What to do in Napoli, Italy| Where to stay|Where to eat | Ft. Guide to Mt Vesuvius

Today I bring you an intimate guide of what to do in Napoli, Italy, commonly known as Naples. I will be expressing all that I have learned from talking with the rugged but beautiful South Italians and why you too should cultivate a love affair with Napoli

There tends to be two typical reactions that tourists elicit when they inadvertently express their opinions to 1000 people: loved Napoli or hated NaplesYes, I have intentionally juxtaposed the Italian name for city to the English one. This is simply because if you immerse yourself with the people of Napoli and get to know what it is like to belong to a city so diverse, you cannot help but show the respect of using its Italian name. But, for those who seemingly dislike the dirty city, I assure you that they are merely constructing their cornerstone opinions on a structure of very surface-level and superficial values. You can probably tell by my terminology that I do love Napoli, but that said, the city has a steep learning curve that one must be prepared to endure. Let’s first begin our journey from Napoli station. For those who have flown in, I am sure you will need to apply similar lessons.

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Exiting Napoli Centrale Station

The great man Rick Steves from Rick Steves Europe, himself, says prepare yourself for a confronting walk from Napoli Centrale station to your desired accommodation. I can tell you that describing the walk as confronting is a complete and utter understatement. In fact, words cannot describe the shock I experienced coming from the pristine, cobbled streets of Rome. What you will see is beyond chaotic, somewhat smelly and little English is widely spoken. There are busses pulling out in front of motor bikes, motor bikes almost running down pedestrians and fresh dog poop that has not been picked up by the obliging citizen. It is also important to note that per capita, there is significantly low amounts of green spaces such as parks and congregations of trees. This was probably the factor that I personally was not used to. But rest assured- from all that I have learnt about this chaotic city, I can tell you where you should stay and perhaps, where to avoid.

Stay near Spaccanapoli

 

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The divide stretches on and on

 

To immerse yourself in the most beautiful part of Napoli, I recommend you stay near Spaccanapoli or the historic centre. Spaccanapoli is the informal names given to the long, straight street running down the middle of Napoli’s historic centre. You can find a beautiful walking trail here. You can sign up for free with the linked AllTrails site, or you can pay to go pro and save numerous walking trail guides from around the world, allowing you to travel independently but yet still with a great source of information.

Be warned, budget hotels are hard to come by in the historic centre and tend to be a bit more ‘upper-market’ in style. This brings me to my next point…

Budget Travellers: Use AirBnB

It seems to be a trend that hotel and guest house owners, as well as AirBnB hosts, can speak English quite well and usually will be the best English-speakers you will come across in Napoli. Now, we didn’t stay in near the Spaccanapoli area. We stayed in an area North of Napoli Centrale station, which was only a 10 minute walk away from the historic centre and the glorious markets along the Spaccanapoli. I recommend this area budget travellers and for those who do not mind perhaps a more ‘working class’ area. We stayed in a cosy apartment and we met the nicest Italian in the world, the best AirBnB host and made a lifelong friend with Salvatore, whom I will be writing a special post about next. His apartment is almost always less than $70 AUD a night and in winter, is as low as $20 AUD a night (absolutely insane). The kitchens are fully stocked and you really feel like you have a home away from home in Napoli. We got to cut our own bread, eat punnets of olives and artichokes to our hearts content!

 

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Image credit: AirBnB, Nunzia and Salvatore

What to do in Napoli

Visit the Archaeological Museum

If you are planning to visit Pompeii, your trip will not be complete without seeing the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. Many of the smaller artefacts found in the Pompeii archaeological site permanently live in the Archaeological Museum and often tell very important stories. I believe that if you are  someone who is not so familiar with the historical disaster in Pompeii but you are seeing the site because you know it has, at least, some worldly significance, a visit to the museum will definitely enlighten you.

The museum also has an amazing Farnese marble sculpture collection and Egyptian Artefacts.

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Centuries old mosaics

 

Indulge in Contemporary Art at Museo Madre

Just a stones throw a way from the Archaeological Museum lives one of my favourite contemporary art museums around the world. Smaller in comparison to the famous MOMA and MONA but the collection Madre has is that of great quality. Adorned throughout the museum are blurbs about the artists featured, documenting their inspiring creative lives. There is also free entry on Mondays, which you will find very useful as your dollars will most likely be spent on quite a few museums in Napoli.

