2 days in Naples
Damien and I are just back from a 12 day pre-summer holiday in Italy and Sicily. We started our trip in Naples, which we visited three years ago and were so eager to return to, before heading to the glorious Amalfi Coast.
When we first arrived in Naples, we were struck by the genuineness of this city. There are a lot of tourists strolling its busy streets, yet for some reason it feels like tourism didn't alter the features of the place or its spirit. The reason for this might be that some people see it as a dangerous city, but we've never felt unsafe while walking in the streets of Naples.
Like everywhere else, it is better to come prepared and leave valuables at home, carrying the minimum you can in a cross-body bag. Exactly what you'd do to visit any major city anyway. Don't tempt the devil.
What to do
Walking, walking, walking. Put on a good pair of sneakers because in Naples, you are going to smash your daily average number of steps.
Stroll along Spaccanapoli (a straight and narrow street which goes through the old, historic centre) and its parallel Via dei Tribunali, and you will just happen to come across some magnificent churches and squares, such as the Piazza del Gesù Nuovo where the young Neapolitan gather in the evening. You will also find a multitude of restaurants, gelateria and pasticceria which will make you want to stop every two minutes for a quick bite. Don't restrain yourself.
On the list of places to go, make sure to include the Castel Sant'Elmo, which offers an outstanding view over Vesuvio and the whole Naples Bay, the Castel dell'Ovo and its cute little harbour, or the Museum of Archeology, where you can find some stunningly preserved art from Pompeii. Walk down the Via Toledo if you fancy some shopping, or Chiaia for a more luxurious experience.
The Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter), which dates back to the 16th century, cannot be missed either. With clothes hanging from the balconies, religious shrines and dark narrow streets steeped in the smell of fresh laundry and tomato sauce, it offers a taste of the real Napoli, where people live with their doors open, shout at each other and drive and park in the most reckless way.
Where to eat
Now, this is a tough one. There are a few landmarks in Naples that a proper pizza lover should visit (Da Michele, Sorbillo) but Damien and I have limited patience when it comes to queuing and let's say that Da Michele at 8pm on a Saturday night is not for the faint hearted. When we got there on our first night, about 60 people where waiting outside, in no particular order or queue so we immediately turned around, already devoured by hunger and not in the mood for a two-hour long wait.
What we realised quite quickly however is that any restaurant that boasts the sign « Vera pizza » serves an absolute gem of a pizza, with or without the internationally renowned name. The thin dough with chewy crusts, San Marzano tomato sauce, Fior di latte or Buffala mozzarella and the mandatory basil leaves are all it takes for the most amazing pizza you'll ever have - for a cool 5 to 6 euros.
With many seats inside and a few tables outside, Vesi pizzeria seemed like a nice option on Spaccanapoli. We got a table outside in less that 15 minutes and tasted probably the best pizza of our whole stay in Italy.
Was it because it was the first one and that we were properly starved? Not sure, but for two pizzas, a beer, water and the coperto (a small fee that every restaurant charges in Italy), this fabulous experience came in at less than 25 euros. In terms of value for pleasure, that is unbeatable.
If you feel like escaping the crowd and enjoying a peaceful drink, do not miss the rooftop of the Palazzo Venezia - you just can't compete with this century old garden for a quiet and romantic aperitivo. I probably had the freshest lemon juice of my life as the lovely waiter literally picked a lemon from one of the trees to squeeze it for me straight away.
The famous Starita was one of the only recommended pizza places open on a Sunday night. Much to our surprise, we came in early and didn’t have to queue for a minute. We got the Margarita, a classic that didn't disappoint.
Where to stay
In the Spanish quarter and the Spaccanapoli area, you will be in the centre and everything will be at your doorstep. Tempted by the view, we booked a small AirBnb on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, easily accessible via the funicolare or by foot if you don't mind climbing a small steep hill.
Wherever you decide to book, accommodations should be less than 100 euros a night for two, but bring some earplugs with you: Neapolitans like beeping, even at two in the morning.