On Tuesday, May 16, after 5 days in Rome, we boarded the train to Naples. Here are the highlights…
Where we stayed: The Stelle Hotel. The greatest plus of staying in this hotel- it is next door to the train station (and I do mean right next to the train station) so Steve had very little shlepping of bags to do. Other advantages included: Abilty to use points for our stay so we saved money, good English speaking front desk staff, convenient to local lavanderia for laundry, big bathroom by European standards with an awesome spa shower and high powered hair dryer, and a bar across from the check-in desk so we could pick up bottled waters and soft drinks in the morning or evenings. Cons to this property included being in a not-so-good area of town, terrible onsite restaurant (Where was a trattoria when we needed one!), and long walking distances to sites of interest. Two other negative perceptions of Naples in general was that it was the dirtiest (and I do mean absolutey filthy!) city that we visited, English speaking store-keepers were very hard to find and they were not very friendly (except for the one waitress at the gelateria we visted for a late night dessert and cappucino). To put it bluntly- I was unimpressed with Naples, felt unsafe walking around the city, and there were not many sites to keep me interested.
What we did while in Naples: With that being said, we thoroughly enjoyed two amazing day excursions from Naples- one day at Mount Vesuvius and the ancient city of Pompeii and another day touring the Amalfi Coast. As we did for our time in Rome, I booked guided tours through Viator so that we would not have to rent a car to visit these sites and we would have the incredible knowledge of the tour guides in order to learn about the places and understand what we were experiencing. We boarded large tour buses near the train station and enjoyed seeing the sites while the bus driver dealt with the traffic and other crazy drivers. Which was my favorite site to visit? Pompeii. I learned so much about the city, the people, their habits, and the history as we walked through the streets of a city that
Which was my favorite site to visit? Pompeii. I learned so much about the city, the people, their habits, and the history as we walked through the streets of a city that was bustling 2000 years ago. I could have spent several more hours asking questions of our tour guide.I had to remember that this was a city in every sense of the word. As we walked through the city, we saw homes for the commoners, homes for the wealthy, stores, places to tie up their horses, the central market place where they brought and sold goods, as well as the ampitheatre where they enjoyed nightly entertainment.
The most shocking thing to see was the brothel where they would go for- well, you know. I was most surprised by the carved pictures on the walls of what type of sexual activity the paying customer would like to engage in. Steve and I laughed about the fact that we were standing in line together to visit a brothel. Who would have thought?
Mount Vesuvius was interesting- but let’s face it-it’s a volcano. You walk, and walk, and walk up as far as you can to get to the rim to look into a smoldering active volcano. While we walked quite a bit and enjoyed the scenery (as well as the people-watching), we did not make it all the way to the top. Going to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius is a full day and included a great deal of walking. I am glad that I put a “down day” in between our day of Pompeii/Mt. Vesuvius and then our full day of the Amalfi Coast.
The Amafi Coast was a completely different experience from our day in Pompeii. Pompeii intellectually stimulated me while our day along the Amalfi coast relaxed me. We were in the bus for most of the day. We drove to Sorrento, got out and walked through the commercialized shops, admire the amazing water, then got back on the bus and drove to Positano and got out and walked around more commercialized shops, and then drove to Amalfi and got out and walked around- again in a commercialized area with lots of shops as well as amazing views of the water. We did not go to Italy to shop. In fact, we did not even indulge in buying any lemoncello which is what Positano is known for.
Both of these day trips were LONG days so I am glad that we booked them with a day in between for resting up. During our “down day” in between these tours we sampled the famous Napoli pizza. Our favorite? Fried pizza! I must say that out of all the cities we visited, this was the most difficult in which to be gluten-free as there was little else except “pizza joints” around town. Be prepared to be “pizzaed-out” by the time you leave this town.
My overall impression of Naples… take the train into this city, enjoy the pizza, take the two full-day tours that I mentioned above and GET OUT! This was the one city in Italy that I was ready to leave, so I was very thankful to board the train for Perugia on Sunday May 21.