In a few short hours, I will be leaving Naples and heading to Florence for a month. The past two weeks have passed so quickly – it feels like I just got here! Despite me hating the city of Naples itself, I had a few incredible days here.
Naples city centre
I was due to be staying at an Airbnb apartment right in downtown Naples, but the host cancelled five days before I was due to arrive. The only cheap accommodation left in Naples was a hostel in a town called Portici, which was five miles outside of the city. I begrudgingly booked it, but I’m so happy I did!
Portici was a much better place to stay. Unlike Naples, it had a beach (albeit, a crappy one) and I felt much safer here. I was much closer to all the sights I wanted to see, such as Pompei, Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.
I also forgot how much fun it is to stay in a hostel. I met some awesome people, and I never had the chance to feel lonely – as soon as one of my new friends left, another arrived to take their place. I quickly realised I was not going to be able to get much work done, so I basically took this as a two week “vacation”.
I went to Naples city centre three times (mainly to go to the gym). I’ve been to some pretty rough cities in my life, but this was probably the worst I’ve ever been to. It’s dirty, noisy and there is not much to see.
(My friend asked why I was snapping that picture, and I said “so I have something to remember Naples by”, to which he said “dear God, why would you want to?”)
It also has an extremely high crime rate. I saw four muggings in broad daylight. I tried to be aware of my surroundings and used common sense. I kept my bag close to my side, didn’t look at my phone when I was walking or when I was on the train (I saw multiple people have their phone snatched right out of their hand when the train stopped at a station) and didn’t wear headphones. If anyone looked at me suspiciously, I just glared at them like I would beat them up if they tried anything.
I wouldn’t recommend staying in the city centre for longer than you have to. Stop for pizza, and then head further south!
The Amalfi Coast
Excluding the 55 minute train journey in a 52 degree (125 Fahrenheit) carriage to get to Sorrento – which I did not once but twice – seeing the Amalfi Coast was the highlight of my trip.
A group of us rented scooters in Sorrento, and spent eight hours driving up and down the Amalfi Coast.
We stopped in Positano for lunch and a swim.
I was meant to visit the Amalfi Coast last summer with my ex, and I’m so glad I didn’t. Although it was awfully romantic and it would have been nice to share the day with someone other than friends, you can’t win ‘em all.
This is a close second behind Montenegro as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
I wasn’t that impressed by Sorrento, but we did see a magnificent sunset right before a storm.
I spent a whole week debating whether or not to hike this or not. It’s 15 kilometres to the top, which is estimated to take around four hours. I have never hiked any kind of mountain in my life, let alone in 37/99 degree heat.
Finally, I decided that this was the one and only chance I had to hike Vesuvius, so I sucked it up.
Even if you get a bus up, everyone has to hike the last 1,000 metres. I actually thought this was the hardest part as it’s awfully steep. Someone told me to bring a jacket because it gets cold at top, but that person obviously does not know how much I sweat! I took six litres of water with me and proudly didn’t die.
It took me four hours, but I stopped quite a few times on the way, mainly to pray that I wouldn’t die on this cliffside. Although I could have hiked with others I met at my hostel, I chose to do it alone as I wanted the time to be introspective. I also knew I would be whinging on a grand scale, so I didn’t want to make anyone else suffer through that.
It was 100 per cent worth the effort. I took a bus back down, which was more nerve-wracking than the climb itself.
I saved Pompei for my last day. People had told me it would take around five or six hours but I couldn’t imagine how. Well, they weren’t far off as I was in there for four hours.
It was very, very cool. I just kept looking at Vesuvius in disbelief that I actually climbed that thing.
The food in Naples made the food in Rome look like child’s play. During the first seven days I was here, I ate nine pizzas! Given that Naples is where pizza was invented, I should not have been surprised at how delicious it was. What I sampled of the seafood and gelato was incredible too.
The best part was that, given Naple’s economy, everything is dirt cheap. The gelato was €2 at maximum, and I never paid more than €8 for a pizza (most were around €4 or €5, though).
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
Given I am Elizabeth Gilbert’s twin, I couldn’t go to Naples and not eat at the pizzeria featured in Eat, Pray, Love. It was indeed amazing. I tried to go a second time but it was closed until the end of August.