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Napoli Underground- Napoli Sotterranea

I kick myself still that I was too jetlagged to get myself here. This is perhaps one of the best things to do in the city to truly get to know the history of Napoli city. On your tour, you will explore a 2400 year old Greek-Roman aqueduct that has provided the city with water for 23 centuries. It is incredible how much technology was developed so long ago that still provides blueprints for supplying cities with water all around the world.

 

What to do around Napoli

Napoli makes a very convenient home-base for anyone trying to get to Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. Word of advice- you do not want to actually stay in Pompeii. You will get ripped off and the locals highly disapprove of the food scene here.  Napoli, on the other hand, is also a very good place to stay if you would like to hire a driver so you get to see the Amalfi Coast- but more about that in my next post.

Getting to Pompeii Archaeological Park

You are going to need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station. For a point of reference, it is located beneath Napoli Centrale Station and there will be signs that will lead you down to the Metro lines. Get a train in the direction to Salerno- you won’t miss the Pompeii stop. It should take about 45 minutes. The Pompeii Archaeological Park is only  short, guided walk away from Pompeii station.

 

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Just another neighbourhood

 

Getting to the top of Mt Vesuvius

Okay first I must warn you- if you are independent traveller not on an organised tour to Mt Vesuvius, getting there is unclear and slightly difficult. When you input directions to the carpark to the Vesuvius National Park (at 1000m) from Naples, google maps with either have a heart attack or take you on a really funky route. Below I have 3  routes for you- two we tried, one we failed at traversing. But we warned, if you try googling some these routes, you will not gain much clarity.

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Route 1: Train + Local Bus

So as previously mentioned, you need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station and catch the train in the direction of Salerno. You need to get off at Portici Ercolano Station and navigate your way to the number ‘5’ bus. Supposedly it is a short walk but we couldn’t seem to find the bus stop in time and we missed it. It was going to be a 40 minute wait for the next one. If you successfully use this route then well done to you! You figured out the shortest route to Vesuvio. 

Route 2: Train to Pompeii and EavBus 

So, from Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station, get off at the Pompeii stop that will get you to the Pompeii Archaeological Park. Walk to the park (you don’t need to enter it) and find the Piazza Anfiteatro exit. From here, you will find the EavBus. This is a private bus company which is why the route is not listed on Google Maps. You can buy tickets on the bus for a few euros. We used this route getting back to Naples and the bus driver let everyone off at Pompeii station. It is definitely easier to use this route on the way back. You will see large coach busses that say ‘Pompeii’. Getting to Vesuvio National Park from Pompeii seems to be the hard part. But rest assured, I have a well-tested route for getting there. For some very vague information, I found an unhelpful website here, but hey, it may work for you!

Route 3: Train + Taxi

So just like route 1, you need to navigate to the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi metro station and catch the train in the direction of Salerno. You need to get off at Portici Ercolano Station. There are always taxi drivers outside of this station usually waiting to over-charge independent tourists who miss the bus to get to Vesuvio National Park. Be sure to say “top/up” of Mt Vesuvius, not “bottom/down”. It will probably take you all day, if not longer to walk from the bottom of the mountain to the top and there are no foot paths. Once you are done your walk around the National Park and you so happen to miss a bus back down into civilisation, there are always taxi’s waiting for untimely tourists like you (I mean, like me).

 

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One of my best photos to date

 

 

Hire a driver and tour the Amalfi Coast

If you have cash to splash, a 300 euro a day driver is probably no bother to you. But, if you stay tuned for my next post budget travellers, I have a friend who only charges 150 euros and he will also bring you dinner to your apartment. Yes, Napoli style pizza and dessert. But more on that later… here is a teaser photos of this beautiful coast.

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Where to Eat!

Finally you say, what Little Dove Travels is best at… Eating food. Well, I have for you three must-stop places.

Pizza Vesi

Multiple Locations 

English menus, warm and friendly staff and pizza that would be upwards of $20 in Australia is only 3 euros here. Controversial to say but this was our favourite pizza in Napoli. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try too many pizzas so we probably have no idea what we are talking about but I still highly recommend this joint.

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L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Via Cesare Sersale 1/3, 80139, Naples, Italy

Yes, if you walked the streets of Napoli and listened to every pizza guide ever, then this recommendation is very typical. This has to be one of the most famous pizzeria’s in Napoli and for a very good reason. Cheap, no frills and squished in with locals, you will find only two pizza’s on the menu- the Marinara and Margherita. But this does not affect the lines that this place sometimes gets. Boring you say? Well, if you are a pizza connoisseur and enjoys pizza best the way it was originally invented and enjoyed, you will thoroughly enjoy drinking beer and sawing away at your tasty Sunday pie.

