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 Naples. Yes, 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Where to Eat!
Finally you say, what Little Dove Travels is best at… Eating food. Well, I have for you three must-stop places.
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.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
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.
Un Sorriso Intergrale Amico Bio
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.