When we visited Italy, Naples was the very last stop on our itinerary. I hadn’t done as much research on the city as I’d hoped to, but figured we’d wing it. What I did discover however, was that despite my most romantic of notions, on the whole, I liked the little quirks of Naples better than I like the city itself.
I was struck by how different the city really was to the Northern parts of the country. The people, the culture and the city itself seemed like grimier versions of their northern counterparts. The people weren’t as polished sure, but the dirt of the city for me was really frustrating. It’s a gorgeous city in theory: beautiful views over the bay, winding roads and funiculars to transport you up the hill, colourful buildings and cafes. Sadly though, I felt like the entire city needed a scrub down. Oh, also, so much dog poo, everywhere.
That being said, there were some things that I loved about Naples that I feel need to be mentioned, more as a sort of quick guide for if you’re going and don’t have time for research like me.
1. The Funiculars
These, I loved! It was so much fun and just so different getting on these massive people movers to ferry ourselves up and down hills. The system is fairly straight forward and inexpensive and there are two funiculars that cover each side of the massive Vomero Hill that the city crawls over. We did the walk once or twice instead of taking these, and I would recommend you do to get a sense of the street culture, but these are great to move quickly from one attraction to another. There are only a few stations though, but we decided to ride the funicular to the top just to get a different view of the city and it lead us to my next favourite place in Naples…
2. Castel Sant’Elmo
The smallest of Naples’ castles, Sant’Elmo is perched atop Vomero Hill and is also the last stop on the funicular. We decided to ride the funicular to the end of the line and must’ve looked a little lost when we got off because the loveliest Italian mama pointed to us and said something about ‘very nice’ and then sent us on our way. We weren’t exactly sure what we were looking for until we came across the castle. It was almost closing time and we watched the sun set over the city from the star-shaped castle and the moment was actually pretty magic. The castle has been well preserved and there are some contemporary art installations inside and along it’s walkways. I wish we had had some sort of guide though, we didn’t really walk away with much sense of the importance of the building, just some great photos of the city and the bay of Naples fading into night. The best part of going later: entrance is free after 4pm.
3. Pizza at Brandi
Naples was hands down the best place in Italy to eat pizza. After all, it is the birth place of this tasty meal. Brandi stakes its claim as the oldest pizzeria in this city and as the first to create a margherita pizza. There’s a history over 100 years to this place, which you can read more about on their website. The pizza is fresh, the dough is chewy and sweet, the sauce feels like tomato angels are dancing on your tongue and the cheese is high quality fior de latte. The wait can be long, we went twice and the second eve waited for over 30 minutes to get a table, but it is totally worth it. The walls are decorated with pictures of all the celebrities and important guests that have dined here, and it has the stamp of approval from several presidents. I went for a plain margherita every time, P tried a quattro stagione which was so traditional that it made me fall even more in love with the place!
4. Hotel San Francesco Al Monte
We managed to get a great deal at this hotel because we were visiting out of peak season. The place was basically empty, but they gave us an enormous room and the view from the roof terrace was incredible. The pool and certain sections of the hotel were closed, but the concierge was so helpful in explaining the funiculars, things to do and arranging a delicious meal in the restaurant for us that it didn’t really matter that we couldn’t access everything. The building is actually an old monastery; it was amazing to stay in a building with so much history in its walls and the decor was quintessentially Italian. Even at the reduced rate, this hotel was a splurge for us, but it was so worth it!
5. Galleria Fonti
When we got to Naples, we realised our timing wasn’t great. We were there on the days that some galleries were closed, but the concierge suggested that we try Galleria Fonti, mostly because it was nearby and the only one open. This has got to be one of the funniest, strangest and most random gallery experiences I’ve ever had. P and I walked in, tried to find somebody to pay entrance and couldn’t (I don’t even know if there was an entrance fee), walked around and looked at a few strange things and left. It was all over in a matter of minutes so we found a gelato spot instead. It was just a bizarre thing really, a room full of balloons and lots of hand drawings.