If you are looking for a long week end gateway in Europe, Naples might just be what you need!
Taking advantage of a business trip to Rome, I extended my stay a little to visit Naples. Back when I was in high school, I visited Rome, Naples and Pompei with my fellow classmates learning Italian. I remember having a blast overall (school trip, you know !) but really the only memory I have of Naples was the teacher telling us girls to be extra careful and that the city wasn’t safe.
Fast forward 15 years (ouchhhh), when I asked an Italian friend for recommendations, he strongly recommended not to go to Naples, for a million of reasons including the danger of the Rome-Naples train, the dirtiness of the city and the fact that two ladies traveling alone will be for sure victim of constant harassment … He was so strong in his opinion, he left me a little uncertain. When I feedbacked the same to my mum (my travel partner for the occasion) , she told me I could stay in Rome, she would go anyway! (Guess where my strong character comes from!)
So of course I wasn’t gonna let her go on her own, and I joined. And let me tell you … I didn’t it regret it one second. Naples is a bustling, colourful, flavourful, messy and full of characters city, and I enjoyed all of it! So here is a little bit of what we did and loved.
WHAT TO DO ?
National Archeological Museum :A stunning collection of Roman and Greek Antics with an interesting (thought not quite to my liking) mix of modern art. It is considered one of the most important museum in the world for classic Greek / Roman Antics, yet the museum was almost empty of tourists, which made it even more enjoyable.
Open everyday but Tuesday, from 9am to 7.30 am. Full Price : 12 EUR
Napoli Sotterranea :Really the highlight of my day. A beautiful and insightful 2h tour of the Greko – Roman Napolitan Aqueduct built 2400 years ago and later used during the 2nd WW as a shelter for the Napolitan population, heavily bombarded by the Allies. The historical back and forth between the Greek Period and the 2nd World War kept the visit very interesting, but it all came down to our guide who was amazing with lots of anecdotes and a witty sense of humour!
One quick note for my fellow claustrophobics : 99% of the visit is completely fine, as the caves are vast … however, there is a small (non compulsory) part of the visit that involves walking for about 200 m in a 60 cm narrow corridor with no lighting. If you decide to go, you will be handed a candle to lit up your path. I nearly didn’t make it, but then decided to go the last (so I could walk back if needed), and didn’t regret it. It is the only way to see the caves that still have water and it’s really beautiful !
The tour departs every 2 hours from 10am to 6pm. Full Price : 10 EUR
The humidity inside reaches 100% so you may want to take a light jacket or scarf. Below picture not mine, it comes straight from their website… Unfortunately I traveled without my camera this time, and the Iphone just doesn’t do the trick !
Piazza Del Plebiscito :Beautiful main square of Naples, surrounded by the Pallazo Reale and the Basilica di San Francesco di Paola.
Via Toledo : A commercial street animated at any time of the day , filled with international and local brands, pizza and ice creams places, street artists etc …
Via dei Tribunali : As Napolitan as it gets, this busy street is full of churches, pizzerias ( You might want to try Pizza Sorbillo, if you are very patient), cafes and ice cream shops ! Napoli Sotteranea entrance is there, and the Sansevero Church is just nearby.
Sea Side Promenade : Taking a long walk (1h) from the Palazzo Realle, down to the coast, and all the way to Mergellina is a very beautiful stroll, ideal in the morning when it is not too hot yet, and to give you a good reason to indulge in pizza for lunch!
WHERE TO EAT ?
OMG, where to even begin ! This is going to sounds so obvious, but really …. the Italian food is to die for, and non of the Naples restaurant we tried failed to impress. According to the legend, the pizza was even born in Naples …. Is that not the best excuse to have pizza everyday ? Anyone with me on this one ?
Because sometimes it is good to be a super tourist and tick a famous place off the bucket list, we decided to get our first pizza at L‘Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. We arrived to the pizzeria around 3pm, ready to sit, eat and enjoy, but things didn’t quite go as planned. Upon arrival there was quite a crowd standing outside the little, unpretentious restaurant, with no real line or any apparent form of organisation. Confused, I asked a lady standing next to me what I was supposed to do, and she told me to make my way inside and get a ticket … I got in, told the old man at the cashier that I would like a table for 2, got the number number 77 and went back outside.
About 2 min later, the number 85 is called …. I was confused again, until I finally got it …. The tickets are coming in batch of 100 … and I was the number 77 on the next batch! Meaning, there was 92 tables before us! A little worried yet confident it would go fast, we started to wait … wait … wait … 45 min later, they were calling the number 15 and we gave up. I was a little frustrated but really, I wasn’t gonna wait an other 3 hours for pizza! Anyway, we went on for a walk, trying to find a decent place for such a late lunch, but the neighbourhood was not that great.
Full on annoyed and starting to seriously starve, we walked back toward our hotel … and passed by L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele again! I thought I might as well check out what the current queue number was… and it was 65 ! Only 12 to go for the 77 (I had the good idea to keep the ticket!). So we went back in line, and after around 10 min we finally go to sit in and have pizza . The choice was easy as there is only 2 pizzas on the menu : Marguerita & Marinara (basically Marguerita without cheese).
So the obvious question is … Was the pizza worth it? Well it really is a great pizza with a thin and soft crust, a rich, flavourful tomato sauce and super fresh mozzarella topping! With a fresh, it was perfect! I guess after nearly 150 years of making only 2 kind of pizza, they kinda mastered it! But aside from the pizza, I guess it is all about the overall experience, the very antic decoration, watching the pizzaiolo prepare the pizza right in front of you ect … It is a little bit more that just the pizza! And for 6 EUR / pax, it is an amazing deal … If you are patient!
So, my best piece of advise : Arrive really early. (probably around 11am. 11.30am max or late (when we left, around 5pm, it is was a little bit calmer). And if really you don’t have the time or the patience to wait around, just take away. It is a lot faster and will be equally delicious.
Thankful the second pizza story is not nearly as epic. After a nice walk to Mergellina, we stopped for lunch at the new and trendy 50 KALO. This time we arrived really early and were seated immediately, but soon after a long line started to form outside! This is a much more conventional restaurant, with an overwhelmingly long list of pizzas. I chose one with a creme base and some Serrano ham, and I was the happiest girl on the planet.
WHERE TO STAY ?
We stayed at theNaples Renaissance Hotel Mediterraneo.The hotel is part of the Mariott Group, so you can’t really go wrong. I booked the cheapest room, and it was nice and comfy (Although slightly deceiving compare to the Booking.com pictures).
Location is ideal and allows you to do all of the above by walk. The best part of this hotel is the beautiful rooftop where breakfast is served. Unfortunately, there is no evening bar, but you can buy a drink at the lobby bar and bring it up to enjoy the sunset ! USD 150/night