In Napoli Beside the Sea

A post (mostly) by Adam!

When we put the plan together to visit Italy, there were a lot of factors we considered when choosing where to stay. Since it was summer aka. high tourist season, prices had skyrocketed in the locations typically considered “the most beautiful parts of Italy”, so we were forced to prioritize our criteria to find the best location. Our criteria included: a coastal location, co-working space, nearby gym, good walkability, and convenient public transportation. After research and weighing our options, it became clear Naples was going to be our base for a month. Despite the stereotypes we’d heard regarding cleanliness, safety and the mafia rule, what intrigued us about Naples was that it was a city with grit. We’ve been to picturesque Italy; it’s exciting, charming and touristy for good reason. But how those on vacation experience Italy isn’t how locals live and we wanted a taste of that local Italian life… la dolce vita… and a lot of blogs pointed us to Naples.

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Impressive right?

People are quick to point out the negative aspects about Naples, but Italy’s 3rd largest city has a lot of great things going for it. First and foremost, pizza was invented in Napoli meaning they arguably have the best pizza in the world. Second, it’s a port city and a major train hub which makes travelling throughout Italy easy breezy and affordable. Third, it is still Italy; meaning the food, wine, and espresso are something of another world. It’s safe to say we will be buying an espresso machine as a “to us from us” Christmas gift.

Upon arrival from the airport, we were very quickly reminded of home. Hello humidity. For the prior four months, we’d been spoiled with a relatively dry climate but was very clearly over. We lugged our backpacks into a taxi and off we went to our Airbnb. For now, I’ll spare the details about insane Italian driving, but I will say that for stretches we drove on the wrong side of the road and seemed to play chicken with some large trucks as we dodged around less “slow” vehicles. Maybe it was a good thing jet lag dulled our senses.

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Piazza del Plebiscito

When we arrived, we were greeted by our host, Clara, who showed us around our new temporary home. Everything was wonderful, however we quickly realized that we’d apparently we missed checking the “air conditioning” box on Airbnb’s site when booking. Smh. Clara asked if we were hungry since we got in so late and intrigued us by saying the current best pizza in Naples was just a quick walk from the building, 50 Kalo. We must have looked really exhausted because she drove us there and tried to get us a table. But as you could probably guess, there was a huge wait it being the best pizza in Naples and all. So Clara pointed across the street to her favorite everyday pizza place called Pasquels. We marched on over and were sat right away. We ordered a bottle of wine for $6, caprese salad, zuppa di pesce and our first Neapolitan pizza which was a twist on the margarita classic except subbing creamy, delicious burrata for mozzarella. My goodness it was amazing and not just because we were exhausted and jet-lagged. The fresh ingredients mixed with it’s perfectly thin, toasty, chewy crust was just what pizza dreams are made of.

Although the food was completely hitting the spot, it was actually the staff who truly made our night so memorable. Everyone was so friendly and very eager to talk us via their Google translate app. They spoke, google translated. We spoke, google translated. It was quite a scene with us all clamoring to speak into the phone and laughing when the translation was completely obscure. They asked about popular Netflix shows and if certain documentaries (Pizza Bomber) were true, why we were in Naples, and what life was like in America. The night ended up being one of our favorites during our time in Naples as we had found our neighborhood late night spot for great pizza, good wine and new friends.

The following days, we walked mini-marathons to get oriented with the area and devoured various homemade pastas. Frutti di mare (mussels, prawns, clams, octopus, calamari mixed with a light fresh tomato sauce and fresh pasta) quickly proved to be our favorite. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with this dish in Italy and we must have eaten it 10 times.

Aside from eating, we dedicated our first few days to finding a coworking space and a gym. ProFighting Napoli was a pretty awesome find and a 5-minute walk to our apartment. It was a fighting gym with killer cross-training classes that made us regret stopping working out the prior months. We got to know the trainers and worked our asses off 4 times a week. It provided us with a structure and much needed accountability in a city with so mouthwatering wine, pasta and pizza.

As far as finding a coworking space, well, to put it bluntly, it was a major fail. There weren’t any coworking spaces near us and we weren’t quite confident driving a motorbike in Napoli’s crazy streets. One day, we did make the trek to the closest co-working space, however between its 45-minute commute there, and the fact that it was located IN a daycare adjacent to train tracks… we quickly decided we’d just work from our Airbnb for the month. All in all, working at home was fine, but the experience made it a new necessity for our future Aibnbs to be close to a GOOD coworking space.

Once we nailed down gym and a place to work, the rest of our four weeks were spent exploring Naples and far beyond to Orvieto, Tuscany, Capri, Ischia, and Sorrento. We told you public transport was clutch! More on those excursions and our guest visitors to come soon.

Okay, one more pizza pic to hold you over.
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Addicted to Coworking Spaces

I originally wrote this blog internally for my company, but the more Adam and I talk to friends and family about the co-working spaces we discover, the more we realize it’s not only interesting and applicable to yes, people working remotely, but also to anyone who wants to get some uninterrupted work done in a motivating space.

