Naples has a reputation for its strong mafia connections, thin-crust pizza mania, and its culture. With its beautiful architecture and basically being an open-air museum due to its countless historic statues and monuments, it was a destination my friend Gloria and I couldn’t miss. From Rome, it was a quick 1-2 hours away by train and the tickets cost around 9-19 euros depending on train type and time of day. This is what we did during our travel in Naples:
In Naples, we stayed at a hostel called Giovanni’s Home for 3 days and 2 nights. I was really excited for this hostel due to its glowing reviews that raved about Giovanni, calling him personable and a friendly man who sat down with his guests and cooked them dinner, which I found to be all true. Staying at his hostel in summer 2014 cost $25.33 for a 8 bed female dorm. If you’re looking for affordable housing in Naples, I would highly recommend it!
After dropping off our belongings, we headed outdoors to explore Naples. Naples has a metro that makes it easy to traverse the city cheaply and quickly. We visited Castel Nuovo, a medieval castle, that sits right near the water. While we didn’t go inside, it was quite impressive from the outside.
After walking to the castle, we built up an appetite and decided to try one of Naple’s famous pastries – the sfogliatelle. The crust of this pastry is similar to puff pastry and between each layer of pastry is a thin layer of lard. The pastry is filled with a lemon custard, whose tangy flavor hits you as soon as you bite into this crunchy pastry.
One thing that’s beautiful about Naples is how many historical buildings and monuments there are. This plaza is probably home to famous, important buildings that would be cordoned off and showcased for display in the United States, but in Naples, where there are so many famous buildings, it is just like any other part of the city. I really like the juxtaposition of the locals playing a casual game of soccer in front of this all-important, esteemed looking building.
The colors and architecture of Naples have a way of making you feel really alive and also a part of something larger than yourself. You can almost FEEL the history of the place.
After all of that walking, it was time to refuel. There are many arguments as to who does pizza best in Naples and identifying “true” Napoli pizza has become something of an art. Since countless listicles have been created around the subject, I would like to draw your attention to these magical things, also known as deep fried mac and cheese balls:
These were heavenly. Gloria and I used to joke that if our terminal degrees (MPH for me, MD for her) didn’t pan out, we would open a food truck and just sell these babies. I’ve seen some in the food truck scene here in the States so it looks like someone beat us to the punch, but it just goes to show how good they are!
In addition to the mac and cheese balls, we ordered some pizza for takeaway and munched on it while watching the World Cup outside at a pop-up bar.
Naples is a short distance away from Pompeii and it only takes about 30-40 minutes to get there via train. Once we got there, we bought a one-day ticket to Pompeii for 11 euros. Friends highly recommended seeing Pompeii by tour guide, so we tried to recruit one upon arrival. However, they were charging prices for about 40 euros per person so we opted to act as our own personal guide.
It is pretty crazy to see how one volcano eruption led to the destruction of an entire city. The eruption led to the deaths of over 3,000 people, with the majority of the population (20,000) having already fled the city. The city is also much better preserved than I had imagined.
Pompeii pretty much serves as an outdoor museum of ancient Roman times. You can see everything from jars to tables to people, preserved from over 2,000 years ago.
After returning to Naples, Gloria and I took a tour of Napoli Sotteranea. Several people recommended it to us, saying that it was a cool way to see Naples’ history by looking underground. They offer guided tours (in English too!) and will show you a different Napoli than the one you might have expected.
During the tour, we saw the underground caves and cisterns that lie below Naples. It was interesting to learn that these caves were used as bomb shelters during WWII. If you go during the summer months, it’s a great way to escape the summer heat or escape the rain!
After Naples, our next stop was Mykonos, Greece where drinking a liter of wine at lunch was not unusual and the food was bomb.
- The Toledo Station in Naple’s Metro system is one of the most beautiful metro stops I’ve seen in my life. Check it out if you have the time!
- I know I said that there are countless articles detailing the best pizza places in Naples and why, but I’m going to interject with one of my personal favorites, Gino Sobillo. It was recommended by a local, Giovanni himself and it was phenomenal. It might even be the best pizza I ever had in my life, and I’m a huge fan of Berkeley’s Cheeseboard.
- As a planner, something that kept me sane throughout this Asia/Europe trip was creating an itinerary and packing list. The itinerary helped me keep track of all the dates, cities, flight times, housing, and relevant transportation information and the packing list ensured that I would have everything (like bug spray in Cinque Terre) so I wouldn’t be caught off guard. If you also like being prepared, making these lists could be useful! Planning ahead can also help you travel cheaper and fly cheaper.