Central Naples has fast become one of Italy’s most up-and-coming destinations, thanks to its great location near some of the country’s best historical gems and its fantastic foodie credentials.
Many head here for the authentic feel of the city; personally, I did find it a little sketchy by the main central station, especially at night, but there is a police presence and the positives far outweigh the negatives. So, if you’re thinking of following your stomach to Napoli, be sure to taste… I mean tick… these off your list.
Home of the eponymous Neapolitan pizza, I had slices aplenty of Italy’s most famous export. Of course, due to my cheese hatred, I opted for my favourite marinara instead (cheeseless, with tomato, herbs and garlic) and Naples bought a plethora of variations; with anchovies was an interesting but strangely delicious one.
Naples is ideally located along the coast and, my God, the mussels were incredible - pretty much on par with the ones I had in Oslo. While walking along the coast, we actually spotted mussels being picked straight from the water by locals and local restaurant staff, like nature intended it, eh?
On this same walk, we made a beeline for the local sights, namely the Castel Nuevo (from where we watched the mussels being picked) and the Ovo Castle. Both are really cool fortresses you can explore to transport yourself back in time - and the latter is close to a stop for the City Sightseeing bus, which we all know I am a sucker for. The bus takes you high into the hillside and provides some fantastic views of Vesuvius as you cruise back down.
Another local site is the Catacombs of San Gennaro. So. damn. cool. It takes a little while to get to from the centre of the city, but so worth it. When you go inside you can see where people were baptised, confirmed and buried - which were pretty close to each other - and literally stand in the exact places they stood. It’s like being in a creepy cave, with body shelves; I loved it.
Naples is ideally located for a plethora of day trips, with great train connections, and we took FULL advantage. The postcard-perfect hilltop peninsula of Sorrento is around an hour’s train ride away and is exactly what you’d expect from an Italian seaside town; cobblestone streets lead to gorgeous churches, hidden pathways open up onto breathtaking sea views. As is a reoccurring theme with literally nearly every place I travel to (I wish I had originally started taking photos, as I could be managing a banging Insta gimmick right now), we saw a wedding and really, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful setting. Make your way down to the beach (many are managed by hotels, but you can access them for a small fee) to get in the proper holiday spirit.
We twinned our day to Sorrento with a coach ride along the Amalfi Coast, which was one of the most beautiful drives EVER. The waters seemed endless, and the horizon so far away. More and more lush green mountainsides came into view at every turn, and at some points, it felt as if we were hovering above the ocean. The specific coach we chose was, all in all, about a three-hour round trip (with a stop for pizza in a quaint town, of course). We went early afternoon, but I would highly recommend one a little earlier, so you can have more exploring time.
For the history buffs among you, another great pairing is a trip to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. We chose to visit Vesuvius in the morning - again, hop on the same direct train -, which boasted incredible views of the Bay of Naples from the (almost - I’ve got asthma, okay?) top, stop for the most gorgeous ravioli ever, then moved on to Pompeii. The irony of seeing the crater of the former so closely, then exploring the devastation it wreaked on the latter, was not lost. Mount Vesuvius was definitely up there with the hiking I enjoyed, and ranked between the mountains in Chefchaeoun and Barcelona in terms of views for me. It was probably a little harder than Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, so not too bad.
Visiting Pompeii is such a unique experience; again, like the catacombs, you literally walk in the footsteps of people from a time past. Like a few spots in Amsterdam, we learned about the events of that night in Pompeii in such detail that to see the place before my eyes was pretty sobering. You can literally walk into what was the equivalent of someone’s living room, and actually see casts of actual bones in the position they, well, died in (eeeeek). Morbid, but pretty damn fascinating.
All in all, I’d say everyone should visit Naples once - even if for the food alone. However, not something I’d often say, but in my opinion, perhaps it serves as more of a base to take trips out from, like we did, or conversely, a great place to day trip to, if you’re staying in another nearby coastal town.