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Eclectic Fabrika in Tbilisi, Georgia

Okay, so imagine you need to get work done, but don’t have to sit in your office (or wherever you typically work) to do it.

What dream space would you magically transport yourself to for the day?

  • Would it be inside or outside? Domestic or International?
  • Would there be good coffee on demand or a pool to soak your feet in as you tooks calls?
  • Would you work lounging in a hammock or comfortably in a personal office with a dog laying at your feet?
  • Would you take a 45-minute break to do some yoga because it was available?
  • Would you work barefoot all day or take a 15-minute power nap in a designated nap room?

Welcome to the world of ever-evolving co-working spaces, where there is quite literally a thoughtfully designed environment for every work style.

I’m not exactly sure when co-working took off and metamorphosized into awesome, functional and inspiring spaces around the globe, but it’s been pretty exciting to watch and experience firsthand.

Forbes seems to think it’s been in the last five years that “the concept has taken hold across industries. Co-working today is booming as a new generation of entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers, and corporate organizations re-think the overhead costs of business and the value of collaborative work.” For those that may not be as familiar, here’s a rundown of the basics of a (good) co-working space.

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Adam enjoying bourbon in our Barcelona coworking space – Coco Coffice (AFTER the day’s work)
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Co-working in Vietnam – The Hive Saigon!

At a minimum, a co-working space should offer a place to work for various individuals with fast, reliable internet and both open and private areas to work.

Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. Leather couches and Packman? Sure. Fitness classes and a barista? Great! Smoothie bowls and a punching bag? Why not?

These days, it seems that co-working spaces have started to adopt a live, work, play attitude, shattering the boring mold of what an office “should be” and foster an engaging, creative hub fulfilling wants and needs far beyond a space to work. Don’t get me wrong, coffee shops are great to hammer out an hour or two of work, but co-working spaces are ideal for comfort and longer worktimes as they are secure so you can leave your belonging as you trot out for lunch, and most are open 24 hours accommodating any schedule.

One of our favorite co-working spaces on our travels is Biliq Bali, located in Bali, Indonesia. At Biliq, coworkers are surrounded with beautiful murals of greenery, a central pool with workstands for dipping your feet in while working, a calendar featuring a slew of creative workshops available, as well as two office pups running around making everyone smile. Biliq is a co-working space that goes above and beyond just a space to work, although provides that as well. They very authentically showcase their values of work/play balance as well as health and wellness.

Co-working environments form micro-communities where a spectrum of people can not only work to their own pace and comfort level but cross-pollinate ideas with new people outside their network, industry and age group (if they want to). For example, in Porto Portugal at Porto i/o, digital nomad mixers are regularly held for those working in the office, which constantly changes, to get to know one other on a personal level knitting the office community together, giving travelers or expats a sense of belonging within an unfamiliar city. More often than not, there is a tangible eagerness for community for those that join co-working spaces, as they could always work from home or a hipster coffee shop in solitude. As great as flexible schedules can be, sometimes we all just crave a little socialization and routine!

I hear you asking, so who is meant to work in co-working spaces anyways? Entrepreneurs and location independent graphic designers and coders? Well yes; however, coworking spaces are meant for just about anyone as they are intended to be spaces that facilitate efficient, independent work. Even if you have a great office, try popping in a co-working space on the weekend to do some personal planning or reading. It is a great change of scenery and opens you up to a unique group of people and a new environment that you might never normally encounter.

As many of the jobs in our world and various industries continue to become more location independent, coworking spaces serve as vital touchdown spaces that ground people back into a community while still providing the freedom to work in whichever way is best for an individual.

Over these 6 months, we have grown to depend and really love coworking spaces. We’ve met some incredible friends, drank an obscene amount of coffee, got a LOT of work done, and had space in every city that started to feel like home. Go check one out!

Coworking spaces we’ve been to (and growing): Porto – i/o Porto, Barcelona – Coco Coffice, Granada – Errant, Lyon – Mama Works, Georgia – Vere Loft, Bali – Biliq, Ho Chi Minh – The Hive Saigon

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Awesome stairwell graphics at Mama Works in Lyon, France

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Steps outside Fabrika’s coworking space

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Granada Part 1: Land of Tapas, Alhambra and Hammam

Charming, walkable, Alhambra, flamenco dancing, caves, Darro River, 45 minutes from the coast, and oh yes… and free delicious tapas with every drink. There is so much to love and appreciate about Granada that three weeks wasn’t enough so we decided to stay a whole month.

