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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.
Day One – Pizza & Piazza’s
Landing at the airport we got through passport control and luggage pickup fairly quick. We’d read online that the airport wasn’t that great but we found it brilliant. We had no transfers so we jumped into a taxi. It was €24 to our hotel on Via Palepoli down by the sea front. The driver then added an extra €5 ‘charge’ for each of our suitcases. We are pretty sire this was a made up charge, however we paid it and sent him on his way for arguments sake. For anyone reading this ask for a fixed price just in case.
We threw our suitcases in our room and freshened up after the long journey. First on the agenda, pizza ! Before going 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 you have to go inside and grab a ticket. You then wait outside until your number is called. Sometimes in English, sometimes in Italian, don’t miss it or you miss out. We waited outside for little over an hour so be prepared.
They only serve two types of pizza the “Margherita” and “Marinara“. Naturally we ordered both with two beers. 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 tomato’s, just the right amount of Oregano, a hint of garlic and delicious olive oil. Pizza heaven. The dough was so thin and chewy. Perfect. It’s said that this is the best pizza in Naples, which makes it the best pizza in the world, hard to argue that and at less than €20 with no hidden table charges.
Another pizzeria we were looking forward to eating at was Sorbillo. 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.
To the East is the Royal Palace. There is some superstition surrounding the Piazza, if you walk in a straight line 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 ! Give it a try, we did, its not as easy as it sounds.
You can visit the church but it does close during certain times of the day and for special events such as weddings. If you do get a chance 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 its free to enter, so why not).
Day Two – Capri & Cannoli’s
Day two 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 along the front from our hotel. When we got there there was a number of 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 you time. Ferries to Capri leave every half hour or so 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. Our price out was €21.50 each and coming back €20.30. There was no option to buy a return ticket, you get that on the other side. Now you have your ticket simply match it to the time on the boat. A big board on the back shows you the time of departure. The trip over lasted around 40 minutes. Try and get on the top deck if the boat has one, the views are superb.
There’s a number of things you can do on Capri. You can do trips of the island by taxi, bus and around it by boat. Head up into the main town itself or go higher to Anacapri located on the slopes of Mount Solaro. You can also take a boat to the Blue Grotto.
We took the funicular up to the 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 did burn off during the afternoon though. 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 ive been wanting to try over in Naples was Cannoli, a delicious fried pastry treat filled with creamy ricotta, one end with candid fruit and the other dipped in crushed pistachio nuts, Vicky had a Baba alla Crema. Both very sweet both incredibly delicious.
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, it 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 a bit pricey. To get to the grotto you have to get a boat (obviously), this cost us €15 each. The trip lasted around 30 minutes, once you arrive at the location you could be waiting another hour or so to enter. 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 its 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.
Once inside though it’s well worth all the hanging about. You only have a very small hole in which you enter. The rower pulls us all in on a chain mounted the wall, he shouts at you to lay down. The noise of the rowers singing echoes around. The crystal clear water lights up blue as the sun shines through is quite special. You’re only in there a matter of minutes so make sure you take your photos and videos asap !
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 this place didn’t disappoint. Again, very tasty food and cheap to boot !
There are more part to this post, two more to be exact. The next will finish off everything we did in the town, including some creepy catacombs and can be found here Guide To Naples, Part Two. You can also read about our day in Pompeii and Vesuvius in the third instalment Pompeii And Vesuvius.