Sultry Naples is too many times overlooked by travelers anxious to make their way to the Amalfi Coast. Here are some reasons why Naples is worth a stay…
Naples dusty grandeur can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. A city that hits you full on in the face and attacking all the senses is really more exhilarating than scary and it’s excitement should be embraced not passed over.
You will notice about Naples as you land at the airport is the massive volcano of Vesuvius in the distance. A city built so close to an ominous mountain reflects the very passionate nature of the people of Naples. Next your eyes will wander to the crescent moon shaped bay separating the crowded city landscape from the serenity of the sea and suddenly you understand why people say “See Naples and die’. For such a busy city the fact that the natural beauty of the surroundings are so prominent reflects part of the city’s romantic soul.
The first thing you should do is head straight for the world famous Caffe Gambrinus next to the Piazza Plebiscito for a thimble sized, power packed serving of espresso. Have it at the bar with the locals before heading over to the heart of the city, the Spacanapoli. Walking up and down this popular area reveals many delights and captures the real sights and sounds of Napoli. Begin just up the street at the Cappella Sansevero, a small, intimate church with one of the most moving sculptures of Christ. The figure of a dead Christ under a sculpted cloak is astonishing. Upon exiting the chapel, time for a bit of lunch and when in Naples, pizza is a must. Two of the best, and world famous places, are nearby so take your pick: di Matteo is closest and offers a variety of excellent pizzas. Just a few more streets away and you are near di Michele made even more famous for being in the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Not that it needed any further endorsements, it’s reputation is extensive and it is much beloved so expect a queue to get in and a bit of a wait. Hence why di Matteo is sometimes an easier bet and still has authentic and delicious Neapolitan pizza. Work off lunch by wandering the side streets and check out the stalls selling nativity characters, a real art form in Naples. Eventually make your way to the tranquility of the cloisters at Santa Chiara. A peaceful garden decorated entirely of local decorative tiles is a pleasing sight and a great pause to sit for a minute or two far removed from the city chaos.
For aperitivo and dinner The Caruso at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio offers not only contemporary Mediterranean dishes but breathtaking views over the bay of Naples. Capri can be seen in the distance as you sip a cocktail before enjoying an stylish meal. Should you decide to stay at the hotel, pick a room with views over the bay and the Castel dell’Ovo and enjoy breakfast in bed with one of the best views over the sea.
Personally I love Naples, and a trip to the Amalfi Coast for me is not complete without a bit of time in what is considered by many as the true Italian city. While they are very much city people with a bit of abruptness, give it a minute and you will find charming and very open people. They are far less jaded by tourism as in other Italian cities, and many times a hello and an interest in their city brings much enthusiasm. And besides, who doesn’t love a great pizza!