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba
This is the oldest pizzeria not only in Naples, but in the whole world. It opened in 1738 and was so good that I ate there twice. First up, was the ham and mushroom…
…and second was a margherita with buffalo mozzarella. I thought I’d had good mozzarella before, but buffalo mozzarella from Naples is insanely delicious!
Pizzeria del Centro
This was a five minute walk from my hostel, and the line was always out the door. Although I often split with others to try different flavours, I always ordered the same pizza: prosciutto and mushrooms.
The guy behind the counter learnt to put my order through before I even opened my mouth. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
One night, my friend and I asked the front desk to order in vegetables for us, and their response was “vegetable pizza?” to which we both screamed NO! It is possible to have too much of a good thing – I’m not going to eat any more until Em comes to visit in four weeks.
Most restaurants around Sorrento are tourist traps, but this place did some seriously good seafood pasta. It was a little overpriced but that’s the downside to eating on the coast.
We stumbled upon this place on our first night in Portici, as it was a dangerous two minute walk from our front door. It is currently ranked as the number one attraction in Portici, and I can see why.
My friends and I decided to try every single flavour in a four day period, which meant we were having gelato three times a day. When in Rome…. I mean, Naples.
It is very difficult to choose, but my favourite was nocciotella, which is a mix between Nutella and regular hazelnut. During the day, I loved the lemon and strawberry combo!
Gelateria Del Gallo
I only tried one other gelato place while I was in Naples, and it just happened to have a very similar name. It was equally orgasmic. I had nocciotella and bacio.
The downside to living in a hostel is I can’t really prepare my own food. This means that I haven’t had eggs for breakfast since I was in Rome! Instead, I had fresh fruit and stopped by this amazing pasticceria for a cappuccino and croissant every morning.
The croissants were the best I’ve ever had in my life, and yes, I’ve eaten plenty in France. They alternated between white chocolate, warm Nutella and marmalade, and all were incredible.
I wasn’t planning on training at all while I was in Naples, but one of my friends was desperate to go to the gym, so who am I to say no?
Twice I trained at The New Athletic. We paid €10 per day to train, and it was actually a pretty good gym. It had no cardio equipment, which is unusual for this part of the world!
It also had an awesome pool and rainfall shower, where we may or may not have indulged in a ridiculous photoshoot or two.
This week, I found myself with a day free so I headed back to the same gym, only to find it was closed for no apparent reason. We had already trekked it to one gym that didn’t actually exist (this is common in Italy: a gym listing on google often appears to actually be a shady cover-up operation), but I managed to find another with the help of Grindr (don’t ask, haha).
I trained at The Body Gym for just €5. They didn’t have a squat rack, so I had to squat in the Smith machine (oh, the horror!!!) and it was so hot in there I actually saw stars at one point.
Every single shop is closed between 1 and 4pm, as that’s siesta time! Although it is similar in Rome, there are more touristy places about that stay open.
On the day I hiked Vesuvius, all I’d eaten all day was a croissant and an ice cream at the top. By the time I got home just before 3, I was absolutely starving. All the restaurants are usually closed between 3 and 7 or 8pm, so I was out of luck. I sat waiting outside the grocery store like a hungry animal.
I thought the smoking in Rome was bad, but Naples is another level! The people that work in the supermarket smoke as they are checking out your food, the restaurant staff smoke as they take your order, and the bus drivers all smoke… Basically, don’t come here if you’re not a fan of passive smoking.
Even less people here speak English than in Rome, but the good news is my Italian is improving! I’ve had a couple of long conversations with people, with the help of Google Translate, of course.
I can now see where Italy’s obesity statistics come from. There are a lot more overweight people in Naples, but it’s not hard to see why with the amazing food. I think I have gained a little weight but I couldn’t care less as I’ve never felt happier!
The men in Naples make Roman men look prudish. There seems to be less women around, which means the Neapolitan men zone in on their targets with new heights of aggression. I had guys follow me for up to 45 minutes, circling around me in their cars, and withholding my food/drinks/train tickets until I entertained their flirting. Unlike the author of this post, I just wanted to punch someone by the end of it.
All in all, it was an amazing trip that I will remember for the rest of my life. Now, on to Firenze!
Have you ever been to Naples? Have you ever made yourself sick of one of your favourite foods?