Any preconceived ideas about Naples you might have about it feeling seedy and dangerous you can forget. Yes, there is graffiti, yes it is a little grubby and rundown in places but nothing like how it seems to be portrayed in the media. In fact, for me, the graffiti added to the cities charm. Think back centuries upon centuries where graffiti has been found on walls in ancient Pompeii, which is a short drive down the road from Naples. Graffiti is part of the culture of this city and to my surprise, I didn’t find it offensive.
Steve and I arrived on Friday lunchtime after taking a train from Vietri Sul Mare an hour away on the Amalfi Coast. We were staying in the old town so our first challenge was navigating the metro system. To be honest, it’s not that difficult and mirrors many other metro systems in Europe but just make sure you head to a ticket booth to get your ticket first. At Napoli Garibaldi Station the ticket booth isn’t near the gate for the metro so keep your eyes peeled! Tickets from here to Toledo on line 1 were a couple of euros each.
A few stops later and we were slap bang in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Via Toledo is an ancient street and one of the most important shopping thoroughfares in Naples. Our hotel was situated about halfway up the 1.2 kilometre long street. When we arrived at Relais Della Porta we were greeted with an “I’m sorry. We have had to move you elsewhere due to a water leak in your bedroom”. Of course, you try and remain calm but inwardly you go into panic mode. You worry that where you are moved to will not be what you wanted or paid for. We followed the concierge out of the building and a few meters further down Via Toledo and to the right into the old town. Like many hotels and houses in Naples, you enter through a heavy wooden door from the Main Street into a small courtyard surrounded by properties. On entering our courtyard we were greeted by a building site! At this point, I was starting to inwardly panic. The vision I had for where I was going to stay in Naples wasn’t this. I imagined a beautiful 16th-century courtyard with frescoes but was faced with piles of rubble and builders! We met with a young lady who was introduced to us as the concierge of the apartment building we were due to be staying in. Passing the building site and heading up the stairs I have to say I was feeling rather anxious at the prospect at what I was going to find. To my relief, once the door to the apartment building was opened I was extremely happy with what I found. A newly refurbished, beautiful apartment with huge windows that opened out overlooking Via Toledo. Phew! Thank goodness. Perhaps both Steve and I lucked out on this occasion? Our apartment was called Maison Des Fleurs if you are interested in checking it out for yourself. I should imagine once the renovations are complete this will be a stunning location complete with courtyard and frescoes. For the time being, just be sure that once inside you won’t be disappointed. (June 2019)
As soon as we got settled in (which basically meant tossing our luggage down and using the loo) we headed out to explore. Naples is a bustling place choc-full of locals going about their daily business as well as tourists mooching and taking in the many sights. In all honesty, many parts of the old town are incredibly run down with some buildings looking like they are on their last legs but for some reason unbeknown to me I liked it. It felt rugged and real.
We explored our neighbourhood taking in a few sights as we walked. I have never in my whole life come across so many churches as I did in Naples. Most of them are open to the public with free entry. Of course, there are always donation boxes by the door for your loose change.
After a few hours exploring the old town, we headed back to our apartment to shower and ready ourselves for our first night in Naples. Tripadvisor and google maps are always dear friends of mine on holiday. I like to feel like I am making the most of my time abroad and don’t want to waste precious moments (and calories) eating bad food or sitting in the wrong cafes and bars. A little online research can go a long way.
Being in Naples I had my heart set on finding the city’s best pizza but first, it was a bar for a pre-dinner drink Steve and I were looking for. Steve is a massive real ale and craft beer fan and we managed to find this fabulous bar a stone’s throw from our apartment called Oak. Oak had a vast selection of craft beers from all over the world including a top Italian selection. Their wine selection was pretty up there too. We ended up visiting Oak twice over our 48 hours in Naples it was that good. I would highly recommend going.
From Oak, we headed deeper into the old town to hunt out THE best pizza. Sorbillo was coming out tops so we set google maps and winded our way through the narrow old streets. A queue was already formed outside and we decided to join in the action. It seemed to be moving pretty quickly and within 30 minutes we were inside.
Sorbillo is by no means a fancy place. Tables are packed into quite a small area. The toilets are basic but the service is quick and the pizzas are pretty darn great. I mean, that’s what every person that steps beyond the threshold is looking for. A true taste of Neapolitan pizza. The sourdough base and simple toppings really do make for a top-notch pizza. Mine was topped with anchovies, olives and capers. It was the right amount of salty and the drizzle of olive oil over the top creating a finger-licking good feast. The base was thin with no soggy bottom in sight. In fact, it was everything I wanted from my first taste of a true Neapolitan pizza. Steve’s was topped with mushrooms, ham and mozzarella. Equally tasty and delicious.
