Earlier this year I went on a fabulous little girls-trip with my good friend Lena. In April, we packed our bags and headed south to Naples, Italy. I didn’t know anything about the city, but I could dimly put together a memory of my family walking the streets at the port of Naples and us not being able to hike up the «Vesuvio» volcano because of poisonous gas emissions. The volcano stone collection we each received instead was among my most precious possessions for a long time. I had suggested we should go to Naples party because I had just read the Elena Ferrante books, which played in a neighborhood there (excellent reads, by the way) and party because of the nearby daytrip possibilities.
We stayed in Naples for a total of 3 nights and since we got an early morning flight to and a late afternoon flight back from Naples, we basically had almost 4 days to spend there. We booked an Airbnb in the «Porto» district with a beautiful little balcony with views of the port and the Vesuvio. I felt like the city of Naples itself doesn’t have a lot of sights and we covered most of them on the first day. I have to admit that I’m not a big church nor (art) museum lover and I do tend to leave them out quite generously. There are two museums worth mentioning. One being the national archeological museum, which hosts over 2’000 artefacts from diggings in Pompeji, as well as the «Museo Capodimonte», which apparently hosts one of the best painting collections of Italy.
Well, I didn’t come to Naples for the paintings, anyway. I came here for the food. And oh boy…! Over half a year later, Lena and I are still talking about it! We had hands down the BEST pizza of our lifes! I’m telling you, that Pizza would totally make me pay for another flight to Naples to eat it again. Best part is, we actually kinda stumbled upon it by accident. I’ll get back to this story in a bit.
A suggested itinerary:
• Day 1: Explore the city of Naples
• Day 2: Excursion to Pompeji and the Vesuvio
• Day 3: Excursion to Capri Island
The city of Naples
To start off, I suggest a stroll around the «Centro storico» (the old town), followed by a tour of Naples’ underground, called «Napoli Sotterranea». The old town completely belongs to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage and you can stroll along the streets, marveling at majestic palazzos, churches and piazzas. One street (Via San Gregorio Armeno) is entirely dedicated to crib figurines and is often referred to as «Christmas Alley». Stop for an Italian coffee and some sfogiatelle along the way, and just enjoy the Italian way of life.
The weather forcast promised a nice and sunny spring day for our second day in Napoli, so we decided to take an early-morning ferry to the island of Capri. There are ferries to the nearby islands of Ischia, Procida and Capri leaving the port of Naples quite frequently. Where Ischia is the biggest of the 3 islands, Capri is the most famous one, where already Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly loved to spend their vacation (bear that in mind when you see the prices for food and drinks once you have arrived). We booked our boat tickets at the Port. It’s advisable to pre-book the tickets if you are bound to a specific time or during high-season. One way with the fast boat costs around €20 per way and takes about on hour. You can buy food and beverages from a bar on the boat. The seats aren’t assigned, so you just sit wherever you like.
The town of Capri sits on top of a small hill. You can either walk or take a funicular (€2/Person with only hand luggage. Bigger pieces costs extra) uphill. Within 15 minutes you find ourself right in the center of town and can begin to explore the picturesque streets. I suggest a visit to the «Giardini di Augusto», where you have an excellent view of the island, the sea and a hoard of influencers on their hour-long hunt for the best shot/pose. Quite amusing and a little bit depressing at the same time.
The center of town has luxury boutiques lined up one next to the other and even a simple black «Americano» coffee quickly costs a small fortune. As it wasn’t quite warm enough to jump into the ocean yet (even though it looked VERY inviting), we took a bus to Anacapri – the quieter and cheaper town on Capri Island. Personally, I liked Anacapri a lot better than Capri. There were no fancy high-end boutiques but rather smaller shops, which sold local produce. Probably the best reason to go to Anacapri is the «Trattoria il Solitario». As we have had the best Pizza in Napoli, here we had the best Pasta in all of Italy. The «Pasta Limone» made me want to marry the cook (and mind you, it was probably and old italian «nonna»!) There are mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, though. So I guess it depends on what you order.
