Italy – Naples

Italy – Naples

Written by: Jessica
Captions by: Diego

We hurried through the Naples airport upon arrival as it was late and we needed to catch a taxi to our hotel. Taxis were ready and waiting, though they claimed the ‘night service’ taxis from the airport are more expensive. Diego haggled a bit, but we still paid more than we really wanted (about USD$35). There wasn’t an alternative as the bus to the city center doesn’t run so late at night. Thus, our only taxi ride in Italy was at 11:30 at night with an absolutely crazy driver (all Italian drivers are crazy).

We sped down the freeway, making quick turns without signals. Once we reached the city, he darted the car through pedestrian filled streets, darting around corners so fast that we were sure we were going to crash—or someone walking on the street would be hit. Our hotel was located in the Spanish Quarter. It’s an old part of the city filled mostly with locals and small businesses, but also hotels and shops to draw tourists in. The roads are just wide enough for two very small cars to fit—if they are literally 4 inches away from each other, and the walls of the building, leaving walkers to dodge between parked cars when a car is coming, because that leaves no room for you to walk! Later during our days there, we were walking to dinner when I had to dodge a car; I looked down and realized my toes were less than 3 inches from the tire. Yikes! Despite our fears, we arrived safely, and quickly checked in.

No shots were taken during our ride back, we were praying to every deity to get us to our hotel safe. In place, here’s how they normally park in Italy to give you an idea. I was so happy I didn’t have to drive in this country…
A Smart car is the only viable car here. Or better yet, use the subway.
Hotel room was nice at the top – I sweet-talked the front desk guy into giving me a top room upgrade for freeeeee!
We even got a balcony!

The next morning, we awoke to snow. There wasn’t a lot, and it melted off fairly quickly.  We weren’t worried about it.

It’s cute that they think this is a lot of snow. Wisconsin would call this “morning dew” during the winter.

After breakfast at our hotel, we gathered up our laundry and set off.  The snow was 90% melted by this time. However, every laundromat we tried was closed. After a couple tires, we decided to give up on the laundry and just head to the train station. We were planning to go there to purchase our train tickets for Rome for later in the week, and a Campania ArtCard. The ArtCard is a discount card that gives you free admission to two tourist sites, and free trains, for 3 days. After the two free admissions, other sites are discounted up to 50% off.

The central station had some really cool architecture. Too bad the top cover was a mesh so it allowed any rain and snow to fall onto you. A great example of design over functionality.
The main street in Naples – it’s very quiet in the morning.

Upon arrival at the train station, we found out that, the Tourist Information desk was also closed! A gentleman who was nearby, and spoke English well, informed us that the snow had impacted the outskirts of Naples more, due to the hills, and that a lot of things would be closed today. Pompeii and Herculaneum were also closed. And hiking up Vesuvius after a fresh snow fall wouldn’t work: the buses to get you to the start of that walk wouldn’t be running, leaving you with the option of not doing it, or hiking all the way from the nearest train station (unrealistic). The snow changed our day: no laundry, and our afternoon goal (Pompeii) couldn’t be completed either! We did successfully purchase our tickets, so not all was a loss.

My Italian is a bit rusty but I think the sign says that the Pompeii excavations are closed.

On the way back to our hotel we found a couple open dry cleaning and laundry service facilities.  They wanted about $30 for our laundry, we decided against that.  We continued and found an amazing pizza place for lunch.  A personal, authentic pizza for about 7 euros each?  Yum!

Pizzeria Ntretella – this place had some really great (and cheap) food.

We ended up wandering around that afternoon and found a palace to tour. Personally, I thought the entry was the most impressive room.

The Piazza del Plebiscito. It is quite large and opulent. We went to the palace on the right, the Palazzo Reale di Napoli.
Marble and gold, I’m thinking this is going to be a trend.
Not sure what this room was for, but it needed more marble and gold.
There was a theater inside with the same grandiose design.
I had vertigo when I took this shot of the ceiling.
Opulence was the plan here. Marble and gold everywhere you looked, even the exit.

We exited out and walked around and saw a bit of the harbor. I will say this: the streets were very dirty, we constantly watched our belongings, saw lots of the military protecting the streets (apparently the mafia has been active lately – seriously), and… give any poop a wide birth. We saw a child pooping behind a bush as his mother watched.

