“Rome is stately and impressive; Florence is all beauty and enchantment; Genoa is picturesque; Venice is a dream city; but Naples is simply – fascinating.”-Lilian Whiting
We started our Two week Mediterranean Vacation in Naples, Italy where we stayed for three nights, before making our way to Rome. Our first impression of Naples, came from the back seat of a taxi ride from the airport to our Bed and Breakfast. Our Taxi Driver was very friendly and probably the most terrifying, yet safe, driver in which I have been a passenger. He was weaving in an out of the extremely congested traffic, up and down on sidewalks, people were walking in between the cars, it was terrifying and amazing. A great cultural immersion. Along the route we got a glimpse of the streets are lined with markets, fruit stands, and flower shops, and countless people walking to church. What should have been about a 15 minute drive took about an hour and a half! This was because we arrived on Halloween, or Festa dei Morti, much like the Day of the Dead, which evidently is the most popular day for Italians to pay tribute to their dead loved ones at church, according to our driver. Once we reached a standstill we were only a few blocks from our B&B so we decided to walk the rest of the way. Overall, the winding cobblestone streets of Naples and are totally quintessentially Italian: pizzerias and cafes at every corner, kiosk merchants selling tchotchkes, men roasting chestnuts, and Vespas at every turn. While there are heaps of garbage that line the streets, it is an incredible city and totally worth a visit! During our stay we ate some amazing Pizza (obviously, as Naples is where pizza originated), and were able to learn about historical and cultural events, food, and experiences. Read on to learn about all of the amazing things to see and do while staying in the Pizza Capital!
As always when planning our trips, I looked into the city passes that are available. I purchased the 3-day Campania Artecard that includes admission to many experiences and historical sites, including Pompeii, and public transportation. Be sure to pick up your Campania Artecard when you arrive at the airport, you can only collect the pass at the airport or at the central train station. We forgot to pick it up at the Airport and it was quite the afternoon trying to find the small specific newsstand at the station later that day.
Day 1: Explore Naples
We landed in Naples around 11:00am, and decided to take a taxi to the Bed and Breakfast rather than try our hand at public transportation right off of the red eye. After surviving the most intense Taxi ride ever, we arrived at an awesome little accommodation that was in a `6th Century Building that was walk-able to all of the main sites we wanted to visit. After a little rest and freshening up we began our explorations. We were staying a couple blocks away from Centro Storico, a historic neighborhood with several churches and cathedrals, so we decided to wander around checking out the restaurants, all of the street vendors, and simply taking in our surroundings. We made our way to see the Complesso Monumentale di Santa Maria la Nova and visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli which is open daily 9:00am to 7:30pm, admission is €15 and is included on the pass if you choose to purchase the Artecard. I read that people usually spend about two hours there; we are really into museums and likely would have spent much more time here, however we were there for about an hour and a half because we were super tired, plus we had a food tour to get to!
One thing we really like to do when we visit new cities is to plan a food tour. It is such a cool way to not only learn about the history and cultural of the location, you can explore the streets and see and learn things you may not have necessarily had a chance to, and most importantly you get to eat! We scheduled a 6:00pm Street Food tour that departed from Piazza Dante. We got there early after the museum visit and decided to have some Peronis in the Piazza while we waited. It was Halloween, so all the kiddos were running around in their costumes, going store to store for candy. As it turns out, in Naples the children go to shops and restaurants begging for candy rather than stranger’s houses, which seems safer to me! The Piazza is a nice place to grab a meal or drink, and enjoy the Italian ambiance.
We later met our tour guide and tour mates, and were ready to eat! The reviews of this particular Street Food tour were amazing (I only book tours with perfect or near perfect reviews) and they said to come hungry- so we did! Our tour guide was a native Napoletano and super informative. We first stopped at a Mozzarella Shop to try the local cheese and meats. It was as if I had never had mozz before: it was so soft and creamy and delicious and I want some right now! Next, we visited a local Limoncello factory where we got to sample various types of Limoncello and see how it is processed. We also ate some Frittatine, pasta balls, which are a traditional street food, and different kinds of regional pizza: traditional margherita and fried hand pizza. Our guide took us down several streets of historical significance, and pointed out places to visit and eat during our stay. Needless to say, the reviews were absolutely correct: we were beyond stuffed at the end of the night. Another reason tours like this are so great is that you are able to sample so many things that you would otherwise not have time, or know where to go, without spending a significant amount of time looking for places. We were able to try some amazing food and learn so much!
Day 2: Day trip to Amalfi Coast
On our second day in Naples we booked a Sorrento and Amalfi Coast Independent Day Trip. This tour is super cheap and beyond amazing, if you only have a couple days in Naples, I would highly suggest you book this tour. Some of the complaints of the tour are that it is too expensive: wrong. Others are that you do not have enough time in each village: duh! I think these reviews are ridiculous. The price is less than $100 per person for a 8+ hour tour in a semi-private mini van with only a few other people, that takes you along the famous Amalfi Coast of Italy. It is beyond worth it.
