Hannah Drake

Is Naples Worth Visiting?

TravelHannah DrakeComment

When we started planning our trip to Italy, knowing we would be flying into Naples, we weren’t quite sure how much time to spend in Naples. Originally, we had only planned to spend one night there, spend a night on Capri, and then go to the Amalfi Coast. Eventually we decided to just to a day trip to Capri and leave our luggage at the hotel. Thank goodness! But suddenly we had two days in Naples to fill. I had asked for recommendations for all the places we were going on Instagram and got exactly ZERO recommendations for Naples. When I spoke to a friend who had recently travelled through Europe, she said she skipped Naples because she hadn’t heard great things. It was a little off-putting and ultimately why we decided to do a day trip to Capri from Naples rather than the Amalfi Coast, but there were still things we were looking forward to visiting in Naples.

So the question of the day remains: Is Naples worth visiting?

THE PROS

P I Z Z A! All. Of. The. Pizza. Neapolitans know what they are doing with pizza. Some people believe that Neapolitans invented the Margherita pizza in June of 1889 in honour of the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, and the Italian unification. (The pizza is the colours of Italy!) However, it seems that style of pizza was around possibly as early as 1796. Honestly, it was kind of a bummer that we went to Naples first because no other pizza on our trip compared to our first meal in Italy. As soon as we were checked into our hotel, we set out to go to L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, as seen in Eat, Pray, Love, and apparently rated the best pizza in Naples. (I’m not sure who by, but a couple we met at the pizzeria told us they had done the top five pizzas in Naples and this was #1. We never heard how it compared because they were rushing to a flight to Sicily and took their pizzas to go.) It’s an absolute madhouse and it’s cash only, but it’s 100% worth it. When we arrived, there was a massive crowd outside of the pizzeria and we had no idea what was happening. A few moments later, that couple showed up behind us asking us what to do. I decided to go in to find out and the guy followed me in. An old man working the door handed me a square of yellow paper with the number 60 on it and told me they had just called number 9. FIFTY ONE NUMBERS AWAY! I asked him if that was to dine in or do take away and he said we could order take away at the till and get in the four person line. Um, duh! That explains why the street down to the pizzeria was line with people eating pizza on the sidewalk. We opted for that, so I waited in the hot pizzeria with the guy, who turned out to be from Denmark, while Luke waited outside with his girlfriend or wife. It took a while to get our pizzas since they had to change the wood out, but otherwise it probably would have been about a 10 minute wait. We got to talking with the guys in front of us too, who were from Brazil and South Africa and working on a cruise ship that was at port for the day. The brightly lit pizzeria was filled with the sound of diners enjoying their lunch and company and about a dozen sweaty Italian guys working the pizza oven and the tables. The take away line was dead in the middle of the front room about six inches from tables on one side and about two feet away from the flaming pizza oven. It was magical. When our pizzas came up, I passed them off to the Danish guy so they could get to the airport for their flight that was in 40 minutes and waited another couple of minutes for ours. I met Luke outside with two pizza boxes and two bottles of Coke and we found a place on some dirty steps to eat, next to the two guys from the cruise ship. (“Come share our table!” they said jokingly.) Our napkins had blown away the second I stepped outside and the Coke bottles weren’t twist off, but oh my gosh, it was the most heavenly meal of my life! The next day, after we had gotten back from Capri, our original plan was to stop by L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele to share another €5 pizza, but we were both exhausted from our day on the island and it was a 20 minute walk from the port to the pizzeria and then another 20 minutes back to our hotel. In the end, we popped into another pizzeria we passed on the way back to the hotel and took it back to share in bed. It was amazing, but still not as good as that first one. And thus ends my love letter to Neapolitan pizza.

