Please post your Trip Reports here - mine from 2013 will get the ball rolling:
NAPLES TRIP REPORT –
Naples reminds me of your mad aunty at a wedding. Everyone avoids her but boy does she have some stories to tell. This city should be at the top of everyone’s list but judging by many, many comments on TA and elsewhere, it is often at their top of the list to avoid. What a waste that is. This time around I saw more and although I am the DE for Naples, I have hardly scratched the surface. Here is a run-down of my seven days.
We checked into ORSINI B&B, run by live-in hosts Manuela and Gabriele in the Santa Lucia district. I love staying in this location as it is by the water, very quiet and yet convenient to all the major sights. The B&B was exquisite (see my review) and only cost 90 euros per night. My son and I went for a walk from Santa Lucia to Mergellina – about 4km return – along the sea front and had a gelato at the famous Chalet Ciro. Neapolitan ‘chalets’ are like little beach huts that sell coffee, cake, gelato, a drink etc. Mergellina reminds me of Cannes – gorgeous people sipping aperitifs in the afternoon sun surrounded by palm trees and million dollar yachts. It’s a beautiful spot.
We had dinner at Nenella up in the Spanish Quarter which was like being an extra in a movie – all the Neapolitan street life was buzzing – I saw a motor bike pull up and on hopped a 10 year old girl, behind her sister and dad, and they blasted up the narrow street all laughing – and all without helmets. I loved it.
DAY TWO – POMPEII and POPPAEA’S VILLA AT OPLONTIS
I decided that it would be quicker to take the metro to Napoli Centrale to connect with the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii, rather than take the bus which could be stuck in traffic. Well, I hadn’t factored in Naples’ complex metro system due to the construction of a new Line. We hopped on at the brand new Toledo stop, had to get off at the next stop, Cavour, had to change again at the next stop, Museo and then take another train to Garibaldi. Four trains and over an hour for a 3km journey. Not to mention the long, long moving walkway to get to the platform for Garibaldi at the Museo stop. The Neapolitans are really frustrated with this as well as I laughed about it later with a local.
Anyway, Pompeii. The heavens decided to open and pour buckets of water on us so I had to buy emergency raincoats from one of those sellers that pop up when there is rain. 5 euros for what was essentially two plastic bags with buttons. Serve me right. The forecast did say rain. Entry to Pompeii still costs 11 euros and guides are still 10 euros. The Circumvesuviana is still cheap. We got a day ticket for 7.80 euros as we planned to go to Oplontis as well so that suited us.
TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELLERS – The Circumvesuviana may appear a little like a 1970s NYC Subway ‘A’ train – covered in graffiti, assorted freaks and weirdos and the odd thief. Just be mindful of your belongings. The trains are old, ugly and covered in graffiti but they get you from A to B. If beggars approach you on the train just wave them away, they are harmless. When I was on it that day, it came complete with roving musicians/buskers. Someone at Pompeii told me a four piece band got on their train, complete with double bass. She said ‘I just had to give them money for sheer effort’. Lol!
At Pompeii, the House of the Vetti is still closed and looks like it will be so for some time. The whole interior is covered in rusty scaffold and there is no sign of work going on. Also closed is the House of Octavius Quarto and the House of Julia Felix. The Forum Baths were open as was the Temple of Venus – I’ve never seen this Temple open before. The amphitheatre was a swimming pool due to the rain and we had to edge our way around the outside to avoid going under water. The sun came out later and turned the whole of Pompeii into a steam bath. It was seriously uncomfortable.
I did use the on-site café twice for a coffee fuel stop and lunch. Their salads were great and their prices really decent considering they have a captive audience. I would suggest eating here – nothing at all wrong with it. Bathrooms in the café had a few stalls out of order but that may have been just the day I was there as it was PACKED to the gills with cruise groups.
The Villa of Mysteries is under renovation but the room with the life size frescoes was open (closed last time I was there). That is an absolute MUST SEE in Pompeii. I can’t see it remaining on site forever – they will probably be removed and moved to the NAM eventually. No one was in the Villa when we were there but it was late in the day by this stage.
TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELLERS – If you have luggage, there is storage at the Circumvesuviana train station down the stairs to the underpass to Platform 1 – it’s right where the toilets are. While you’re there, use the toilets as the lineup for them at the Pompeii ticket office is out the door, around the block and probably back to Naples. Also, download and print your own map – every time I’ve been to Pompeii (and that’s frequently) the ticket office have no maps. Not that the maps are very helpful if you’re planning a route as there are so many closures, but they help you orient yourself and locate places you want to see.
