The historic city of Naples is the capital of the Campania region of Italy and a place that’s certainly rough and ready. Darkened alleys line unkempt streets, uneven paving and mismatched building facades. It’s wonderful.
Pizza, history & archaeology
Arriving on the fast train from Rome it’s a different world and everyone’s first priority should be to find the best Napoli pizza. After checking into the Albergo Palazzo Decumani I headed with my boyfriend to Antica Pizzeria e Friggitoria Di Matteo.
At first it was empty but quickly picked up as it hit Italian dinner time. The staff were necking shots of coffee another business had sent across in exchange for pizza and we were surrounded by local Italian families; all good signs which resulted in a life changing pizza. Fresh, wet with sauce and a tasty base.
Fuelled up, we wandered in the mild night air and joined locals meeting their friends in the bustling streets. We passed a number of churches and felt drawn to one where the huge congregation were singing. What to do in Naples? Definitely experience the streets at night.
After a day in Pompeii (post to follow), our second evening in Naples took us around the National Archaeology Museum in the centre. Inside the vast collection contains massive statues, sculptures and art from Roman times and mainly from the formerly buried city of Pompeii, just an hour away. The building housing the collection is equally impressive with a grand staircase and decorated frescoes.
When your head is sufficiently full of history and culture and you can’t think, it’s time to try out Libreria Berisio – a wine bar in a antique bookstore. The atmosphere is very relaxed and you’re given a lot of personal space as the tables are far apart, edging into the cosy corners of bookshelves.
Going underground (Going underground)
On our third and final day, after recovering in the hotel with the room stereo pumping out soothing jazz, it was time for another highlight of Naples which I thoroughly recommend; Complesso Monumentale San Lorenzo Maggiore – La Neapolis Sotterrata, or ‘buried Roman Naples’. Walk just a few feet underground and you’re in an ancient, spectacularly preserved city complete with market signs and a bakery oven.
Even after Pompeii it still amazes, so don’t be put off if you think you’ve had your fill of history. As we descended we were the only ones in this underground city, making it all the more special and at times, eery. You find yourself waiting for a Roman market owner to try and give you a deal as the sounds of the present city above are non-existent.
The whole attraction takes around one hour to explore and when you emerge your ticket gives you entry to the street-level museum, which covers more medieval history and Italian royalty through the ages. Nearby you can visit the famous veiled Christ sculpture (no photos allowed) in the Museo Cappella Sansevero.
For more modern activities there’s a shopping district by the main train station and a cruise port further south. For some amazing reason the shopping centre is decorated with giant snails.
As a final note, when in Naples you can’t have just one pizza so you might as well try the pizza favoured by Pope Francis. A queue forms outside Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo roughly an hour before it’s afternoon opening time and many of the seats are communal. On par with Di Matteo’s just down the street, it’s proof you can’t go wrong with the national dish when you visit it’s birthplace.
Naples is a very fascinating place to visit that provides a different view of Italy and is easy to reach via the fast train link up (it goes about 285km per hour) from Rome. I’d recommend booking off peak so it’s a little quieter and milder; you’re bound to do a lot of walking and it’s easier when you’re not in the summer heat. We also got an upgrade on our hotel room which included mandarin Prosecco on arrival and didn’t get caught up in too many crowds as we explored.