April last year I had the idea that I wanted to visit and explore the ruins of Pompeii, possibly staying in nearby Naples as they was the closest big city. I was considering it for my summer holidays last yet, as I generally always take a week off around my birthday.
But I made the mistake of asking an Italian mate of mine his opinion of visiting Naples, and whether he could suggest which areas to stay in. His response – go somewhere else.
He literally didn’t have a single good thing to say about the area – dangerous, dirty, uninteresting – and suggested I go to Sorrento instead on the other site of Pompeii (about the same distance from the ruins, but to the south).
Well, I look into staying in Sorrento or further south on the Amalfi Coast (as he also suggested), and the rooms were probably at least 3 times the cost as they were in Naples. And from what I read online, there really wasn’t anything historic in that area.
It was more of a tourist trap, even if the views are gorgeous.
So I talked myself out of going and went to Spain instead (again). Barcelona and Sitges were amazing, but it was more a beach holiday than the city/historical break that I’d wanted.
Anyway flash forward to my disappointing trip to Paris this past Spring (read about that here and here), I started to think about where I wanted to visit next, and I looked at Pompeii once more. Figured the weather might still be decent in late September…
Only this time I almost gave up booking as it seemed like EVERYONE was visiting that area the month before I was looking to go… including my Italian friend (and his husband) that talked me out of going last year!! The cheek!
I almost went somewhere else, but said screw it.. I want to go to Pompeii. So I booked my trip, and I had an absolutely amazing time.
Honestly, I don’t know what my friend’s issue with Naples was as I quite liked it. Perhaps it helped that I had rented myself a little studio apartment in the historic area so it was easy to walk around everywhere (which I did.. my poor feet).
But think it also helped that I met several locals that made me feel welcome. One guy I was chatting to online as I arrived offered to pick me up and show me around the area a bit in his car.
I was somewhat hesitant (being a stranger and all..), but I went with my gut and we had an amazing evening driving up the coast, and then he took me to the ‘best pizzeria in Naples’ according to him – the pizza and home-made beer were astounding.
I spent most of the next day relaxing in the studio before going out in the afternoon for more wandering around the city. This time I ended up just north of the historic area where it was clear this was the ‘real Naples‘ – narrow streets, washing hanging from the doorways/balconies, people talking to their neighbours across the street.
It really allowed me to see the true city away from the tourist crap, and I love that about a city.
Finally on the Sunday I made my way out of the city to Pompeii.
I hadn’t realised just how big this excavated city really was until 4 hours later when I was still walking around and still hadn’t seen it all. Guess the online travel bloggers were right after all – don’t try to do all of Pompeii in one day. It was just too much.
But luckily the route I’d unintentionally took (I just picked a direction and started walking, then got out the site map to see where I was) allowed me to see most of the major buildings – the amphitheatre, multiple gardens, the Basilica, the baths, and the grand theatre (pictured to the right) just to name a few.
But more than anything it was just amazing to be standing in a place so enriched with history (and mystery), to see the reconstructed ruins, and read about the different buildings (had the site guide on my mobile).
Just being there made all the idiocy in planning the trip worth it.
As for Naples itself, I do hope to return for another visit sometime in the future and see more of the surrounding areas. There was just too much to see in such a short period of time. Plus now I know some people in the area, so that helps.
Now.. where to next? 😀