OPLONTIS – Despite my fatigue, my son and I pushed on to Oplontis to see The Villa of Poppaea. This is a single residence owned (apparently) by Emperor Nero’s second wife as her holiday home. To get there you go one stop on from Pompeii Scavi back towards Naples and get off at Torres Annuziata. Exit the station, turn left, turn right and walk two blocks down the hill. You can’t miss the site, despite it being surrounded by surburbia and ugly apartments. It costs 5.50 euros to visit and you’ll probably have it to yourself as it is very much off the tourist radar. Its wall frescoes are in much better shape than Pompeii’s and it gives you an idea of just how grand and palatial this place was. It even has its own enormous marble swimming pool. It is really worth your time and you won’t bump into large groups here as no one knows about it.
NOTE FOR FUTURE TRAVELLERS – The Torres Annuziata station and surrounds are not attractive. Don’t be worried, it is still a safe place and a quick walk to the site and back.
After a LONG day we still persevered with the four train changes back to Toledo but were much more efficient this time as we knew what platforms and stairs to take so it only took half an hour as opposed to our morning 1.10 time.
DAY TWO – DAY TRIP WITH WORLD TOURS CAR AND DRIVER TO POZZUOLI, SOLFATARA, PISCINA MIRABILIS, THE FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATRE, BAIA AND BACOLI
Many people on TA ask for ‘off the beaten path’ ideas for their travels. Well, this whole area to the north-west of Naples fits the bill perfectly. No one goes here and I have no idea why. It has beaches, ancient ruins, a volcano with boiling mud pools, a castle and an atmosphere that reminds me a lot of California in the 1960s (I wasn’t there – I’m not that old, lol! But think blue sky, palm trees, relaxed vibe and lots of coloured buildings).
As it’s tricky to get around on public transport, I used a car and driver service. First stop was the Solfatara, or ‘Burning Fields’. It is essentially the crater of a Volcano but looks like the set from the first Star Wars movie. It’s a white desolate landscape with steam rising from the ground and mud boiling merrily away in fenced off areas. No one was there. Put your hand on the ground – it’s warm! It also doesn’t smell bad considering the gas is sulphurous. Don’t go expecting Yellowstone or New Zealand – it’s a very small thermal field but really interesting nonetheless.
Second stop was Piscina Mirabilis which was a huge underground water storage tank built by Augustus to apparently service his naval fleet, so it’s 2000 plus years old. It’s a killer of a place to find – in a suburban street surrounded by very pretty homes – plus you need to call ahead and an elderly lady will toddle up the street, jingling a huge set of keys. She then unbolts a gate and lets you into this underground cavern. Helloooo Indiana Jones film set! It had shafts of light falling across these enormous columns, mossy foliage hanging creepily down, slippery paths and an other worldly atmosphere that belied the suburban landscape outside. My son instantly started playing hide and seek so we ran around like a couple of kids, ducking behind the columns also enjoying the echo of our voices in the vast chamber. Goodness knows what the lady upstairs thought. We stayed inside for about 15 minutes as she was waiting to lock it up. I gave her 5 euros for her trouble but the site is technically free. It is one of those experiences you tell people about later and they say ‘’what? A 2000 year old cistern under houses and an old lady with a key lets you in?’…… Yep….I know….no I wasn’t drinking it actually IS like that. You MUST go there.
We had lunch at a place called Da Giona – see my review – found in my Lonely Planet guide book tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g107812…
Loved it. I thought I was seeing things when I saw a surfer out riding the waves. I told people here at home and again they questioned my drinking habits – but it’s true. A surfer. See what I mean, this place is California for Italians.
The rest of this day was a mad run-around the Temple of Serapis – an ancient macellum (marketplace) which has been submerged and lifted due to the seismology of the area and the effects of ‘bradeyism’ – which means the location is so unstable the ground moves up and down. I have National Geographic photos of this macellum half-submerged by water in 1983 but we saw it completely dry. Amazing. We also went to Lake Aveno, and then to the Flavian Amphitheatre.
FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATRE – Okay I’m going to again be controversial and say give the Colosseum Underground Tour in Rome the flick and come here instead. There was myself, my son and two other visitors from England in this enormous place. That’s it. The underground passages were open and we had it all to ourselves. I could not believe it. Why no one was there just astounds me. We explored the depths of this place – it was truly eerie. Broken columns, inky blackness into tunnels, just the sound of our breathing and the odd drop of water plinking onto marble. It’s out of this world. It cost about 5 euros and there were a couple of guides at the gate having a snooze so we didn’t trouble them. You HAVE to go there.
On the way back to Naples we stopped at the iconic view in Posillipo for the iconic photo of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. Us and a billion other tourists. We were back to reality.
Part Two coming up – the Capidomonte Museum, biking along the seafront, so much pizza I turned into one, a guided walk around the Historic Centre, so much gelato I swear I gained ten pounds, an overnight trip to Procida, the Capella Sansevero, Pio Monte Della Misericordia, the cloisters of Santa Chiara, Castel dell Ovo at sunset and the ever-present exquisite menacing beauty of Vesuvius.