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Naples; Of Pizza Galore & Mighty Mount Vesuvius


'Deep asleep, a loud thud awoke us. The wheels of the carriage screeched as it motioned to a halt. I peered out of the window and glanced at the mist beleaguering a volcano steeped in history and tragedy. Above us, the grey clouds drizzled dampening the horizon and the mighty mount Vesuvius. The incessant patter of raindrops on the window greeted us into Napoli as the train whizzed past crowded buildings of various sorts decked below the bountiful Napoli hills. We have arrived.'

Just 2 hours away from Roma, lies a city encroached on the foothill of an iconic volcano that laid the scene for a historic eruption in 79 A.D that engulfed the city of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The picturesque gulf of Naples which extends all the way to Sorrento & Isle of Capri has been a sought after holiday destination by many as well as being declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

GETTING IN & AROUND

When it comes to travelling around Italy, you don't have to dwell too much on how to get around as Italy's national rail transport, Trenitalia's extensive network will provide you with ease in moving around the country. I do not recommend any other travel mode unless driving is your preference, but bear in mind that parking in most cities can be a nightmare.

To book tickets via TrenItalia, it is best to do it upfront through their official website as the rates are cheaper. There are two types of trains you will need to know; the Frecciarossa and all other trains.

Frecciarossa is a high speed train and tickets should be purchased way in advance online. Second class seats are extremely comfortable with a 2 plus 2 airline seats across the width of the carriage, but if budget is not an issue, then you can go for the 1st class seats where there are ample of space and light food service. Ticket price varies according to time and date with the early morning trains usually being cheaper than later on in the day.

Italo rail transport is also a relatively new competing company and has been giving TrenItalia a run for their money.

Once at Napoli centrale at Piazza Garibaldi, there are a few ways to maneuver around the city:

Before getting on the public transport, buy a daily pass for 3.60 euros and it can be used on all modes. Single trip will cost 1.50 euros and can be used up to 90 minutes on as many lines as you wish.

Use the metro to get around Naples. Head to Toledo metro stop using Linea 1 and from there you can explore the rest of the city by foot.

To best appreciate the view of the gulf of Naples, use the furnicolare from Augusteo to Corsa Victoria Emanuele station or Montesanto to Morghen station at the hill top and walk towards Castel San Elmo ( Largo S. Martino to get an amazing view of the bay, mount Vesuvius and Naples.

The walk from Victoria Emanuele station to the castle can be physically challenging for some as it involves steep accents. If you want the picture postcard view of the bay, then you will have to pay 5 euros to get into the castle for those dream shots.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

Hotel Il Convento

This hotel is located at Via Speranzella just off the busy Toledo street, close to the metro. This hotel comes highly recommended for its central location and splendid service. The room, although small, was surprisingly comfortable and the breakfast is better than we expected. The only drawback is that it can get noisy outside as it is close to the main streets and busy restaurants but we didn't mind it. The room rate for 2 persons per night is around 95 euros. The receptionist was very welcoming and provide us with information to get around the city and Pompeii.

PLACES OF INTERESTS FOR 1 DAY VISIT

1) Castel Nuovo

This medieval castle located in front of Pizza Municipio in central Naples, abuts the gulf of Naples making it an important landmark of the city.

Distance: 5 minutes walking distance from Via Toledo

2) Via Toledo

Via Toledo is a shopping avenue flanked on all sides by boutiques, restaurants, patisseries and souvenir shops. Peer into the alleyways to discover a labyrinth of narrow alleyways spiraling upwards towards Castel San Elmo. Here, the buildings seemed to crowd next to each other resembling the Flavelas in Rio de Janeiro.

3) National Archeological Museum

This is by the largest Roman architectural museum in the world as it houses artifacts removed from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other excavation sites. Entrance fee is around 9 euros and touring the vicinity will cost you some time, so unless you have more than a day in Naples, I suggest you skip this and head on to Pompeii & Herculaneum.

4) Out & about Castel San Elmo

From Vittoria Emanuele station, walk along Corso Vittoria Emanuele, keeping watch of the signboard pointing the direction towards Castel San Elmo. Along the way, you will come across many restaurants and opulent looking apartments.

Castel San Elmo, a solitude medieval fortress rests on one of the highest points in Naples near Certosa di San Martino. From here, you can get stunning views of the city and Mount Vesuvius.

FOOD

Naples is undoubtedly the birthplace of pizza and the 2 original pizzas are Margherita and Marinara. If you think pizza Margherita should be served with meat and innumerable toppings, then you haven't got a clue about this original pizza. Unlike the pizzas in Rome, Napoletana Pizza Margherita is comprised of nothing more than tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and olive oil. The crust is also more doughy and thicker than in Rome, making it more chewy.

Da Michele is one of the best places to sample the real pizza Napoletana as they serve only the 2 original pizzas. The queue can be long so be there as early as possible. You might recognize this restaurant in the movie Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts travelled all the way from Rome just to savour some good pizzas.

Pizzeria di Matteo is also another restaurant made famous when President Bill Clinton visited in 1994 and sampled their pizzas. You can also try Pizzeria Brandi, where pizza Margherita was allegedly born but these days the better choices will be di Matteo and Da Michele. A word of caution as the above restaurants are located near Forcella which is unsafe at night, but generally safer during daytime.

If you are living near Toledo, there are plenty of restaurants along and off Via Toledo.

 

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