We began our day by being picked up by our driver, Mario, a few blocks away at a local hotel, and stopped to pick up two other couples (one from Spain and one from Colombia) before traveling to Sorrento. This clifftop resort town is on the way south to the Amalfi Coast, which is renowned for its beautiful and colorful villages, and cliffs overlooking the sea. We pulled over on the cliff to take in the gorgeous views of Sorrento before having some free time to roam around the village. We found a cafe to order an espresso in Piazza Tasso, and walked around checking out the sites and of course picking up some postcards!
We met back up with the group and headed toward Positano, along the road you can see the region’s famous lemon groves at every turn. In Positano, we visited the Church of St Maria Assunta, and perused the boutiques and galleries. One of the best parts of this tour is that the old couple we were traveling with asked Mario if we could make an extra stop for lunch (rather than using our time in Ravello). Gotta love old people and their need to keep a meal schedule! Usually, on this tour, you have lunch on your own while visiting Ravello. Mario asked us and the other couple our thoughts, and everyone agreed that this would be a great addition! I am beyond happy everyone was on board, because Mario chose an incredible seafood restaurant, Calajanara, that ended up being one of our favorite places from this trip. He called ahead so our al fresco tables were ready for us cliff-side. The views were absolutely stunning, the food was unforgettable, and there was this pitiful little cat there that joined us.
Next stop in Amalfi, is Ravello where we visited the 9th-century cathedral, and gardens showcasing some amazing views of the coast. Here we visited some shops, got a snack, and made some purchases at the local ceramic shop. At the end of the day, Mario drove us back to Naples.
Day 3: Pompeii and Vesuvius
On our third day in Naples we traveled to Pompeii and Vesuvius. I researched several different ways to get to this historic area, and this particular post was very helpful while planning ahead of time. There are also several convenient day trips to choose from if you have a little extra money to spend and do not want to venture too far from the city on the train. We decided to take a 40 minute metro from Naples via Metro Porto Nolana to Pompeii Scavi. This train system was not very reliable at all compared to some of the other cities we have stayed. The trains were late, we broke down and had to get off for another train, and it was just generally a pretty rough start to this day. When we finally arrived in Pompeii, it started pouring rain- this was not in the forecast! We got a little wet then it dried up, and we ultimately got a nice experience of the ruins of Pompeii; we spent about three hours there, however we could have spent many more if we had the time.
While in the area, I wanted to do at least one wine tour, so I booked a lunch and winery tour at Cantina del Vesuvio Winery located on Vesuvius. They offer a shuttle from the Torre Annunziata Oplonti train station (a couple stops from Pompeii), we called when we arrived at the station and they sent a shuttle. The tour of the grounds was very brief and basic, which was fine because I was there for the food and wine: the spaghetti lunch was good, the tomatoes were yummy (I do not even like tomatoes!) and the wine was great.
Additional Places to Visit:
Unfortunately, we had to call our stay in Naples to an end with being unable to make it to a few places that looked interesting:
- The Bourbon Tunnel
- Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday with tours at 10:00am, 12:00pm, and 3:00pm; €10 admission; people typically spend one hour here
- Ovo Castle
- Open Daily from 9:00am-6:00pm with free admission
- Napoli Sotterranea is the Naples Underground, there is little information on the website regarding admission times and prices, but looks really neat!
Where to Eat and Drink:
- Things to Eat:
- Eat all the Pizza! We ate pizza everywhere, it was very unique and delish! Be sure to try the authentic margherita, hand pizza, fried pizza, and dessert pizza!
- Frittatine (Pasta Balls)
- Things to Drink
- Aperol Spritz
- Limoncello (and Spritzers!)
- L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
- This Pizza Shop has the Best Yelp Reviews. They only serve margherita pizzas and they are only $4-5 each.
- When you first get to this tiny pizza shop, you must get a number, then wait. The numbers are called out and if you do not run up to the store front you will be overlooked. If you miss your number, you have to get a new one, adn wait some more. When we arrived there was a line down the street, we were told it would be able an hour, and we were okay with that. We were not super hungry, so we did not mind waiting. Andrew went across the street and got us a couple road beers and we waited among 100 other eager foodies to hear that blessed number called: 23.
- We sat at the same table as a couple from Germany (he’s German, she’s Scottish) so we chatted over beers and pizza and learned that they recently got married at the Edinburgh Castle the same week we were there last summer! Such a small word!
- Side note: Little did I know, this restaurant was featured in the movie Eat. Pray. Love. (hence the long ass line). I was really surprised because I didn’t see this while planning the trip!
- Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (Gino e Toto Sorbillo).
- We did not go here. On our Food Tour we passed by the Pizzeria and there was a line down the street. Our guide said it was a tourist trap, so we decided to skip it; however it has really good Yelp reviews! If you go, let me know how it is!
Where to Stay
Every place we stayed during our two-week trip in Italy and Spain was absolutely incredible, and I would highly recommend. In Naples we stayed at It’s Room , a small boutique hotel located in a historic 16th Century building. They offer a free breakfast at local cafe down the street, we received coupons that were good for a beverage and pastry to be used at the cafe.
As a Pizza and Pasta fanatic, Naples (and Italy in general) has always been at the top of my list in terms of dream food locations- and it did not disappoint! What about you? What is your dream food location? My next one is Greece!