Visiting Naples

Spending 5 nights in Napoli

With my friend studying Italian in Rome, I decided to fly out there as her course ended for a couple of nights there followed by a few days in Naples and then Sorrento.

In St Peter’s Square

Having been to Rome a few times before, my time there was mainly spent at the bars, cafes and restaurants catching up with my friend and enjoying the sunshine in Villa Borghese gardens. From here we caught the train from Termini station south to the city of Naples.

It would be my first visit to the city although my friend had been once before and we were staying at the same hotel she had stayed in before, La Stanze Del Vicere Hotel, near the Toledo area of the city and not far from the Archaeological Museum. The hotel is situated inside a restored 16th century townhouse and the original 16th century staircase remains leading into the main building.

Pizza in Naples

Checking into the hotel late afternoon, one of the first things we wanted to do was experience the famous Neopolitan pizza – the Margherita pizza is said to have originated in the city of Naples, but more on that later! – so we went for a walk to Piazza Dante, stopping along the way at a tucked away restaurant for dinner, then on to the popular Piazza Bellini for drinks.

The next day, we walked the short distance to Naples Archaeological Museum spending most of the morning exploring its extensive collection of Roman artifacts including many from the nearby archaeological sites of Herculaneum and the more famous Pompeii.

After leaving the museum, we spent some time exploring the historic centre of Naples. Heading south along Via Duomo, we passed Naples Cathedral stopping to have a look inside then we wandered along the busy Via dei Tribunali with its many cafes and souvenir stores.

Above, and below, visiting Naples Underground

After stopping for coffee and pastries we decided to buy tickets for the nearby Naples Underground attraction. Here, visitors can take a tour of a series of tunnels running beneath the city once used as Roman aqueducts and, more recently, as bomb shelters in the Second World War.

San Domenico Maggiore Church

The tour was really interesting but not one to take if you don’t like confined spaces – at one point we had to squeeze along an extremely narrow passageway with just a candle to light the way!

Following on from our underground tour, we continued to walk south towards the marina stopping in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, overlooked by the church it is named after. Unfortunately, the church’s doors were closed so we didn’t have chance to look inside but instead, we sat out at a cafe in the square having drinks to cool us down before continuing our walk to the seafront.

Above, and below, visiting Castel Nuovo

Finally reaching the seafront late afternoon, we visited Castel Nuovo, a medieval castle overlooking the marina.

Piazza del Plebiscito

While not the most exciting attraction in the city, the views across the bay with Vesuvius looming in the distance made the small entrance fee worth it.

Fontana del Gigante

From Castel Nuovo, we walked towards Piazza del Plebiscito, a large pedestrianised square beside the Royal Palace of Naples before taking a stroll along the sea wall to the imposing Fontana del Gigante, a 17th century fountain and then along the peninsula to Castel dell’Ovo.

Above, and below, visiting Castel dell’Ovo

It was free to look around this castle overlooking the harbour and as the sun was starting to set, we spent a bit of time enjoying the views.

After visiting Castel dell’Ovo, we walked back along the sea front to Piazza del Plebiscito and the nearby Pizzeria Brandi.

Above, and below, dining at Pizzeria Brandi

Supposedly the birthplace of the Margherita pizza, there was a long wait for a table but it was worth it to eat in such a historic venue as well as it being the best pizza I had all trip!

Stopping for dessert

Then we walked to a nearby metro station to catch the train back to our hotel, stopping first for more drinks (and dessert!) at one of the many bars along the way.

Visiting Herculaneum

The next day, we caught the metro to Central Station where we would be catching the Circovesuviana train out to the archaeological site of Herculaneum.

The Circovesuviana runs between Naples and Sorrento with stops including Pompeii and this would be the first of a few trips along this route during our trip.

Herculaneum is an ancient town which, like the better known Pompeii, was buried under ash following the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.

Above, and below, exploring Herculaneum

The site is even better preserved than Pompeii – there was a lot less structural damage to the town than there was to Pompeii so there are buildings almost entirely intact with perfectly preserved mosaics and many household objects still there. Visiting the site was almost like walking around a Roman town as it would have been back then.

After spending a few hours exploring, we stopped for lunch nearby before catching the train back to Naples where we spent the evening having drinks in Piazza Bellini.

Day 3 of our stay in Naples was once again spent outside of the the city, this time visiting the island of Capri.

Enjoying the sunshine on the beach at Capri

We’d booked our ferry ticket in advance catching the metro down to the marina early morning ready to board. Once in Capri, I was really looking forward to seeing the Blue Grotto, a sea cave you can go on a boat tour to visit, but after a tumultuous crossing from Naples – causing sea sickness among many passengers! – it was announced that the conditions were too rough for the small rowing boats to make trips out to it.

The seafront at Capri

That gave us a bit more time in Capri itself and we decided to spend some time relaxing on the small pebble beach enjoying the sunshine for a while in order to recover from the ferry trip!

Exploring beautiful Capri

From the beach, we took the bus to Anacapri, one of the towns on the island situated high up on the island. Being summer, there were huge queues for the bus – a tiny minibus with very few seats and we were packed on like sardines trying our best not to fall over as we raced up the steep hills of Capri.

Once at our destination, we spent some time enjoying the views over the bay before wandering down the streets for some window shopping and then finding somewhere just about affordable for lunch.

Saying goodbye to Capri

After lunch we walked to Capri town for more window shopping before catching the funicular railway back down to sea level and catching the ferry back to Naples.

Our last full day in Naples and we were again riding the Circumvesuviana, this time to Pompeii.

Above,and below, exploring Pompeii

The Pompeii archaeological site was somewhere that had been high on my list of places I had wanted to visit for a long time and while I did find exploring the site fascinating, I do wish that I had taken a guided tour of the site to get more out of my visit and learn more about what I was seeing.

Arriving early, we spent all morning at Pompeii. After eating lunch at a local cafe, we then went to visit the crater of Mount Vesuvius.

Above, and below, hiking to the crater at Vesuvius

We booked transport on the Busvia del Vesuvio which dropped us at the start of the path which lead up to the crater. It was an easier hike than I expected and once at the crater, there were guides at the top ready to answer any questions and reassure us that we weren’t in any immediate danger of an eruption! After retracing our steps back down the path, we were picked up by the bus and returned to Pompeii station to catch our train back to Naples again.

The next day, we would be leaving Naples for a few days on the Amalfi coast but first, we had the morning to spend in the city.

Shopping on Via San Gregorio

We decided to walk to Via San Gregorio, often referred to as ‘Christmas Avenue’. The road is famous for being the home of a row of shops selling Christmas ornaments and gifts all year around. After spending some time browsing, we picked up some ornaments as souvenirs to take with us.

Then it was time to collect our luggage from our hotel and once again make our way to the train station to catch the Circumvesuvio, this time, all the way to the end of the line in Sorrento.

I’d really enjoyed my time in Naples and the surrounding area. Away from the touristy marina area, I had found it to feel a lot more authentically Italian than some of the other more touristy Italian cities I had visited with its narrow lanes, cobbled streets and residents busily going about their day and I hoped to return someday.

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