, I headed into the heart of the city. Naple’s historic center is where you will find Via S. Gregorio Armeno, which boasts some of the city’s best artisans. Their specialty is beautifully ornate “presepi”, or nativity scenes giving the street its adopted name of “Christmas Street”.
On my first trip to Naples, I bought a Nativity scene as a gift for my mother from one of the artisans here. It remains one of her favorite things. However, today the shops offered many lower-quality items including tacky souvenirs. The street was packed whereas before I easily wandered in and out of relatively quiet shops.
I had to escape what was previously a happy memory but was now more of a nightmare.
Local Branch of the Museum of Life
On a corner, I spotted my refuge from the Christmas Street chaos, a caffè which surely was going to qualify as a local branch of my “Museum of Life”. The caffè is called “Bar Settebello” and is definitely one of the best old man bars I’ve visited.
People often ask me what qualifies as an old man bar. Obviously, it has to have a few older male patrons. These men are always hanging out and heatedly arguing about the game or whatever they disagree on at the moment. There is always a friendly bartender, friendly being a desirable but not required trait. Ideally, it would have a few locals popping in and out for an espresso and a quick chat.
Best Branch of the Museum?
Bar Settebello ticked all the boxes for a good old man bar. I headed in and took a seat in the corner by the piano for optimal people watching. Everything about the caffè is a contrast that seems to work effortlessly. The lights are pink and purple shades that initially seem to belong in an ice cream parlor but somehow work. A big TV hangs over the piano that fills the caffè, not with the football game but with famous Italian operas. There are big windows on two sides for optimal people watching.
Regulars come in and out of the caffè, sometimes lingering for a chat, while others just pop in for their latest hit of espresso. They were greeted by either the owner who worked in the evenings or his trusted barman that worked days.
I love everything about it. It may just be the very best branch of the Museum of Life.
What a wonderful first day in Naples!!!