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I've spent the last two weeks working in Naples, so this is my guide to the city. I've included a few restaurants, where I had great meals. I've included some interesting places I visited too.
It is a dirty place, can be a bit smelly, it is noisy, the buildings and roads are in a state of disrepair, there is very bad crime, the drivers are…. Well let's be polite and say not too careful, that was the impression that I had of Naples before I visited, but what I found was that it is a vibrant, happening really interesting city, some fantastic architecture, lots of great restaurants, which I would encourage everyone to visit if they get the chance. Oh and the drivers are not too careful!
*** Safety ***
Some people have said that Naples is a very dangerous city, but in my experience of walking around the city day and night, you just need to take the normal precautions as you would in any city in the world. Don't flash the cash etc. In my time in Naples, I didn't see one single crime - unless you count the ones the fashion police should have caught!
*** Travelling Around ***
If you ever go to Naples, I would advise against renting a car, just use public transport or taxis - in my time there, I don't recall seeing a car without a dent, a scratch or bits missing. The train system is really reliable and frequent, and cheap (tickets are sold by the minute). The line I used most of the time - The Metropolitan will cost 1 Euro for a 90 minute ticket. (certainly puts our railway system to shame) The central station is adjacent to Piazza Garibaldi, and unless you need to be there to get a train, it is probably not an area to go to, the Piazza is a car park & bus station, you have to cross several roads - I found the best way to do this was just to walk out, the cars seemed to stop! There are at various times people with stalls trying to sell imitation Gucci bags or other "designer" stuff. The taxi drivers are interesting, best not sit in the front with one, I find it best to put a seat between me and the oncoming traffic.
When you walk, make sure you look ALL AROUND you before you cross a road, mo-peds weave in and out of the traffic (some have whole families on) cars overtake on the wrong side of the road, traffic lights are not generally observed, and you hear the constant sound of tooting horns, the horn generally means "I'm coming through" rather than "careful I'm here" One way streets generally mean "I am only going one-way"
Also I developed something I called the "Napoli Shuffle" many people have dogs, and there are quite a few strays, everybody just lets their dog go where ever it is, so do look down too!
In the centre of Naples, there is fantastic architecture. On all the interesting buildings there are boards adjacent to them explaining the history of the building, you could spend the best part of the day walking around reading these.
This area was my base for this trip it is about 5 miles from the centre of Napoli, the hotel I was staying in (Best Western - San Germono allegedly 4 star but I would say 2.5 star was nearer the mark ) was 500 metres from where I was working. The area is to be honest is a bit rough, the roads are bad, and
Pictures of Naples & Pompei (Italy)
quite dirty. Going into the centre of Bagnoli, there are a couple of nice restaurants, but people don't go here unless they need to! There is a big steel works though! You can walk down to the sea, and walk along the front to Pozzouli. The station is easy to get to, and the trains are very frequent
The last stop on the Metropolitan line. The first thing that greets you when you get off of the train is the smell of Sulphur! This is due to the fact that there are vents from the volcanic systems all around here. Walking around, the harbour is very nice. You will find a lot of Roman buildings here, including the 3rd largest amphitheatre in Roman Italy, which I visited, and it was amazing, especially the undercroft, you can really see how it was built. This cost 4 Euro to visit. In the town centre is the Tempio Di Serapid which is a Roman temple, you can't go down to it, but you can walk around the outside looking down on it, I'm sure it was very impressive in 78AD! Further up the hill from the railway station, I found a lot of overgrown very impressive Roman ruins, it turns out that they are developing an archaeological park - no doubt with European funding, I'm not sure when this will happen though.
Further along still is Sulfatara, which is a nature park in the centre of an active volcano - yes I did say active! As you walk around here, you notice the areas where nothing is growing, then you start to see steam rising up out of the ground. There is a fenced off area, where you can walk between vast jets raising up, the smell of sulphur is all around you. This costs 5.50 Euro to go in the park. Initially Pozzouli disappointed me, but then I found the town centre, it was a vibrant happy kind of place, well worth a visit. From here I walked the 4 km along the coast to Bagnoli - there are some very nice looking restaurants along the beach, although I didn't venture into any.
This is a beautiful area, certainly one to visit. It is just a really nice place, there is a marina, which contains some rather expensive looking yachts. You can get jet ferries from here to various islands. The shops are some of the more up-market ones, I found it a great place to while away a couple of hours.
On Sunday, some of the roads are shut, and a massive car boot sale takes place, although the items for sale look far better that anything I've seen in a car boot in England!
From here I walked along the coast to Naples itself, I would say it is about 3 Km, but is totally flat.
*** Trips out ***
There are a lot of very nice places to visit away from Naples, I've just listed some that I have been to. Generally the train is the best mode of transport.
No trip to Naples is complete without visiting the ultimate Roman site - I didn't visit during this stay, as I have been before, I just had so many other things to visit first! To get to Pompeii, the easiest way is by train, get the Circumvesuviana from Napoli Central Station, take the Sorrento train, Pompeii is about 20 stops. Be aware though, this train gets really busy.
This was one ancient Roman site I have wanted to visit for ages (the houses are more complete than those at Pompeii), so I took the Circumvesuviana from Napoli Central Station and went 8 stops to Ercolano Portico station. The train ticket cost 1.70 Euro for 120 minutes, so you will need two tickets, one for the return journey! To get to Herculinum from the station follow the brown tourist signs straight down the hill. It cost 11 Euro to get in, but you do get a really good map and summary booklet.
