Naples is a fantastic city which is not too touristy (yet). There are fabulous jazz bars, cafes, museums, markets and short ferry rides to the beautiful islands of Capri and Ischia. If you want some real history, Pompeii is a short train ride away. I can thoroughly recommend staying at the quirky travelers' hostel, 'Six Small Rooms' - if guests get tired of all the fabulous cafes and restaurants they can cook in the kitchen and sit with other guests and chat about their travels. Nearby, there's a wonderful, outdoor market selling all sorts of fresh food. Naples is still unaltered - there you will find the real Italy.
We spent 12 months in 2009 and 2010 travelling around southern Europe in our VW campervan. On our blog is a full list of all the camp sites we stayed at, as well as other useful information for anyone planning a similar trip and lots of photos of the beautiful places we saw in Italy, Slovenia, Austria, France, Spain and Portugal.
My friend and I had a great birthday weekend at a LOVELY hotel in the historic centre of Napoli. The art, history, food, everything, it was just so spectacular and too much to soak up in only three short days, but our stay at this luxury hotel was worth it. Very pretty, very posh, and the pool terrace was absolutely amazing. Such views of the sea really enrapture me, and the decor was just so elegant throughout. Plus the company we booked through was very prompt and got us a great last minute rate. An excellent base in Napoli, especially if you want everything near you.
Here's where we booked and some photos: www.italiancollection.com/en/hotel-san-francesco-al-monte.html
This is a great selection of rooms to rent in an apartment block in Napoli. They are located at various points around the city centre. The owner is a great guy who goes out of his way to make you feel welcome and to help you find where you want to go. He will recommend things if you ask him.
We stayed in the Paprika room for 60 Euros which included a very light breakfast.
As flash as Flash Gordon downloading Flashplayer in a flash flood (yes, it is that flash!), La Controra Flashpackers Hostel has got to be one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in!
The hostel is housed in an old monastery, and huddled around a palm-strewn courtyard that's ideal for barbecues. Shared rooms are light, airy and spacious, while a couple of doubles seem to open up on to their own terraces. All in all, it's more than a bit special. (And very reasonable, too!)
Running away from the Piazza Garibaldi down to the Piazza del Mercato are Naples' markets. In keeping with the city's general atmosphere, they're a noisy, chaotic affair (with more than a whiff of the mafia about them by all accounts!).
Watching the fish market at Porta Nolana - and every other specimen of market stall imaginable scattered across the area - is an essential Naples experience in and of itself.
To the west/southwest of Piazza Garibaldi
Possibly the dirtiest city in Western Europe, Naples is, in spite of this (or maybe because of?), an absolutely fantastic place. To see the best of the city, wander the Centro Storico and the Spaccanapoli, a dense, heaving, noisy hive of life.
Abandoned churches give on to grand, dilapidated squares; buildings lean over narrow alleyways, almost obscuring the light, while down below, eerie, flickering saints and virgins peer out of their alcoves. Totally unique.
Stretching from the Porta Capuana (in the east) to the Piazza Dante (in the west.
The local train service runs from Sorrento to Naples, with stations near to the main sites or with a shuttle bus (to Vesuvius). It drops you right outside Pompeii entrance for example. It's cheap and regular.
The museum has lots of the treasures that have been removed from Pompeii/Herculaneum etc. for security reasons. I've been twice and it was very quiet on both occasions despite the stunning artefacts, I guess because of the reputation of the city. It also has the 'secret room' where much of the pornography from the sites is on display, you can easily avoid it if you wish!
You can easily get there via the underground, there's a station right outside, but you must watch your bags as you travel around!
Forget bungee jumping, crossing the road in Naples can seem like the scariest adventure sport of the lot. The best advice is to do what the locals do: don't try and get around the traffic, let the traffic get around you. Just hold your nerve and walk across the road - it sounds insane, but the drivers will (generally) see you and avoid you. It takes some bottle the first time, but you get used to it surprisingly quickly. Obviously use common sense, i.e. don't walk out in front of a speeding car - but Naples traffic seems to feature the horn more than the accelerator, the congestion being what it is. Just watch out for ten-year-olds on Vespas...
Mount Vesuvius is still one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and as such is constantly monitored with a seven day warning system. Assuming that no warning has been issued, it's well worth climbing to the top to peer into the ashen crater and view the Bay of Naples which looks all too vulnerable as it spreads out from the foot of the mountain. Coach trips will take you so far up the ascent, but the last 1000 feet must be done by foot, once you've paid your entry fee of course. Unless you're feeling charitable, it's best to ignore the little man handing out 'walking poles', as they're not of much use and he'll demand a few euros from you when you've come back down.
To get there, it's best to take an organised trip - you can drive there, but there are very limited parking facilities.
Unlike Pompeii, it's possible to look around the whole of the Herculaneum excavations in one visit. The small town was buried in lava and mud in the same AD79 eruption and rests below the ground level of modern day Ercolano. Highlights include a gymnasium, complete with athletes' swimming pool, bars which still have the recesses from which wine was served and some wonderful mosaics and sculptures.
Corso Resina 6, Ercolano;
tel: 081 739 0963;
To reach the ruins walk straight down the hill from the station for about five minutes, or if driving take the A3 from Naples then the turn-off for Ercolano.
The castle dates back to the 13th century, but it includes impressive Renaissance additions which make it an imposing sight. It's also worth paying a few euros to have a look inside, where you'll find the Barons Hall, a chapel, a disconcertingly glass-floored room that you can walk on to view original foundations below, and an exhibition of art and artefacts. It also has excellent top-floor views over the bay.
tel: 081 795 2003
'Spaccanapoli', the historic centre, is the heart of Naples. Go to Piazza Gusu and pick up a map that shows the locations of the architectural treasures of this area. There are numerous churches, monasteries, palazzos and some great cafés. Whatever you do, don't miss the monastery of Santa Chiara. It's breathtaking. Scarturchio's café has some of the best pastries and coffee in Italy.
Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine.
Piazza Dante underground station. Enter the historic centre through Port'Alba, the city gate behind the statue of Dante.
A fine museum at the very top of the Vomero Hill (take one of the funicular railways from the city centre). After taking in the fabulous view visit the museum and monastery.
Here you'll find the museum of the history of Naples. There are also some spectacular 'presepi' (nativities) from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
San Martino, Vomero, Naples
A fine youth hostel. The dorms are well airconditioned, close to the city centre and transport links to places such as Pompeii. The staff are exceptionally helpful and friendly and there's internet facilities, a laundry service and common room for meeting fellow travellers.
It was shockingly run down. A lot of graffiti and litter. I´d really keep your wits about about you and your bags tightly held walking around here. Also in Piazza Garibaldi. Maybe we missed a lot in Naples, but we left feeling disappointed.
Too many people try to cram Pompeii into a couple of hours. Don't even think about spending less than a full day there. The site is huge, and some of the best (and least crowded) villas are outside the city walls.
The Naples to Sorrento train will drop you right outside the main entrance.
The Amalfi coast is stunning... So are the prices of the hotels... If you walk up the steps towards the village on the mountain you will pass a number of farms... With permission you can pitch your tent under the olive groves and have priceless views for a few Euros a night - if you don't mind showering with a hose pipe. There is a piece of 'free land' with a spring that you do not need permission for somewhere up the mountain... good luck!
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