I am an introvert, but a progressive thinker. I prefer solitude, but seek the compassion of strangers. I know it makes me a quirky individual, but hey, that’s why my frequent travels to Italy brought me to possibly my favorite, unabashedly shameless and alluringly laid back city, Naples. Truly a city of undeniable undercover, dark humored whimsy.
I would have otherwise loved the styles of Milan and the picturesque Florence, but Naples matched my personality better – a city lacking restraint, where the voices were loud, the streets were rugged (almost reminding me of central India and Punjab!), the foods heavy, the driving and honking ridiculously loud (and illustriously incoherent, unlike New York), and an open desire for love, sex and death. Yes! There were canoodling couples and flirtatious gazes everywhere, even a street of love, and graffiti that littered the walls like serpents seeking passion. Even within hotels, a thematic collage of kisses was apparent, one showcasing the loves down the centuries from animated to Hollywood classics.
The streets were chaotic, and the architecture disheveled, with mixes of Greek mythology, Roman numerology, but littered with dive bars and solid cafes. One of these was the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a heir to the Neapolitan coffee tradition since the 1800s. What started off as an opulent, aromatic espresso transformed into a staple for hustlers by day and nightlife by night. Overlooking the historical Piazza Plebiscito, the maintained dignified stature of the city, it was a place to get a superpowered kick of coffee, a fantastic authentic dessert bursting with cream, or a whiskey and coffee mixed cocktail that was sure to conjure a night worth remembering for years.
My comrade and I got a traditional espresso coffee cream with hazelnut as well as a cloudy mix of whiskey, cream and coffee, and a freshening breath of champagne and grapefruit juice, just in case we lost our memories. Thankfully we didn’t, also courtesy of the salty olives served table side. The coffee was strong, the cocktail a cloudy and potent mixture that would let us become honey traps for Italians city wide, and the ambiance gilded in glory that showed us that even historically, the kings and queens of this city knew how to have fun.
Not withstanding a spooning of the city’s cutest gelato spot, Casa Infante, I opted for my favorites: dark chocolate and hazelnut, as a testament to true Italian flavors. And the hazelnut especially did not disappoint, with a nuttiness and a freshness that I could feel as it washed down the liquor and got me lit up for the night.
But what I loved the most were the smart and street smart, fashionable and artsy people parading through boutiques and cafes, plummeting onto broken cobblestone streets in their Italian flair. The crumbling palaces and center were flanked with more upscale wine bars and cocktail havens, but I still preferred the dungeons that teased with straight and gay undergrounds, or that were literally heated with fiery fires that shelled out fatty pizzas without remorse. This was the epitome of boho chic and shabby sexy, and I fell in love.
Till next time, Naples, but more lurkingly sexy reviews coming soon. I’m literally melting of the anticipation.