After a 7 hour coach journey from Florence, we finally made it into Naples! As the coach slowly crept into the city centre we saw something very unexpected: poverty, and a lot of it. We drove passed, what I can only describe as shanty towns, on the edges of the city. Of course we’ve seen our fair share of beggars and homeless people whilst travelling but nothing like this before. The traffic was absolute chaos, mopeds weaving in and out of lanes and people darting between cars, and this was on a Sunday night!
We eventually arrived at the hostel that we would be volunteering at for the next two weeks. To be honest it was not in a great area but we were relieved that the metro stop was a two minute walk away. As you can imagine our first impressions of Naples were a little underwhelming. But, I was still excited because this is the longest we’ve stayed in a city since travelling!
Our first day was spent exploring the city centre. It was still bustling with people, cars, motorbikes, beggars, stalls and dogs. Even though it was just as busy as the night before, I began to appreciate the atmosphere a little more (the sun probably helped). We wandered around looking for somewhere to have lunch, which there are plenty of cheap and delicious options available. We found the Duomo (cathedral), which was very pretty, although honestly after all the churches we’ve seen, they have blended into one by now.
It was an absolutely beautiful day so we decided to head down to the sea. We perched on a wall with a cold drink and took in the view of Mount Vesuvius which was very clear and stunning. Further along we found the Castel dell’Ov (egg castle in Italian!) on the tiny island of Megaride. It is free to enter and has more amazing views of Naples!
After only two hours of work at the hostel we had the rest of the day free! We spent it wandering round more streets and again, it was a shock to see the poverty so visible. We would be on the high street one minute, surrounded by shiny displays and bright lights, and the next minute you’re turning the corner into crammed and dingy alleys. I think what shocked us the most was the obvious contrast between the two. It’s interesting to be able to physically see the difference between the richer northern cities of Italy and now the poorer southern cities.
We then walked up the hill to Castel Sant’Elmo. Unfortunately it was closed but luckily there is still a really good view of Naples from the street (as you can see below).
Again, after a few hours of changing beds we had the rest of the day free. So today we decided to do something ‘intellectual’ and visit the National Archaeological Museum. We’re not really big into art museums but this had various exhibitions on so we thought we’d check it out. I really enjoyed the first exhibit with the Greek statues, the one below was my favourite- Ephesian Artemis, she is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and fertility (pretty impressive title I’d say). There was also a room filled with a number of erotic and phallic art, which of course is always hilarious to see, especially in a ‘serious’ museum. Funnily enough, in 1819 King Francis I of Naples visited this collection of art and was so embarrassed by the sexual nature of it that he ordered for it to be locked away and it was only reopened to the public in 2000!
Of course we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Pompeii whilst we were here, so we packed ourselves a little picnic, got up early and went on a day trip! I wrote a longer blog post here about our day there.
Today has been the hottest day so far, so we decided to head up to Castel Sant’Elmo to enjoy the 360 views. You can literally see for miles and the clear blue sky meant that we really did have amazing views. It’s crazy how close we are to Mount Vesuvius and you can see why it’s considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to the fact that people live so close to it! Don’t think I’ll be checking out the real estate round there any time soon.
No work today! So we decided to chill at the hostel this morning and then we made our own lunch. We’ve realised that you get pretty creative in the kitchen when you’re cooking on a budget with limited hostel facilities! Then we headed into the centre of town to go on an underground walking tour- Check out their website here. It turned out to be one of the best attractions we’ve been to our whole trip! So it’s a little pricey at €10 each, but it’s an hour and a half guided tour of the Greek-Roman Aqueduct. It was extremely informative and actually pretty interesting considering this isn’t my usual choice of entertainment. It was then turned into a bomb shelter in World War 2. We found out about various legends of Naples and there’s even a basil garden growing underground which they use in their pizzeria! Highly recommend going on this tour, even if like me, you’re not a history buff.
After the underground tour I finally had the chance to try the Neapolitan Babà. This is a traditional sponge soaked in rum (not enough to taste it thankfully!) and it’s sometimes filled with cream or flavoured icing. It was pretty tasty!
We also had today off work so decided to take advantage of it and visit the Amalfi Coast. It bloody rained for the first time in over a month! Even with the rain, wow. I fell in love with it completely and might even be the highlight of our trip so far. It’s a bit of a faff to get to there, a lot of buses and trains. We managed to see Positano and Amalfi which were both absolutely beautiful! Adorable little towns overlooking the sea with cute little shops and citrus trees dotted around. Definitely try and sit on the side of the bus next to the sea because the views are amazing. Even in the grey I really loved it and I wish we’d had more time to explore the villages, it might even be worth staying overnight at a nearby village to properly appreciate it.
Today we explored the infamous Via San Gregorio Armeno, also known as ‘Naples Christmas Alley’. A cobbled street lined with workshops selling handcrafted nativity scenes and figurines. A fab little street to wander down and find presents for people! Definitely worth a visit. We also went to our favourite gelato place, Fantasia Gelateria, which I’m not ashamed to admit we visited almost everyday…
Today things changed for us. Both me and Adam got offered full time jobs to return to in the U.K. to start in the middle of May. Our original plans were to spend three weeks in Sicily and then at least a month at an amazing Workaway on a Greek island. But, as we have learnt over the past five months, the best thing that you can be whilst travelling is flexible. Plans change, they evolve, they may never happen, but as long as you are open to these changes then it’s not the be all or end all. So, we decided to skip Sicily and we booked flights to Athens the next day.
Naples is an amazing city, full of life and there’s always something to do. It was definitely not what we were expecting, people we met a the hostel said the same. I feel like if you were only to spend a few days there you would not enjoy the whole experience as much as I did and I think at least five days is needed to fully appreciate what this diverse city has to offer.
We are currently on the Greek island of Syros to spend the next 5 weeks helping to look after 12 King Charles Cavaliers before heading home and becoming ‘real adults’. It’s very strange that we now have an end date to our travels, but on the other hand the past five months have been amazing and I can’t quite believe I’ve been able to experience everything that I have. I can tell you, this will not be the end of it, this has only further sparked my passion for travelling!