Naples – founded by the Greeks. The 3rd most popular and largest city in Italy after Rome and is one of the oldest cities in the world.
Naples, I found, was everything I imagined of Italy and from what I’ve seen on TV when growing up: scooters and mopeds taking shortcuts through narrow alleys and the walking pedestrians (Just like in The Italian Job), cobblestones on the roads and walkpaths, their passion for dressing well, clothes/bedsheets/towels hung on balconies. I even saw dogs riding on scooters. No way in hell does that happen in London.
I used to work in holiday camps as an activity leader for Italian exchange students who came over from Italy to UK to learn English so got to know Italy a bit through them and strongly advised me to pay their country a visit. They were very casual in terms of the way they went about things and in general my experience in Naples was an extension of that casual culture of Italians.
It was a much easier city to get used to than I had expected. Within a few days I was strolling around without a map as if I was a local: I knew which direction to head in to get back to my accommodation, I discovered different routes that can get me to the same destination.
My first solo adventure to a foreign country beyond one day taught me a lot about myself, about what I was capable of, putting what I learned in preparation for the trip beforehand (shoutout to HowtoCTheWorld for the packing tips!) and the risks and rewards of travelling alone. For example, the boarding process was so quick because I checked-in online and didn’t carry checked luggage (I originally did that because I wanted more sleep lol) plus didn’t have to be concerned whether someone else did the same or different.
I had looked at pictures of the accommodation and reviews about the B&B and they were as true and gospel as the bible or quran. Trust me.
The room was spacious and clean. The colour scheme was well thought out and patriotic with the use of Italian flag colours for the red and white wallpaper and curtains. Bathroom essentials like towels, shampoo and soap were provided along with the bathroom facilities being en suite. The kitchen was filled motivational and positivity quotes and made the accommodation more decorative and showed how much care and attention the hosts/owners gave to their own property not to mention the property that’s rented out to guests. There was also a balcony and since I was up on the third floor a and ha good view of Naples was too good of an opportunity to miss out on and had to milk it for the pics to post on instagram and twitter (as some of you may or may not have seen).
With hindsight the B&B was very convenient as most of the attractions I went to see were within walking distance of my place.
The hosts were very friendly, helpful to me from the very first entry through the gates to the very last exit through the same gates. They introduced me to my room, supplied me with a map which the male host wrote down the most popular tourist sites to visit and the best, affordable restaurants to check (I’ll be discussing some of them in more detail later on). They’ve been to London a lot of times as well and they were obsessed with Shoreditch! They gave me the breathing space I needed to settle into my room.
The breakfast was free of charge of course and self-catered so guests could help themselves to food and drink in the fridges and cupboards. I forever munched on the biscuits in the tea jars on the tables! There was a power cut during my first night and me and another guest was onto them about the issue and the hosts guided us on how to restore the power and we had light and electricity again within 10 mins. Even with the power gone there were emergency lights that kicked in when the power went kaput.
The small downside was the early check-out time at 10:30am, understandably so as there were other guests who had my room booked but again the host was considerate enough to let me eat my free breakfast and stay in the accommodation till 1pm latest.
The costs for the three nights there was €151; The first night was €55 and the other two were €45 with €6 added on as tax which is to be expected in most European countries. Mind you this was not booked through Airbnb so all things considered it was worth the money.
Rating out of 10: 9.5/10 (would be 10 if weren’t for the early check-out time)
The core attraction Italy, not just Naples, possesses that makes the country unique to others is its architecture. The architecture, predominantly Ancient Rome and Greek, literally is Italian history and culture and I imagine the economy must benefit from the tourist revenue it brings in.
My very first purchase when in Italy was a tourist pass called the Campania ArteCard, which allows free entry into museums and other attractions, some discounts in others and free transport access around Naples and the . There are 3-day, 7 day and annual passes with young people aged 18-25 being able to receive 3-day and 7-day passes at a discounted price. I bought the 3-day pass which was €26. Proved to be so cost-effective and would highly recommend it’s the first purchase you make as well if you’re on Napoli soil.
Most of the attractions on my to-do list were archaeology-centred tourist places whether that be and there were so many of them that we would be all day reading this post if I discussed all of them in detail so I’m going to handpick those that fascinated me the most.
