Travel Diary: Naples 2024

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This is "Travel Diaries", a series where I tell the story of a recent trip and all of its trials and tribulations. Our journey to Italy was an absolute success, with a great taste of Italian food, drinks and culture - but it wasn't all smooth sailing, here is the story of Naples, 2024...

It's a Friday morning and the Taxi of Dad has just deposited us at the airport - we're excited to get underway, with ample time to clear security and relax with a pre-flight Burger King, something that seems to have become a weird tradition for us when departing out of any England airport for sunnier shores. Our outbound trip is pretty straightforward, flying Lufthansa with a 2-hour layover in Munich before heading onto our final destination of Naples, the layover is kind of the perfect length to find our way around as typically confused travellers (I've literally never done a connection before, so this would be something of an experience in itself!). The flight went smoothly, take-off and landing was much more relaxing than your typical budget airline impact with the tarmac and we saw more-or-less no turbulence and a nice little Lufthansa chocolate to make the flights extra sweet. Our connection was fine too, although Munich was a little limited for food and drink options (at least, nothing we fancied at the time), a brief but reassuring conversation with a surly German woman to make sure we didn't need to do anything with baggage and we were clear through security and killing time to departure. Queuing at the departure gate in Munich was surprisingly chaotic given our expectation of German efficiency and order, that being said this was a queue of Neapolitans, a small taste of what we were yet to experience... Safe to say, every step of our journey had little to report on, and it ended with an amazing experience: descending over the sprawl of Naples with Mount Vesuvius around sunset was simply spectacular!

Naples airport was fairly quick, except for the luggage belts getting stalled for what felt like forever, as we headed out we were greeted by a driver holding a sign with my name on it - this marked the start of our first experience of Italian culture: the driving. We seemed to arrive around the afternoon rush, with every lane chock full of cars - that being said this isn't strictly accurate, on several sections of the road it seemed the drivers had created extra lanes, converting 3 lanes to 4 in a remarkable exhibition of efficiency. Give-way markings are a mere suggestion, with junctions and islands alike being treated as merges, and pedestrians just step out in front of cars when they want to cross. The crossing was something it took us a day or two to master, but you realise quickly that stepping out in front of cars is the only way you get to the other side and, as petrifying as it may be, the cars will always stop. The scooters? Not so much, they seem to have permanent right of way. Navigating the roads seemed less like an organised and structured system and more like a dance, but the longer we watched the more impressed I actually was: it all just worked! Everyone merged in turn, the only aggro I witnessed was when a driver failed to allow someone to merge, I loved it! It wouldn't be too long before we arrived at our base of operations for the week...

Our outbound travel via Munich to Naples

The stunning Dimora Doria d'Angri hotel

We had explored a lot of options around Naples when looking for a hotel, exploring all around various booking sites and Google Maps, once we were about 30 seconds away from booking one I took one last look and stumbled upon Dimora Doria d'Angri. The first thing that caught our eye was the building itself - simply stunning! A lot of nice hotels would often have less than enticing-looking exteriors, but this building is unquestionably magnificent. The rooms looked perfect, better than anything we had seen around this price point and we were immediately sold. Upon arrival, our suspicions were confirmed: we knew we had booked well. The building was exactly as pretty as in the pictures and at night it was even prettier, once we had gone through check-in we got settled into our beautiful room, happy we were going to be comfortable for the duration of our stay... But there was no time for that, we were hungry and time was quickly passing by! Of course, we are brits on the continent, so of course there is no reason to worry about time as we're the weird ones who eat early, but our stomachs were grumbling all the same. We trundled out of the hotel and down the street our balcony overlooked, having noted how alive it was from our room - I would later come to learn that this is Naples iconic Spaccanapoli, but all we knew was in our research we had saved a bunch of food pins down here, so we were sure to find something. Eventually, tired and a bit brain-fogged from a day of travel, we picked a few places at random. What I had been told about Naples was true: you don't have to hunt down great pizza, it is everywhere! A wallet pizza and a Calzone from San Gennaro PizzaAPortafoglio and we were finally feeling a little more human again, my wallet pizza, in particular, was phenomenal, with a lovely crisp crust and the piping-hot tomato sauce of the margarita topping bringing me back to life! We decided to get some rest, grab some drinks for the room and settle in for the evening so we could do some proper exploring tomorrow - luckily, some things work the same no matter where you are in the world, and we found a nice corner shop run by some Sri Lankans to stock up bottled water and beer and sweet treats not available to us in the UK, in fact, we would pop in here most days to keep the fridge in our room stacked.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we decided to take a bit of an easier start to the week with no fixed plan, instead exploring generally around Naples itself. But before that, it was time for breakfast. The hotel had a nice selection of little snacks, fruit and a coffee machine that would be ample in themselves to start the day, but they also had a deal with a neighbouring café, Espresso Napoletano Spaccanapoli, for a bite and a drink too as a wonderful added bonus. We popped around and immediately loved what we found - they had a lovely selection and were nice and friendly despite a bit of a language gap (no judgments here, their English was infinitely better than our Italian!) and we ended up visiting here each morning as the ideal way to get the day going. Then we were underway, I had a few ideas to keep us entertained including going to walk the seafront and checking out the two main castles that way, before looping back and up through some of the main shopping runs on our way back. A nice loop, although admittedly a bit more than I might have intended for an "easier start", a solid 4-mile loop around the southern areas of Naples but we are always up for a walk. The seafront is a lovely area, quieter than the central sections of Naples, and both Castel Nuovo and Ovo Castle are unquestionably worth a visit - amazing towering fortresses imposing authority over the glistening Mediterranean Sea. We took a short loop around Molosiglio Gardens between the castles and then headed back inland where we were going to check out some of the shops, although our first stop was the most important, at a Superò so Rox could grab some decaf tea as well as some snacks and I replenished my water supplies. Then it was time to return, under the beautiful canopy of trees at Via Chiaia and then onto the arch at Ponte di Chiaia, we would eventually link back up with Via Toledo where we could make a straight shoot back to the hotel. En route, Rox got to embark on her holiday tradition of finding out what was different in McDonald's around the world, which is surprisingly a lot!

