Everyone has an opinion about Napoli, or Naples, Italy. They’ll tell you it’s dirty, cramped and full of thieving scoundrels. They’ll tell you the weather is sweltering, the traffic is bad, the people too rough.
The media tells stories of garbage piling up when rubbish collectors go on strike. Travelers seem to always have a story about how something of theirs got stolen in Naples.
But when I visited, the weather wasn’t so hot, the traffic not so bad, and the people not so shifty. It was early November and besides a thwarted pickpocket attempt; the city with a reputation was quite tame.
What I saw was a city merely being itself. When other cities are trying to reinvent themselves, Naples is comfortable the way it is. The city represents itself. It’s not ashamed. It’s not trying to impress.
The impressive collection of the Napoli Archaeological Museum is made up primarily of the findings from Pompeii when it was excavated early in the 19th century. This constitutes some of the best-preserved Roman artifacts: statues, mosaics, frescoes, dining and house wares. There is even a room dedicated to erotic art, which has been locked up for most of its existence. To make sense of the museum, go with a guide. We went on a tour with Walks of Italy.
Herculaneum is smaller, more well-preserved and less crowded than Pompeii. It’s also closer to Naples. Herculaneum offers a personal look into the lives of the Roman citizens who lived here. Structures are still standing and even many frescos still survive to this day. Mosaic tiles decorate the floors. This was resort town for Romans, so structures are more elaborate than average. Herculaneum provides a great alternative if you can’t make it all the way out to Pompeii.
Napoli is where Pizza was invented. You would be foolish not to eat it here. There are several excellent pizzerias in Naples. Our favorite was Di Matteo on Via dei Tribunali.
For pastries, try a sfogliatelle or baba, a specialty of Naples. Scaturchio, on Piazza San Domenico Maggiore is a good place to try one.
Stop at any of the coffee bars in the old city for a typical Italian experience. Order an espresso and the uniformed baristas will serve you up their best. Stand at the bar and enjoy.
Hostel of the Sun, at Via Melisurgo 15, is our budget accommodation choice in Naples. The hostel has a young and positive vibe. The rooms are adequate. The staff is really friendly and helpful. I wasn’t really expecting to like this place so much, but I did. Bed comes with a free breakfast.
For an excellent vantage point over the city, take the funicular up to St. Elmo Castle. You don’t have to enter the Castle just view the city from the side of the road outside of the castle. Free.