I would definitely recommend first of all going to the Naples Archaeological museum and the Naples Underground tour. It’s best that you do both rather than one or the other as it’s a great opportunity to get a rich understanding of various pieces of architecture that existed in Italy’s biggest cities [such as Rome, Naples and Pompeii], its original purposes (e.g. wine cellars and manufacturing areas, plant and crop fields and swimming pools bizarrely) .and its link to really important events in the country’s history: all the way from the time of the Roman and Greek empires, through World War I and II to even present day where parts of the underground are still being discovered. The tunnels of the Underground are incredibly thin by the way, my tour guide made sure he exaggerated just to home in on the fact. With the artecard it was free entry for the museum whilst with the tour it was a 10% discount with my pass, original price for the tour was €10.
Next up and it is another MUST; the Ruins of Pompeii, one of the most advanced cities in Ancient Italy before being the victim of Mount Vesuvius erupting on the 24th August 79 AD. I believe the name “Volcano” was born from that very tragic event. You forget that the ruins was once a big city until you start exploring it. It’s so big! You literally need a whole day to cover every inch of the city. You can feel the power and emotion it once had when you go into the temples, walk the cobbled streets, see the door numbers by each house, the carefully sculptured replicas of the people who were turn into statue-like figures by the residing ash leftover from the destruction. It’s really incredibly captivating even for the casual person like myself who is not into history and archaeology much. Don’t just settle for taking pics of the pics of Pompeii ruins displayed in the Archaeological museum. Particularly when it is also free entry with the Artecard (this is gonna be a theme haha)
Castel St’Elmo and Castel Dell Ovo are the most eye-catching and scenic of the castles in Naples. St’Elmo eluded me as I got there 15 mins after its closing time on the first day. You can get there to Castel St’Elmo by a cable car ride from the Montesanto metro station (Stazione di Montesanto) and – you’ve probably guessed it – its free with an ArteCard, then its a 10 minute walk from the station. If you can get to the top of the castle you’ll have a view of the whole of Naples, a dip into paradise for photographers), or if you can’t make it to the top you can settle for taking pics at the place I christened “Makeout point”, which is to the right from the exit/entrance of St’Elmo and where couples get trivial and take pictures of themselves kissing and snogging with a clear view of the city in the background. I couldn’t resist taking some myself (no not of me making out with someone unfortunately – or of other people making out :p). The Castel Dell Ovo is in the Santa Maria district (a great area for a day out by the coast of Naples and is ideal for shopping too) and a 20 minute walk from the Municiplo metro station and is stunning to look at too.
Other places I’ve checked out for sightseeing were:
- Castel Capuano (free entry with ArteCard)
- Castel Nuovo (free entry with ArteCard)
- Piazza del Plebiscuito
- Santa Maria district
- The old historic center for shopping and dining,
- Cathedrale D’Duomo (free entry)
- Museum of Contemporary Art (free entry with an ArteCard and on Mondays), which is a three-floor museum with different art exhibitions and galleries, including a special one dedicated to Pompeii that is around till September this year, that gives off an eerie vibe in my opinion)
Rating out of 10: 7.5/10
Trying out Pizza and Pasta in Italy is a MUST, otherwise you have not lived 😀 The food and drink in Naples is impressively cheap and the quality is high considering the price you pay.
For a comparison, I had a half chicken meal with small potatoes and salad from Cucina and Grill (near the Napoli centrale metro station) for a price of €4, which is equivalent to £3.50 or $5. In Nandos in the UK currently, a half chicken with two regular sides is £11 (give or take a pound or two). That’s bargain of the millennial right there! Yes, the quantity was very decent and the chicken and potatoes were even better in quality with the right amount of price. Winning!
You can find yourself a delicious box of pizza for a price of between €4-6 from a Pizza restaurant and take away. Don’t go for the €1 ones from local cafes unless you’re craving something cos they’re very bland, even though the low price is tempting. I had quite a few pizza restaurants recommended to me by my hosts but the one that stood out for was the La Campagnola Pizzeria. Lots of options! I had the Pizza Lasagna and it was yum….the box of pizza dropped on the box cos I was being dumb but fortunately the pizza was inside the box so it was okay to eat – was still yum though.
The way the restaurants cook the pizza impressed in terms of how organic it was: basically they create and shape the pizza dough, add the toppings and flavours and then cook each side of the pizza in a furnace rather than an oven. Within a few minutes the pizza is boxed, packaged in your box and you’re good to take it home.
As for pasta, it was a hard find. On my last night at Naples for dinner I was on a chase as long as the cops’ chase for Bonnie and Clyde just to find a restaurant that did pasta because all I saw was pizza restaurants. When I did it was the O’Cerriglio Trattoria Casareccia restaurant. It is a 15 minute walk from my B&B, felt like an half an hour walk because I obviously didn’t know where it was. On the menu was Spaghetti with Carbonara. I really liked the amount of cheese on the pasta and the way they put ground pepper and other condiments on the edge of the plate for flavouring. Again very affordable at a price of 8.05 including the 15% service charge, especially if you’re dining there on the occasion. All in all nothing but positive things.
