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“Vedi Napoli e poi muori” or “See Naples and die” is a famous quote coined during the reign of the Bourbons. To see Naples in all its beauty is something you absolutely have to do. We spent four nights at the Rex Lifestyle Hotel in the San Ferdinando district on the seafront between Borgo Marinari and Via Santa Lucia. Here’s what we got up to.
Pizza & Piazza’s
Landing at the airport, we got through passport control and luggage collection fairly quick. We had read online that the airport wasn’t that great, but we found it to be brilliant. We had no hotel transfers planned, so we jumped into the nearest taxi. It was €24 to our hotel on Via Palepoli down by the seafront. The driver then added an extra €5 charge for each of our suitcases. We are pretty sure this was a made up charge, however we paid it and sent him on his way for argument’s sake. For anyone reading this, ask for a fixed price before your journey, just in case.
Eating at L’antica Pizzeria da Michele
We threw our suitcases in our room and freshened up after the long journey. First on the agenda, pizza! Before visiting Naples, we knew we absolutely had to eat at L’antica Pizzeria da Michele (this place has been around since 1870). Made famous by the book, then film “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts. When we arrived, it was busy, very busy. Now this is the part where knowing a bit of Italian helps.
To be seated in the restaurant, first you have to go inside and grab a ticket. You then wait outside until your number is next, they then shout this above all the crowd noise. Sometimes in English, sometimes in Italian, don’t miss it or you miss out. We waited outside for a little over an hour, so be prepared to wait. There is a small shop nearby where you can buy a bottle of beer (or soft drink) from to help time tick by.
Eating The Best Pizza In The World
They only serve two types of pizza, the “Margherita” and “Marinara“. Naturally, we ordered both with two bottles of beer. Now, as simple as these pizzas are, these are some of the best pizzas we have EVER eaten. First up the Margherita, the cheese was so sweet, the kick of fresh basil and a nice fruity tomato sauce.
Next the Marinara, the sauce, fresh sweet tomatoes, just the right amount of oregano, a hint of garlic and delicious olive oil. Absolute pizza heaven, this place certainly lives up to the hype. The dough was so thin and chewy. Perfect. It’s said that this is the best pizza in Naples, which makes it, by proxy, the best pizza in the world, hard to argue with that and at less than €20 with no hidden table charges.
Another pizzeria we were looking forward to eating at was Gino Sorbillo’s. We’ll get to that later, though. Right down to business proper, Naples. After we filled our bellies, we walked back into the centre of town. Navigating some of the back streets and main roads (which are like race tracks, how we didn’t get run over I’ll never know) we marched towards the Piazza del Plebiscito. A huge open space with a church dedicated to San Francesco di Paola, reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome.
Piazza del Plebiscito
To the East is the Royal Palace. There is some superstition surrounding the Piazza, if you walk in a straight line backwards from the far end, between the two statues and end up between the two middle columns of the church, then luck will be on your side! Try it, we did, it is not as easy as it sounds.
You can visit the church, but it closes during certain times of the day and for special events such as weddings. If you have time to go inside, its beautiful. Typical of all Italian churches, huge marble statues and carvings adorn the walls. The architecture and relics it holds are stunning. Don’t forget to leave a donation. It helps with the restoration and upkeep (and it’s free to enter, so why not).
Visiting The Island Of Capri
Day two, and our travels took us over to the island of Capri. Famous for its high end shopping, beautiful views and, of course, Caprese salad. The Beverello ferry terminal was a short walk from our hotel. When we arrived, there were several small booths selling tickets. It seemed quite daunting at first, but it’s actually really easy to get your tickets and to see which boat you should board.
Check the boards for your time. Ferries to Capri leave every half hour from what we could see. It looked like the Capri terminals were all at the top end and clearly marked. Choose your time and buy your ticket. The price for the outward journey was €21.50 each and coming back €20.30. There was no option to buy a return ticket. You simply get that on the other side at Capri.
Now you have your ticket simply match it to the time on the company’s boat you have chosen. A big board on the back shows you the time of departure. The trip over lasted around 40 minutes. Try to get on the open-air top deck if the boat has one, the views are superb.
There are several things you can do in Capri. You can do trips around the island by taxi, bus and by boat. Head up into the principal town itself or go higher to Anacapri, on the slopes of Mount Solaro. You can also take a boat to the Blue Grotto.
Capri’s Main Town
First, we took the funicular up to into main town. It cost us €2 each, each way and it runs every 15 minutes. There was a bit of cloud covering the top of the island in the morning, which was wonderful to see. This burned off during the afternoon. The weather was hot, which was a good excuse to grab some freshly squeezed Lemon Granita from one of the many stands and the views out over the Bay of Naples were breathtaking.
We did all the usual sightseeing stuff, window shopped, and had a bite to eat. One thing I’ve been wanting to try over in Naples was Cannoli, a delicious fried pastry treat filled with creamy ricotta, one end dressed with candied fruit and the other dipped in crushed pistachio nuts. Vicky had a Baba alla Crema. Both very sweet, both incredibly delicious.
The Blue Grotto
Our next little adventure took us to the Grotta Azzurra. Something you definitely have to experience whilst here. There are many places offering this excursion on the front. We took the one directly on the harbour itself. They offered “Yellow Line” and “Blue Line” excursions. Yellow line is a 2-hour trip around the island offering many stops. The blue line excursion is the Grotto only.
Now this is where it gets pricey. To get to the grotto, you get a boat (obviously), this cost us €15 each. The trip lasted around 30 minutes. Once you arrive at the location, you could wait another hour to enter the cave. Basically, there are three types of “queue” when you arrive, tourist visits by sea, tourist visits by land and private excursions. So you have to take your place and wait. When it is finally your turn, you get off the boat you arrived in and board a smaller rowing boat. Then the cost of entry into the cave is another €4 each.
Inside The Grotto
Once inside, it is well worth all the hanging around. You have a tiny hole in which you enter. Your rower pulls everyone in on a chain mounted to the wall. He shouts at you to lie down. The noise of the rowers singing echoes around the chamber. The crystal clear water lights up blue as the sun shines through. You’re only in there a matter of minutes, so make sure you take your photos and videos asap!
Our Visit Comes To An End
We ended the day with some pasta at a place called Pastamore & Chiatamone, tucked away in the backstreets behind our hotel. We always look for the local eateries rather than the tourist traps, and again, this place didn’t disappoint. Again, delicious food, great service and cheap to boot!
There are more parts to this post, two more to be exact. The next will finish everything we did in the town, including some creepy catacombs. Click here Guide To Naples, Part Two. You can also read about our day in Pompeii and Vesuvius in the third instalment, Pompeii And Vesuvius.