Adventures in Napoli
June 28, 2013 5:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm heading to Napoli (Naples) from Rome in three hours. Napoli being Napoli, and apparently totally odd, a friend of mine suggested turning the 36 hours over to Metafilter, an idea I love. So please give me an adventure!

Here's what I'd love: 36 hours of energy and eccentricity, with at least one dose of history. I'm really open to anything, easy-going and well-traveled, so happy to wander off the path. Hidden gems, quirky people, even a scavenger hunt--really, just looking for something memorable.

Other key info: I'm staying near the center of town. I'm alone, but pretty good with people, and meeting friends in Venice on Sunday.

I'll check back before hopping on the train, then again when I arrive. Here's to hoping.

Thanks, guys!
posted by vecchio to Travel & Transportation around Naples, FL (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you MUST go to Pompeii. I'm not even kidding, it's amazing and huge and amazing and....I was there for half a day and I didn't see 1/10th of it. We went via a cruise ship tour and our guide really made it interesting and explained a lot! I want a Cave Canem door mat!

The other thing worth knowing is that Sorrento at least, closes up in the middle of the day for a few hours. The only things open were restaurants and the gelato shop. So plan your day around that. (And certainly have the gelato!)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:57 AM on June 28, 2013

If you want eccentric-yet-historic, one of Napoli's underground tours is definitely for you. The one that loops through the late Roman streets is sometimes a little cheesy (there are actors dressed up sometimes) but the ability to slip down under the modern church and into the ancient streets is quite cool. I think the Napoli Sotterranea
tour is a little longer and more of a hike, but they're both interesting. Even if you decide to skip the formal tours, keep an eye out for the Greek city walls in the oldest areas of the city-- massive masonry blocks now covered in moss, still standing in marked-off areas of parking lots and piazze.

That New York Times article also brings up the gabinetto secreto, which is, well, not a secret cabinet any longer, but still one of the more memorable installations of Roman art available. Cramped layers of priapic statues and freschi, Pan avec a goat...sure, some of it's less-than-real, but it's certainly a different look at Roman art if you're used to seeing statues. Speaking of which, the whole reason you should be anywhere near the gabinetto secreto is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. If you have any interest in art at all, this is the museum that came out of the royal collections from the initial "excavations" of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Mosaics of the Nile! The Alexander Mosaic! Incredible statues of bronze runners, their muscles still tense! Monumental marbles! The enormous, magnificent, broken hulk of the Farnese Hercules! The bizarre and huge Farnese bull! It's also a chance to explore the wonders of Italian bureaucratic management and despair over the "Chiusi" signs when they can't afford enough guards, but the museum contains, seriously, some of the best art of the Roman world.

If you don't like Roman art, there is the Museo di Capodimonte, which is housed on a larger estate and which holds works by Caravaggio, Titian, and more. If you enjoy walking, it can be a very interesting walk up through narrow streets and semi-abandoned staircases. Not that many tourists see Naples on foot, I think, but it's a really great city to wander through. Speaking of Caravaggio, Naples was one of the places he fled to after an intemperate murder in Rome-- this article has a suggestion for a mini-trip to see his (incredible) works throughout the city.

It looks like it's Pride tomorrow, which could certainly qualify as energetic! You could also take a caffe'-based stroll around the city, to cafes like these. Honestly I wouldn't pay for table service again at Gambrinus because you can sit on the steps of the theatre for free, but it is a fun experience. Their drinks are really quite something and the pastries are good. (To be fair, there are a lot of wonderful pastries in Naples. You could do nothing but go to Naples and drink caffe and eat sfogliatelle and it wouldn't be a wasted trip.) You may be interested in the brioche-gelato combination.

Honestly, just walking through Naples is memorable. Decaying churches, laundry strung across narrow streets still based on the Roman city plan, bells pealing, eel undulating in tanks on side streets, baskets and baskets of fragrant oranges, the tripe stands with the airy wisps of offal strung in the window, the glow of pizza ovens, the often wonderful graffiti...I hope you have fun.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:58 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Okay, I will say that Pompeii is crazy awesome, but in 36 hours, you do not really have time. You could use up less time going to Herculaneum, which is smaller and even more incredible in some ways (preserved wood! skeletons! second floors!) but the timing around the Circumvesuviana and the travel time there means that you'd use up most of your main day. Sorrento is a very nice town but it is not worth skipping Naples.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:03 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

We were in Naples for about that length of time and it was the absolute highlight of our trip to Italy. If we go back we'd probably spend most of a week there.

What we did: Walked from place to place as much as possible because it's a really cool town. A fair amount of eccentricity can be found just by going down interesting-looking streets--it felt much less tourist-polished than the other places we went during that trip. Found a Neapolitan pizza place, ate there, yelled at an urchin trying to pick our pockets. Went to the Archaeological Museum and enjoyed the flying penises in the Secret Cabinet. (Note: at least when we were there, you needed to get a special ticket at the front desk to get into the cabinet area. No extra charge, it's just their way of dealing with riffraff. We had to go back through the whole museum to get the ticket.) Walked down the Spaccanapoli, ate sfogliatelle and bought a pannetone and some nativity scene trinkets (this was in early December.)

The next day we went to Pompeii. Didn't get to see half of it, but what we did see was amazing.

If we'd had more time and been more practiced travellers, we probably would have at least doubled the time spent doing any one thing--if you're in an in-depth mood, giving over a whole day to any one activity would still be worth it.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:31 AM on June 28, 2013

posted by Postroad at 7:58 AM on June 28, 2013

Response by poster: Beautiful, thanks. Touched down in Naples! The place is humming. Any other little gems? Going to head out in a bit for the coffee tours and the Carravaggios. Would love some night adventures.
posted by vecchio at 9:16 AM on June 28, 2013

I was there in January and enjoyed visiting the old fort/castle structures. There is one on top of a hill overlooking the city, and one on a little island next to the harbor. You've probably already spotted one or both of them. Other than that, just walking around the city (and eating some gelato and pizza) made it a nice trip.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 3:36 PM on June 28, 2013

Ps, the one on top of the hill had some great views.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 3:36 PM on June 28, 2013

Pizza, eat some Pizza. I can't recommend a specific place since I haven't been there since 1989.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:27 PM on June 28, 2013

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