As I step to the side to get a different angle for my photo, I almost trip over the pile of rubbish bags that have been dumped in the middle of the square. I catch my balance and go back to framing the photo. I'm trying to capture a beautiful church without the graffiti that has been sprayed along the lower part of the wall.
I'm not bothered - I've come to accept that this is a typical experience in Naples, as quintessential as eating pizza or drinking an espresso. Because Naples is beautiful and fascinating ... once you look past the grime and the grit.
Before I arrived in this southern Italian city, I had thought the stories about its dark side had been exaggerated in the way so many clichés in this country are. But after spending two weeks in Naples, I came to realise they were true.
Trash is piled up constantly on the streets ... but it's generally cleared away overnight. There is graffiti on the walls everywhere ... but walk through a door and you'll find a spotless and peaceful architectural masterpiece.
And tourists are targeted by criminals (a friend of mine is mugged right in front of me) ... but for every thug, there are a thousand generous souls.
What this creates is a textured city that is chaotic, to be sure, but also authentic. The more polished Italian cities in the north like Florence or Venice can sometimes feel like they are made for tourists. Here in Naples, real life goes on around you.
That's not to say there isn't plenty for tourists to do in Naples. In the historic centre, start with the churches - particularly the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of St Januarius in the cathedral and the enormous Church of Gesu Nuovo, which was converted from a palace in the 16th century.
Saint Elmo Castle offers impressive views of the city from the hilltop fortifications, while the New Castle is quite a misnomer because this coastal residence was built in 1279. Nearby, the vast Royal Palace can be toured and the curved Basilica San Francesco da Paola next to it seems to hug the large square between them.
The grand buildings throughout Naples - so many of them apparently neglected - show the wealth and power that flowed through the city from medieval times, through the Renaissance, to the period of constantly-shifting empires and royal states.
The small piazzas and streets full of alfresco dining are emblematic of the vibrant modern culture that defines the city. Of course, you can't come without trying the pizza (or, if you're like me, eating it for almost every meal). But one of the most important parts of Naples, that can't be ignored, is its ancient history.
A highlight of a visit to Naples is the National Archaeological Museum, a huge building with an impressive collection of artefacts from across Italy and the world. But I would particularly recommend seeing the items that have been collected from Pompeii to prepare for the site itself.
It takes less than 30 minutes to get to Pompeii by train from central Naples but the journey takes you back 2000 years to the Ancient Roman city that was frozen in time. It's eerie to walk along the streets, into the houses, through the temples that were effectively preserved when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.
Archaeologists have discovered frescoes painted on the walls, household items that were in the middle of being used, and the horrifying bodies of people petrified in the moment.
On the way to Pompeii, you pass by the colossal volcano that caused the devastation and has threatened the people of Naples ever since. Mount Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 and is monitored closely, with experts waiting for the day it will blow again. But until then, it can be climbed with a track that leads from a parking station near the top to the tip of the crater.
All of this is another part of the charm of Naples. It's not just an authentic interesting city, it's also a perfect base to explore some of the most iconic sights in Italy.
Continue past Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii and you'll reach the Amalfi Coast, with charming towns like Sorrento and Positano. Catch a ferry across the Bay of Naples to the island of Capri where you can drink prosecco and sunbathe with the rich and famous.
Or explore more of the region's history at the Ancient Greek temples of Paestum or the opulent royal palace of Caserta, one of the largest in the world.
It's not that you need to ignore the garbage, the graffiti, or the crime in Naples. It's just that you need to look beyond these things or you'll miss the wonders that lie so easily within reach.
You can fly from Australia to Naples with just one stop in Dubai, although the fastest train from Rome is just one hour. A budget hotel room is about $70 a night and a 5-star is about $400. A pizza costs around $12.
Michael Turtle is a journalist who has been travelling the world full-time for eight years. Follow his travel adventures at timeturtletravel.com