In Defense of Napoli

Last week, Business Insider published an article by reporter Sarah Schmalbruch in its Travel section, titled “Why no one wants to travel to Naples.” 

NIAF President and Chief Operating Officer John Viola wrote a letter in response to the article, which was sent to both Schmalbruch and Business Insider. You can read it below. 



July 31, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an open letter to both Ms. Schmalbruch and the officials of Business Insider in response to the article of July 30, 2015, entitled “Why no one wants to travel to Naples.”

First and foremost, let me say no matter what city is being referenced, I think it is irresponsible for a journalistic institution to allow its writers to pontificate on the ills or the strengths of any place without actually stepping foot in it.  This sophomoric approach to journalism is everything that is wrong with today’s overabundance of amateur writers masquerading as real journalists.

NAPOLI 4Naples is a city that one simply must experience to understand and I’d be hard pressed to imagine TripAdvisor is producing the best judges of any place.  Naples is a city that has drawn visitors for centuries.  In the 1700s and 1800s, no well-educated human being received that appellate without having visited this gem on the Mediterranean.

Today, while Naples may certainly have its ills, it continues to be one of the world’s most vibrant and authentic localities.  Perhaps Ms. Schmalbruch is looking for the package trips to stand in front of the Colosseum or take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice in a NAPLES 6“Disneyfied” version of Italy, but had she the courage to seek out authenticity, Naples would be my highest recommendation.  Coincidentally enough, it might be on those exact gondolas on the Venetian canals that she would hear the tunes of Naples’ world famous musical tradition, which has been exported across the globe and makes up the soundtrack of most people’s imaginations around Italy.

Danielle's Lemon pictureI think what insults me most is the criticism of Naples’ cuisine, and Ms. Schmalbruch’s assertion that there is too little to do to warrant a vacation to Naples alone.  From a
culinary perspective, not only is Naples the birthplace of pizza, the world’s most famous food, but the Neapolitan tradition of culinary excellence has been crafted by thousands of years of social and ethnic interaction in this vibrant city, from creamy mozzarella di bufala bursting at your fork and fresh fish from the bay, to spaghetti alle vongole and sfogliatella that cracks in your hand.

Any traveler should know that Naples has more to offer than most people can experience in a lifetime.  Besides the beauty of the bay and the vibrancy of the streets, Naples has world- class museums like the NationalArcheological Museum, home to all the treasures of Pompeii and the Farnese marbles, the Cappella Sansevero, home to the “Veiled Christ” NAPOLI 3which is probably the most beautiful piece of stone ever rendered by the hands of man.  At the heart of the city is San Carlo Opera House, the oldest and most replicated in the world.  You can sit across the street from that locality in Caffé Gambrinus, have the finest cup of coffee your lips have ever touched, and sit and watch teatro vivente, living theater, all in the shadow of Vesuvius.  Not to mention, Naples has more churches than any other city in Europe.

At the National Italian American Foundation, we are proud that 87 percent of the 25 million Americans of Italian descent find their heritage in Italy’s south of which Naples has always been the spiritual capital.  Sure, it’s a place that’s rough around the edges, but it’s a treasure only waiting to be embraced.  I would say to Ms. Schmalbruch that next time before she speaks about our beloved Napoli she should take the advice of Goethe and “see Naples and die.”


john's signature

John M. Viola
President and COO
National Italian American Foundation
1860 19th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20009


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5 Responses to In Defense of Napoli

  1. Teresa Nystrom says:

    Our family had the joy of living in Naples for 5 years. I always tell people to visit the city. There is just so much to see and experience. Start with the food and before you know it you can sing all the words to “Fatte ‘na Pizza”. I never got tired of strolling downtown. You will be hard pressed to find friendlier or more gracious people. It’s a city of opposites, joy and sadness, trash and art, noise and music, poverty and riches. But overall, it’s a city of people who persevere in spite of war, occupation, violence and death. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  2. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    Mr. Viola, You told her real good. As an Italian-American I say, “Tante grazie!” My maternal grandparents were born in Agropoli, outside of Naples.

  3. Lucille says:

    Excellent response. I agree that there is an over abundance of amateur writers who are overly confident in their audacity to masquerade, as you say, as professional journalists, without the experience or expertise to respect its core purpose, in more ways than one. If one is young enough, this can be a generational by-product of the overinflated sense of self-esteem, largely brought on by our educational system according to the book, Generation Me. This is just my opinion. I know nothing of Ms. Schmalbruch, and am sure she is an excellent writer, but regarding Naples, she should know that the famed author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, who, upon visiting Naples, wrote….”I instantly love Naples. Wild, raucous, noisy, dirty, balls-out Naples”…….The people here are so insanely psyched to be from Naples, and why shouldn’t they be? This is a city that gave the world pizza and ice cream.” (My own addition to this is that they also gave some of the world -those of us fortunate enough to be in a distributing city- Kimbo coffee!). She was an eye-witness, and could see Naples’ soul in an instant. New York can be rough around the edges, too, and has a bad reputation from many who only see the media representation of crime, overcrowding, and aloofness. Yet many are often surprised to learn that New York’s vibe is a contagious one.

  4. Josephine Laurino says:

    Last year we visited Italy for 5 weeks. We traveled from the North to the South. We spent 9 days in Naples. In April of this year, we are going back to Italy, but just to Naples. We found the city, the people and the food so much more than was expected. The warmth and genuineness of the city and its people left us wanting more. We cried when it was time to go. We have traveled to many cities in the world but none left an impact on us like Naples. We cannot wait to return.

  5. Been there once ,i always wanted to go to Napoli to see where my roots where stayed for a week and hated to leave ,a week is not long enough ,loved it.

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