A local encounter in Naples, Italy


I had been warned of three things in Napoli: pizza, scooters, and petty theft. My understanding of the city was that it was one of those places that travellers tended to love or hate; probably influenced by their experience of the combination above. I had time to ponder such thoughts, as I sat for three hours in the police station. I was massaging my bruised neck and shoulders, straining to catch any snippet of the English language. Here I was, only five hours into my stay in Naples, and I had already experienced pizza, scooters and petty theft, in that exact order.

I arrived on an overnight train, approximately twelve hours after leaving Milan. My shower needs were outweighed by my desire for pizza, and being in the birthplace of pizza I wasn’t about to waste any time. I left the station with my backpack in tow and was instantly hit with the vibrant energy that defines Napoli. The grit of the city was undeniable; scooters weaving through crowds of people who were moving everywhere and nowhere at the same time, the all-encompassing aromas of pizza that overwhelm at every corner and the passion that somehow saturates the entire city.  It was intense, and I intended to embrace it.

A pizzeria was not hard to locate (in fact, nothing would prove to be easier), and after satisfying my belly with what can only be described as some of the best pizza ever, I headed off in search of my hostel. It didn’t take long to learn that merely crossing the road would be an accomplishment in itself; it’s astounding to watch the locals’ just barge right on through and somehow emerge without a scratch.

I stepped out to cross the street, when I saw a guy on a scooter zooming towards me. It was too late to get out of the way. He was going too fast to stop. I stuck my hand out in an attempt to fend the scooter off. He reached out too, but instead of it being a protective gesture (don’t be so naïve) he yanked my handbag from around my neck and put his foot on the gas. The straps of my bag snapped instantly and less than twenty seconds later I was without my passport, wallet, camera and phone. I gave chase, but I soon realised this was pointless and began to panic.

Fortunately, like anywhere, there are always good people amongst the bad; a lovely couple stopped and directed me to the police station. A series of communication breakdowns later, my bruised, aching body emerged and I tenderly made my way to the hostel (and shower) that I had set out for so many hours before.

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