Travel Diary 2019 #2

Naples, Italy

If you looked up the words impromptu or spontaneous in the dictionary you will find my holiday to Naples. At the end of May we had some bad news which set our plans for moving house back quite a bit so we decided the only thing we could do to make ourselves feel better was to have our first holiday away together for 3 days in Naples, Italy. We planned the holiday 48 hours before the plane was due to leave, I was in Manchester and my passport was in the South East of the U.K. so my kind mum had to post it up to me on a super fast, super expensive delivery (BUT it got there on time)! We booked our first ever Air BnB and scrambled some clothes and euros together before our plane ride! When we landed in Naples we got a taxi from the airport to our Air BnB address (or so we thought) the address turned out to be the office of the owner of the Air BnB property so we found another address (the correct one) and got into the place about 3 hours after we’d planned to. The place was beautiful it had a lovely balcony with a small fire pit and you could look out over the nearest church as well as the room being beautifully decorated BUT…there were some interesting “features";
  1. There was no TV. This wasn’t the biggest issue obviously as we were so busy exploring anyway just a bit weird not to have a TV in this day and age. 
  2. The shower was right next to the bed, even though there was a separate bathroom in our room. This really was strange, it meant we had to shower in front of each other which is certainly not romantic. 
  3. The property was up approximately 6 flights of stairs, two of which was hundreds of years old spiral staircases! This was the main issue as the listing did specify stairs but not that it was that many, thank goodness we only had weekend bags with us and not huge suitcases or members of the family who might struggle!  
After these interesting revelations we thought it was a good idea to head out and explore the local area, which turned out to be the most incredible location within Naples called Schiara. This little quarter of the city had so many beautiful churches, delicious restaurants and cafes as well as a whole row of cobbled streets with cute little shops to wander up and down. Here is where we encountered what we thought was going to be another problem…it was the middle of the afternoon and everything was closed! We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find anything to eat let alone a nice bar to have a couple of drinks in, but we found a takeaway and got two chicken kebabs (I still wasn’t vegetarian at this point) they were pretty average. Once we’d eaten these and had a walk up to a littler corner store to grab some snacks for the room I noticed a billboard on one of the main roads and everything suddenly made sense…the day we arrived was a national holiday! Of course everything was closed as everyone was off work for that day and the day after! We went back up to the room for a couple of hours until we started to hear some life outside, when we walked back down the 6 flights of stairs it was like walking out into a different city! Every bar, cafe, restaurant, souvenir shop and ice cream parlour was open and buzzing with people! Everyone had come out to enjoy their bank holiday time off and it was a great atmosphere.

We found a little bar where a lovely guy was selling STRONG double Rum and Cokes (that were far more than a double shot of Rum) for only 2 Euros, we guzzled a few of those and wandered off to go and get ice creams which turned out to be the freshest ice cream we’d ever had for around 5 Euros a cone (with two scoops each). We were pretty tired at this point and it was late in the evening so we found a bar called Pin'8 which was two doors down from our apartment and spent the rest of the evening there, the people in there were incredible, they served me up all kinds of cocktails and gave us SO many bar snacks, we came back the next evening and they gave us a free cocktail each because we’d come back! There is nothing like Italian hospitality, if you're in Naples then please find this little bar and have a drink or a snack as they deserve more customers! At this point we staggered up the 6 flights of stairs and fell into bed, ready for our huge day of exploring tomorrow. 

This is a picture of our nearest church; "Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo"

So, our next day rolled around and we knew it was going to be a big one. A walking tour of Mount Vesuvius followed by another walking tour in the evening of the underground chambers of Naples! We booked an organised tour that meant we got a nice coach journey up the mountain (which in reality was terrifying, our huge coach traversed the steep cliff edges and corners that could barley fit a car let alone a coach full of passengers) but we made it to Vesuvius! I was fortunate enough to visit Rome and Pompeii with my parents back in 2014 so I had seen Vesuvius but only from a distance, to stand on the soil knowing the history of this volcano and the surrounding land was really something special. I was reluctant to walk the trail up the volcano as our guide had said it could take 90 minutes each way and was really steep at some points but my boyfriend egged me on and we gave it a go. I can proudly say we made it to the crater of the volcano (after more than 90 minutes) and were greeted by an adorable cafe with fresh, cold drinks as well as the crater itself which was steaming, sulphur smelling and teeming with flies, but there was a great view and we could see all the way back to Naples. 