Rating out of 10: 9/10
Before coming to Naples I’ve had it hit home to me by my family and other travel bloggers from a meetup I went to that racism is more out in the open abroad. Honestly as serious as racism is to me being a young black man in a foreign country and I’ll fight tooth and nail to ensure that hatred because of ANY person’s skin colour is banished forever, I have to say that I had a lot of love and friendliness from Italians across different generations whether I’ve met them on the job or during my stay at Naples. The hosts were shining examples of this and I thankfully didn’t get any racial abuse from the locals. One lady even paid for my water bottle from the supermarket cos I didn’t have enough change on me. A lot of the people were co-operative when I asked them to be my photographer.
There were a few rude exchanges from the odd shopkeeper or two but it wasn’t personal as I felt it was the frustration of a language barrier when asking them about the item I wanted to buy, which was a travel adaptor because the one I bought from the UK wasn’t the right one. Interestingly they didn’t seem they were Italian natives.
I had the pleasure of meeting fellow tourists and even befriending some of them on Facebook (a privilege a solo traveller should capitalise on because of connections and that). Strangely I spotted quite a lot of American tourists around, maybe they went to a Uni nearby or their spring break came early.
As mentioned obviously it was a challenge interacting with them due to a sizeable language barrier but having picked up a few words from the Italian kids I worked with, plus other key words I revised (e.g greetings, mannerisms and common questions I knew I was going to ask) before the trip and using hand and body gestures; I reckon that was enough for them to understand what I was saying and making sure I was communicating effectively enough. I’m might even make a separate post on key phrases to learn if you’re venturing out into Italy.
For me taking the time out to learn another country’s native language is an important life skill and shows the effort you’re making to connecting with their culture. Maybe it’s me but I’ve realised that a lot of European countries have words translated into English in major public stations like train stations, museums and hotels but some countries like the UK, US, China and Japan don’t do the same thing and don’t have translations in various languages. I get that English is an international language but for me it’s a bit of cultural ignorance that needs to be stamped out of existence.
Rating out of 10: 7.5/10
I flew with British Airways to Naples and for the return flights. Despite all the scares and hairs other travel bloggers told me about when they flew with British Airways, BA actually came through for me thankfully (because boy – I wasn’t ready to do a public release on how bad my experience with them was). The journeys went smoothly without major issue although a couple next to me had an issue with a group booking of theirs but majorly that wasn’t a concern of mine to be honest. I stayed well clear of buying food on the plane (does the no face Drake makes in his Hotline Bling music video) because I was full having already eaten before both my flights.
The Naples underground system is a lot more simplistic than other underground networks in other major cities in the world. The two main metro lines I took were Linea 1, which is the metro line more localised to Naples and similar to the circle line in London, and Linea 2, which is a metro line that can take you beyond the city of Naples and into other regions of Italy such as Pompeii and Sorrento. Because of how frequently I used the train and the attractions I wanted to see being walking distance, there wasn’t even the need to take bus.
The artecard that I purchased came into some serious good use when it came to using transport. I even got free train journeys past its expiry date by simply waving it to the ticket officers. Otherwise day tickets for riding the metro/trains are really really cheap at a cost of €3.50 I believe and around a euro for a one-way ticket.
What I noticed compared to the other cities I’ve visited is that the traffic varies depending on the part of Naples you’re residing in and is generally busy. On the outskirts it is third-world like: no defined carriageway on some roads, large amount of congestion, people in between cars directing traffic on busy roads. It is much better inner-city where I was staying but still very busy. If you’re on foot and crossing the road be prepared to be waiting for the red light for a while.
One advice: Stay away from the middle of alleyways and walkpaths. This is particularly the case for the alleys going uphill because scooters and cars constantly go through them without a care in the world.
Rating out of 10: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Naples is one of the main symbols of Italy being proud of its history and culture. It has incredible scenery that is defined by ancient architecture and castles that are proving to be timeless with every passing day and there is always something you can do for the entire day. They certainly have a trick or two up their sleeves when it comes to cooking. Would definitely recommend you pay a visit of your own.
But for now (not very long actually because another post is coming very soon 😉 ), I’d love to hear your thoughts on Naples or Italy in general. Comment below or share with everyone else.
Ciao a tutti!