After a blissful 6 days on the Amalfi Coast, our journey took us to the birth-city of the almighty pizza – Naples. Mrs FOMOist and I are either really good at convincing people to come join us on our travels or people genuinely like our company. The reason for going to Naples was to meet up with my cousin and her family (from Vancouver, Canada) who will be traveling with us until we leave Europe.
Living in London has been advantageous in more than one way. In addition to the amazing experiences we’ve had, we’ve met a lot of fantastic people from around the globe, which means expert advice on most places is within reach. One of my ex-workmate is from Tuscany and she helped me plan the Italian part of our trip. When I told her we were going to Naples, like everyone else, she told us to spend as little time in Naples as possible.
Now that we’ve been there, I do agree with her. We stayed in Naples for three days (with a day-trip to Pompeii) and it was more than enough. The city is possibly the closest I’ve come to India in Europe. It looks like it hasn’t been cared for – the streets are littered with random shops, it’s not the cleanest, doesn’t feel the safest and overall was almost a big culture shock after the serenity of the Amalfi Coast.
In addition to the “not-that-great-first-impressions” of the city, our Airbnb apartment was a nightmare. It had no AC, but was naturally cool with the breeze flowing through the house, but it became an issue at night when leaving the windows open meant being devoured by the mosquitoes. To add to the (literal) pain of mosquitoes, the construction right outside the window woke us up at 6.00am every morning, so overall not a pleasant stay.
In saying that, there were a number of positives to the city:
- As I mentioned earlier, it did remind me of India (specifically Delhi) a lot with it’s tight lanes, bustling with people and crazy drivers.
- Neapolitans love deep frying everything, they even had a deep fried pizza – a margherita calzone, deep-fried! I know it doesn’t sound very appetising, but it was oh so good!
- We had an awesome interaction with the lady at the local laundry where she said a lot of Italian words (very loudly) coupled with hand gestures and we responded in slowly enunciated E-n-g-l-i-s-h to get our laundry done. She was extremely animated old lady and it was fun trying to decipher each other’s “codes” of interaction beyond the barriers set by languages.
- Since Naples is the birthplace of pizza, it’s only fair that they have a street dedicated to it. Via Tribunali is known for pizza joints lined up on both sides to overwhelm you with choice. If you do visit, try getting a table at Pizzeria Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo. You can’t book and have to put your name down at the door and when your turn arrives, the lady inside announces your name through a loud speaker out on the street!
- Another food related experience was our dinner at Trattoria Nanella. The food is simple, tasty and reasonably priced and it’s fun watching Italian men yell at each other, which sounds like they are fighting but they are just exchanging pleasantries (we think).
- If you are a sucker for a good aerial view of cities, take the funicular up to Castle San Elmo. We wanted to see the sunset but by the time we got there, the castle was closed. However, the views from the street in front of the castle were incredible with a lot of locals admiring it.
- Finally, if you plan on spending a day at Pompeii, Naples provides easy access to this fascinating ancient city ruins.
On our second day in Naples, my cousin and her family went to a road trip around the Amalfi Coast and Mrs FOMOist and I, packed our bags and headed to Pompeii. Rather than doing an excursion, we made our way to Napoli Centrale Station, caught the Circumsuviana train (heading towards Sorrento) and got off at Pompeii Scavi train station.
As soon as we got out, there was a guy herding people to buy a tour of Pompeii for €12. What he failed to mention is that after you buy this tour, you have to pay another €13 regular entry to the grounds. We had decided that we weren’t interested in a tour and bypassed him to get to the main entrance.
I am not really a historian or heavily into archaeology. In addition to my lack of expansive knowledge, Mrs FOMOist hates reading, so visits to museums, galleries, ruins or any such places is always a negotiation. But, Pompeii was different. As soon as we walked through the main entrance, the place gripped us with it’s size and detail. For a city that was completely destroyed, there is a lot to explore, that has be restored to great condition. Additionally, the sculptures by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj add a whole new dimension to the place. There is a tonne of information available on Pompeii so I won’t get bogged down in detail, but would say that even if you think you are not interested in walking around the ruins of an ancient city, go visit Pompeii because I am sure it will change your mind.
Next stop – Tuscany!