“Naples is Italy in the extreme. If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south; it just gets better. If Italy is getting a little overwhelming by the time you get down to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper” – Rick Steves, Travel Journalist.
This is so true, except we would never advise anybody to ‘think twice’ about heading south. The south is THE place to go when in Italy. It’s less touristy, the people are friendlier, the weather, beaches and food are all better, and you get the more authentic Italian experience.
We will say, however, that Naples is gritty and some people may find this off-putting. It is a city that is essentially controlled by the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, and even though this has zero affect on a tourist, even the simplest things such as garbage collections, are impacted by this. If you’re able to put aside the piles of trash, the crazy traffic and grungy appearance, you’ll appreciate a city with a lot of character – so much so that we forgot to take many photos as we were too busy taking it all in.
Where We Stayed
We rented an AirBnb in the outskirts of the Quartieri Spagnoli. It is perched just on top of a hill above the main part of the city which provided a good location to access everything.
Where We Ate
Naples is the home to some of the most common Italian food found around the world, especially pizza. The food here is generally very good so instead of suggesting where to eat, we will suggest one place NOT to eat. “Da Michele” is a famous pizzeria that was opened in 1870. We believe it is for that reason that it is still highly recommend on travel websites, despite the quality of the food obviously decreasing over time. After waiting almost two hours, we were finally seated in the restaurant at 11pm.
The pizza was very soggy and flimsy, with a sauce that tasted as though a tin of smashed tomatoes had been poured onto dough. A local that we had met in a shop actually advised us against this place for these exact reasons, yet we chose to still ignore it and give it a try. One thing we have learnt from this trip: always listen to the locals!
Literally every other pizza we had in the Campania region was out of this world, so don’t waste your time coming to Da Michele.
What We Did
Castel Sant’Elmo is a medieval fortress perched on the hills above Naples and offers amazing views of the Gulf of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the surrounding islands. Entrance to the ground is only 5€ per person and it can be reached by taking the funicular and short walk.
Piazza della Plebescito is the main piazza in Naples, located near the old town. There is not really anything to do here per say, other than to see. Despite the reputation of Naples today and the slum-like appearance in certain areas, it was once an important city with a grand heritage, which this piazza shows.
The city of Naples is built above a complex system of underground passageways, streets and cavities, known as Sotterannea. Dating back 2400 years to the ancient Greeks, the underground ‘city’ was built and has been used through the years for multiple purposes, including a WW2 bomb raid shelter. There are various entrances into it as it spreads out below the entire old town of the city, so it is advisable to research it before hand to see which part interests you the most.
Overall, we would encourage everybody to come to Naples and experience a different side of Italy. If you are travelling to the Amalfi Coast or Capri, chances are you have to come through Naples, so spend at least a day walking through the ancient streets and appreciate the vibe!
Favourite Thing About Naples
Todd: The vibrant street life.
Brodie: The streets in Quartieri Spagnoli.