I love Naples. Sometimes Rome pretends to be a little fancy-pants, when it is in fact a little bit insane. There is none of that in Naples. Naples is straight-up unapologetic, in-your-face chaos.
I was in Naples this time last year, on Palm Sunday, and it seemed to be a free for all. The shops were closed but the streets were full of motorinos, carrying entire families or three grown men at a time. No helmets, just lots of wheelies and honking. I can’t get enough of it and I am constantly trying to convince people to take a Saturday trip with me.
Naples is a bit of tiring day trip from Rome, but it is doable if you don’t have much time to spare. The slow train (which we take because we still have a poor-student mentality when it comes to travel) only costs 10 euro each way, but takes nearly 4 hours. Catch it at 7:30 am, and you walk out of the station in Naples just in time for the pizza ovens to be nearly ready.
First, swing by the Porta Nolana fish market. There is lots of yelling and squid throwing and fried dough selling. I was too intimidated to pull out my camera, so here is a picture of fruit truck at the end of the mercato.
Then head back towards the main drag (Corso Umberto I), and wander over to Da Michele to get in line.
I honestly wouldn’t bother with the Margarita, even though this is Naple’s most iconic pizza. Go for the marinara.
Then back to wandering the streets and piazzas in the center of the city.
From there, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon a creepy doll hospital.
Or a stash of, what our friends the Pizza Pilgrims, have taught us in the best damn pizza-makin’ flour around.
And, of course, you will find the presepe. In addition to pizza, Naples is famous for its presepe, or cribs. Christmas manger scenes that sometimes take a decidedly modern detour.
i.e. with plenty of figures like Berlusconi, Gaddafi, and Sarkozy, to go alongside baby Jesus.
But if you continue through the city, you can make your way up to this street:
And hop on the funicular. (Side note: After 26 years of speaking English, I am always surprised to find words I don’t know, like funicular. I am 98% sure I have never heard this word before. “You mean that tram thing that goes up the steep hill? It’s not a gondola? Are you serious?”)
Anyways, for about 2 euro, you can buy a 90 min ticket for this crazy-named tram, that will take you up to a much quieter Neapolitan neighborhood with an amazing view.
Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples, anyone?
You also get a birds eye view of the sprawl. Suddenly, your day of constantly being lost is small alleys makes much more sense. There is only one straight street in Naples. Everywhere else twists and turns and angles to take you in a direction you didn’t exactly intend to go.
Back down the hill you go on the friendly funicular.
Make your way back towards the station and stop in for one more pizza to-go at Da Michele.
You’ll have four hours on the train back to Rome to digest.
A final note, and I am by no means an expert… Naples has a rather unsavory reputation. I’ve never felt threatened there, but I also don’t wander down unknown streets at night. Be observant, be alert, and you should be fine.