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Un Sorriso Intergrale Amico Bio

Vico S. Pietro a Maiella, 6, 80138 Napoli NA, Italy

I kick myself that I have lost the photos I took at this restaurant. But, your trip in Napoli- herbivore or not, will not be complete without stopping for this restaurants farm-to-table culinary creations. Look for the open black gate while you try to find your way down the small alley that Google Maps insists you walk along. Through the open gate, you will find the secret fully vegetarian restaurant (with plenty of vegan options) and prepare for some amazing food. Some of the dishes are combinations I have never even heard of but I still dream about eating the food here. Arrive hungry and order LOTS!

But that’s not all…

We have an exclusive post which will be titled “A Day with Salvatore” coming soon that will stem from this post. But, we hope to be back in Napoli so we continually update this all-inclusive guide.

Happy travels!

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Our First Europe Trip: The Route Overview and Sneaky Tips Part 1

First ever time travelling to Europe? Are you a travel rookie? Rest assured, you have come to the right place. I am a travel rookie too and I have made many mistakes, particularly in Europe. In attempt to kick myself into gear again and stop making excuses that I am too busy with university and my job, I am bringing you a mini-series: Our First Europe Trip. Today, we are starting off with a route overview- briefly touching  where we went, a few travel tips and a brief opinion of a few places. Later on in this series, I will be giving you all sorts of travel tips about your first time in Europe and I will be sharing you intimate details of every mistake we (I really) made. Stay tuned for plenty more to come!

Melbourne to Rome

Qatar airways, 26 hour trip. Time in Rome: 48 hours

 

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A view of Rome from Palatine Hill

 

One of the cheapest places to land in Europe (at least in Italy) from Australia appears to be Rome. We got a fairly good price on a multi-stop ticket with Qatar airways. NOTE: if you are not departing from Europe back home from another airport than you arrived in, than there is something wrong with your itinerary. There are many travel airlines that will give you this freedom without charging an arm and a leg. I will give you more advice about this soon. Even the great man, Rick Steves, says this himself.

Travel Tip: Get the airport train to Rome city

I cannot stress this enough- just keep walking past those scammer taxi drivers. When you exit customs, follow the signs to the trains and do not talk to anyone. They will say to you a taxi is cheaper than the train. Let me tell you, no, it isn’t. We jumped on a ‘first class’ train for 14 euros each to get into Rome main station. Second class will be even cheaper, we were just impatient. Do not forget to validate your ticket either! Don’t let the QR codes and dates on your ticket fool you as the ticketing system is very… strange in Italy.

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Image source: Loco2

The Verdict:

48 hours is not enough. Not when you are jet-lagged. Also, do yourself a favour: get a nice hotel with a 24 hour desk. Why? Stay tuned! Anyhow, we need to return to Rome. Our time there did not do it justice.

Rome to Naples

Time in Naples: 4-5 days. Train trip with Trenitalia regionale train

 

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Napoli- some say its an eyesore. The locals think their home is beautiful. I grew to love it!

 

Travel Tip: Get the IC Train

Splurge a little bit extra and get the InterCity or the IC  train from Rome to Naples. Do not get the Regional or the Regionale no matter how much (well it really isn’t that much) cheaper it is. Penny pinching can fail you massively and this is a key thing I learnt. Why? The regional train I was on broke down and we were stranded for 4 hours while all the locals around us argued with train staff. The staff would not tell anyone what was happening and frankly, I don’t think they are paid enough to care. According to our AirBnB host, this happens regularly. But, if you get the IC, you are well looked after and you get to travel express. You really do get what you pay for.

The Verdict: Naples

4-5 days in Naples suited us because we needed a chance to chill out and get over jet-lag. Obviously, this is not the most glamourous place to do this. Be prepared for the shock of your life when you exit Napoli Centrale station- Naples is dirty. But, it has a steep learning curve. Give it time, talk to the locals and eat some of the world’s best traditional pizza and you will develop a love for Naples. For well rested travellers, you will only need 3 days in Naples, inclusive of a trip to Pompeii, maybe 4 days if you want to see Mt Vesuvius and hike for the day. Of course, this is all depending on if Naples is your home base. Final verdict? Do not skip Naples. Find your reason to love it- it is perhaps the heart of Italy, particularly the heart of rough and tumble Italy.

 

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Naples is a great base to get yourself to Mt Vesuvius so you can see views like this!

