I have taken many parts for this section from the same section of my pizza article.
If you have never been to Italy, you have yet to live a full life. If you have never been to Naples, you have yet to feel like your life is truly worth living and be scared of losing it. The old saying “See Naples and Die” meant that it is not only breathtaking but also dangerous. The place is crazy. Truth be told, I am the only person who actually thinks it's a dump. I mean it literally and figuratively. Literally, because thanks to the Camorra (Naples's Mafia) and corrupt governments, Naples has become, by 2008, a place where the country's garbage is dumped. Although many efforts have been made to clean up most of the city, the problems still persist and get transferred somewhere else. I mean it figuratively because when walking the streets, you feel no sense of order or safety.
To understand “il caffè, or anything Neapolitan for that matter, you must get to know and understand the people who created the culture from which these things were born. First, it is important to know that Naples sits underneath Mount Vesuvius, the only volcano to erupt in Europe in the last 100 years and the only active one on the European mainland. It is most famously known for stopping the city of Pompeii in time almost 2,000 years ago. Neapolitans and others living nearby, live life as crazily as Pompeii's inhabitants did. Every day is treated like it's your last in Naples, which would probably explain all the beauties and evils.
The most densely populated city in Europe has been on the forefront of food, fashion, art, you name it, for thousands of years. We all know Italians are very good looking people, but Neapolitans are the better looking of Italians. Walking on the streets and eating gelato in the piazzas, one immediately forgets where he/she is and assumes they stepped into a Dolce and Gabbana ad. Everything seems animated, lively, and sensuous. You quickly forget that you may have just been robbed by a 10-year-old Neapolitan boy while you fixate on not only the beautiful people but also their awe inspiring clothes. While Milan is the capital of Italian Fashion, Naples is the capital of Italian Style.
As you gaze in awe at the architecture and art that made Naples famous, you hear the Neapolitan dialect, the most fluid and caressing I have ever heard. It is no wonder most famous Italian comedians are Neapolitans; everything sounds funnier in their dialect. Even non-Neapolitan comedic actors wish to take on Neapolitan roles in film or television.
After taking in the beautiful views of the Bay and take a trip to the nearby Amalfi Coast (the most beautiful place in the world), you can try all the other foods besides Pizza that made Naples and Italy famous.
Naples is like an athletic heart on cocaine. It is rushed with energy and only a lively people can make the famous music for which they are so well known. The people draw you into their homes and lives. It is in Naples where asking a local to direct you to the best pizzeria or bar to get a caffè can spur a 10-minute monologue. You smell the wood burning in pizza ovens as you walk through tight streets adorned with clotheslines hanging Neapolitan's drying laundry. You smell the coffee permeating the streets coming from the bars serving them.
Coffee is so serious in Naples that there is something called “un caffè sospeso”, which means coffee in suspense. Generous Neapolitans can order and pay for two coffees and only consume one, while the unmade second is left for a poor and unfortunate person in despair and with no means of buying a coffee. This is not only compassion but passion. It is very common to walk into a coffee shop, which Italians call “bar”, and be immediately offered a coffee by a friend or even acquaintance. Like with pharmacies, these bars, which are cafes really, coordinate with each other to stay open when the other closes for a day of rest. That's how serious food and coffee culture are taken in Italy and especially in Naples. Some Neapolitans even know the limits of the city's water and plan accordingly when traveling outside of Naples to get one last real coffee. To understand “il caffè, you must first understand the people and the culture.