Saturday, 30 September 2017

Two Days in Naples

I’ve been living in Rome for three months now, and because there is so much to see in the eternal city I hadn’t taken the time to book myself a weekend away to another Italian city. Therefore I decided to go on a trip to Naples with a friend of mine who had not visited the city yet. We literally did it last minute: we booked a room two days before the departure and bought train tickets the day before we left. And because it is southern Italy, we didn’t even spend a lot of money (a return ticket from Rome on the fastest train cost us 35€). Obviously although we hadn’t planned anything or spent any time looking for what to do there, we were incredibly excited to find out what Naples had to offer. It turned out we got plenty of information on where to go to enjoy delicious Neapolitan food thanks to acquaintances of ours on our way…

Finding a place to stay in the centre of Naples is definitely a must if you want to be close to everything and enjoy walking through beautiful narrow streets. In fact Naples doesn’t cost a lot so we stayed at the Bed & Breakfast Medea (Via San Biagio dei Librai 46), where we could stroll around the center and still be close to where we spent the night. We dropped our bags there and walked directly to Piazza del Gesù Nuovo to admire one of my favourite Neapolitan spots. We were super hungry so we headed nearby to the Pizzeria Giuliano - of course you can eat pizza there but it is more known for the quality of its fried specialities. This place is exactly what I was looking for: something that doesn’t look much but is a real gem, where both regular Neapolitans and men wearing tailored suits walk in.

After we had a pizzella, a panino napolitano and a calzone with ricotta for lunch, we somehow managed to roll out of the place onto the Santa Chiara centre. The church was closed, but what mattered was the breath-taking view of the gardens and their typical tiled columns, which gives the place an oriental/Barcelona feel to it. It is a very peaceful place you can take some rest at.
Although Via Toledo is the typical commercial corridor where you can find Zara and H&M and therefore of no interest to us, we dived into the very modern metro station called Toledo. It is no ordinary stop: there is the most beautiful blue mosaic I’ve ever seen, stuck everywhere on the walls. I’ll let you gape in awe when you see the photo. We then stopped at Municipio and strolled our way to the Umberto I gallery. I have a thing for galleries, I can’t help visiting one when I arrive in a new city (maybe because I feel overwhelmed by the structured architecture of the façades each time everywhere I go). This one, even if there was some work in progress inside, was very pleasant to walk in. We also wanted to taste the famous pastry called sfogliatella and had been recommended a kind of little truck called Mary Sfogliatella, where apparently you can have the best patries in town. We eventually found it and ate the most delicious ones. You can try the ‘riccia' one (crunchy) or the 'frolla' one (softer). Ps: I still can’t decide which one I prefer. We had some coffee in the gallery, which was a big mistake because we paid 3€ for an espresso! Next time: caffè al bar.

From there, we headed south to admire a view on the Castel dell’Ovo. We crossed the Piazza del Plebiscito - if we hadn’t grabbed a coffee an hour before, we would definitely have stopped at the Gran Caffé Gambrinus! Opened in 1890, it has been receiving many members of European royal families and great artists. We started to be pretty tired at that point so we decided to get back to the Bed & Breakfast to chill for an hour before going out for dinner. At around 9pm - not that we were particularly hungry - we paid a visit to one of the best pizzerias in town: Sorbillo… Trick if you’re travelling in pair: order one pizza margherita and one marinara, the two basic pizzas (and the best in Naples) and share them in two pieces so that each one can try both pizzas! They were basically the best of my life (until the day after, but still).
Before we spent a good night’s sleep we pondered the fact that going to Pompei the following day would not necessarily be a good idea as we had our train at 7pm at the main station. There is so much to see there that Pompei takes at least 4 or 5 hours to visit if you want to enjoy it fully and we didn’t want to rush it to fit our schedule. So instead, we decided to spend a few hours at Hercolaneum (15 minutes away from Naples on the 4€ fastest train) and visit a mini version of Pompei to impregnate ourselves of the atmosphere. Of course Pompei would certainly have been more impressive but we still had things to visit and eat in Naples before we left. It took us three hours to wander through the 2000 year-old ruins. If I ever get back to Naples, I think I’ll also visit Pompei but Hercolaneum was enough for us this time.

Back in Naples we directly headed towards Da Michele, which is the number 1 pizzeria in town. Its green and white tiles on the walls as well as the tastiest pizza in the world make it unique - and the thing is, everyone knows. It was 4pm when we arrived in front of the restaurant and we were craving for pizza after so much time in the ruins, however the queue was already very long. We took a ticket and waited around forty-five minutes before they called our number and make us sit inside. You can choose the take-away service which is a bit faster but in my opinion it is worth waiting to sit inside and live the real experience next to other people. Have your own Julia-Roberts-in-Eat-Pray-Love moment. We talked to an old couple from Brazil and drooled altogether on our pizzas. The moment the tomato sauce and mozzarella di buffala spread in my mouth was a great culinary moment. We actually wondered how they make a simple margherita tastes so great (base, tomato sauce, mozzarella). Conclusion: you simply cannot miss this spot when coming to Naples. Accept to suffer in silence for the waiting: you won’t be disappointed.

The end of our Neapolitan trip was coming close, so after a visit at the Duomo nearby we got back to the Bed & Breakfast where we had left our bags and ordered some pastries (sfogliatelle) at Scaturchio, one of the oldest bakeries of Naples. We had had breakfast there so we knew the quality of its delicious pastries! We actually spent too long choosing pastries and were a bit late to catch the train (we arrived two minutes before departure but we caught it). An hour later, we were back in the Eternal city with many new memories to remember. Obviously there are so many other things to visit in Naples, for example the Palazzo Reale or the museum of archeology. From there if you have some time, you could also decide to visit Capri, Ischia and Procida. Although two days were enough to introduce us to Napoli.

All in all Naples is an incredible city; the atmosphere is unique, just like the people, their warmth, and how can I not mention the food? The culture, traditions and beauty of monuments make the capital of Campania unforgettable in my opinion - if you like cities with strong personalities you’ll love spending some time there! 


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