You can from Ercolano station take a minibus to Versuvius (16 Euro including entry to the walk to the top) It is an interesting journey, which takes about 30 minutes, the minibus driver I had was completely mad, and the roads were madder! So I made sure I was well strapped in! One thing you notice on the way up, is the amount of rubbish, there were piles of it everywhere, it certainly looked as no collection had been made for months. Eventually after some stunning views over Naples you are deposited at the car park, the driver gets your park tickets, and off you go UP. Be warned if you are frail, unsteady on your legs, or need assistance, or have heart of breathing problems, then this is certainly not for you. It is very steep, I am fairly fit, and it took me 20 minutes at a fair old pace to get to the top, and I was sweating when I got there. It was worth the climb though, to seem the steam coming out of the volcano, smell the slight sulphur smell, and to look at the view was incredible. The Italians never ones to miss an opportunity have constructed two shops at the top, where you can buy polished lava, drinks, food, pictures, the usual tourist bric-a-brac and for some reason figures from Ancient Egypt! The bus leaves you about an hour and 15 minutes to go to the top and come back down, I guess they wouldn't leave you there if you were late!
As I had time to spare, I thought a day trip to Capri would be good, and I wasn't disappointed. I got the fast jet ferry from the Harbour in Naples to Capri, it coat 15 Euro each way, the trip to Capri took around 45 minutes. The one thing that struck me about Capri, was how different it was from Naples, there was no litter, hardly any cars, it was a generally nice place. Looking around the harbour, there were lots a restaurants and bars, which all seemed to be very nice. I didn't eat in any of them, as I wanted to maximise my time walking around. Some of the boats in the harbour were like a large house! And these were big boys toys.
From the Harbour to get to the main town, you can get the funicular railway, it will cost 1.30 Euro. Be aware the island is quite hilly, with some steep slopes, so if you have any mobility problems, then take the railway. I walked! The path up to the centre is very well marked. Once in the centre, you see the Prada shop, and all manner of designer shops, this is going to be expensive. I went to a coffee shop, and had a cappuccino it cost 4.50 Euro! Walking away from the centre, you can visit Gardens Augusta, which are some very nice gardens, but with breathtaking views across the Mediterranean. The sea was crystal clear, from my vantage point I could see many very nice villas, which I subsequently learnt belong to such people as the designer Valentino. One the way to the gardens is a Perfumery, where they produce hand made perfumes, this was certainly worth a visit. I will certainly be trying to get back to Capri to have a real look around.
One place to definitely visit is the Muzeo Archeologico Nazionale you need at least 3-4 hours (open various times, generally 10am-7pm but check before you go, it costs 10 Euro to go in)- this is the National Archaeological Museum, here many of the best artefacts recovered from the excavations of Pompeii and other places are preserved, there are hoards of coins, broaches, rings more mundane pots and pans, it is a fantastic look at Roman life. Some of the statues are quite amazing, and quite a lot of the male statues have had their wedding tackle knocked off! I think maybe it is to do with an altogether prudish nature of past generations. In fact in the museum there is a room, called the room of secrets, which contains some of the more..well lets just say phallic objects, and some quite graphic frescoes too! There was a small marble statue of a Roman lady in a bikini, I overheard a couple of middle aged Italian women tut tutting at this! Apparently you have to book your visit to the room of secrets, but nobody seemed to check.
One thing to look out for is the rather large 3D plan of Pompeii which was made in 1879, compare it with the later map on the wall, and see how more they have excavated.
In the Egyptian section they have of all things a mummified crocodile
*** Food ***
Some random Naples restaurants, which I really enjoyed
Pizza & Baba
, this is located in Via Montecalvario - just off the main street Via Toledo, The waiter here spoke really good English, so that was helpful! The menu is typical of most eating places in the area, antipasta, pizza etc. I had a Caprese, followed by the 'special' which was home made pasta and various fish and shellfish. I must say it was probably the best pasta I've ever had. I had a bottle of wine, which was a local wine, the bill came to just under 30 Euro.
again just off the main Via Toldeo, this is in Via Giardinetto, the speciality here is home cooked food, I had a start, fish, wine and a dessert! I even had a coffee and limoncello, the whole bill here was around 30 Euro, again the food was second to none, and fantastically prepared.
Beach Risorante & Pizzeria
This is a great restaurant located on the coast close to Castle D'ovo - they specialise in fish dishes, they always have fresh fish on display. I went with a colleague, for 2 salads, a pizza, a sword fish steak and a large bottle of wine, the bill came to 38 Euro, which was I thought fantastic value. The swordfish was really good.
There are many other places to eat, there are also many places where you can just drop in for a coffee and a cake, try ===Gambrinus=== in Piazza Trieste E Trento, you can just sit outside and watch the world go by.
There is a little Pizzaria in Bagnoli, and I would say some of the best food I had, it was also very cheap. It is easy to find, come out of the stations, go straight down the hill and it is on the left, it is called Pendsceconna, 2 starters, 2 mail meals water & wine all for about 28 Euros!
*** Weather ***
I was in Naples in October/November, the temperature was very mild, around 12-14 degrees C at night, and 18-21 during the day. There were a couple of cloudy days, one day of rain.
*** Getting there ***
I flew British Airways from Gatwick, the flight cost £450, but it was quite short notice, I believe that Ryan Air and Easyjet fly to Naples, as I'm sure do many other carriers, so just check on-line.
From the Airport a taxi is the best option, I cost me 35 Euro to my hotel (although the meter did say 18!)
All in all I really enjoyed my stay in Italy, so if you were thinking about Naples but were put off about the stories of crime etc, then just give it a go, you'll be impressed.