Why Go: The pizza, the food and the people.
Length: 2 days (minimum time to explore – 2 days)
Getting there: The Big Bird – easyjet.com | Air time from London ~3 hours
The Low Down: I’d heard a lot about Naples, unfortunately a lot of bad stuff. Watch out for pick pockets, they’re everywhere they said. It couldn’t be further from my Naples experience. While this southern Italian city certainly doesn’t have the sophistication or cleanliness of Florence or Venice, this is RAW Italy. Its dirty, its got graffiti everywhere, its loud and its busy. BUT the people and the food make this place amazing. And at no point did we feel unsafe.
We had 2 days in Naples and unfortunately the first was affected massively by TORRENTIAL rain. And I mean TORRENTIAL. But we didn’t let this dampen things…see what I did there? Having found sanctuary in a restaurant and dried off a little, we headed back into the rain and to our seriously cool Airbnb (see here). Having siesta’ed and ditched the soggy clothes we headed out to explore and have drinks. We found a very cool bar district, not far away, called Piazza Bellini. All the bars here are decent and the drinks are cheap (€2-3), making it a great place to kick off the night.
After a couple of beers and soaking up the vibes we headed for what I’d been informed was “the best pizza place in Naples”, possibly the world (big call I know). It did not disappoint (see my Top 3 below for more details).
Friday brought sunshine (finally!), so coffee and pastries in a square in the sun sounded appropriate. My friend had recommended Scaturchio for proper Italian coffee and amazing pastries. He couldn’t have summed it up better! After loading up with carbs and caffeine we then embarked on an epic hike to the highest point in Napoli, Castel Sant’Elmo, where the views over Vesuvio are pretty hard to beat! That night we checked out another recommendation, Trattoria Da Nennella. This place is actually nuts. But incredible (See my Top 3 below for more on this). After a very entertaining dinner experience we went to a very cool bar which we had scoped out the night before called Shanti Art Musik Bar. The cocktails, waitstaff and psychedelic vibes here make this a ideal place to park up and meet locals and tourists.
Some other things to check out if you have time are:
- Pompeii and Herculaneum (www.pompeiisites.org) – Circa €2 one way by train
- Two of the towns which were covered in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. While they are similar, both are very different. Pompeii is huge. Being on top of a hill, fairly well all of the town was able to be excavated, meaning you get a real feel for how life and structures were way back. Herculaneum on the other hand, while smaller, is more in tact, with wood and human remains being preserved. Both are definitely worth checking out, allow a couple hours for each at least.
- Buy a Cornicello (little horn)
- Be a proper Italian and buy one of these little ‘Chilli’s’. They are a good luck charm, but the rules state you can’t buy one for yourself. So buy one for someone else and get them to reciprocate. You can buy cheap ones everywhere for €1-2 but pay a little more (€5) and get one from Cosmos on Via San Gregorio Armerno (see more below).
- Walk down Via San Gregorio Armerno
- Another thing Naples is famous for is its nativity scenes which are created out of wood carvings. Apparently this street alone brings half a million tourists to Naples over Christmas. If nativity scenes aren’t your thing (they aren’t really mine) a quick stroll through and purchase of a Cornicello (above) might suit you a bit more.
My Top 3
1 – Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (sorbillo.it)
Voted the best pizza in Naples (possibly the world) and for good reason. If you love your pizza, or even if you don’t, you NEED to visit this place at least once in your life. We arrived at 7pm and the crowd out front was already 40 people strong. We put our name on the list and with no indication of when we might get in, we went straight for vino at the conveniently placed wine bar, right next door. An hour later, we got the call and it felt like we had won the lottery. I’d been briefed by a Neapolitan friend to order the Margherita with extra mozzarella. ‘Wow’ was about all I could get out before the whole thing was inhaled. What surprised me the most though was the price. My pizza was only €5…with the most expensive being €9.50. Another?
2 – Naples Underground (napolisotterranea.org) – Adults €10
2400 years old. 30 metres below ground. 400km of tunnels. A former Greek and Roman Aqueduct. A rubbish dump and an air raid shelter. This place is seriously interesting. Entry is by tour only and you’ll cover approximately 1km underground, going through tunnels no wider than 50cm with no light, other than that provided by handheld candle. English tours run every 2 hours from 10am until 6pm.
3 – Trattoria Da Nennella (tripadvisor.com)
Mental but incredible. That fairly well sums up this place. This is a traditional neapolitan restaurant which is more of a theatre show than an eatery. The food is simple, but amazing. Staff were yelling and taking the piss out of each other. Some random was serenading diners by guitar. Being cut off when asking for your next dish, as the waiter had already walked off. Being promptly told ‘alright now get out’ after finishing our last dish. This place was one of the highlights of our trip. While everything is all in Italian, this just makes the experience all that more special.