Paris might be our one true love, but there is always room for summer flings. As the season of summer getaways winds down and our very own Erica Berman soaks up the pasta and capuccino in Genoa, Bryan Pirolli tells us about his (short-lived) love affair with another irresistible Italian city: Napoli. – Geneviève
I did a very bad thing. I left Paris to spend some time in Naples. There are some jealousy issues there.
Since I moved to Paris, I have never spent as much time in another European city as I have in this Italian port town. After just a week of feeling and acting like a local, I knew I was in love with Neapolitan culture. People actually stop you in the street to help you, to recommend which souvenirs to buy, or which beach to visit. Literally, pull up a chair and join the street sitters – it is Mediterranean culture at its best.
On my last day, I feared returning home to my first love. The piazzas, the sun that turns your skin a leisurely brown, the gesticulating yet welcoming Italians – how could I leave this? Paris all of a sudden seemed lacking in so many Italian essentials – and not just the perfectly ricotta-filled cannoli. What’s worse, I knew Paris would be able to smell my new Italian love affair all over my clothes.
Thankfully, as I started walking through the City of Lights again after my week of Italian bliss, the familiarity of it all made me feel at home. All of the things I usually take for granted stood out a little more –the things that, as a visitor, I didn’t have with my Italian fling.
I strolled past my favorite bakery, du Pain et des Idées, and I realized that Parisian bakeries, with their choices of fresh baguettes and sweets, far outnumber those in Naples. I loved Napoli’s cannoli and biscotti, but not every bakery I found carried my favorites or baked them to perfection. That rarely happens in Paris, but all too often I take this abundance and expertise for granted.
After taking the metro back from Gare du Nord, I realized that Parisian transportation, efficient and varied, is something I often forget to cherish. After dodging scooters in Naples for a week, I was more than happy to hop on the metro and whizz past the loud, zigzagging scooters zipping down pedestrian streets. Don’t get me wrong, nothing seems more romantic than a scooter ride through an Italian town, but after you’ve almost gotten run over 18 times, the veneer on this fantasy starts to fade.
Strutting along the streets lined with people sipping drinks, it dawned on me that Parisian cafés, while a hallmark of the city, are so often overlooked. I forget that I can just sit in a café for hours reading or writing with a café allongé next to me. In Naples, we threw down our tiny, albeit superior, espressos at the bar without the leisurely people watching inherent in Parisian cafés.
Lugging my Limoncello-laden bag along the boulevard, I was thinking about how sweat-drenched I must look to passers-by. My fellow Parisians were so put-together, and there I was, in dire need of a shower and clean socks, imbued with the laissez-aller attitude towards fashion Napoli had drawn me into after just one week.
And even though the Parisian sun was beating down when I arrived, powdery Parisians surrounded me everywhere I went – despite, presumably, having just returned from their month of requisite August vacances. Call me vain, but I was delighted to discover my Napolitan-sun-soaked-skin was the tannest of them all.
Although I was tempted by Naples’ Mediterranean delights, more than anything, my summer fling helped reinforce my devotion to my one true love. Give me my boulangeries, fromageries and, yes, even my powdery white skin, and I’ll leave the cannoli, pizza and biscotti to the Italians.
- Gomorrah Girl – Photos from another Napoli
- We love Andrew Grosso’s Italian experience in Florence
- Back in Paris, Bryan writes about La Rentrée on his blog, Where’s Bryan
- We love to daydream about living here