We got into Napoli via the intercity train from Roma. We were picked up by our AirBnB host. He gave us a quick little tour of the city and took us to a spot where we could see an aerial view of the Naples Bay. Beautiful.
Naples is a beautiful, tiny town with tiny streets and tiny cars. The city is hilly and streets are at all possible angles. The city is the birthplace of Pizza. We planned this city as part of the itinerary to pay homage to the place that gave birth to the most popular dish in the world. While that was the plan, we fell in love with the sights and sounds around the city.
Stay and Locality
We stayed next to Campi Flegrei and Mostra stations. About 15min walk from these stations. While there weren’t any good pizzerias around, there was a nice cafeteria. As always, Italians never disappoint when you want a good cup of coffee. The city shuts early so there wasn’t much to do when we got back from our day out. Napoli has very few people who can speak English, but with couple of Italian words and hand signals you can get around comfortably.
First, the pizza
We picked a train from Mostra and tried to head to the city. But we went the wrong way and got off at Agnano. The station was quite the sight. Just platforms, a railway crossing and no one around. It started raining. We ran to take shelter under a shed which turned out to be a small pizzeria. Apparently fate had brought us there so we decided to have our first Napoli style pizza there. Oh my god, it was so yum. No amounts of typing can do justice to it. However, here are a bunch of quick observations:
- Expect pizzas to be a little burnt around the edges.
- While the base is not very thin, the top is runny. The tomato-cheese top is still semi solid when served. Basil is added later. This is the original way. It solidifies as you eat.
- The original pizza that was made was the margarita pizza.
- There is a metro network.
- Metros look more like regular trains. The maps are a little hard to read as the colour code in the map doesn’t match the colour on the platforms. Better to ask as you go.
- In some stations, these tickets can be purchased with a credit card from the machine.
- Remember to validate the purchased ticket in any of the stamping machines. Without this, the ticket is invalid. Some stations have a mechanism that validates the ticket as you go to the platform while others you will need to get it done before you head to the platform. If you don’t have a validated ticket, it is as good as not having a ticket. Yes, even if you have already paid full price, it is invalid without that date stamp.
- We did not use the busses.
- Walking can get a little tiring at times because of the hilly roads.
City : Sights, Sounds and Safety
- The city centre is just like other cities – shops, gelaterias, cafeterias, beggars.
- The Napoli Centrale has some shopping inside, it’s fun to walk around.
- While the instances of pick pocketing is not as much as Rome, keep your bags close. Stay alert.
Sorrento, Positano & Amalfi Coas
Sorrento is a small little beautiful town near Naples. You can get here by train from Napoli Centrale (Garibaldi). It’s an 1hr 20min on a packed train. The station staff were quite helpful and you can get to your platform comfortably. Sorrento is more touristy so people speak English here. We got here to get to Amalfi. We did grab lunch at Mayflower near the restaurant. The place was fantastic and served great food. Thought the pizzas are not Napoli style, they are still very tasty. The pasta is not cooked till al dente here unlike Rome, that did not make any difference to the taste however.
We took a bus from here to Positano. The same bus goes all the way to Amalfi Coast. I think the Amalfi Coast is better if you drive down in a rented car. We didn’t have an international driving permit and hence couldn’t rent. It’s a hilly ride with lots of hairpin bends. We got off at Positano while the bus proceeded to Amalfi. The view from Positano is breathtaking. We spent sometime taking in the view and got back to Sorrento and then to Napoli.
You can get to Pompeii from Napoli Centrale via train. The same train that takes you to Sorrento passes via Pompeii. We booked ourselves a Livitaly tour of Pompeii. The tour was private and great but we felt it was a little pricy as there were no special access as in the case of the Colosseum tour with Livitaly.
Pompeii is a city near the volcano – Mt Vesuvius. The volcano looks like a regular mountain, more so back in 79 AD. Pompeii was a small prosperous town. Little did the residents know that the mountain in their vicinity was actually a mean volcano. The town was on the borders of a rough sea. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted. While the magma and heat blast burnt and destroyed the neighbouring city of Herculaneum, Pompeii got poisoned by an ash rain. Everyone in town suffocated and died due to the eruption. People did not understand what was happening. They didn’t realize the volcano had erupted. The ash rain continued and buried the whole town.
The town stayed buried under till 1599. Then it was excavated. Because of the ash cloud, the ancient city remained preserved for centuries. Over years the city has been excavated and now has been restored to a great extent.
Excavators found cavities which they realized was the cavity left behind by the dead people and animals. To reconstruct, excavators injected plaster into the cavity to recreate the people and animals as were when they died. These moulds are very disturbing yet an incredible sight.
The main city walk was through the ancient street where horse carts once rode. You can see the wheel tracks on the ground and the crossing stones. The city had food courts which consisted of soup stalls and bakeries. The part of the city we saw has two theatres. No, this one was not used for violent display of blood. These were actually art theatres built to acoustic perfection. If you stand at the center of the stage area and your voice gets amplified. It’s quite brilliant. The houses were built with a large atrium with rainwater harvesting. The house had many rooms, a garden, kitchens and dining area. The architecture was awesome and the tile work makes you wonder if you are actually looking at something as old as two thousand years.
The city had public baths which had lockers, heated water supply for the bath area, sauna area and a cooling room. Yeah, they were fly like that. Insane. The city’s brothels were quite fly too with rooms, art work and streets had marked directions to the brothels.
The city also had villas back then. These were bigger than houses and had quite the view. The villa had paintings, large doors leading to various rooms. There was a portico, garden and a balcony.
It’s a lot to take in as you walk through the city. It was a surreal experience. If you happen to be near Naples, Pompeii is worth your time.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
This is one of Napoli’s oldest pizzerias. It was started off in 1870. They have a grand total of just two options for pizzas. Get there a little early if you don’t want to wait too long. Is it worth all the hype? Oh hell yes. Don’t leave Naples without eating here. Most amazing.
Train to Florence
- As always, information is hard to find. Ask people as you go.
- Intercity trains are on time.
- We picked up tickets online at https://www.italiarail.com/.
- This particular train doesn’t need for any stamping on the ticket. You can board and travel with the print of the internet ticket.
- There are many tunnels on the way so your ears will pop a lot. If you have sensitive ears, carry ear plugs.
- The view is lovely. You cross Rome to get to Florence.
- Avoid the coffee on the train, it’s very ‘meh’. Grab a lovely cappuccino in the station if you have the time.
- There is paid wifi on the train, we didn’t try it out.
- Trains have charger ports on them.