If it wasn’t for advice on twitter or my love for pizza I probably wouldn’t of visited Napoli. Actually I think at one point I told Morgan that Napoli was off the itinerary after reading about mafia, thieves, violence and dirt and grim in the Lonely Planet! Actually no guidebook seemed to mention anything nice about Napoli at all. After various ‘tweeting’ discussions I figured if I didn’t go I would regret it and seriously how bad can it be??
Our first steps in the central train station already had Lonely Planet labeled as a drama queen (complete liar!) with let me quote them ‘Naples ugly transport hub’ actually being super clean and well laid out. Of course we were still conscious on our 2.5km walk to the hostel however we were both thinking there had been a bit too much exaggeration on the ‘Napoli is treacherous’ theme.
Our hostel (6 Small Rooms) was tucked away in a small back street up 6 killer flights of stairs – my now 19kg pack didn’t make the stairs any easier that is for sure! The hostel is run by Australians who had informed us a few days earlier that they had a small problem with our booking but they would sort it. To our disappointment, this wasn’t really sorted. We had booked the double private for 4 nights however as they double booked (the other booking an acquaintance of theirs) we could only have the room for one night. To cut a long story short we ended up staying in 3 different rooms, the 2 latter rooms were both dorms, which was an interesting experience! We weren’t too impressed however the upside was that it saved us about 25 Euro a night.
The first evening we spent roaming around the old town… It wasn’t really Morgan’s cup of tea – dodging the people in amongst the cars and crazy scooters but I have to admit I quite enjoy it. It seemed a lot more authentic and a whole lot less touristy than Rome. We passed by small boutiques selling local wines, limoncello, produce and every sort of color and style of pasta available… Even black spaghetti! My favourite alley had to be the Christmas alley (Via San Gregorio Armeno) with its small stalls selling the most intricate and expertly made bobbles for the tree as will as gorgeous dioramas and every single accessory you may need for them.
By the time we had strolled back around to our neighborhood it was time for dinner so of course you know what that means! Our very first Neapolitan pizza with a bottle of local Campanian wine. We couldn’t help ourselves so we ordered a maghertia and a marinara pizza and it was awesome – a perfect night in watching Eat, Pray, Love (cheesy I know!).
Day two we had organized to head to Pompeii so it was back to the station from where we would catch a 40-minute train to Pompeii. I have to admit neither one of us were overly impressed. It cost us over 30 Euro for the tickets plus transport only to find out that there are hardly any plaques in English and the 2 Euro map you buy extra is as good as eating soup with a fork. The reason behind this I presume is so you will pay the 5 Euro each extra to get an audio guide or a book. Not us though sorry! However it was amazing to see what was left after the 79 AD deadly quake and all the bits and pieces that were uncovered including old flourmills and even some paintings on the walls of the buildings remained. We also saw a few of the body casts, which were made in the 19th century when they poured plaster in the hollows of the disintegrated bodies… It was a bit creepy!
By the time we got back to the central station in Napoli it was time to eat (yet again!). After our movie the night before we figured it was appropriate to head to the famous Antica Da Michele Pizzeria to have our Julia Roberts moment and not to mention it is still rated among the best pizzerias in Napoli. Surprisingly we only waited for about 15 minutes until we got a seat and the decision was made – a doppio (double) mozzarella each! While we waited with salivating mouths we chatted to the Brazilian couple next to us as we eyed the pizza oven 3 feet away. Once I saw the size of the pizzas I was cursing my hungry eyes, these baby’s are big!!! However I did make it and that was the last full pizza I would gorge myself on during this trip. This wasn’t just because of how uncomfortable my pants felt the rest of the night but when I got on the scales the next morning I freaked…
And that’s when my diet started 🙂 Of course I had to be realistic so starting the next day we made a pact to start eating healthier while not missing out on things – for instance if we have pizza it is only 1 shared and the other meal of the day has to be salad.
The following two days in Napoli were spent getting to know the city better in amongst gelato stops and our healthy mealtimes. My favourite part started off with a visit to the 13th century Duomo located practically in the town centre, which had artists outside painting the pavements. As we wandered further, making our way through piazzas full of old men drinking espresso and playing cards we made our way up the climb to one of the highest points in the city which is also home to the Saint Elmo castle and the ‘Certosa di San Martini’, a 14th century monastery. The stunning views were enough to make anyone disregard Lonely Planets views of the city!
After strolling the hilltop streets we made our way back down towards the waterfront. On the way we stopped in a backstreet to share a pizza after which we had an espresso (not only is it the thing to do but supposedly good for weight loss!). The waterfront in Napoli is gorgeous, if you have doubts about the cleanliness of the rest of the city then make sure you visit this part with its restaurant and bar lined waterfront… Not to mention the stunning waterfront Castel dell’Ovo. As we wound our way back towards our hostel we passed by the royal palace and walked through the gorgeous Galleria Umberto with its glass-domed rooftop. Our night at the hostel was spent relaxing with the other backpackers and dining on a tasty tuna salad (wohhoo go the dedication to the traveling diet!).
The next day was much of the same, strolling through various piazzas and snacking on our very last Neapolitan pizza. We were hoping to visit the ‘Doll Hospital’ as we couldn’t find it the day before but unfortunately when we did find it, it was closed… Such a pity! We downed a few bottles of vino with our fellow roommates before calling it a night.