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Welcome back to the second part of our guide to Naples. You’ve already read about days one and two on our post Guide To Naples, Part One. We pick up were we left off with a day out to Pompeii and Vesuvius. At least, that’s what should have happened.
Catacombs, Castles & Coffee
As you already know, if you read our last post, we were due to visit Pompeii and Vesuvius today. However, our hotel receptionist made us aware that there was a one day train strike. So instead we changed our plans and explored more of the city. First on the list of things to do, breakfast. Before we go anywhere, we always do a bit of research and look for the best places to eat and drink.
Caffè Gambrinus is a historic coffeehouse in the centre of Naples on the corner of Piazza del Plebiscito. It has been around since 1860. Famous for its pastries, coffee and cocktails, it is a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike. We always try to avoid the touristy places. Sometimes there are exceptions.
I had a cappuccino, this is acceptable before 10am, and a Sfogliatella. Something else I have been wanting to try for a long time. Stuffed with a sweet ricotta cream, candied orange peel and dusted with icing sugar. These things are a work of art and so incredibly tasty. It wasn’t to be the last one I ate. Try one if you visit you’d be crazy not to. Our coffees here cost €5 each and both our pastries cost €5.50, totalling €21. Or so we thought.
We got the bill and payed the server €30 expecting the €9 back. He only gave us change for €25 and disappeared off back into the cafe. We do not know if there was a hidden ‘coperto‘ table charge or if he just fancied keeping a €5 tip for himself. It wouldn’t put us off going again, but we would definitely be more aware of this happening again.
The Catacombs of San Gennaro
On the list of places to visit today was the Catacombs of San Gennaro. An incredible ancient underground Christian burial and worship site. Carved out of porous stone, the oldest part dates back to the 3rd and 4th century. You can only enter the tombs by guided tour, which cost €9, the ticket is then valid for 12 months. This also includes entry into the catacombs of San Gaudioso.
You won’t find any bones or remains here though as they were all moved to the Fontanelle cemetery (Cimitero delle Fontanelle). You learn all about this during your visit. The story about what happened next to the bones is creepy, however, I won’t spoil it for you. Tours run every hour, a good reason to check out the gift shop while you wait and the cafe. Time for more coffee, €1 for a Caffè (espresso).
TheBasilica di Santa Chiara
After the catacombs, we took a taxi back into the centre of town and headed straight to the Basilica di Santa Chiara. A monastery in the city’s heart. When we arrived, the church was closed for worship, but we could still visit the famous Cloister of the Clarisses.
A place so peaceful you soon forget you’re in a city as loud and as busy as Naples. Covered in hundreds of brightly hand painted Majolica tiles and frescoes, this place is stunning. It also houses a museum, a small excavation site and a cafe, another excuse to grab more coffee and refreshments.
Exploring The Spanish Quarter
The next stage of our journey around the centre of Naples took us into the backstreets. In particular, the Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter). I am sure that if you have done your research, you’ll no doubt be aware of this part of town.
You’ll be told not to visit because of the high crime rate and because of the high poverty isn’t the nicest place to look at. Forget all that, forget it all. This is Naples. Pure. Do not be frightened to explore. This place is the heartbeat of the city.
The streets here are loud, busy, colourful, and very narrow. Shops and cafes, the smell of fresh coffee and food. It is a great place to explore. The crime rate is high, but you’re told of things like this when you visit most major cities. Be careful, take all the usual precautions when visiting, but visit. It is a glorious experience.
We walked miles around the city so we both enjoyed a cold, well deserved Peroni beer and even stopped off for a pizza fritta. A small fried pizza, which we ate in Piazza del Plebiscito. The ones from Gino Sorbillo’s are 10/10.
The Egg Castle, Castel dell’Ovo
We had one more place to visit before we headed back to our hotel. The Egg Castle, Castel dell’Ovo !
“The castle’s name comes from a legend about the Roman poet Virgil, who had a reputation in the Middle Ages as a great sorcerer and predictor of the future. In the legend, Virgil put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg broken, the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events for Naples would have followed”.Wikipedia.
The castle is free to enter and on the waterfront. The views over the Gulf of Naples and out towards Vesuvio are stunning. A perfect way to end a very tiring day and a great way to lead into our third and final blog.
Next we get to go to Pompeii and Vesuvius. No train strike involved this time. Information on how we got there, costs and lots of photos, which you can read about here Pompeii And Vesuvius. Right, did somebody mention dinner?
Five More Things To Add To Your Naples Itinerary
Ischia You can catch a ferry over to the volcanic island of Ischia from the Port of Naples, which takes around an hour. You can visit the hot springs and the historic castle, Castello Aragonese. With beautiful gardens and the fishing village of Sant’Angelo, make sure you visit.
The Festival of San Gennaro If you are in Naples on the 19th September, you will want to check out this amazing religious festival. The streets are full of locals celebrating, setting off fireworks and waiting to see if the blood of San Gennaro liquefies. If it does, the city of Naples is blessed and will have good fortune. If the blood remains hardened, then it is said that the city will be unlucky.
Fontanelle Cemetery This old quarry became a burial site for the city of Naples in the 17th century when a plague killed 250 thousand of the city’s residents. It is also home to the remains of people that were found in the Catacombs of San Gennaro.
Via San Gregorio Armeno (Christmas Street) Naples most famous alleyway adorned with many shops selling wooden figures, artwork and Christmas decorations all year round.
San Paolo Football Stadium One for the football lovers. Football is the only belief system to rival the church in Naples. With Diego Maradona worshipped like a god, his face painted on many walls throughout the city. As with most churches holding the relics of Saints, Bar Nilo in the city holds a strand of Maradona’s hair.
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