Naples – Exploring Naples

The night on the sleeper train wasn’t exactly the best night’s sleep, but as per Nick, it was cozy and relaxing.  For me, I had a lot of stop-start sleep but I did still get a fair bit of shut-eye (even if it wasn’t what we could call quality rest). Aside from one noisy (inconsiderate) family who boarded the stop after ours, it was properly quiet on the train at least. It was only the sounds of the train machinery and the steady rocking motion that lulled us to sleep.

We woke up from the outside light filtering in past the window blind at around 7am.  A bit early, but neither of us could fall back into proper sleep again.  So I climbed down off the top bunk and we pulled the window blind up and watched the scenery pass by for a while.

Before too long, we decided to dress and ensure we were packed for the day ahead.  This didn’t take long in truth and we really just spent the morning reading and sight seeing what we could of the countryside.

Eventually though, our conductor knocked on the door, as promised, and delivered a very light breakfast of a couple of juices and a couple of brioches.  Nick and I split these, as well as the pastries we had bought the previous night and actually felt pretty good for food. The one thing was that I felt pretty dehydrated as it had been quite warm in the cabin so I downed almost a whole bottle of water (we had brought our own on board and had been provided a couple of bottles as well).

It wasn’t long until we were pulling into Napoli Centrale (Naples Central Station) and we disembarked, saying thank you to the conductor who had looked after us the previous night and this morning.

After this, we had to navigate from the central station to a station off Piazza Garibaldi in Naples. This wasn’t a very far walk for us thankfully and once there, we purchased tickets to Dante train station, which was the closest to our lodging for the next couple of nights, Neapolis Bellini B&B.

Now, while up to this point we had been doing well, trying to find the B&B proved… difficult. We found Piazza Bellini with no issues and we located the building the B&B was supposed to be in… but for the life of us, we couldn’t find the entrance.  Or even any signage confirming that we were in the right place.

Let me start of by saying that our first impression of Naples wasn’t exactly favourable.  Where Verona had felt very safe and beautiful, Naples didn’t evoke nearly the same sense of wonder. It was dirtier, dingier and overall… just sketchier.

We were tired, cranky and a little edgy by the time we reached Piazza Bellini. And now frustrated that we couldn’t find our accommodation. So with not a lot of options, we sat down at a cafe and ordered a couple of coffees.

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When in doubt, drink coffee

I think I was even more on edge because of the military presence just outside the building we were pretty sure our hotel was located in.  An armoured truck along with three military personnel with assault rifles was patrolling the square. This turned out to be quite a common sight in Naples, but it wasn’t particularly reassuring.

Eventually Nick spotted what looked like travellers coming out of what we had presumed was a private residence door (there was nothing to suggest otherwise) so he went to investigate. As it turned out, the building IS private residents, but the B&B was located in the penthouse suites and Nick found he could buzz himself in to get up to reception.  So he did so and happily, they allowed us to check-in early.  Once Nick was all sorted, he came back down to collect me and then we headed up to scope out the place.

Now, Naples hadn’t done much to impress me.  But one look at this room was enough to restore my faith in the city. The room we are staying in could more suitably be called a loft style apartment. On the ‘ground’ floor level, there is a queen bed, a dressing table and a reading chair.  In the loft, there is a couch (which looked like a fold out bed maybe) another single bed and another chair for relaxing in. The bathroom is quite nice too with a glass shower screen door (no curtain! bonus points!). But the most lovely feature of the room is a simply phenomenally huge window which faces out into Piazza Bellini.

As the morning started to get on a little, this window filtered the sounds of the street musicians and the murmur of the crowds from the Piazza below into the room. However, the windows are double glazed and shuttered so we will be able to close them at night and have no noise or light whatsoever when we sleep.

Immediately, we both had long showers as it felt like we hadn’t showered in days!  Then we just relaxed in the gorgeous room before we decided it was time to go and find some lunch.

On the way out, we talked to the lady at reception who was incredibly bubbly and passionate about Naples.  She asked if we would like some ideas of what to do and we said yes please!  She proceeded to whip out some guides and pamphlets and tell us all about Naples.  One of her suggestions was to check out the Spanish Quarter but she cautioned us that going there, or out into Naples in general, we should not have anything loose in our pockets and ONLY take items in a zippable bag.

Thus cautioned, we made sure to only take my bag out with us (Nick’s is a pouch with no zip) and Nick’s wallet and phone went into my bag and were only taken out when needed.

Made a tad more nervous by this advice, we went out for lunch. We did the famous traditional ‘foldable’ pizza at Pizzaria i Decumani located near the B&B. We got two simple Margarita pizzas and then we got a cannoli to share. Everything was pretty delicious.  The famous Naplese claim on their pizza is that its a special combination of the water and the minerals in the soil where the wheat grows that makes it taste so good.

While I can’t debunk this theory, I will agree that the pizza here is pretty special – there is a certain taste to it that hits the spot and makes it pretty darn delicious!  Nick agrees!  He ended up eating a good quarter of my pizza as well!

Lunch downed, we were in a much happier frame of mind and so decided to go for a short walk before heading back to the B&B for some much deserved rest.  Except what we planned to be a short walk turned into a much, much longer exploration of Naples and the surrounds.

We checked out the Spanish Quarter as recommended and saw the incredibly narrow streets and close buildings. I had thought the mopeds and ATVs in Santorini flew by at a breakneck speed but here, in the Spanish Quarter it was like everyone was practising for the Grand Prix or something.

We also checked out Castel dell’Ovo (in English this translates to Egg Castle) which is a seaside castle in Naples. 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 been broken, the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events for Naples would have followed. Interestingly, Virgil was also the mystic guide of Dante in Dante’s Inferno.

Its just as well I looked this up.  From looking at the castle, we couldn’t for the life of us figure out where the ‘egg’ part came from. Unfortunately, as its Sunday the castle closed early but we might be able see the inside another day/afternoon while we are here.

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On our way back to the B&B we also came across the Basilica di San Francesco di Paola which is a church in Naples. It is located at the west side of Piazza del Plebiscito, the city’s main square.  This was very picturesque and we took a bit of a look around before our aching feet demanded we take them home.

We got the news that the day trip we had planned tomorrow would unfortunately be partially cancelled due to a landslide at Mount Vesuvius today.  So we would only get to go to Pompeii tomorrow.  Happily to compensate for the missing part of the day trip, we were offered a tour of Sorrento as well. So plans for tomorrow confirmed, we headed out for some dinner at  Re Lazzarone.

The owners there were really nice and helped us translate the menu. In the end, we chose a monkfish pasta and a plate of fried calamari and prawns.  For dessert we had a Strawberry Pannacotta and a traditional Naplese dessert called pastiera which is a short pastry cake filled with a mixture made with ricotta and candied fruit.  It was pretty delicious.

After dinner we headed back and got ready to turn in for the night, making our preparations for tomorrow.

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Km’s walked: 14.1

Flights complete: 5/10

Tomorrow: Pompeii and Sorrento Tour

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