Some parts are quite unique and beautifully designed.
Others were not…sadly, this sight was WAY more common.
This sign was everywhere. I felt safer in Latin America than Naples (and Rome, more on another post).

That night, we walked through those dangerous Spanish Quarter streets to find a tiny restaurant.  The food was amazing! In fact, we never had a bad meal in the Spanish Quarter and the house wines are generally really good (especially since they’re so cheap).

The next morning was our second attempt for Pompeii. We found our train, which was NOT running on time at all. One was listed as delayed by a full hour, a very common occurrence! Despite that, we didn’t have to wait too long for a train and made it to Pompeii without a problem. We walked around there all morning and found it to be very impressive, although crowded.

The entrance to Pompeii. We went first thing in the morning for the soft light of the sun and to avoid the buses of tourists.
Pompeii is MASSIVE. You can easily spend some 6+ hours walking around the entire city area. Most people spend about 2 hours just visiting the main squares (market, some houses, and central).
The central square and also the remains of a temple (forgot which god). It’s fairly quiet now but it was packed with tourists within an hour.
A rich merchant’s house. It had several rooms and a main commons area. The house continued behind us.
A commoner’s house. It’s about the size of a master bedroom in today’s house. About 4-6 people lived in these tiny areas.
Said peasant houses were all over the place in Pompeii. Jessica included on the left for scale.
Not much was left of this temple, except for the statue. Mount Vesuvius in the background.
All of the victims here are actually casts. Their original remains can found in the museums.
Hiding under a table and covering your face isn’t going to help you there, buddy. To be fair we did tell people the same thing during the cold war in the event of a nuke exploding nearby.
They had an open theater and everything.

That afternoon we traveled back toward the city center and stopped at Herculaneum.  This is a lesser-known area that was buried by Vesuvius at the same time as Pompeii. However, this village was much closer to Vesuvius and was buried much more deeply. The whole excavation site has been dug out and sits well below the more modern city of Naples. It is very interesting to be able to see that aspect of history.

Most people only visit Pompeii, but both sites have their pros and cons.  If you only have time to see one site, Herculaneum is closer to the city and will show you some very interesting things. But, if you want to see the casts of the victims, those will be in Pompeii. Pompeii is much more crowded than Herculaneum, but much larger, and the price is about the same.  Most of the finds from those two cities are actually at the museum in Naples, which we weren’t able to see due to the snow derailing our plans.  We could have gone on the snow day, instead of the following, except that was the day of the week it is always closed. If you have limited time, I might advise spend an hour and a half at Herculaneum, and then go to the museum. Best, of course, is to see all three!

Herculaneum is very similar to Pompeii but not as large – it is far more condensed.
It’s very jarring to see a city that is nearly two millennia old sitting right next to some relatively modern buildings and electric cars.
You have to walk down a bridge to see the city. It had to be excavated after two thousand years of dirt and settlement build-up.
The streets are not as wide but the principle designs are the the same as Pompeii’s.
They still maintain some of the gardens around the city. There’s a significant amount of restoration going on as well.
A bathroom (toilet system, a bunch of giant vases), Both cities had excellent hygienic standards for the time.
A changing room for baths. You could store all your belongings on the shelves on the top left.
We finished off with Naples and headed back to our room to prepare for our trip to Rome tomorrow morning.

After another delicious dinner that was also extremely cheap, we headed to bed. Our train to Rome was scheduled for bright and early the next morning.

2 Replies to “Italy – Naples”

  1. Beautiful pictures! It’s fantastic to walk around and see 2,000 + years of history! The Pompeii temple you mentioned on your central square picture, was dedicated to Jupiter and build around middle of 2nd century BC and partially destroyed during an earthquake on 62 AD and buried during Vesuvius eruption on 79 AD.
    Next stop – Rome !

  2. Very cool. My grandparents came from Tricarico which is ~3hrs going towards the boot heel. I went to Italy when I was 16 & visited Pompeii. Pretty incredible to see the ruins & imagine what the people went through. One thing I do remember was our guide pointing out the sexually explicit drawings they had on some of the walls. Those Italians sure knew how to live it up! LOL

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