To Italy, With Love

Misa Shikuma

 

Italy may have been unified since the mid-19th century, but visiting just several of its major cities is enough to make it obvious that cultural homogeneity is virtually nonexistent. My mini-tour of the country began in Naples, capital of the southern Campania region and my home base for exploring the nearby archaeological sites and coastal towns, and concluded in Venice, the revered cradle of modern democracy.

 

Prior to jetting off at the end of August, several friends had advised me to skip over Naples entirely.

 

“It’s not safe!” they said.

 

Sure, unemployment is quite high in Italy’s third-largest metropolis, but isn’t that true of practically every major city these days? I didn’t feel any more uncomfortable wandering the city alone, sometimes at night, than I would in Paris or New York. But the grittiness and overcrowding is part of Naples’ charm; just spending an afternoon wandering the old town was fascinating – especially for the people watching. At the peak of the summer holiday season, the city was packed with tourists, but the locals couldn’t have cared less.

 

Naples has a lot to offer history and anthropology buffs, what with the massive National Archaeological Museum and its proximity to Pompeii and Herculaneum, but leisure-seekers can easily hop on a train towards the Amalfi Coast and spend a day at the beach basking in the Mediterranean sun. I went on a boat tour with a group from my hostel to the island of Capri, for an afternoon filled with swimming in the perfectly blue water and sipping ice-cold beers as we zoomed past geometric rock formations.

 

From Naples I continued on to Rome, which in late August is positively baking. After my first day I began doing as the locals did, retreating from the sun in the early afternoon to take a nap at my Airbnb apartment, and leaving the bulk of sightseeing for morning and night. I covered the most ground after dark, watching the city come to life once the heat had reduced to a low simmer, and admiring the floodlit views of Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps with hundreds of other tourists.

 

The last stop on my Italian journey was Venice, the sinking city of opulent architecture, endless canals, winding passageways and – the best part – no cars. (If I can make one generalization it’s that Italian drivers are much worse than even Parisians). I fell in love with Venice despite, or perhaps because of, its dying beauty; locals have been leaving en masse for years with tourism keeping the city alive on life support.

 

Once back in Paris I missed the casual nonchalance of Naples, the rich history of Rome and the tranquility of Venice (the non-touristy areas, that is). And eating gelato every day. This first visit was merely an introduction that left me craving for more.

 

Author Bio:

Misa Shikuma is a contributing writer and photographer at Highbrow Magazine.

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