Naples is a city in Southern Italy, sitting in the eye line of the imposing still-active volcano, Mount Vesuvius.
I spent 4 days in Naples, and if I’m being totally honest, I would not return for this length of time again. For a stopover on the way to the Amalfi Coast, its perfect and two days here would be enough to do it justice.
There are a few reasons why I would not return in any hurry. Firstly, I found the city to be very dirty. The Italian economy is under a lot of strain and this is certainly evident in Naples. The streets and pavements were very unclean, not helped either by many also being in disrepair. As well as this, there is a great deal of pollution in Naples. There appears to be far too many cars for the city to cope with, resulting in a lot of traffic jams and fumes, which, after a day in the city, leaves you with a headache. I found there was just a lack of green space to escape from it all.
Finally, there is A LOT of construction. Everywhere. The city of Naples is currently installing a new metro system but when digging down, they keep stumbling onto new archaeological finds. This means walkways are often hard to navigate as they are covered in boarding.
However, it does have charm, particularly on the waterfront, and I would recommend stopping by if you’re in the area, even if its just for a night. I have rounded up the highlights of my trip for you so you can pick and choose the best bits.
There are of course the classic ‘must-visits’ in any city. The palace in the Piazza del Plebiscito is one of these. Inside, you will find beautiful ceilings and paintings, and even a theatre. The theatre is quite a statement as the Teatro di San Carlo is just a few metres from the palace, and yet the royals felt they needed one of their very own.
The monastery is definitely worth a visit if you have a bit more time on your hands. To get there I would recommend taking the funicular from Toledo. Well, you can if it’s working, unlike when I was there when it was under repair. No surprise there… If it is still broken, you can catch the metro from Toledo to Piazza Montesanto where you can then pick up a funicular to the top.
The monastery has a stunning chapel as well as the most incredible nativity scene on show. They also have the old royal boats on display, another quite astonishing exhibit.
If you haven’t got time to visit the archaeological sites of Pompeii or Herculaneum then a visit to the Museo Nazionale is a must. Here you will find the excavated pieces from the sites which will take you back in time to to that fateful day when the cities were buried under the ash from the Mount Vesuvius eruption. The ash preserved everything as they were, including perishable items such as bread. A history trip worth pursuing.
If you have a day to venture outside the city but don’t have access to a car, then I can recommend the Tramvia. There are numerous Tramvia stops across the city and you can buy your tickets at any newspaper stands advertising the trip. Having done Pompeii on a previous visit to the Amalfi Coast, we opted for a trip to Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius. This cost just €20 a person for a bus from Naples to Herculaneum and then from there to Vesuvius and then back to Naples. At each pickup they were bang on time. We opted for this trip as we were not tied to a tour, it was simply just the transport to the sites.
Herculaneum was a fascinating site. It’s much smaller than Pompeii, but this made it much less daunting and meant that you could wander the whole site in a couple of hours unlike Pompeii, which, if you’re short on time, are left just picking a few bits out to visit. Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompeii, with many roofs still standing. There are also many stunning frescoes on the walls in the houses reflecting the wealth of the inhabitants.
After Herculaneum we made our way to Mount Vesuvius. The drive up the mountain was beautiful and you could see out over the whole bay of Naples. The bus drops you at the closest car park to the top of the volcano, where from there you commence up the final part by foot. I recommend wearing a good pair off trainers for this last part. The walk takes about half an hour, up a rocky path. However, it is totally worth it for the view you get from the top and to peer into the volcano which has smoke coming out from it due the build up of sulphurous gases inside. It is an amazing experience and was my highlight of the trip.
Of course no blog post would be complete without a recommendation of food! For a cool snack when you’re out and about exploring the city, I can recommend Venchi who do delicious ice creams and sorbet, or Gay Odin. This is a family run chocolate business, and have a couple of small shops in the city. They serve up the most fantastic chocolate ice-cream and I would highly recommend them.
For food, the best place to head at night is the Via Partenope. This is along the waterfront and is where you will find a whole host of restaurants. If you’re looking for a gluten free meal as I do, ‘Fresco’ does a scrumptious gluten free pizza, so good I couldn’t tell the difference. It certainly wasn’t the usual cardboard affair I’m used to.
For lunch I would recommend Gran Gusto on Via Nuovo Marina. This is perfect if you’re near the University or have come in from the port as it just a short walk away from both. Gran Gusto is a food shop similar to WholeFoods, however it has a restaurant upstairs serving up some fabulous foods, and the locals seem to opt for the pizzas. Make sure to give it a visit if you’re in the area.
The best restaurant we found was on the Borgo Marinari. This is a tiny island connected by a cobbled path from the Via Partenope that has an old castle on. Here you can find a smattering of restaurants around a square that feels like a movie set it is so quaint. The restaurant we ate at twice in a row as it was so good, was the Hotel Transatlantico. You can have dinner outside overlooking the marina and they serve up fresh fish. Here I had my favourite meal which was clam spaghetti (gluten free), and I’m still dreaming about it….
All in all, although Naples has its flaws, it is still worth a visit and I hope this post has given you a small insight into the worthy parts to visit.