The first time I visited Naples, maybe a quarter of a century ago, I was underwhelmed by its charms.
My most recent visit served only to reinforce those youthful impressions. I have now added la not-so-bella Napoli to a list that also includes Rio de Janeiro, Tel Aviv and Bloemfontein - all cities to which I am content to never return.
A lot of people describe Naples as a city of character. They clearly confuse character with decay.
It's a grubby place. Garbage is left out on the sidewalks and the historic old quarter has an unmistakeable stench of neglect. Many of the cars appear go have been recent entries in a demolition derby while the arrival of a cruise ship at the wharf guarantees a healthy turnout of spivs and beggars.
Don't get me wrong. I love Italy. Florence and Milan are among my favourite cities and I adore Tuscan treasures like Siena and Lucca. Napoli's old quarter, however, is down at heel and the city is, somewhat belatedly, I would argue, a building site with both the Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Municipio both turned into construction areas.
The only advert on a tram I caught was a multilingual one warning of pickpockets.
To be fair to Napoli it does good pizza and has a decent football team. It's worth taking a drive, or bus ride, through waterfront Mergellina and up through Posillipo to take in some spectacular views of the Bay of Naples (below).
If you arrive on a cruise ship like the MSC Preziosa, a most enjoyable experience, then Naples is the gateway to such undisputed treasures as Pompei, the isle of Capri, Vesuvius, Sorrento and Casserta.
I would humbly suggest an excursion to one of them and a minimal amount of time in this sprawling city and its crazy drivers. Or alternatively enjoying the luxury of an almost deserted cruise liner.