'Naples really isn't as dangerous as people say'

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Cousins Rachel and Gabrielle moved half way across the world from New Zealand to Naples. Gabrielle tells The Local why Naples doesn't deserve its negative press, and why she loves the Neapolitan way of life.

What made you decide to move to Naples?

We are both from Auckland, and in fact grew up next door to each other. Rachel came here first, and absolutely fell in love with the city, and when I visited her, I did too. I spent some time studying in Paris, but after my course finished, I was drawn back to Naples and here we are.

So many people ask us why we live here, because New Zealand is a paradise and we love it at home too. Maybe we are crazy!

Did you know anyone there before you moved?

Rachel didn't know anyone when she first arrived but over time has made a lovely community of friends - she is the talkative one, so I was lucky I could slip right in with her group of friends. Fitting into the community is easy enough because Neapolitans are in general so friendly and generous.

There are so many places and events to meet people here you end up bumping into the same faces, which really makes us feel like we are at home.

Do you feel like foreigners have misconceptions about Italy, and Naples in particular?

There are many misconceptions about Naples. Often tourists pass straight through Naples to the Amalfi Coast because they have heard that it is dangerous and dirty, which is such a shame. I admit, Naples seems to be quite a particular city but if you give it a chance, it is incredible. In terms of danger for a tourist, I would say it is similar to any other large European city – you have to watch your bags and cameras, but that's normal. It really isn't as bad as people say.

Naples has so much to offer and is in the perfect position to visit the attractions here in the city as well as easily making day trips to the islands (Capri, Procida, Ischia), the Amalfi Coast, Pompei, and Vesuvius.

Working in a hostel (, what are people's usual reactions to the city?

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As I said, Naples is a particular kind of city. Since starting work at the hostel  I have observed that people either fall in love with it straight away, or they hate the place. However, I have also observed that when people do not like Naples straight away, if they are here for more than two to three days, their viewpoint usually always changes and they start to enjoy it - a pleasant surprise for them.

In what ways is living in Italy different from visiting as a tourist?

Living in Italy is so rewarding. In Naples the balance between work and play is really important. People are so happy to enjoy life and it's a contagious feeling. Visiting as a tourist is fast and busy because there is so much to see and do, often in a small amount of time.

Living here you get to see and do everything that tourists do in your own time and also observe day-to-day life here (this is my absolute favourite thing to do.) To walk the streets of Naples and get to know the faces who pass by the same street each day, smell the musty Naples smell mixed with the delicious smell of pasta cooking and a sea breeze whipping up the streets. The differences between being a tourist and living here weren't apparent at first and even now I have to think about when I first arrived to realize how much I have settled in here.

What makes Naples unique from the rest of Italy?

This is a difficult question - there is so much history here. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and Neapolitans are generally very proud of their city so with that combination I think the culture of the city is unique and is preserved and passed on through generations.

Would you say there are any particular qualities people should have in order to 'survive' in Naples?

This is hard to answer too - we certainly don't look like Italians so we stand out like sore thumbs - people know we are foreigners straight away.

One quality that is important is patience. It seems to take a long time to do anything here. If you have no patience don't even bother going to the post office. Being able to laugh things off is important too - this is mostly due to the fact that my Italian skills are very basic (but hopefully improving) and I am often misunderstood or say bad words thinking they mean something else!

Are there any aspects of the lifestyle that you don't enjoy, or haven't yet got used to?

Everyone here seems to look good all the time. I often feel a little scruffy; maybe it's in the Italian DNA but they always seem to be very well groomed. This observance has led to me taking a lot longer to get organized to leave the house and in turn often running late - but I guess that fits the Italian stereotype!

I am still not quite used to the fact that most shops close for the lunch hour and am constantly getting caught out on a Sunday when everything is closed for most of the day.

What are your favourite spots in Naples?

There are so many spots, and it depends on the time of day. The view over Naples from the top of the hill outside Castel Sant'Elmo towards Vesuvius is incredible. Walking along the waterfront is beautiful on a sunny day and spectacular on a stormy grey day too. People watching in Piazza Bellini or from one of the bars is enjoyable.

Being tucked away in the cosy warmth of the hostel is great too. Just walking the streets of Naples you see so many surpising and beautiful hidden viewpoints. It's impossible to name one thing as the best thing about Naples.

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