The views of the Bay of Naples is absolutely worth checking out. Our first night there, we hiked—and I do mean hiked—the streets to Castel Sant'Elmo. It was a gruelling walk, but it paid off in the end. The streets were much quieter than the bustling city below, but I cannot imagine having to do that walk every day. The whole way was lined with residential buildings! Regardless of the hard work required, it was a fantastic place to see the sunset over the city. From the top, you can see the whole of the Bay of Naples, including Mount Vesuvius, and it’s breathtaking. We didn’t make it in time to go into Castel Sant'Elmo, but the couple from the pizzeria earlier that day recommended it. Since we missed the entrance time, we instead wandered around (read: got lost in) the streets at the top. Like the climb up, it was much quieter, but absolutely stunning.

Our hotel recommended quite a few things to us, including some notable churches (she said the city has about 500) and museums (like The National Archaeological Museum of Naples), but we didn’t have time to visit any of them. Naples was seemingly cheaper than Rome. It had public transportation that got us where we wanted to go easily enough. And it was close in proximity to the other things we wanted to do at the beginning of our trip.

THE CONS

Naples is BUSY. It’s chaotic—or energetic, if you want to put it softly—the traffic is basically madness, and it’s kind of hard to find stuff. The streets are narrow, especially the side streets, lined with tall buildings, which made for great protection from the sun, but also felt a little claustrophobic. Walking down the side streets, we never had any idea if a car or a scooter would come down. It felt very like a cliche Italian city, with brightly coloured buildings that are a bit too close together with the washing hanging out to dry on the second level and people enjoying a coffee or lunch on the street below. It’s hard to describe exactly, but it just felt overwhelming in a way that Rome didn’t.

THE CONCLUSION

Like I mentioned, we didn’t spend a ton of time in Naples, so I don’t have much to offer about the city. Our first tour guide in Rome said she loves the energy of Naples, but people usually love it or hate it. There’s no such thing as being neutral about Naples. Truthfully, I didn’t love Naples. While we were in Italy, Luke and I agreed that we probably wouldn’t ever got back to Naples, but now that I’m writing this post, I’m dreaming about that pizza again. I’m glad we visited, and I really wish we had seen The National Archaeological Museum of Naples because of it’s proximity to Pompeii and the number of artefacts they have there. (They have a “Secret Cabinet” that houses some of the more explicit and erotic items found in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum!) People say that Naples doesn’t feel safe, but you can find people who say that about pretty much every where, can’t you? Simply put, Naples isn’t really my speed, but it might be yours.

WHERE WE ATE

Of course I mentioned we ate at L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele for our first meal in Italy. We agreed this was the best pizza of the trip and is well worth the wait. (Just get take away if you don’t want to wait for a table.)

We had dinner at Biancomangiare near our hotel that night. We ordered a bottle of wine, an antipasti platter, and cacio e pepe spaghettone to share. The restaurant was so cute; it was exactly what I imagined a little Italian place tucked away on a side street would be like! It was also the first of many times when we got to an empty restaurant and it filled up by the time our food came.

Both mornings in Naples, we ate breakfast at our hotel Relais Della Porta. I would definitely recommend the hotel, but don’t expect an all American continental breakfast. They had breads, pastries, different meats, hard boiled eggs, some different fruit (dried or preserved), and some cereal and porridge options. It was enough to tide us over and we usually ate a light breakfast in Italy anyway. Gotta save room for pizza and pasta!

Our last night in Naples, we got a pizza to go from a place called Claudio’s Pizzeria (I think). It was still a good pizza, but didn’t compare to the day before. We only chose the place because we passed it on our way back from the port to the hotel.

Later, we were back in Naples to catch the train to Rome and we both got coconut gelato from inside the station at a place called Eccellenze della Costiera, which I believe is a chain. Luke ranked it 4 out of 7, while I ranked it 6 out of 7. (Stay tuned for more gelato rankings!)

WHAT TO WEAR IN NAPLES

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. I was nervous about what to pack for Italy in way I don’t think I have been in the past. I asked my friend Laura, a native of Italy, what to pack and she gave me some helpful tips.

PIN FOR LATER!

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