Beautiful breakfasts at Espresso Napoletano Spaccanapoli

San Gennaro PizzaAPortafoglio food, Castel Nuovo and Rox's "Tasty Basket"

Exploring Naples at night

By the time we had made it back we were absolutely beat, but we had a great time exploring the city and got to see a good swath of it, now we could plan what we specifically wanted to go out and see over the next few days... But, we had a clear night, so we decided to head out and bar-hop. We took a few places in, with our main highlights being the wall of beer options at Blind Pig and a few cocktails at MMB - "musicmelodybar". Rox got to explore various limoncello-based drinks and spritzers whilst I loved my beers and rounded the night out with a couple of Negronis. Once satiated, we returned to our hotel, food (plus booze! Most Italian bars do takeaway which I adore!) in hand, merry and excited for the coming days...

Most days from here on out would start the same, we would try something different at Espresso Napoletano Spaccanapoli before heading onto our day's adventure, and this had been one I had been excited about for a while: the big castle on the hill. The big castle on the hill, as it turns out, was called Castel Sant’Elmo and would require ascending the stairs up the side of the hillside to reach. There were public transportation options, but we were happy to make this climb and would be rewarded with some beautiful views, ever-growing as we slowly ascended. I discussed our visit to Castel Sant'Elmo here, but it is safe to say it was a highlight of Naples, an essential stop and one I recommend to anyone visiting the city! We started back towards the hotel around lunch so it was time to find some food, one on Rox's list was just a little way up Spaccanapoli and it was another absolutely phenomenal meal: Tandem produce these incredible meatball Ragù subs that are obviously popular, considering the place was overflowing with people! We decided it would be worth the wait for her and while I hadn't originally planned to have one due to my awkward allergy (mushrooms), the cashier's solid English assuaged any concerns I had. Boy am I glad I did, because this ended up being another one of the best things I ate this week! The sauce was phenomenal, but the chunky meatballs were my personal highlight. Our evening was spent relaxing, planning out the rest of the week and some of the bigger things we wanted to do - it was around this time we struck off the idea of taking a day trip to Rome as well, Rome simply had too much to see and do, we came to the conclusion a single day would be a rushed day there, and we had too many local things we were excited to see, so Rome would simply have to be a separate holiday! We went out for another little explore on Sunday evening, any of my UK readers will expect the typical Sunday experience of a few bars and restaurants open and everything else shut...Italy is considerably different, with this perhaps being one of the busiest nights in the city we would see all week! It was great to experience a city so alive, something I had missed back home with a lot of our city centres becoming almost wastelands, Naples was thriving!

Castel Sant'Elmo and those amazing Tandem subs

Treasures of San Genaro, An awesome Alimentari sandwich and Santa Chiara monastery

Onto the next day, another beautiful breakfast to start the day and then off to tick an essential box on an Italian holiday: see some museums! Italy in general has a wealth of great options, and Naples is no exception, but we decided to cherry-pick some of the more interesting to us options to really make the most of our time. We had considered all the major museums but decided to shy away from some of the more archaeological options due to plans later in the week, and instead pick the things we were most excited about/felt a little different. We had a bit of a walk to get our day started, following Spaccanapoli and getting a bit turned around, initially, we ended up at the side of our destination, but it did mean we got to check out a related attraction in the form of the Obelisco di San Gennaro. Once we got our navigation straightened out and walked back and around the corner, we arrived at the foot of Duomo di Napoli (Naples Cathedral) and could head inside to see the treasures of San Gennaro. The phone-driven tour guide took us into the chapel inside the Cathedral and then through to the awe-inspiring museum collection. We emerged back onto the streets of Naples having enjoyed our tour, but very hungry, luckily, we had planned a stop at a Sandwich shop more-or-less on the way back to the hotel: Alimentari. It was a proper Italian experience, Google Translate helped us fumble through the selection and ordering process and we came away with two 081s - Ciccioli, Ricotta, Lemon Zest, Volcanic Salt and Black Pepper on a chunk of fluffy fresh bread. This sandwich was another highlight of my trip, the combination of the lemon and pepper with the soft cheese over a rich meat all merge together perfectly, this was such a nice experience I have even replicated it a few times since! Their whole range looked amazing and everything was made to order, a brilliant shop well worth a visit.

