It was my birthday, so I picked a European city at random to visit for two nights. That city was Naples in Italy. So what was it like?
Let’s be frank; Naples (or ‘Napoli’ as it’s actually called – I’m not sure why we insist on giving places different names when they already have a perfectly pronounceable one. Seems a bit rude) is not a beautiful Italian city like Florence or Venice (neither of which I’ve been to, but I’ve seen pictures…).
It’s actually a bit of a shithole, with rubbish and graffiti everywhere, and even the once beautiful and imposing public buildings are faded with peeling paint. It’s noisy, and it’s dangerous – people there drive like fucking lunatics and the traffic is insane. You take your life in your hands whenever you cross a road.
Having been to beautiful, tree-lined Amsterdam with its canals and eco-conscious bike-riding locals the week before, the contrast could not be more stark.
However, it’s REALLY good if you like pizza and/or wine, there are interesting things to see and do, it’s buzzy and bustling and you should definitely go for a few days if you have the opportunity.
Here is how we spent 48 hours in Naples, Italy.
Day 1: Arrival, pizza and vino bianco
We arrived about 8.30pm Italian time and had booked a hotel on Via Foria, a few miles away from the airport. You can book a luxury hotel, or a hostel, but this was somewhere in between; more like a guest house really. After a confusing 5 minutes we located the hotel – inside what looked like a beaten up old building with a huge courtyard and up a LOT of stairs, and were happy to learn that the inside of the building wasn’t like the outside.
Smashing. Go OTT or go home I say.
Although we’d had a few drinks in the British Airways lounge and on the plane (it was my first experience in business class – air miles darling – and I am not mature enough to say no to free champagne), we didn’t fancy spending the evening in a hotel, even one with gold furniture, so set off to see what we could see.
You’re never far from a Pizzeria in Naples, which is regarded as the birthplace of the pizza. This is pretty lucky because I had done my trademark zero research before the visit.
After about an hour of meandering slowly towards the the harbour via some proper dodgy roads (probably not recommended but I do still have all my internal organs), I Googled our location and found we were around the corner from ‘Trattoria Pizzeria La Lazzara‘ (awarded a lofty 4.5* on Tripadvisor) where, for about £33 we had a load of meat, cheese, pizza, and a very large glass of wine each.
The wine in Naples is SO cheap and so drinkable and it would be pretty damn rude not to partake. The pizza is truly amazing – the only downside being that other pizza will always be disappointing once you’ve tried the Real Deal. I like pizza very much, and I also like wine, so I was like a pig in shit.
We got a taxi back to the hotel, and collapsed with the background of traffic and sirens which makes up the Naples experience. Bellisimo.
Day 2: A day of culture (and lots of wine)
The following day was our only full day in the city, and of course it was pretty much raining all day. We walked down Via Foria and past the Archaeological Museum, which happened to have a large queue outside.
I’d heard about the museum having a ‘secret room‘ – a special collection of erotic art found in Pompeii and Herculaneum that hadn’t previously been on public display. Having missed out on the Sex Museum in Amsterdam because I was too stupid to Google the opening times, we decided to book it for later in the day, and went off to explore the city a bit and have lunch.
After walking down to the seafront and away from the docks past a large green space which appeared to be closed, we once again surrendered to the Google gods and ended up at Toto Sapore where we had some pasta and once again, a very large glass of wine.
When in Rome (or Naples) as they say…
At this point we were quite a way from the hotel, so we navigated to the nearest metro station just as the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. Splendido.
The National Archaeological Museum in Naples
The most important thing for me to tell you about the National Archaeological Museum in Naples is that the secret room shuts at 2pm, and our tickets were for 4.30pm.
Foiled again! No historical smut for me. Well, not much. Some. The information on this one reads ‘Gladiator fighting against his own phallus which has turned into a panther’ which I swear is like a Jim’ll Paint it description.
However they do have a huge collection of Farnese marble statues, mosaics, and currently a genuinely fascinating exhibit on Gladiators (although not a single picture of Jet or Wolf), so despite not being able to satisfy my inner pervert, it was still worth it.
For dinner that night, we decided to do a stupid thing and drink all the wine.
All of it.
The bar we went to, Karmacore, was once again highly recommended and they brought out amazing little snacks with our drinks which made my heart happy. Not just crisps, but mini dishes, meats and cheese. One thing of note is that although they serve lovely local wine, their beer is from down the road from me in Kent.
We did order some food, having had a big lunch, but it wasn’t enough to soak up ALL THE WINE.
Then – because holiday – we had a cocktail in the upstairs bar of the restaurant next to our hotel which was, a little bizarrely, decorated with fresh dead fish and a golden pineapple/buttplug, as well as a large sword (not pictured)
Best we cut to the next day now, probably.
Day 3: Hangovers with a view and more pizza
If you go to Naples, you really have to visit Castel Sant’Elmo because the views from the top are utterly breath-taking. Seriously, it’s something.
To get to it, unless you’re some kind of crazy person, you need to get the funicular railway up Vomero Hill from Montesanto station which is within an easy walk of the central area.
As it was almost lunchtime, and our last day, and we were hungover to fuck, we decided to stop for more pizza (although we could not face the wine with this one!).
We managed to stop next to Pizzeria Da Attilio which was just opening, and found ourselves at the front of a lengthening queue. We quickly looked it up (honestly, how the hell did people travel before Google?!) and found this review so decided it might be worth the wait.
One thing of note is that all of the staff in the pizzeria definitely hate you. Don’t take it personally – from the looks of things, they hate every person who has the audacity to enter the restaurant looking for purchase food, tourists and locals alike. We decided this was obviously part of the Neapolitan charm.
Fortunately the pizza was bloody amazing. I went for one which had nine different slices with a different topping on each and I ate the bloody lot – even some of the mushrooms and I hate mushrooms.
It is fair to say that pizza was my saviour that day.
No longer feeling like I was about to cark it, we bought two tickets for the funicular railway, which cost about £1 each way.
The railway takes you to the top of Vomero Hill which feels very different from the rest of the city below – fewer fumes, less graffiti, and more well-kept buildings.
The castle is easily signposted (and also fucking massive so you can’t miss it).
Entry to the castle was about £2 and well worth it.
Inside you can walk up sloping ramps to the top where views are stunning. You can see the whole of Naples and even over to Vesuvius.
The sun was out but it was still a little cloudy – on a bright day the views would probably be even better.
It’s quite spectacular. Even at the top of the castle, you can hear the noise from the city below, and spot various big roads and familiar buildings.
There are also a number of bars and restaurants in Volmero and it’s a nice and less manic place to sit and watch the world go by with a drink.
With that, we headed back to the hotel, and back to the airport, and when we got home we slept for bloody ages.
So – should you visit Naples?
Don’t take your kids, or your elderly nana, but do go. Go for a weekend. Go and eat genuine Neapolitan pizza until you feel sick. Enjoy the angry restaurant staff. Feel the disgust when you ask for milk in your coffee. People watch, and try not to get run over.
And drink buttloads of wine – but make sure you get to the museum before 2pm.
Here are some more pictures from our wanderings in Napoli.
If you enjoyed this and you’re feeling generous, you can buy me a cup of tea or a glass of wine here.
You can also see my Amazon wish list here.