You have no doubt heard the phrase, “See Naples and Die,” or “Vedi Napoli e poi Muori.” I too, am familiar with it, and have read various meanings, but since I am exploring this third largest city in Italy with Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations. I asked her for the meaning.
As a local Neapolitan, born here, Tina explained to me the true meaning of this well-known quote, which became famous during the reign of the Bourbons.
With all the rich history of this city, which at one time was the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and was the wealthiest and most industrialized center of italy, there is much to see and appreciate. “So one must experience the beauty and magnificence of Naples before one dies.”
I was convinced that was the meaning so I am glad that I am finally seeing the best of Naples. I actually regret listening to the advice of Rick Steves, when he wrote in his Italy guide to stay in Sorrento rather than Naples. I also love Sorrento, but he really did a disservice by focusing on the perils of traveling to Napoli. With almost a million people inside the city limits and many more in the surrounding provinces, Naples is similar to New York City, Rome, London, Paris and every other big city, where you must be vigilant for pickpockets and minor crime. For all these years I avoided coming here and now realize what I have missed. I will be writing a letter to Rick Steves next.
If I can advise anyone visiting Italy and particularly southern Italy, I would say not to miss this amazing city in Campania, on the Gulf of Naples and the Mediterranean Sea. The history is rich as is depicted in the churches, museums, and monuments, and there is so much more.
In the four days i have been here, and some of it has been on my own, I have never felt afraid and have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the Neapolitan people. They are full of life and passion, as I experienced at the marketplace as the vendors yelled out to the customers to encourage them to buy their wares.
They are friendly and eager to help, as many generously provided me with directions by walking part way down the street to show me where to go. They were pleased when I communicated in Italian with them and they always smiled.
The food is another entire subject but the best margherita pizza is here, as well as some of the best chocololate and traditional Neapolitan pastries, such as sfogliatelle, biscotti mandorle alla Napolitana, baba, pastiera, zeppole, and much more.
Does Naples have problems? Of course. Is there graffiti in Naples? Yes, I guarantee you’ll see it.
Are parts of it dirty? Yes, but I saw very little of that actually. The Toledo Metro station which opened two years ago has been voted the best in the world; it is spotless as well as beautiful with its blue water water theme. I was impressed. I have seen a lot here but there is still more to see and do, so I know that I will be back.
How can I ever thank Tina enough for being my personal guide here? She really is the best! Unfortunately Tina no longer works as a travel advisor, but I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to meet her in her beautiful city. I can truly say that I am now in love with Napoli!
Ciao from Napoli!!
If you enjoyed this you might like my latest book, Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, available directly through me for $20 plus free shipping (US only)
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment.
Grazie and Ciao
Barrett Craig USN (Retired)
When I was flying US Navy jets in the mid 1980’s, the aircraft carriers I was embarked aboard utilized beautiful Napoli as our Mediterranean “gas station”! I got to know Napoli like it was my backyard. We would pull into port about every 6-8 weeks for fresh food supplies and some wonderful recreation. The first landmark we’d see is the spectacular 12th century castle, on the waterfront at the port. The bay of Napoli is gorgeous, and every weekend night most of the city walks around the bay, greeting family and friends and buying the sidewalk gelato. I’ll never forget the outdoor horizontal charcoal grilling rotisseries, that rotated with at least 100 of the tastiest ever chickens roasting! These were to be found in the rougher sections of Napoli, usually on our way to lodging at the Armed Forced South NATO Base. On one of my 4 days of Liberty, I rented a little Renault, and drove, (pretty much with the gas pedal floored the entire trip), Napoli to Roma, to Maranello to see the Ferrari factory, to Monte Carlo, to Zermatt, then returning to Napoli. Driving back through the snow-clad French Alps, seeing most houses with wine-casked St Bernard’s out front, was Heaven! Driving in Naples, where a red light is only suggestive, and going the wrong way on a one-way street is encouraged, gave this gear-head from SoCal a freedom on the road I’d never experienced! Amazingly, with all the free-ranging driving, I never saw a car with body damage. Finally, about 1.5hrs from Napoli, I serendipitously discovered the most unique snow-skiing resort to be found in Europe- RoccaRasso. In 1985, my fellow squadronmates and I were the only non-locals on the ski hill. To hear and see the happy, excited, loudly voluble and gesticulating Italians barreling down the hill was like being in a Fellini masterpiece! “See Napoli and die” is the truest aphorism!
Almost forgot- I had the worst wood-fired pizza ever throughout Napoli. Tasteless tomato sauce, oddly placed gobs of cheese. The best was in-port, Trieste, where I was eating the pizza three times per day!
I’ll remember that if I get to Trieste
Too bad you had such an unsatisfactory experience. You are one of the few I’ve ever come across when it comes to eating food in Italy
That is a great story, Barrett, and you certainly took advantage of your time there. That road trip sounds like it was really wild! Thank you so much for sharing all these unforgettable experiences, which I’m sure have impacted your life today in such a good way. I’m surprised about the pizza experience, but I guess every place has food that is less than anticipated. The pizzas I had there were amazing. Thanks again for reading my blog and taking time to share your perspective here. By the way, thank you for your military service. I was a Navy Nurse during the Vietnam era, stationed at Bethesda.
Sadly, I cannot agree Naples is a city in which you can feel safe travelling alone.
I was already assaulted and robbed of my phone two hours after coming there, in the heart of the historical quarter.
There are a lot of thing to marvel at, but it’s a city ridden with crime and the police doesn’t seem very concerned to stop it, so proceed with caution.