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That glorious thing behind us is Alhambra

Granada oozes Spanish culture, history, a rich food scene and friendly people. I especially was looking forward to this leg of our trip because I speak a solid amount of Spanish and if one thing has been limiting us on our travels, it’s when we don’t know the language well enough to communicate (on a basic level). That being said, Granada is in a region of Spain called Andalusia and we very quickly learned that Andalusia is known for its distinct and fluid accent, aka very difficult for me to understand. Although I was able to limp us along the first few days, my drive to learn the language better was intensified after not being able to communicate as well as I had hoped. After some googling, I enrolled in an intense 2-week program with ImSol, which consisted of 1.5 hours per day of spoken Spanish classes for conversation comprehension. My class was small (3-4 people) and completely in Spanish, zero English crutches. After two weeks, it did help slightly with my confidence to just speak as well as my acclimation to the speed and style in which the people in Granada speak. If anything, the classes and time in Granada ignited the drive in me to learn Spanish fluently because being able to communicate in another language opens up that many more people to communicate with and learn from.

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Our view along the Darro River on our daily walk home to our AirBnB

Tapas, tapas, tapas. We all know the word and I’m sure visions of delicious, small shareable plates are flooding your mind. However, tapas in Granada and Andalusia as a whole are special because this is where they originated. The OG of tapa culture. Although many explanations exist, we learned the term originally derived from a story where a piece of meat was promptly used to cover the King’s glass of wine to prevent insects and sand from getting in, an edible ‘tapa’ or topper. In Andalusia, tapas are gratis, or free, with every round of drinks be it alcoholic or not. We also learned thanks to the bloggers of the great internet, that tapas get better when you stay at the same restaurant or bodega for multiple rounds. Our 2nd and 3rd tapas were often so delicious we would play a game guessing how much it would cost in America, often $8-$12 per tapa in our minds WITHOUT the drinks. Not to mention good local wine is only 2-4 euro!

As you can imagine we did lots of tapa research… and also joined a gym. We probably only paid for a “real dinner” a total of 5-6 times in the month. Tapa crawling was a way of life.

  • Adams favorite tapa was at La Botillería: Veal pot roast and vegetables (3rd tapa)
  • My favorite tapa was also at La Botillería: Beef slider (2nd tapa)
  • Our favorite tapa close to our apartment was at La Hermosa, a brewery making a delicious beer called Sacromonte: huge and fresh homemade potato crisps, the *best* olives, and cured meat cubes with freshly made bread

Okay, now on to one of the most beautiful wonders of the city. Without a doubt, the most notable attraction in Granada is Alhambra, which I am embarrassed to say we didn’t know about before arriving which is a damn shame because we would have done a major history dig. If you haven’t heard of this majestic palace either, stop right now and pay a visit to Google images. Alhambra is absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s an impeccably preserved Moorish castle from the 9th century with more handcrafted detail than you could ever imagine. Not to mention its fascinating history of daughters locked in towers, secret caves, Turkish baths, and various dramatic conquests. Unlike most monuments or castles, Alhambra is in its own category. Adam and I spent about 4+ hours wandering around the massive complex admiring the attention to detail, security measures, grandiose and ingenious design. I could write an entire blog dedicated to Alhambra… and will if I ever get caught up on blogging.

Another great experience we indulged in during our time in Granada was the Hammam, or Turkish Baths. Now since these are private baths, I don’t have pictures because that would be weird, so I’ll have to use my words to paint a picture. However, if my words aren’t enough you could also visit their website which is completely worth it. In a lot of ways, the baths mimicked Alhambra with the tile work and attention to detail. I was really thankful we visited Alhambra before the baths as it gave us a richer experience because we knew more about the reason for the baths and style of design.

Upon arrival for our 10pm soak, called “emerge”, we were led to a calming waiting room thoughtfully decorated with exotic Turkish design touches and helped ourselves to mint tea in a beautiful ornate silver kettle, you know, to start the relaxing process. Then a staff member took each one of us back to our respected dressing rooms with little slippers over our shoes, where we walked through curtains of flowy linen with dim lighting, earthy scents, and tranquil music. Once changed, we entered the baths, yes with bathing suits. Historical and more traditional Turkish baths we learned were sans suits so there were no determining factors of class or hierarchy; everyone equal as God made them.

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The dreamy Hammam waiting room

There were roughly 30 people allowed in the baths at once for a 90-minute soak. Although that might seem like a lot, it never felt crowded because there were multiple baths and rooms; one warm, two hot, one cold, steam room, a hot stone to lay on, showers, and one room to just lay and pour water on yourself if it suited you. There were also hundreds of candles and delicious tea in more ornate silver kettles. I really liked the kettles if you can’t tell by now. Adam particularly liked the cold bath. And when I say cold, think ice bath. I was reluctant to ease into the frigid water myself, but once in, it really made you feel alive. Like every single nerve ending was electrified. The whole experience was incredibly relaxing and felt delightfully indulgent, despite its modest price. Hammam rules.

Okay, clearly we loved Granada because this blog is long and I haven’t even got to cooking paella in Malaga, hiking Los Cahorros, our co-working space, drool-worthy Iberian ham, or our weekend beach getaway to Nerja yet! Look out for Granda Part Two coming soon!

Cheers!

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Now that I have you drooling with our cooking adventure making paella — stay tuned for Part 2!