Vesuvius Naples
Travel

Naples, Italy: Local Color, Neapolitan Pizza, Aperol & The Beautiful Mess

Naples is a beautiful mess, in a way that you don’t really like it right away, but you see that it has charm. You start to like it after some time and when you look back, you realize that you captured its colors and vibes. It’s a city with character and personality. You get hit by the actual mess in the center of the city, just like after a big musical festival, but then you discover its colorful sunny streets, buildings and sweet delight.

View from Belvedere San Martino

I’ve arrived at Naples International Airpot one Tuesday afternoon with my good friend, Sidonia. Just as we exited customs, a smiling guy was sitting right in front with my name written clearly on a card. I smiled, waved and said: Io sono Lara Popa.

He smiled and said in a loud voice: Benvenute, ragazze!

Street close to Belvedere San Martino

He grabbed both our bags and led us to the car. His name is Oreste and he drives all around Naples all day long, having more than 4-5 trips per day from the airpot to the center and back, doing also night trips, showing Naples by night.

Local Color

Oreste works with the amazing Francesco, our host at Neapolitan-Style Apartment, a place that has two beautiful qualities. The first one is that it’s very central, right near via Toledo and close to the sea. The second one, which is probably the best, is that you feel that you live amongst the locals. The place is in Quartieri Spagnoli, one of the most vibrant areas where the Neapolitan language is the strongest. You can get lost in the narrow colorful streets where people hang their clothes at the ground floor and take their tables out in the street to have lunch or to play cards.

Street View in Quartieri Spagnoli

The apartment, very spacious and clean, is placed on one of these narrow streets, facing another building. In the mornings you can have your coffee on the balcony and actually see all your neighbors and most of them talk with each other from the 2nd floor to the ground floor or from any floor right in the street.

They smoke, drink espresso, talk loudly on the phone and yell at each other: Giuseppe! Mariaaa! They sometimes look straight at you, with a poker face, then go back in and close their curtains after finishing their espresso.

View from Neapolitan-Style Apartment

Probably The Best Food & Drinks

When I look back at Naples, I only think about the food and drinks. We didn’t stay too long in Naples. Our trip began there but we explored the Amalfi Coast and finished our stay in Bari.

You know that food in Italy is EXQUISITE, wherever you go. You can’t miss! But pizza in Naples is like nothing you have ever tasted. The Neapolitan pizza is the best in the world and although I have eaten before true Neapolitan pizza in some specific restaurants in Rome, Firenze and Milan, the real deal is in Naples. It is not at all expensive. You can eat a great pizza with less than 7 euros at a restaurant viewing the sea.

What I highly recommend is experiencing an Aperol Spritz, near Porto di Napoli, where there are some booths with newspapers and drinks, where locals usually hang out. They have some plastic tables with chairs and you can just take a seat there, right in front of the sea and the mighty Vesuvius. A sweet old lady will come to take your order. It’s not like you have a big menu, you can drink a beer, have a coffee or the delicious Aperol Spritz. This was the best Aperol ever. With only 5 euros, you would drink a huge glass, perfectly made in this very local atmosphere.

One important thing to know is that they don’t really speak English and even if you do know a bit of Italian, sometimes you do not understand them because of their Neapolitan which is quite different from Italian. But, hey, body language is universal and wherever I have traveled, I didn’t really need to know the language.

Aperol Spritz in Porto di Napoli

Beaches

Naples itself is not the best city to choose if you want to just lay on the beach. We knew about all the touristic beaches that are around Naples, but we were curious if we could swim right in the city. Yes, you can! There are very small beaches along the city where many locals come to swim during summer and just lay on the beach. Not the best beaches, but great water, especially in the afternoon when there are no longer so many people like during the day.

Small beach in Naples

We asked a local: Where do you swim? What is your favorite beach?

The answer: Marechiaro & Bagno Elena

Marechiaro means actually clear water, so for all the locals this is the best place to go with the clearest water. The gulf is about 14-minutes drive from Porto di Napoli. Then, there is Bagno Elena which was closer, at just 6-minutes drive or a walk of 28 minutes along the coast.

What To Visit from Naples

Many people choose Naples for the cheap accommodations and a less expensive lifestyle. But most of them do not stay in Naples, because there are so many things to do from there and the city has the best connections. You can visit:

  • Pompeii & Vesuvius
  • Capri
  • Sorrento & Amalfi Coast
  • Palazzo Reale
  • Ischia Island

We have visited Pompeii & Vesuvius and then continued our journey to Positano and Amalfi. Stay tuned for the future blog posts about our journey!

View from Belvedere San Martino

The Best View

Definitely Belvedere San Martino where the city opens up and you can see all its vibrant colors that get mixed up with the strong blue of the sea.

View from Belvedere San Martino

The impressive Vesuvius rises in front of you and you feel the grandeur of the place. There are some places in the world where you feel that profound inspiration.

Vesuvius seen from Naples

For me it happened just a couple of times. Curiously, the last time was again in front of a volcano 🙂 When I was facing Etna, in a breathtaking place in Sicily, in Castelmola, near Taormina. Now, I felt that again here, at Belvedere San Martino in Naples. Utterly profound inspiration mixed with a sense of freedom and happiness.

Read the post about Sicily, La Dolce Vita in Sicily

Is Naples Safe?

Yes, totally! I have heard so many stories before going to Naples. Oh, be careful! Naples is such a dangerous city! But all these myths are based on films, stories about the mob and probably experiences of some travelers in the past. But now, there are carabinieri everywhere. The center is very well guarded and even during the night, there are lots of people everywhere, tourists, locals, people having fun, being loud, so I didn’t feel at all any danger.

Rooftop in Naples

I am sure there are areas not as safe, but that is true for all the big cities in the world. Bad things happen everywhere. Oreste told us that the government and officials wish to preserve and expand the touristic potential of Naples, so they have increased the number of carabinieri and want tourists to feel safe. However, you should watch out in traffic because it is madness! Watch out for the scouters that drive all around the city, even on the narrow streets. They do honk and announce they are coming, but still… 🙂

What was your experience with Naples? Feel free to comment below! Stay tuned for the next posts about our journey through Italy!

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