Naples, Napoli, the home of Pizza. A trio of names belonging to a completely different Italy to what the world is accustomed to. Dense pollution and a hectic pace are somewhat intense as a tourist. This makes Naples a completely different experience to any European city we’ve been to. Take a look at our guide and time!
Having heard the reviews for Naples being “Authentic Italy”, we opted for a homestay via Air BnB in the downtown region. Close to the Naples National Archaeological Museum and Materdei/Piazza Cavour metro stations, we were ideally situated for an exploration into Naples. At €20 per night, it was a complete win win! Depending on your budget, there are hotels and hostels that range from £20 up to the top dollar.
Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Don’t really need to say anything else. Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaelle Esposito concocted the first margherita in 1889 and Neapolitan’s have never looked back! Completely different from any other pizza we’ve had, the base is doughy yet light and is incomparable with anywhere else. They also love a pastry, including Sfogliatella (meaning small, thin leaf/layer due it’s resemblance to stacked leaves) and little angels, which is dough with too much Nutella, if that were a thing! Putting on the extra pounds is definitely worth it here!
Our recommendation would be Starita restaurant, which serves the most incredible pizza at extremely reasonable prices.
Our location was close enough to walk to the majority of our destinations, although we did travel to the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius during our time here. Subway travel is inexpensive (€1.50 for 90 minutes of travel) and all Italian trains are reasonable as well.
Pompeii – Take the train to Pompeii station and the walk is fairly straight forward. There are also buses.
Amalfi Coast – Dependent on where you want to go, there are trains to Sorrento and Salerno, at either point of the Amalfi Coast. From there, there is the option to get a bus to a specific town, such as Amalfi, or you can hike the Path of God’s to get in between a few of the towns!
Mt Vesuvius – Train to Ercolano. If you get there early enough, it is possible to walk. Don’t do our mistake though of getting to Ercolano, finding out the last bus back is at 3:30, attempting to hike and then getting lost. We had to return back to the train station to embarrassingly get on the last bus up to the volcano! The bus there and back is €15 with Vesuvio Express. The people at Vesuvio Express were extremely rude however, so that may encourage you to get your hiking boots on!
I’ve covered a few above, yet there is a lot more to see in and around Naples!
- Christmas Street – A year round street dedicated to our big fat St Nick!
- Mt Vesuvius
- Pompeii / Herculaneum
- Amalfi Coast
- National Archaeological Museum
- Castel dell’Ovo / Sant’Elmo / Nuovo
- Royal Palace of Naples
- Le Neapolis Sotterrata – Underground Naples
- Bay of Naples
Plus many more!
What we got up to
Our first initial thoughts of Naples were confusion. We couldn’t understand after going around Florence, Rome and Cinque Terre, how we were in what looked like such a run down city. It had a feel of Bangkok or Beijing, extremely high volumes of traffic, resulting in fumes that get you higher than the Empire State. Even by the last day, I don’t think we spotted a car that wasn’t scratched or scuffed. This was the culture of Naples and something we had to come to terms with immediately! The locals are entirely different too, making the experience unique and invigorating.
POMPEII – A touristic jewel located a trains journey away from Naples, Pompeii has been attracting guests for years. It’s easy to see why.The Vesuvius eruption of 79 A.D. buried this Roman city in ash, killing 2,000 people. Damn you nature! Discovered in 1748, researchers were shocked to see the ruins still in tacts and do their upmost to maintain the historical grounds.The impeccably kept ruins give us an insight into our Italian ancestors and perhaps show that we weren’t too dissimilar.The appliances they used for daily living, for example in the kitchen, were not too shy of what we would use today. That of course means a fire burning oven, not a Nutri-Bullet or kettle! Take a tour around the grounds where you will see structures such as a 20,000 seat arena, elaborate villas and elegant houses which line the paved streets. There’s an abundance of colour too and it’s easy to envisage life back in those times.
