Naples, Italy (Dec 2015/Jan 2016)
In December 2015, hubby and I took a short 5 day trip to Naples for NYE, leaving the children in England with my parents-in-law.
First up, and I can’t emphasise this enough – wherever you intend to spend NYE do your research and make a booking for the evening! We found ourselves in Naples looking for somewhere to eat dinner and every – I mean every- restaurant was either fully booked or had set menus at extortionate prices. We ended up buying a packet of crisps and cheap beer from a food van on the waterfront and heading back to our hotel room for the night, which was a little disappointing.
Righto, here’s my advice on Naples:
Where to stay
We stayed in the waterfront area and can recommend this as a good location /base. We felt very safe here, although it was winter, so not so many tourists around.
We stayed at Hotel Rex, a basic hotel, good for those on a lower budget, not directly on the waterfront but down a side street. Apparently they do have some rooms with a view of Mount Vesuvius. There were some much fancier hotels right on the waterfront (Hotel Royal Continental or Grand Hotel Vesuvio) if you prefer something more upmarket. All these hotels (including Hotel Rex) are close walking distance to cafes/restaurants along the waterfront and also walking distance to the ferry terminal if you want to do a trip over to Capri (which I strongly recommend). Also there are two castles within short walking distance – Castel dell’Ovo (free entrance although we would have gladly paid) and Castel Nuovo.
Places to visit
Aside from Capri and the castles mentioned above, I recommend you visit Piazza del Plebiscito, a short walk from the waterfront. The palace is there and opera theatre nearby and other beautiful buildings if you are into architecture. You can also visit the nearby Galleria Umberto (was undergoing restoration when I was there but amazing interior) and all along via Toledo are various shops. This area is quite a lot busier though, so watch out for pickpockets. Unless you are claustrophobic I also recommend the guided tour of the Bourbon tunnels – basically a two hour tour of the tunnels under Naples with lots of interesting things to see and information about the history. The entry to the tunnels is just behind Piazza del Plebiscito – you might have to google it or look up directions on Trip Advisor as it is not very well known (think it’s only been open to public a couple of years) and you could easily walk past the entrance.
Pompeii or Herculaneum archaeological /excavation sites are approximately 40mins to an hour away by train (be careful to watch the fork in the train line or you will end up somewhere different like we did). Both sites are fantastic and shouldn’t be missed. You can do both in one day if you are pushed for time (as we did) but Pompeii could well take a full day – it’s absolutely huge. And beware if you aren’t fit. We found it quite tiring due to having to pay close attention to our footwork over all the cobblestones and up and down kerbs. My calves, knees and back were very tight the next day!
The metro system is pretty easy, similar to other European metro systems, and gives you a chance to mix with the locals. Make sure you carry a few coins as many ticket machines are cash only. If you stay near the waterfront, it’s about a 10-20 minute walk to the nearest metro station. You can catch a metro to the main train station if you plan to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum.
There are endless opportunities depending on your budget and food tastes and don’t forget Naples is famous for its invention of pizza. But for foreigners I warn you – Italian pizza is not like pizza in other parts of the world! Be prepared for crispy verging upon almost burnt around the outside and almost gooey in the middle but it is seriously good with amazing flavours! Some of the waiters/waitresses we found quirky – tipping is expected. If you’re lucky, you might even end up with a complimentary Limoncello at the end of your dinner. We had a great lunch at Rossopomodoro Napoli via Partenope.
On the negative side, be prepared Naples is quite a dirty city, watch where you step as there are lots of dog walkers who don’t pick up after them! Don’t even try to drive there – they are absolute maniacs. I like adrenaline but seriously feared for my life in a taxi from the airport! Also, careful some taxi drivers will try to rip you off. If the hotel can organise a car for you, e.g. to/from the airport, would recommend you take that up. They usually agree prices upfront.
Not booking ahead for a restaurant on NYE and sadly, we didn’t have enough time to go to the Amalfi Coast. Also, Capri was fantastic but being winter, a lot was closed. Plus I can imagine the water around Capri must look sensational on a warm, clear blue sky day. So we will have to return one day to do the Amalfi Coast and Capri, perhaps in Spring!
Hope this all helps if you are planning a trip to Naples. “Buon Viaggio!”
This was our itinerary:
Day 1 – 30 December – Fly from London to Naples and evening check in at hotel
Day 2 – 31 December – Herculaneum and Pompeii by train
Day 3 – 1 January – Castel dell’Ovo and Piazza del Plebiscito (not a lot else open)
Day 4 – 2 January – day trip to Capri
Day 5 – 3 January – Royal Palace of Naples, Opera Theatre, Bourbon tunnels, a walk and late lunch along waterfront
Day 6 – 4 January – Museo Archeologico Nazionale, via Toledo shops, Galleria Umberto (late flight to UK)