I’m sorry you had a bad experience, and crime is definitely alive and well in Naples and also other large cities throughout Italy, the US, and the rest of the world. I tried to show that despite the crime, Naples has a positive side.
Hi Margie. Great post! Thus far all I’ve seen of Napoli itself is its airport, en route for Sorrento on a week’s escorted holiday which we thoroughly enjoyed (well, who wouldn’t?!) But I’d thought that we should see Napoli itself, and had already decided to visit the city itself in the not-too-distant future, ‘under our own steam’ and thus at our own pace. Your post has strengthened my resolve!
So, why did I visit your site? Well, on the way home I bought three books in Italian at the airport – one is a modern translation of Goethe’s excellent Viaggio in Italia, in which one chapter is headed “Vedi Napoli e poi muori”. Yes, I knew what it meant, but wanted to find out more, to dig deeper – thanks! I did find one alternative suggestion (trying to find it again!) namely that muori is a pun on the name of an Italian town called Mori, but the only Mori I can find is way up in the south Tirol, so I don’t think that’s too likely somehow!
I’ll be following your posts with interest from here on!
Ciao e molte grazie
Thank you so much, Laury. You are motivated and passionate and I’m thrilled you’re going to make Napoli happen. I’m so happy I went there in 2014 for 5 days and nights! It’s a wonderful place! Let’s stay in touch!
I loved Naples and Montesarchio
Thank You Dan. Naples is so vibrant. I have not been to Montesarchio yet
Shame on me if I die before visiting Naples. I will visit even if I have to walk there from Parma.
I am so glad I went, Michal, and I know you will love it…I hope you can take a train though.LOL
Oh my! I ADORE Naples too, have been her several times and still not seen all her jewels. Sorrento is pretty. but Naples is a big city with so much art & history, as well as thronging human everyday life. If I had to choose one thing that so far left me gob-smacked & transported, it would have to be the Veiled Christ in Cappella Sansevero – divinely inspired, incredibily beautiful and made in the 1750s without the aid of modern technology… I could barely speak after my viewing of it.
I also tried the deep fried pizza – and discovered happily that there is an art to frying I have never mastered. The temperature has to be exactly right to seal the food, thereby allowing you to eat the whole delicious thing without getting oily fingers. That too left me amazed. Now I am left wondering why I’m not back in Naples right now. Thank you Margie!
Thank you Annmarie…I agree, that Veiled Christ sculpture is incredible….I didn’t learn about this frying technique though…can you please share? Grazie
My wife and I lived on Via Posillipo back in the 50’s for almost 2 years. Our first daughter was born there so we have many happy memories of the city.
Thank you Paul…How wonderful for you and your family. That area is beautiful…I hope you can get back there sometime soon. Thanks for taking time to share your experience.
Naples is one of the most beautiful city in the world, but people know it not as do should do.
Beautiful post, Margie, i love it!
I live just a short walk from the Pompeii ruins, and I’m so happy to read a true and sincere post about this city, often unjustly maleigned!:)
Thank you so much Antonella. I like to write about the good things in Italy and not focus on the negative. I realize life is not always the best but there are plenty of wonderful things in Campania!!
Any city is unique and Naples takes that to a different level. My favorite haunts are underground, buried in the city’s soul.
Meet Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations | margieinitaly
[…] now, I can say that I am one of the Napoli lovers too! I understand the phrase “See Naples and Die.” Now I am not afraid to go to Naples, and I hope to encourage and inspire anyone who is […]
At last you went to Napoli! I knew you’d love it! This city completely stole my heart during the 9 months I lived and worked there. It’s one of the most amazing cities in the world! I can’t wait to visit there again.
Thanks Dani – yes I now know why you love Naples so much…I am so glad I had 5 days to spend there. And I definitely will be back!
It was the wealthiest city in the all of Europe actually! Before Italy unification
Yes it certainly was. I learned much about Naples during this visit
Sister Therese Ann Rich, OSU
Thank you…my paternal grandparents were from a town just outside Naples….Marigliano…so to feel the soul of Naples is a gift! Thnx!
Glad I could help you feel a bit closer to your roots Sister
Julie Morelli Endres
I took a sourthern Italy Rick Steves tour in 2012 and we DID stay in Naples. Perhaps you read an older version of his tours because he no longer discourages Naples at all. We stayed right in the center of the city and enjoyed time on our own to wander and discover Naples as well as had some quality time with a hometown guide. I never felt any fear in Naples and neither Rick Steves nor his guides expressed that opinion at all. I long to return to Naples– absolutely loved it there!
Love the photos.
Don’t all cities have dirty and often parts that we don’t want to like others to see?. Your pictures show a realistic place of beauty normalcy .
So glad you enjoyed your visit to Naples, Margie. I’ve been to both, but I must say that I prefer Sorrento for beauty of the town, the food, and the artistic craftsmanship. When I was in Naples, we experienced several small earthquakes – not so much fun. But having a good guide to Naples is a great idea – lucky you!
I pity Rick Steves! Margie has a well tuned pen and by the time she is through explaining his mistaken impressions to him he will be ready to hang up his passport!
Your trip notes bring back many positive memories I have of Naples. Despite our limited Italian skills, my partner and I spoke with many Neapolitans on public buses and the subway. The exchanges were friendly and open.
My husband and I loved Napoli! I’m glad we didn’t listen to bad advice either. What a vibrant, lively city!
Adri Barr Crocetti
What a terrific post!