From Sorbillo we made our way back to Maison des Fleurs with full bellies. Our large and comfortable bed was waiting for us.
After a good nights sleep and breakfast, we headed back out to explore a little more. We decided to follow Via Toledo down to the coast to experience amazing views over the bay and out towards Vesuvius. We visited Borgo Marinari, a small marina that sits directly below Castel dell’Ovo. With it being a Saturday morning it was a hive of activity. Children taking boating lessons, people taking their morning coffee and restaurants and bars readying themselves for another busy day. Castel dell’Ovo which translates to Egg Castle, is built on a peninsula that overlooks the Bay of Naples. Legend has it that Roman poet Virgil, who had a reputation as a great sorcerer and predictor of the future, had put an egg in the foundations of the castle. If the egg had been broken the castle would have been destroyed and a serious of unforeseen events for Naples would have followed. It still stands so I am guessing the egg remained intact!
We climbed to the top of the castle which provided us with superb views over the city, the water and of course, Vesuvius. Entry to the castle is free of charge and in my opinion completely worth it for the views.
We circled back into the main hub of the city with the old town being our destination once again. It was getting on for lunchtime so decided to stop somewhere for a drink and some snacks. Breakfast had been pretty big and it was fairly hot so neither of us were particularly hungry. We found a cute bar that had caught my eye the evening before. Wine Cafè da Mario, established in 1956, specialises in fine Italian wines as well as serving traditional Italian aperativo, coffee, snacks and light meals. With tables outside, we took a seat. To my joy, Wine Cafè da Mario served Cynar. A bitter alcoholic beverage made from artichokes served typically like an Aperol or Campari Spritz. Of course, I had to order one and it was the perfect afternoon pick me up alongside some salty snacks. Steve had a Sardinian beer.
I had my heart set on getting myself a souvenir from Naples to take home with me. Not just any souvenir. I am not a fridge magnet kind of girl! I once again searched google maps for vintage stores within the old town. It came up with quite a selection so with a promise to Steve that we would visit Oak again afterwards we headed through the throng to a street that seemed to be the home of quite a few vintage stores. After checking out a couple I found HEM. For anyone who loves proper vintage clothes and homewares then you have to put this place on your to-do list. Not only is it a vintage boutique, it’s a bar and social meeting space. They even have live music occasionally I have since found out from following them on Instagram. I was in my element and spent quite a long time fingering my way through the rails. I tried on a few beautiful pieces but finally settled on a 1950’s buttermilk silk dress. It fitted like a glove and was the perfect souvenir to take home. Every time I put it on I can think of my time in Naples.
Whilst in HEM I asked the shop assistant if she could recommend anywhere else. She pointed out a boutique a little further down the road. Retrophelia was a little smaller than HEM but carried some great stock. A handmade black and cream silk blouse being the final souvenir of my trip.
As promised, I agreed with Steve to make our way back to Oak for a drink before picking up some nibbles to have at our apartment. With an early flight the following morning we had decided to eat in. Whilst following the road back we stumbled across Palazzo Venezia. They were advertising an artisan market so we took a detour. Oh my goodness, I am so glad we did. This place was the perfect haven amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. You enter the Palazzo Venezia via a doorway on a hidden courtyard. Make your way up the stairs and you will find a cafe/bar with a secret garden. Inside, a grand piano for people to play at their leisure and many stalls selling beautifully made crafts.
Steve and I ordered drinks at the bar and sat in the stunning gardens taking in everything around us. This hour was one of the highlights of my trip to Naples. I would highly recommend a visit just to sit and relax in the garden. It’s an oasis of calm and tranquillity.
From here we moved to Oak, Steve’s favourite find of our trip to Naples. This time we sat outside and watched the world go by before stopping off at one of the numerous deli’s to pick up our evening nibbles.
Back at our apartment, we had a chance to nibble our deli finds and pack up our belongings before heading to bed. Our morning alarm was set for 3.30am with a taxi pick up at 4am to take us to Naples International Airport. With our flight back to Exeter scheduled for 6.30am we were back at home in time for lunch. I can’t tell you how great it is to have these brand new flights into Exeter Airport. It makes travelling a breeze.
I loved my (just about) 48 hours in Naples. Forget about the bad stuff you hear about crime and dirtiness and go with an open mind. Embrace Napoli’s run-down charm and savour every moment. Take time to explore the side streets, get off the beaten track and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Use my guide of highlights to navigate you through this small part of the city. I would love to hear what you discover. With regular flights from my home town, I am pretty sure this visit won’t be my last.
If you venture further down the coast from Napoli you might want to check out my following posts.