My enjoyment of Naples was entirely down to the hostel host Giovanni. I had read the rave reviews of his hostel but I assumed there must be a catch. What I’ve noticed from hostels is that their good ratings are down to one great aspect. If it’s in a top location, this pushes the reviews up and hides that the fact that it might not be that clean, if you have a good host, it might not have any lockers to store your bag. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that hostels are not hotels and therefore despite high ratings, they are never going to be perfect and one good aspect tends to skew the results.
As I was on the train going to Naples I decided to read up about the city. This was sort of a mistake because it made me rather nervous. Sentences such as ‘not many people visit Naples’ and ‘people tend to stay away from Naples because of the high crime levels’ and ‘don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think’ (I have paraphrased) weren’t really painting the city in a good light. This wasn’t helped when I arrived at night and everywhere I looked there was graffiti. I know we have graffiti in England but nowhere near to the same extent as Naples. The hostel was down a dark side street and I was already thinking of how to get out of my four days. In my head, I had planned four days trips to get out of this city.
I can say now, that I was wrong about this city. The guidebooks are right, you should ignore what you’ve read because there are so many great things to see. This is not to say, the place is entirely safe, as with most cities. When I arrived at the hostel, Giovanni the host sat me down and talked for a good 10/15 minutes about his beloved city. It was clear that he cared about what people thought and he didn’t want people to ignore the city and just head out to Pompeii. He did explain that Naples has a drug problem and that I shouldn’t worry because the pick-pocketers are just the drug addicts stealing from you to get money (somehow it didn’t reassure as much as he seemed to think it would). It wasn’t a problem, it just meant that I held my bag a little tighter and didn’t flaunt my cash around. Giovanni then highlighted a map for me (as he does with everyone that stays in his hostel) showing the best route to take through the city so that I didn’t miss anything good. He talked about its history (did you know that Naples used to be the capital of Italy? I didn’t), he explained that the narrow road the hostel was on, was, in fact, an ancient roman road and he told me which churches I had to visit, whether to look at the floor or the ceiling or at the statues or the paintings. He wanted me and everyone who came to his hostel to have the best possible time, to see the city’s best aspects. He also gave me some of the leftover lunch he had made for the others in the hostel for my supper – not many (if any) hostel owners would do that. The hostel was called ‘Giovanni’s Home’ and you could tell that he wanted you to feel at home there.
Anyway enough of me gushing about the amazing hostel. Here is a list of some of the things that, thanks to Giovanni, I saw and would recommend seeing in and around Naples:
Wonder around Naples’ biggest square (Piazza del Plebiscito):
Goggle at the ceiling in this shopping hall (Galleria Umberto I):
Walk along the harbourside to Castle Dell Ovo, a free viewpoint:
Head underground to see the ancient marketplace:
Head into the Toldeo metro station and don’t forget to look up! There aren’t many underground stations decorated so extraordinarily:
Admire this castle (Castle Nuovo) from a distance. I wouldn’t recommend going in but it’s still pretty spectacular to look at:
Eat what is apparently the best pizza in Naples at Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo:
Visit Herculaneum. Herculaneum was also buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius but because it is a smaller town it is not as widely known about. In fact, it’s actually better preserved and a lot of the frescos are still in the ruins:
Take a hike up Mount Vesuvius and admire the gorgeous views over Naples, Herculaneum and Pompeii:
Finally, you’ve got to take a trip to Pompeii. It’s truly magical and you can spend hours walking in the footsteps of the ancient Romans: