Yeah. That’s pretty much the reaction we were hearing from people from the start. But since the whole reason behind the trip was the husband’s needing to go to Naples for business, we knew that the city was unavoidable. Everyone seemed to have a story to tell about trash or pickpockets. A lot of people seemed to not really know why Naples was bad, just that it was. So, we did start out with a little trepidation. Especially me, who was going to be left to basically wander the city on my own while the husband was off working each day. While we were trying to keep an open mind, I think we were both just a little reluctant about what our week in Naples would be like.
As it turns out, we didn’t need to worry at all. Having spent an entire week in Napoli, I can honestly say that I have fallen in love with that city. True, it’s not touristy like Rome or Paris. It’s got some litter and I’m sure that crime does exist. BUT- it is a great city to visit. It practically pulsates with life. It’s true and real and honest. What you see is what you get, including some great shops, fun sights, and incredibly welcoming people. Let me say, we did not have one negative experience the entire time we were there. And I spent almost everyday out on my own wandering the city as a lone female— no problems whatsoever! We had some of our best meals in the Naples and some of most fun experiences. I will encourage people to give Naples a try for the rest of my life, and I cannot wait to back. Seriously, lesson learned, folks. Don’t let someone else try to talk you out of going somewhere just because of what they may or may not have heard second- or third-hand. You could miss out on some amazing experiences!
With that said, back to actual reporting!
Day five began with our final breakfast at Hotel Raffaello and then a quick check-out and cab ride to Tiburtina Station to catch our train to Naples. Most train travel in Italy is currently done through a company called Trenitalia which operates a wide variety of trains to almost any destination. If you are purchasing tickets well in advance, you can score some amazing deals on fares, even on the high-speed rail. Unfortunately, since our trip was planned pretty last minute, we weren’t able to grab any of those great fares and I wasn’t really thrilled at the idea of having to pay 40 or 50 Euro per ticket, one way (which was the going rate for the dates of our travel). Fortunately, the week I was making our reservations, a fellow traveler on TripAdvisor posted a review for the newer train company, Italo. Italo had recently begun high-speed service between Rome and Naples and was offering fares for only 20E per person, one way. Considering it was a better deal for advance tickets, we decided to go ahead and give the new service a try. And I’m glad we did! Our experience was great. The trains were clean, the staff were very helpful and friendly, the signage at the stations was well posted, and we were able to choose departure/arrival times that really benefited our schedule. I would definitely recommend using Italo to anyone traveling in Italy soon.
After our one hour ride on the train, we found the car we had arranged through the hotel and headed out to the Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo. Usually, I’m a big fan of smaller, boutique properties and this hotel was actually the Marriott brand property in Naples, but since this part of the trip was business-related and it’s where all of the husband’s coworkers were staying, it wasn’t a problem. The location of the hotel is really great. It’s very near the port, so great for catching buses, and it’s also just a block away from the main drag that will take you to most of the main sights in Naples. I walked to pretty much everywhere I wanted to go within 20 minutes. Since it is a Marriott property, there are a few more amenities than the other hotels: a gym, a solarium with hot tub and loungers, bar service in the lobby, and room service (though that service was less than great). Breakfast was included in our rates and served on the rooftop, overlooking the Bay of Naples. The food was alright, a good enough selection, but the quality of the cappuccino depended on who was making it that morning. My biggest complaint with the hotel was that it advertised free WiFi but their internet connectivity sucks. A LOT. In the week we were there, there was only one day that we were able to connect to the internet or make calls from our cells. In end, I have mixed feelings about the Renaissance Naples, but if you’re a Marriott points person and are looking for a great location, then I’m sure you’d find the hotel to be at least adequate.
After arriving at the hotel and storing our luggage since they room wouldn’t be ready for another couple of hours, we went exploring and walked up the street to the Archaeological Museum. This museum is great because it houses many of the mosaics, frescoes, and statuary that were found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The downside to the museum is that because of budget cuts, they don’t have the money to properly staff the museum and as a consequence have to close off entire rooms/wings at different times. When we were there, we didn’t get to see the Egyptian rooms or the wing with the model of Pompeii, but as long as you have an open mind with a “we’ll see what we can see” attitude, it works out. Besides, we did get to see all of the major items that we had wanted, including the Farnese Hercules, the Farnese Bull, and the Secret Room that houses x-rated paintings and sculptures from the brothels and homes in Pompeii. 😉
a close-up of Hercules’ face
still holding the apples from his trials
somewhat disputed: soldier or Emperor Commodus carrying a child
If it IS a soldier, the kid is being rescued. If it’s Commodus… well, I’m sure that kid had a nice life. Short, but nice.
headless, armless Nike
the scene of the Farnese Bull
close-up from Farnese Bull
another detail image
Who you lookin’ at?
the famous Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii
close-up of Alexander the Great
After visiting the museum, we headed back to the hotel to check-in and rest up a bit before dinner. One of the husband’s coworkers was getting in that night, so we met up with him and went to dinner. For dinner, I picked a spot that was mentioned in one of the guidebooks and ended up only being a couple of blocks from the hotel. I must have picked well because we ended up eating at the Hosteria Toledo the next night as well! Our dinner the first night was pretty good, but it was pretty funny the next night when one of the husband’s other coworkers who has worked in Naples for a while suggested “this small little place nearby with a great house wine.” Imagine our surprise when we got there, ha! What was especially amusing was that the family who owns the restaurant remembered us from the previous night so we were greeted with a chorus of “Ciao!” (friendly, informal) instead of “Buona sera!” (formal) For dinner both nights we had the house red which was a delicious wine made from grapes grown on Mount Vesuvius. The staff was lovely and very welcoming both nights. On the first night, the husband and I split an anitpasti of prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella (DELICIOUS!!!!). He then had a seafood risotto while I ordered a pasta with swordfish. Everything was good. The next night, he started with the fritto misti and I started with the prosciutto and mozzarella. He then had pasta with mussels and I had a vegetable bucatini. The second night, the wife/owner also brought us all a glass of limoncello after dinner, YUM! You can’t go wrong with a limoncello digestif! For dessert, we set out to find some Neapolitan gelato, of course. We ended up at the Case Infante, where we would return many a night. The husband tried several fruit flavors, while I went with nutella, Amalfi (a lemon cream), coffee, and a bitter chocolate (on different nights). Everything we tried was good. The Amalfi flavor was probably my most favorite out of all the flavors of gelato that we had. It was especially good when paired with the dark chocolate. 😉