Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bellissima Napoli!

If anyone ever tells you not to go to Naples, because it's dirty, mafia controlled, and dangerous, do not listen to them- we strongly advise you to go anyway. Laura actually had someone tell her she was likely to get mugged and raped if she didn't go in a big group- which was a tad scary considering she was just going with Sarah. We are happy to report no muggings, no rapings, no close calls (except an angry ticket controller on a bus, but we'll tell you about that later), we didn't feel 'in danger' at any point during our holiday! Like in any big city you need to keep your wits about you of course, but please don't let this stop you from visiting this amazing part of Italy- it's well worth going to.

We arrived early afternoon, armed with a slip of paper from one of our colleagues with the Italian phrasing of 'Please take us to Santa Lucia on the fixed tariff of 23 Euro', and got into a cab at the airport. We immediately noticed how hot and humid it was, 30 degrees Celsius, and how manic the road systems were. Laura tried her hand at speaking the phrase we were given to the cab driver, who obviously had no idea what she was saying, so we resorted to handing over the piece of paper with the phrase on it. Three or so near-death experiences and one angry cab driver later, we arrived at Santa Lucia, and our beautiful hotel.

Pool on the roof- heck yeah!
If you do go to Naples, definitely stay in the Royal Continental Napoli (www.royalcontinental.it/). It is stunning, inside and out. From the very beginning, the staff could not have been more helpful, and within 10 minutes we were being shown to our room. As the door was opened by our overly-helpful porter, we were taken aback by the beautiful view of the Castle d'Ovo and surrounding sea. After a good few minutes of jumping around overly-excited, Sarah was ready to hit the pool, and had her swimsuit on in record time. Laura wanted to stay in the air conditioning, but went along anyway. The pool is on the roof- bliss!!

View from our hotel balcony- WOW!
After a refreshing night's sleep, we donned our tourist gear and followed our map into the historic city centre. One of the amazing things about Naples is that whatever route you take, you happen upon all sorts of unusual sites- things you didn't know you wanted to see, but are glad you did. Naples is a great mix of old windy streets and magnificent grand buildings. You could easily fill a week wandering around and enjoying the sites. Thankfully, we had done some training for walking up hills the weekend before in Brighton, so this place was a piece of cake!

Square of Plebs- nice, right?

Royal Palace

Galleria Umberto

Pasta shop!
First we happened upon 'Christmas Alley'- the tourist information centre had told us it was in a completely different place, but we found ourselves in a street chock-a-block with nativity figurines (who knew, this is where they originated?!) of religious significance, and pop culture icons. Around the corner happened to be the underground Napoli tour- a bargain at €7. Our tour guide, Alex, made the 2 hours fly by with interesting facts, antidotes (and atheist jokes, to our amusement and the rest of the group's bewilderment). We got to see the remains of a Roman theatre (which is in a Napolian apartment's basement!) and early Greek and Roman aqueducts. If you got to Naples, definitely do this tour!!

Modern nativity characters in Christmas Alley

Underground Napoli!
Around Naples you will get used to two common icons- the chili, a sign of good luck, and the Pulcinella- a traditional folklore character who is mischevious, and always hungry- which is why he can be seen at every pizzeria you come across.

In contrast to the hustle and bustle you find in the city, you can take a walk to the waterfront at Santa Lucia, (20 minutes walk from city centre, but right outside your door if you are at the Royal Continental!) and endulge in the luxury of sun, sea and food. Oh, and the amazing view of Mt. Vesuvius. The locals spend a few hours every day perched on rocks topping up their tans, and the atmosphere is magical- but its at night that this place comes alive. Amongst the chatter of the restaurants, there is an air of romance and relaxation that is hard to compare. We enjoyed listening to the street musicians playing traditional Italian music- there is nothing quite like listening to 'That's amore!' as the sun sets. There are too many good restaurants to choose from, but the highlight for us was watching the moon rise with an eerie red hue, over Mt. Vesuvius, with a gelato in hand. We recommend La Nuit, on the waterfront- just don't sit in the restaurant. Trust us.


Strawberry and 'sugar' gelato!

Our hotel from Castle d'Ovo
In summary, Naples is really a city for everyone- whether you're a sun-seeking history buff like Sarah, or a cuisine connoisseur who likes to immerse yourself in the culture like Laura.

Viva Napoli!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,Laura and Sarah.Happy New Year to you!I am so happy that you enjoyed your stay in Napoli...my favorite city. They say Naples is dangerous, so are most cities. I live in New York City and riding the subway at daytime is scary, much worse at night.. people are being pushed off on the tracks by mental persons.I have always loved Naples...my grandmother used to sing the classic Neapolitan songs...I became a poet because of her! Tourists only visit northern cities, seldom they venture down south...and they are missing out a lot! Naples is beautiful and with the warm sun and friendly people, it is even more beautiful. I plan to visit Naples in a year or so...wish me all the best! Thanks for your informative blog...you have described Naples as I remember it: a city that can steal anyone's heart! I wish you all the best, and please write more about this wonderful city in the near future. Kind Regards, Andrew Crisci. Ciao from Howard Beach, NY.


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