The sun shines in Naples and the streets are full. Many are just out for the occasion, to watch and be watched, and others to shop, to sell, to beg, to walk the dog.
It’s definitely Christmas but it never stops being Naples – nothing is drowned in jingles or jolliness.
Throughout the city there are the usual markets; street stalls; window displays; and crowded coffee bars … the only difference is that business might be a touch brisker …
… especially where food and family, the key ingredients for a Naples’ Christmas, are concerned.
The fresh fruit and vegetable stalls display their finest, and the fishermen fill buckets and bags of ice with their best catches as preparations build behind doors for the fish feast on Christmas Eve.
Poinsettia are everywhere. They’re stocked in supermarkets and blaze colour on to the street corners.
They and panettone flounce along shelves and down the streets.
Santa, of course, is also here. He can drop in anywhere but he does not steal the show in quite the same way as he does in other countries.
Struffoli, the Christmas pastry of Naples – honeyed mounds of tiny, fried dough balls, sprinkled with colour and candied fruit – wait behind glass to be chosen as gifts.
Buskers slip in amongst the pedestrians.
Presepe parade their characters around churches, businesses and homes.
Shoppers cram narrow Via San Gregorio Armeno in the centro storico of Naples. Here they search for the perfect figures to join their presepe – the most expensive are handmade, crafted for the collectors who follow in the footsteps of presepe enthusiast Carlo di Borbone, king of Naples in the 18th century.
There’s incredible detail in some of the best presepe figures, such as those donated to the Museum at the Certosa di San Martino in 1877.
Close to the centro storico the elegant Galleria Umberto I, swaddled in scaffolding, has a plain ‘Albero dei Desideri‘ (tree of wishes) spiked with handwritten notes.
Outside the Galleria Umberto I a wider stream of Christmas life feeds through the city’s retail artery, the Via Toledo, where life comes and goes, the packaged and unpackaged, living the moment.
Further towards the sea there is Via dei Mille where the shop windows of the big names stand and stare.
Here too there is Christmas but the style is more about space and glamour, it’s different to the intense experience offered by the centro storico, or the rush of Via Toledo.
Further around from the wide sweep of this street, and closer still to the sea, is the Piazza San Pasquale from where, if you’re lucky, you’ll sometimes hear the drift of English carols from nearby Christ Church, the chiesa Anglicana, built over a century ago on land given to the church by Garibaldi.
And finally, whether you’re flying into or out of Naples for Christmas, the airport is there to greet you.
Buon Natale a tutti!
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018