We treated ourselves to what we thought was going to be an ice cold lemonade, freshly squeezed…turned out to be a whole lemon squeezed into a cup with some ice; now I’m all for trying something different but that was nasty! It did quench our thirst though. Kind of. We took one more look at the crater and the amazing views and then made our way back down to get on the coach and head home. 

Once we got back up to the Air BnB we had about two hours before our second walking tour to the underground city of Naples. The tour was called Napoli Sotterranea, which I’m pretty sure can translate to Subterranean Naples, this was right up my street (and was only about £8 a person!) we began our tour by squeezing though a tiny passageway into the underground and walking down flight after flight of steps (which of course, we were used to by now), the tour guide told us that the steps are original from Greek times but had been improved during WWII when the underground space was used as a bomb shelter for the city. We went through many different huge areas, one where the city used to hold its sewage, one where the citizens would huddle together during WWII to escape the bombs (there was even a small hole in the ceiling where people could look through to see if it was safe to return home), there was an underground garden where scientists are experimenting growing plants underground using UV lights and the water from the 100% humidity dripping off the walls, there was a passageway where workers would crawl through to do maintenance, this had only one way in and one way out, was pitch black (a candle was provided) and was only accessible by walking sideways in one long line (I graciously opted out of that one) and met the group at the underground waterfall! The last part of the tour took us back up to ground level and inside a real Neapolitan home, where the guide explained the previous resident asked historians to look at her property as she felt it was unlike most homes in Naples (her home had giant archways and lots of small rooms) when historians arrived they were amazed to see her house is the only surviving part of Naples' original roman colosseum! We were taken into the cellar into what they thought was Emperor Nero’s dressing room and told stories of just how crazy the old emperor really was! If you want a great tour of history with amazing insight from the tour guides (not to mention the great price) I recommend booking yourself on this one! 

One of the greatest things about Naples isn’t just the food on offer, it’s the prices! We obviously ate the standard pizzas and pastas which were second to none and a lovely experience for me to watch my boyfriend eating authentic Italian food in an Italian city for the first time. But, my hands-down favourite food memory of Naples were the breakfasts.
It didn’t seem like Naples was mad keen on breakfast, we usually saw a lot of locals just drinking coffee and they would start their real food at lunch…but we wanted breakfast! We found an adorable bakery, my boyfriend got the Italian breakfast version of a hot-dog (it was like a breakfast sausage wrapped in puff pastry) and I found an Italian donut; this delicious round of pastry was crispy, flaky and rolled in sugar. It was about the size of an Eccles cake (look it up) but was filled to the brim inside of Nutella! I didn’t know this and thought I was just getting a sweet, sugary treat but it was so much more than that! All in all for the hot dog and the donut it was about 4 Euros, how can you argue with that?!

Here is one final view of Naples from the top of Mount Vesuvius

On the third and final day we explored more of the amazing churches and saw a graduation! We made our way to the airport really happy with our adventure, knowing we hadn’t done everything but had definitely seen enough to feel like we’d truly experienced Naples. If you’re looking for somewhere that’s not quite as flashy (or expensive) as Rome but still want to experience Italy and its rich culture then I urge you to spend a few days in Naples, you won’t regret it! 
I guess the final part is to work out where in Italy we want to go next…I’m thinking the Amalfi Coast? I’ve heard a lot about this area of Italy and want to experience some true Italian luxury! If you’ve been or come from there please let me know some good things to see/do!