Monday, December 8, 2014


Florence shows the colours of Tuscany.
So you've decided on Italy for this month's holiday, but you can't make up your mind whether it's going to be North or South. Your friends tell you that Florence will be the trip of a lifetime, yet you're kind of intrigued by that saying: "See Naples and die". 

Your pals aren't being of much help, however. Those who've been to Florence tend to wax lyrical about the charms of the Tuscan capital, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to the largest concentration of art in the world, but when you ask them about Naples, you draw a blank.

Still, you should know that Naples has its own devoted fans, who love the rough-and-tumble atmosphere, the great pizza restaurants, the striking views of the bay, and the no-nonsense demeanour of residents. Even devotees, though, are aware of the seedier sides of the city, notorious for its history of organized crime and garbage piling up in the streets because of corruption in the waste disposal industry.

A view across the Bay of Naples.
The two towns are a study in contrast, offering very different "attractions" to travellers. Art lovers will find their visual feast in Florence, which seems to have a statue on every corner, often surrounded by hordes of photo-snappers. The city has palaces and historic buildings galore, with art on the ceilings and walls, in the courtyards and gardens. But you will have to brave the crowds to see some of the treasures as Florence generally has more tourists than residents in the high-season months of April to October, and sometimes in December.

Naples, meanwhile, attracts those who don’t mind, or may even enjoy, a certain form of realism: the roar of scooters, the bustle of people who don’t live for tourism, the view of a volcano in the distance, sturdy landmarks of a rich history, and an edgy ambience infused by illicit activity. North or South? The art of travelling is to appreciate both, and while most people might give the nod to Florence, here are some images to help you decide. Our tip: see Naples while you can walk without a cane!

Art on the piazza - a common sight in Florence.

Naples: a culture of litter?

Florence, with Il Duomo as centrepiece.

Yes, Naples has castles too, both historic and neo-Gothic.

Florence's Ponte Vecchio, Medieval  bridge with shophouses.

One of Naples' charming, challenging streets.

Florence by night.

Naples at dusk.

(Text and photos, copyright McK-DeC)