After our fabulous lunch we strolled through the streets of Anacapri and stopped at «Limoncello Capri Canale Massimo», where Limoncello supposedly was invented and I always love me good Limoncello. As I was traveling with carry on, I was only able to bring back a small bottle of it. Note for future Napoli/Capri visitors: Check a bag. In fact, bring an empty bag or small cooler an buy all the tasty food you can carry! Along those lines: There are tons of shops at the airport after security where you can buy all the local specialties for normal prices. It is nice to support the local shops though.
After the Limoncello factory we started to walk back towards Capri. Little did we know that we ended up alll the way down at the Marina on this trail. The walk (or rather steep hike) was very pretty, but you’ll cover an altitude of about 300 meters and your knees will start to hate you after you’ve covered about half of the way. We were rewarded with the prettiest lemon trees along the way and we made it back to the port, we treated ourselves with a beer on deck of the ferry back to Napoli.
All in all, Capri was a day well spent and I loved everything about Anacapri. The next time I’d probably check out Procida (I mean, look at the pictures!).
Pompeji and Mount Vesuvius (Vesuvio)
The next morning, our bodies were very upset with us because of the hike down Anacapri the day before. But after 2 days of just looking at the Vesuvio from our balcony, it was time to visit it.
We took the train «Circumvesuviana Naples-Sorrento» (Pompei Villa dei Misteri Stop) with only about 700 other people with the exact same idea. It is advisable to pre-book your ticket for the train, as well as the entrance ticket to Pompeji and plan your trip ahead. I don’t know what exactly I’ve expected, but I was astounded by the size of Pompeji. It’s MASSIVE! And you could easily spend days there. Download maps and guides from here and start planning today. There are 8 sections and if you arrive by train, you’re likely to start in section IV. It’s extremely crowded there and I suggest you head towards section I and II and then make your way forward. This way, you can avoid the crowds a bit.
By mid-afternoon we left Pompeji and took a bus to the Vesuvio. To get there, you have two options: Take a tour bus that go direct to the car park at 1’000m or go by public transport. We wanted to go there by public transport, but the information we got at the train station was contradictory, so we ended up taking the tour bus. At road’s end there is an official ticket desk/building and a snack bar, selling souvenirs before you get to the entrance to trek up to the crater. This is exactly where I got the vulcano stones as a kid and I was beyond excited to see that the design hasn’t even changed in over 20 years! Pure joy on my side! Note that there will be no toilets available during your entire visit. After paying for your ticket, and going through the ticket barrier it is a good 20 minute grind up a wide gravel path. Once on top, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the coast.
Our tour bus took us back to Pompeji, from where we took the train back to Naples to rest our tired bodies.
Last but not least: the BEST Pizza Napoli
Yes, the Pizza gets its own heading. And as promised, a little story. As we made our way through Naples the first day, we saw a crowd gathering on the street. We were like «Oh, let’s go and see what’s up». We stood there for a while, trying to figure out what or who the hell those people were waiting for. We actually thought they had seen a celebrity but it wasn’t more than a hole in the wall. As we stood there, it began to dawn on us, that they were probably waiting to get into a restaurant. We didn’t have wifi to check it out and couldn’t make our way to see inside, but we thought it couldn’t be so wrong if that many people stood in line. So when the place opened up at noon, we quickly went in sideways and within minutes, we were inside. Sometimes you gotta move fast and determined.
Inside, the place has a charm of a garage. Tables are pushed together so tightly, you could eat your neighbor’s pizza and listen to their conversation if you’d want to. No fancy table cloths, just paper towels and even plastic cups. The waiters are skilled and the pizzaiolos fast. Within minutes we had our origanal «Pizza Napoli» in front of us:
«See Naples and die», already Goethe quoted in his Italian Journey. And I think what he was referring to was this Pizza and meant that life is pretty pointless if you tasted this Pizza once and it’s too far away for you to ever eat it again. I, though, shall return one day. If only for this Pizza.