After traveling through Italy for a week, we felt right at home. The language did not feel foreign and the folks felt like our neighbors. As we travelled through the countryside, the final leg of our trip through Italy took us to Southern locales of Naples, Capri, and Sorrento. After enjoying the charms of Florence, and the history of Rome, it was time to experience the Southern hospitality. We started the tour of Southern Italy with a day in Naples.
From the Firenze Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station, we took a bullet train to the Napoli Centrale station to reach Naples. A bustling metro, it was quite the contrast from Florence. However, just as the moon has several faces, so does Naples. Certain areas of the city can be dark, dirty, or unsafe; but others are beautiful, historic, and fascinating.
What to do there
Naples is divided in sections, and the main hub for tourists is from Quartieri Spagnoli. On our way to our hotel, located near the Toledo station, we walked along the Corso Umberto I streets. Starting from the via Duomo intersection, we took the southwest route to the University. This is the best route to view the architecture and experience one of the busier areas of the city. If the sights are too much, you can always take the metro from Universita to the Toledo station.
After checking in to the hotel, we took the Via Toledo street south to Galleria Umberto I. The galleria is a giant public shopping mall, though with it’s high cross-shaped structure and glass dome, it transcended any mall that we had been to before; and none of the malls I had been to before were part of the UNESCO listing as a World Heritage site. You’ll find many tourists that are more interested taking pictures of the building than shopping in the boutiques.
The Mall of Naples
Following the Galleria Umberto I, we made our way to Castel Nuovo. About a 5 minute walk from the galleria, the 13th century castle, whose name translates to “New Castle”, overlooks the coast of Naples. Tickets are available on site to tour the castle. A 45-minute tour will run between 10-15 euros a person. The medieval architecture and the simplicity of the design set it apart from sites in Rome and Florence.
You can see Mt. Vesuvius beyond the shore of Naples, as if it is surrounding the port. The famous volcano has been dormant for some time, but the view is spectacular. The port of Naples is quite famous and perfectly located to take the ferry to other islands such as Capri. In fact, the city is a great base if you want to travel and hop places in Southern Italy.
The New Castle
We took the via Medina street south from Castel Nuovo to visit the Palazzo Reale di Napoli, or the Royal Palace of Naples. Located in the Piazza del Plebiscito, the Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola (top of the article) and the Royal Palace face each in the grand courtyard. It was close late afternoon by the time we reached there and the crowds were slowly coming to the square. It is a beautiful site to walk along the square halfway between the palace and the church. The southern Italian sun hits with the warmth while the breeze of the coast cools you down.
The Royal Palace
Hacking Tip: Tickets can be reserved online for the Royal Palace for about 4 euros with an audio-guide included. However, in the first Sunday of the month, everyone under 18 gets a free admission. The palace is a must if this is your first stop in Italy. The grand staircase and the throne room are beautiful and expansive. The basilica is also a must see, with the grand dome and the magnificent design inside. The entry is free and the entire visit can be completed in 15 minutes.
Food and Wine
Naples is famous for it’s pizza, in fact to truly experience the city you have to taste what the city offers. The best spot, from what we heard locally, is the Pizzeria Di Matteo, in via Tribunali. From the Toledo station we took the metro to Dante and walked through the narrow streets to find this hidden gem. A casual place with home-style treatment, Mrs. CurryOnTravel had one of the best pizzas in Italy. For dessert, we decided to head to Caffè Reginella, close to the Toledo station. Along with the almond coffee, Caffè Nocciolato, we ordered a Sfogliatella (perhaps two orders), a shell shaped pastry filled with ricotta cheese.
Yummy, Crunchy, and Warm
Hacking Tip: Parts of Naples can be uncomfortable for tourists. Walk through busy streets and you should be alright. The Pizzeria Di Matteo is located in an area that may be unsafe at night, thus grab an early dinner and try to leave early evening. Pickpockets roam the metro, so travel smart and light.
For late night drinks we decided to stop by Cammarota Spritz, a hole in the wall close to our hotel. 1 euro drinks, you read that right, make this a very popular place. The streets are closed off as locals come together to relax and enjoy their wine. Happy hour has a whole new meaning when the crowds are lubricated, and laughter and smiles are radiated in the street. We ditched the brands and drank as the locals in our last few hours in the city.
How to get there
Naples is easily accessible from South or North Italy. Napoli Centrale is a very famous and busy station, with trains coming in from major cities. The Naples Airport serves International flights, though it can be busy as well.
Where to stay
Our one-day trip would not be possible if we did not stay at Hotel Toledo. Located close to the Toledo metro station, and the initial spots through via Toledo, the staff of the hotel were courteous and knowledgeable. We would recommend Hotel Toledo to any traveler that is visiting Naples for a short time and wants to experience the comfort of home.
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