You either love it or hate it! This is a city that you have to experience and see beyond the surface. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and had played an important political and cultural role not only in Italy’s past but in Europe’s. Naples long history has meant the city has grown up around itself. Its long narrow streets lined with tall multi story buildings, grandiose piazzas all add to the charm of the city. Of course, there are those that would mention the narrow crowded streets, the piles of rubbish and traffic, but I believe this all adds to the city’s charm and character. This chaotic atmosphere epitomises the melting pot city.
Naples is an ideal base for anyone wanting to explore the surrounding bay and its archaeological wonders. It can be an expensive city to stay in, and hotels are varied in their standard. Those around Garibaldi Square are in a great location because of their proximity to the train station but can be quite costly and you don’t always get your money’s worth unfortunately. If you heard further away from the station to the area near the Archaeological Museum you will find much more for your money. If you are not overly bothered by the weather then I suggest you travel out of season and you will get a hotel much cheaper. I was there in January and got a hotel for half the price it would have been in the spring and summer months. It was cold, warmer than the UK though and we had blue skies most of the time, my sunglasses were unsure why they were being used in January!
The city of Naples itself is one relatively easy to navigate as like any good Roman city it runs on main road that split the city, and there are several main roads that lead you down to the water, it is once you leave these main road and head into the narrower streets you can loose yourself and just wander and take in the architectural beauty and chaos of the city. You will find stunning churches appearing from nowhere or arches and statues that have been there for centuries.
The one thing that I struggled to get my head around was the graffiti; it’s everywhere and on everything. At first it frustrated me seeing such disregard for ones city. I know every city has its graffiti but Naples takes it too a whole new level, it really is everywhere! However, as the days passed and I saw more and more of the city, it became part of its personality. This graffiti is a way for the people to express themselves, and in Italy’s past it always has been. Pompeii on the other side of the bay is the perfect example. It has persevered some of the best Roman graffiti of anywhere in the Roman world and the Neapolitans are merely preserving this part of their past. I would like to know what the city’s inhabitants think of it. Is it futile to try and clean it off? Or have they become so accustomed to it that the city would feel naked without it? I know that for visitors it can be an off putting sight, but for a city that is synonymous with corruption perhaps there has to be a different way to voice your allegiances and opinions?
There are certainly plenty of things to do in Naples but it’s not a city that needs more than a day, maximum 2 days to explore and take in. The draw of Naples is its location. It sits between two volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields. The Bay of Naples and the surrounding area is one of rich archaeological treasures, including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the island of Capri. From Naples you can jump on the Circumvesuviana train line and explore the bay all the way to Sorrento.
My trip to Naples was very much based around visiting archaeological site, but this area and around the Amalfi coast is ideal for a walking holiday. You can walk along the coastal cliffs, through villages and the countryside, exploring the region and experiencing the food which is what Italy is all about.
No trip to Naples is complete without trying its culinary creation, the pizza. The best way to eat pizza is from one of the small little pizza shops that are nestled in amongst the shops, people coming and going all day collecting their pizzas to take home. Some of them will have a few plastic tables and chairs either in the back or out front, don’t be afraid to head on in grab a chair and order away, but make sure you are hungry as they are not small portions! Naples also offers amazing sea food and traditional culinary experiences. I always find myself trying to locate a restaurant recommended in the lonely planet or rough guide but end up in a small restaurant having the most wonderful meal. Do not be afraid to just find a restaurant to eat in. Italians love food and they love feeding people even more, part of the fun is trying new things so if they don’t have an English menu just go with the flow!
This was my second trip to Naples, the first time was fleeting as I passed through the city to use the train to head back to Rome, but this second time I gave more time to its chaos and shrieking mopeds and loved it. There is a charm to this city and its location makes it a perfect place to stay so you can explore an amazing area. Of course staying in a city isn’t for everyone. In the past I have stayed in Sorrento in a converted monastery which was again great fun so there is something for everyone in the Bay of Naples.