 

Naples to Cinque Terre

Time spent: 2 weeks, studying with Monash University. Train trip on an IC train to La Spezia, regionale train to Riomaggiore

 

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A view from the heights of Monterosso

 

So you are probably wondering why we landed in Rome, headed south and then travelled 7 hours back north. We just really wanted Naples Pizza and didn’t want to go after I finished my study in the Cinque Terre. Want to know why I was there? You can read it here!

Travel tip: Travel in March

The Cinque Terre is an interesting place. It is suffocated by mass tourism in the summer but very little is open in the winter. March is usually when the retailers and restaurant owners return from their holidays and re-open and is the month before the massive tour groups start to hit. You can even try April, October and November. December to February there really is not much going on but May-September, prepare to get trampled on.

Cinque Terre to Genova*

Time spent: 2 days. Train trip with Trenitalia 

*This is where everything went wrong…

Well, after an anxiety filled research presentation, my last day in the Cinque Terre could not have possibly gotten any worse. There were ‘code red’ weather alerts and a massive storm resulted in all trains to Milan being cancelled. We waited 4 hours just to get any train possible and we ended in up in Genova. I would like to mention that for those 4 hours, we drank beer and laughed everything off as much as we could. Why? My partner and I are so highly strung that when things go wrong that bad, usually we would most likely have a break down. This will happen if you travel in Europe and you have to embrace it.

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The Verdict: Genova

My, oh my. Genova is so underrated. Eventually we got ourselves to Milan as our train to Switzerland was from there. Honestly speaking, I would take Genova over Milan any day. And I am not sorry for saying that. Genova has so much heritage and was one of Italy’s pioneer industrial cities. The vibe, the architecture and the people there are just lovely. It is also the birth place of pesto, so why else wouldn’t you go there?

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Milan to Bellinzona, Switzerland

Time spent in Bellinzona: 2 days. Train trip with Swiss Federal Railways

Thankfully, from Genova we could get a train directly to Milan where we got our train to Switzerland. A brief point about Milan: Milan is flashy, and that is it. Moving on, our train trip to Bellinzona was absolutely stunning and Switzerland’s train system was a breath of fresh air after being in Italy for close to a month.

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Travel Itinerary Tip

If you know me personally, you know that I love trying obscure craft beers, drinking wine and spending evenings in cosy bars. There is a bar called literally called Folk Bar, full of folk décor and it is the cutest dive bar in the world. I really mean that; I have never been to a bar like it. Though Switzerland’s beer is pricy (and Switzerland is pricy in general), if you hit up Folk Bar at apertivo time, after 5-6pm, you will get a glorious amount of free bar snacks with your drinks. Oh, and plenty of snack refills.

The Verdict: Bellinzona

Bellinzona was absolutely breath taking. If you love mountains, snow and cute folk bars please get yourself here. Swiss-Italy is extremely refreshing after you have spent a bit of time in busy Italian cities. I also highly recommend staying at the ‘budget’ style hotel, Osteria Leon D’or. The breakfast is great, the staff will bend over backwards for you and it is right across from Bellinzona station.

Bellinzona to Zurich

Time spent in Zurich: 2 days. Train Trip with Swiss Federal Railways

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Travel Tip: Be prepared to spend

We knew right off the bat that Switzerland was an expensive place to be. But, nothing could prepare us for how expensive it truly was. Because we had to budget for the rest of the trip, we couldn’t do all that much in Zurich except for walk around, occasionally have a small treat. For two university students, it was a waste of time and money for us to go to Zurich. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city. But for us it was impossible to enjoy Zurich on the cheap. But I got a few cool photos… that’s all that really matters right?

Zurich to Vienna, Austria

Time spent in Vienna: 3 days, flight with Austrian Airlines

Traveling to Vienna from Zurich was one of those instances where it was genuinely cheaper to fly with not just a budget airline, but a premium carrier, than the train. Let me just say this: Austrian Airlines were absolutely fantastic. Great flight, lovely staff and everything inside the plane is red and white and its just so cute. Also, Zurich and Vienna’s airports are also very easy to navigate and get to and from- all you need to do is jump on the airport train.

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Sneaky Accommodation Tip:

Stay at Pension Neuer Markt. There are numerous pensions in Austria. Basically, they are a form of budget hotel but the staff look after you as if you are family. Also, the breakfast was magical and the whole place was so vintage and chic. I would stay here again when we return to Vienna.

The Verdict:

Spoiler alert! Well, I won’t say too much more than this: Vienna was one of the absolute highlights of the trip and has to be one of my favourite cities in Europe. Stay tuned for why it was our favourite but for now, enjoy some of my Vienna photography. And now before this blog post gets too long, this will be the end of part 1 of our route overview. Stay tuned for part 2!

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