Southern Italy, the land of salt air & limoncello. There was plenty of that, but first let’s talk about the ugly duckling of the region, our first stop post-Rome, Napoli. For most travelers, Napoli is three things: 1) a jumping off point for sexier destinations to the south, 2) the purported birthplace of Pizza & 3) home of the mob. For most tourists, that’s the extent of their experience with it. Get off the plane, grab a pizza, and catch their connection on to whichever exotic location they’re headed.
We’re here to tell you, you’re missing out. Napoli (Naples to all you ‘Mericans), is indeed lacking in Rome’s historical ruins or Amalfi’s sweet salt air, but what it lacks there it makes up in a rugged charm and the friendliest people we’ve met in ‘The Boot.”
Our visit to the area started with a visit to a Napoli suburb, Santa Maria Vetere Capua, Capua for short. History buffs will remember Capua as the legendary training site of gladiators and more famously, the site from which the slave Spartacus launched his revolt against The Roman Republic. The historical complex of Capua includes an arena, not at all unlike The Colosseum in Rome and related ruins. You’re thinking, alright you two, you just went to the real deal in Rome, why do a smaller version. NO OTHER TOURISTS, it was amazing. Incredible. Best archaeological visit of the trip so far. For those of you that have been, imagine walking around the Colosseum by yourself. It was perfect.
We finished up our visit to Capua watching the locals play cards in the park, boccie, and just generally enjoy siesta. It was a wonderful, totally run of the mill town. Speaking of slices… We arrived in Naples around 6 and needed to pick up our AirBnB keys, which required a meeting place, which meant PIZZA TIME! Our first slice of Neapolitan pizza was everything we’d hoped for: simple, delicious, simply delicious. We ended that evening with a walk, gelato, & a couple of TV shows on the laptop.
On our one full day in Napoli we explored the city and, for our money, the best museum in all of Italy, The Napoli National Archaeological Museum. It features some of the best archaeological finds from Rome as well as, and really more importantly, almost every single one of the important frescoes, artifacts, & statues from the Pompeii excavations. The Farnese Bull was one of the most amazing pieces of art you can conceive of and as a Hercules fan, the Farnese Herc was a sight to behold as well. The fresco is an entire room’s panel removed from an average Pompeiin house.
This was just the tip of the iceberg as the collection included hundreds of statues, nearly half of which would have made my “best of” life list, including an exceptional Venus & Marcus Aurelius on horseback, had it not been for the two stars of the collection above.
After hours of museum going, we deemed it “Pizza Time” and made a beeline (okay, a Grant beeline, which means a little street wandering and sightseeing on the way) for da Michelle, the legendary “inventor” of the pizza. You’ve got two choices, Marinara or Margarita. Naturally, we choose both.
It was much like many of the other “inventor of” places we’ve been through the years. It was good, really good even, but first doesn’t always mean best. And this stuff just isn’t Shakespeares 🙂 The margarita was the best, fwiw.
We finished our Napoli visit off with some street wandering, people watching, and cold beers. We saw some of the friendliest, craziest, most beautiful people in Napoli. Would we spend a week there, no probably not. But you’d be crazy to skip this on your Italy trip.
Man, that was a lot of words for 36-hours. Well, that’s both because YOU SHOULD GO TO NAPOLI and because, there’s only so much more to say about the next three days. Those days were spent between Pompeii and The Amalfi Coast.
Kate had Pompeii high on her “want” list for Italy after a powerful exhibit we visited last year at the Getty Villa in Malibu which focuses heavily on related art & archaeology. It didn’t disappoint. It’s inundated by tourists, but once you’re away from the main “forum” you can find little niches to really enjoy your time. It was, by far, the best look at the real life of a Roman citizen we saw on this trip. Truly, it is time frozen in perpetuity. There are bars, brothels, churches, temples, city halls, bakeries, and yes, humans, left frozen exactly where they were that fateful day in AD 79 when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried the town in ash.
That night we transferred to the stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast with its white knuckle drives, jaw dropping views, endless vines & lemon groves and picture perfect seaside towns. We layed on the beach, hiked up an unmarked road though lemon groves to sky high views, and ate with Mario & Luigi at their restaurant (as best we could tell, they really weren’t pulling our leg on those names…). I can safely say it was everything we wanted, a two day beachside break from the hecticity (H/T: Morgan) of Italian city life.
On Saturday, we left Amalfi, hopefully not for the last time and headed back to a suburb of Naples to write blogs and just relax for a night before heading on to Tuscany. But, lest you think that world travel is all perfect beaches and gelato laced strolls… Here’s a parting shot, of our bus for 40, filled with 70 adolescents, of whom none of the boys seemed to have yet discovered deodorant.
Temper thou jealously! We’re off to Venice tomorrow after a week in Tuscany & Florence via (hopefully) less smelly transportation. T-minus 2 day to Germany!
Mr & Mrs Trading Paradises