Naples Declared

Naples Declared

A Walk Around The Bay

It is a city of seemingly irreconcilable opposites, simultaneously glorious and ghastly. And it is Ben Taylor’s remarkable ability to meld these contradictions into a whole that makes this the exciting and original book it is. He takes his stroll around the bay with the acute sensitivity of a lover, the good humor of a friend, and the wisdom of a seeker who has immersed himself in all aspects of this contrapuntal culture. His curiosity leads him to many byways, both real and metaphoric, and his passion for this ancient city and its people becomes, in his graceful prose and amusing anecdotes, irresistibly contagious.


You will find it, somewhat misplaced, in the “travel-writing” section of your local bookstore (if you still have one). It is a work of voluptuous erudition; a meditation on place and displacement; a paean to the chance encounter—a worldly adventure story, in other words. I found it transporting.
—Judith Thurman, The New Yorker

“Taylor’s scope is as all-embracing as the stroll he takes around the Bay of Naples…[he] wears his formidable erudition lightly as he cites classical authors and 20th-century travel writers such as Norman Douglas with equal zest and acuity…Though this is a highly personal book, the Neapolitan spirit is palpable: ‘the being-visible-now, the quasi-divinity that flows from a fundamentally theatrical sense of life,’ as Taylor puts it in a characteristically ecstatic, evocative assessment. Packed with elegant aperçus and vibrant with the author’s rueful understanding that ‘Naples the glorious and Naples the ghastly have always been one place.’”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Evocative…Morbidly entertaining…Looming above it all is Mount Vesuvius, whose periodic eruptions seem to be reflected in Naples’s political instability and outbursts of violence. Yet the glory of the city outweighs its ghastly aspects. On a recent visit, Taylor admires ‘Vesuvius clear of clouds, the lanterns of a few fishing boats flickering in the harbor, some scraps of song floating up from Mergellina, and Capri’s lights dimly visible at the vanishing point.'”
—Joshua Hammer, The New York Times Book Review

“[G]ives us a keen sense of the particular ardors, the passions which occupied each period in its past. All this, as [Taylor] uncovers a captivating picture of the achievements still on view in this city today!…[N]ever fails to keep us engaged with the riches of this City and the Southern Bay surrounding it.”
—Julia Braun Kessler, California Literary Review

“Steeped in offhand erudition and raptly attuned to the city’s scruffy allure, Taylor makes a charming guide to an under-toured city.”
Publisher’s Weekly 

“What Chatwin did for Australia and Matthiessen for the Himalayas, Taylor now does for the storied city of Naples.”
—Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal

“Effortless poeticism…An accurate representation of what travel is and what it means.”
Library Journal

“Taylor takes in all the splendor and grit of ancient Naples from street level, mixing his travels with history, quotes from storied visitors over the ages and indelible portraits of the characters he meets.”

“‘Neapolitan civilization has been Europe’s most extraordinary hybrid,’ Taylor writes, Naples having been ruled at one time or another by seemingly every major historical power—Greek, Roman, Byzantine, French, Spanish, German. This portrait of the city is partly a pocket history, partly a walking tour of its bay, and partly a love letter from a frequent visitor prone to learned digressions about the staying power of paganism, the merits of Caravaggio, and the insights of the philosopher Giambattista Vico. Some of the liveliest passages detail Taylor’s interaction with present-day Neapolitans: talking Faulkner and local legends with a woman he meets in the National Library, eating pizza with a Buddhist taxi-driver…”
The New Yorker 

“A rich, multi-dimensional tour of Naples, most brilliant, battered, and bewildering of cities, here fixed to the page with wit and élan. Splendid.”
—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life

“‘Travel book’ doesn’t begin to encompass the amazing breadth of Benjamin Taylor’s Naples Declared, a kaleidoscopic portrait that manages to be both seductive and scholarly, personal and erudite. This is history at its most irresistible.”
—Molly Haskell, author of Frankly, My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited

“There is no more witty, worldly, cultivated or amiably candid observer imaginable than Benjamin Taylor. His learning is immense, but he wears it lightly, and it is a joy to follow him wherever his footsteps and mind digress. This book belongs on the shelf of the very best literary travel guides, alongside Eleanor Clark’s Rome and a Villa and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.”
—Phillip Lopate, author of Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan

“Erudite and charming, Benjamin Taylor with graceful humor tips his writer’s hat to the passions that make Naples—and us—ethereal, earthbound, majestic, human. Naples Declared is a remarkable book; it’s about place and history and survival; it’s fresh, it’s wise, and it’s not to be missed.”
—Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson


Naples Declared: Benjamin Taylor in Conversation with Brenda Wineapple
Columbia University School of the Arts
April 25, 2013

“Reading: Naples Declared
Henry Review
January 3, 2013

“Best Books of 2012”
The New Yorker
December 13, 2012

“Napoli Incomparabile”
An Interview with Benjamin Taylor
Corriere del Mezzogiorno
September 14, 2012

Benjamin Taylor in Conversation with Adam Fitzgerald
The Brooklyn Rail
September 2012

A Review of Naples Declared
The Memphis Flyer
July 26, 2012

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Publicity: A Conversation with Benjamin Taylor about Naples Declared
Spring 2012

“Naples Fascinates With Garbage, Mafia, Ruined Glory”
Interview with Manuela Hoelterhoff
June 21, 2012

“Passaporto perso e restituito: dagli Usa un grazie per il ‘miracolo’ di Napoli”
Il Mattino
May 20, 2012

“Watch: A Miracle in Naples”

Excerpt from Naples Declared
The Huffington Post
May 18, 2012

“Hats Off to the City of Naples: An Underestimated Work of Art”
Review by Julia Braun Kessler
California Literary Review
May 16, 2012

“Love Letter to Naples, Warts and All”
Review by Jonathan Kirsch
The Jewish Journal
May 9, 2012

Benjamin Taylor reads from and discusses Naples Declared
Moderated by Robert Polito
The New School
April 30th, 2012

Review of Naples Declared
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
March 1, 2012

Review of Naples Declared
Publisher’s Weekly
March 19, 2012