Visited: March 2016
I’m going to be honest. Naples is hard to love.
Naples is famous for its crime and pizza. It isn’t the prettiest nor is it one of the safest. It is not a destination city with massive cathedrals or ancient monuments. It is a hub for in-between the places most visited. It was the home of a mafia conglomerate. Soon after visiting I learned that it has a reputation for muggings and pick pocketing, one such experience I was almost a victim of coming from the train station my first day in the city.
I can’t say I love Naples, but it is definitely an interesting place to visit. It has a hidden gem quality that when you look for it, can be great. It’s the birthplace of pizza – so that’s a big winner. It has a few castles and quality museums that boast one of a kind artifacts. Additionally, its close proximity to in Pompeii and Sorrento makes it a good starting point for exploring the region.
The city is gloriously dilapidated and chaotic. Laundry hanging from every window. The loud lovers and fighters and eaters surround you. Trash and graffiti everywhere. It is definitely a city that does not cater to being pretty for tourists in the slightest. That you have to admire, the city is what it is.
And you came here to experience it. Naples is for travelers, not tourists.
Where we Stayed:
It was a wonderful hotel, looks like it was newly remodeled. Quiet, with a roof view of the city and Vesuvius. It’s a 2 star hotel, but really should be rated much higher with cleanliness, wifi, and great location for $60 a night.
What We Ate:
First night, we ate at a small hole in the wall almost right next door to our hotel. We were exhausted from the plane, shuttle, and train trip to get to Naples. The service was extremely gracious and I cannot recommend them enough. I am kicking myself because I thought I took a picture and I cannot remember the name! If you are headed towards the Naples Central Train station to your next destination, find the Middle Eastern quick stop shop near B&B hotel for the best chicken doner kabob you’ll ever have. It is amazing!
Second night, after resting from touring Pompeii all day, we made the mile walk to Gino Sorbillo who other tourist and locals fawn all over that they make the best traditional pizza in Naploi. It is a popular place with locals, hardly anyone spoke English, and we had to wait about 15 minutes to get to a long shared table.
Push yourself (nicely) up the the door and give them your name so you can be called. No reservations required, but it would help if you have a group of 4 or more as the place is small. Be prepared to sit elbow to elbow with your neighbors. No one seems to mind as it is part of the atmosphere and fun of the dining experience. We tried to talk with our neighbors and language barriers sort of melt away around food. It’s a lovely experience.
Being exhausted we ordered just one classic margherita pizza to share. Now, an Italian pizza is like an American medium pizza. We saw all kinds of Italians from petite women to children to men all eating a whole pizza themselves! We were amazing how much they could put away.
If you get an opportunity to go, try their many variations of pizza from mushroom, ricotta, hazelnut, and more… I hate that we ordered something so ordinary but we couldn’t eat that much and gladly chowed down on the pizza and a nice bottle of wine.
The pizza was thin crusted making you need to eat it with a fork and knife with a nice chewy texture and crispy, slightly charred edge. The tomato sauce was fresh and the mozzarella is true buffalo milk, so it had a wonderfully creamy flavor. It was GOOD. And only 10 Euros for the whole meal.
Naples is not that big, and we had a short visit, so we walked everywhere so we could get a feel of the city. Public transportation in Naples is all owned by different companies, and just viewing how people drove was insane. We regularly saw taxi’s drive on sidewalks and mopeds drive pedestrians out of the way. It’s fun in a way, being part of the mess. Just be safe walking around, keep in mind who is around/approaching you, and keep your valuables close.
Even though Naples has a reputation for being unsafe, we went out late at night every night and didn’t have a bad experience. Naples has the normal city nightlife: drunks in the park, kids running with their friends, couples making out in alcoves. Be safe, and smart, but make sure you truly experience the city and not let someone else bad experiences prevent you from making your own.
Fair warning: there is garbage everywhere! Even though there are garbage cans literally every few yards, there is still a ton of garbage on every street. Be careful walking that you don’t step in something.
What We Saw:
The Archaeological Museum of Naples
We spent the whole day in Pompeii exploring the ruined city, and when we came back we came to the museum to see the artifacts discovered. The Archaeological Museum in Naples is one of the best collections of Greek and Roman artifacts. There’s glass, mosaics, sculptures, and more casts of the bodies found in Pompeii.
If you can’t make it to Pompeii site, this is a great alternative as they have many reproductions of the works from the archaeological site. The museum is open fairly late making it a nice full day if you visit the Pompeii ruins in the morning and the museum in the evening.
Cost: 8 EUR
Total time spent: 3 hours
Castelnuovo – A large medieval castle that sits near the shore. We started walking around sunset along the shoreline where there is a nice walking path to enjoy. By the time we made it to the castle it was dark and closed. We heard it was not worth visiting so much so that was fine with us. It was nice to sit peacefully along the shore and view the outside which was gorgeous.
My opinion leaving Naples is that it is dirty and at times a bit scary, however it is unique and enticing making me want to see more behind the gritty texture. It is a city on the move with people in and out as their own lives change moving the city with them.
Naples is forever a snapshot in time, one day is not like another. One experience in Naples will not be the same experience for another. So enjoy the grit, the sounds, and the feel of Naples as it will be completely all your own.
Go see Napoli. Don’t be put off by what your friends and family, or this blog post says! What I really want you to do is visit Naples to make an opinion of your own. Eat the food, wind through the alleyways, meet the people that make this city. Just remember to take precautions like you would anywhere else, and let me know how it goes when you get back.
View all the places we stayed and visited on our European Tour.