For more information, see: http://www.pompeionline.net/pompeii/
The site wasn’t as busy as you would expect, albeit we were there in October. There is a quieter neighbour similar to Pompeii called Herculaneum. It’s possible to do the pair in a day!
A lazy day but fully deserved, we wandered into Naples Old Town and took in the city. Other than the persistent head aches from car fumes and people pipping their horn, it’s a really interesting, if slightly dirty, city. Even the churches had poorly tagged graffiti, which is a recurring theme throughout Italy. It was underground Naples and the Christmas Street that took our attention.
Located with San Lorenzo Maggiore, underground Naples is ancient Neapolis, founded a bloody long time ago (470 B.C). Similar to Pompeii with it’s narrow streets and various wineries, it’s a real blast from past. For more info:
Via San Gregorio Armeno: Otherwise known as Christmas Alley, is a couple of hundred yards of pointless Christmas nik-naks for grandparents, some fine Christmas clay sculptures and an abundance of little crafted peppers. These are known as cuornuciellos which translate to little horn. It’s an Italian amulet that was worn to protect against the evil eye. Sounds a lot like Lord of the Rings, right? It now represents good luck to the Neapolitan people.
After guzzling on wine and munching on pastries, we went to the Amalfi Coast to hike the Path of Gods (POG). The journey there is lengthy and to get the most out of a day to Amalfi, it’s highly recommended to get up early. There’s a convenient bus outside the Salerno train station that will take you to Amalfi and beyond. We dropped off here and wondered around the town, and bought a litre of the best limoncello we’d drunk thus far. Limoncello originates in Amalfi and the lack of sugar and zesty zing from the lemons creates a remarkable alcoholic flavour. We even crashed an Italian wedding!
We got a bus to the starting point of the POG in Bomerano and commenced on the hike to Positano. It was a similar hike to the Cinque Terre, although in our opinion, slightly easier and not as pretty. Still a better view than what you’d get on Scarborough front.
Prior to arriving to Positano, there’s a very astute businessmen selling his homegrown lemon or orange juice for a mere €2, which after a couple of hours walking, was well worth it!
Positano is a lovely town, brimming with beauty and lovely shops, if touching on being overly touristic. There’s a lovely beach and some great clothes, although we didn’t embrace it fully as we wanted to get back for dinner. We didn’t get to visit Sorrento either, although the bus made it look like a premier town.
Arriving back late, we were unsure whether we wanted to go out for food at the recommended Starita. How glad we were once we got there! We started with stuffed zucchini flower x2 and arancini x2, which unfortunately had meat in so I got to have both arancini! Perks of a veggie pig. Mains were 2 pizzas, 1 had a pumpkin base with pumpkin flower, pepper, zucchini and prevola cheese & 1 with truffle base with porcini mushrooms and prevola. We finished with the little angels. All that plus 1/2l of wine for €33! We went to bed as happy campers.
Our final day in Naples saw us head to Vesuvius after a lazy morning. I think shifting our bodies with all that food in was too much on a Sunday! We arrived after lunchtime and were greeted by a very happy bus salesman who wanted to take us to Vesuvius. Like a sharp bend they turned after we said we wanted to hike and they became unhelpful and dismissive. We were happy to prove them wrong and make our way to Vesuvius, weren’t we! 45 minutes into our hike and a few wrong turns later, we turned back and jumped on the last available bus for a 30 minute hike around Vesuvius. The bus has very cheeky signs on requesting a tip, yet it seemed unwarranted for him to only point out the Bay of Naples.
The volcano was smokey, the view was spectacular and the pizza seemed burned off. We wandered round before heading back and had another Starita pizza with our hosts and discussed Brexit. What a time to be alive.
Naples is different to anything you would expect from Italy and that is what gives it it’s unique flavour. Look past the car fumes, the damaged cars and the dirty looking buildings and you’ll be able to embrace the food, culture and people of “real” Italy.