Our afternoon was rounded out with a walk around the serene Santa Chiara Monastery, a surprising escape from the hustle and bustle of Naples into a peaceful and idyllic space. It was honestly hard to believe such a serene place could exist within such a busy city. Then it was a quiet evening in, as we had an early start tomorrow and a lot of planning to do - I had to figure out exactly how to get from where we were to Pompeii, figuring out exactly where we needed to go, what our options were and how we wanted to go about it. I've never been more inundated with different train lines, trying to remember their names and which of the two stations I needed to catch them from, but I mostly got my ducks in a row and was feeling confident about getting to Pompeii. We had a nice night in, watching some German Netflix courtesy of the previous room occupants and enjoying some beers.

Then I got a Google notification, telling me a flight had been cancelled.

I checked the Lufthansa app, which hadn't been updated yet but the flight code Google mentioned was my connection in Munich. As the app hasn't updated I wasn't sure what to think, but a quick Google revealed that Lufthansa ground crews were striking across Germany, so odds were that the notification from Google was correct. I discretely message my Dad for advice, not wanting to worry Rox too much about it but we both agree that it will probably all be fine, as I booked directly it was Lufthana's problem to resolve (as you can imagine, their support portal was thoroughly crashed due to traffic) and odds were we would just end up on a different flight on the same day home. I update Rox, not wanting to leave her in the dark, and while a bit apprehensive we mostly just laugh it off, excited for our day out in Pompeii...

Dawn of the morning at Pompeii, we head straight to the metro, skipping our usual breakfast in favour of just getting going a.s.a.p, walk to the Dante metro station and have perhaps the easiest and fastest train experience imaginable - the machines are easy to follow and the platforms are clearly labelled. We step onto a clean and modern metro train that flies to the main Naples train station and now it is time to tackle the train station situation. I talk about getting there in the main article for Pompeii (see the link below), but our confusion on the day cannot be understated. First, you ascend escalator after escalator, the metro line being much further down than I had anticipated, only to emerge through the barriers into a small shopping area with no train station in sight. Scanning around, whilst almost re-entering the metro station, eventually we spot the signs leading away to Garibaldi/Centrale because the two different stations are stacked on top of one another. We were aware of the Circumvesuviana, but had heard about the Campania Express and wanted to take that for ease and simplicity's sake - initially, we ignored the signs for Circumvesuviana and instead followed the other train signs, ending up at the upper station. We fumble through the ticket booking system and briefly enter an information kiosk before I decide something isn't right, and start to backtrack. Now, interestingly, the signs for Circumvesuviana were different now we were backtracking, and also had a label for the express line... Never mind, we head to the ticket office and ask, they direct us to the information booth and the next train isn't too far out, so we book a return and finally decompress, safe in the knowledge the complex bit is done! Grab some snacks, enjoy our security-escorted walk down to the station and get comfortable on our fairly noisy train, but one that has great bay and mountain views along the way! I've spoken about Pompeii in its own article, but it's safe to say it is an amazing experience, a forever memory and one I will cherish forever. We weren't too sure about food while we were there, but the café within Pompeii, Chora Pompei, actually had some great sandwiches on offer so we were set. Rox's highlight was almost certainly meeting the Pompeii cats, but the ruins were a close second...

A day in Pompeii and food from Spuzzuliann pe’ Tuledo

We reverse the navigation, now well versed in Naples train station and make our way back to our hotel - Rox's brain is a little too pickled at this point to make a decision, so I pick a nice-looking Pizza place we had passed the day before, we grab a few take away boxes from Spuzzuliann pe’ Tuledo and gorge ourselves on some beautiful food before turning in for the evening. At some point during this day (I had been pretty much deliberately ignoring the situation) our flights had been rebooked by Lufthansa - we were now flying Air France home.

Dawn of the final full day, you can guess how breakfast went at this point, the day we had planned was a little more chilled - do a little exploring, buy some stuff we want to take home with us as well as some gifts for family. That said, we still want to do something today, and quite possibly one of the most unique offerings in Naples is the anatomical museum within the university, Museo Universitario delle Scienze e delle Arti. I'm not going to mention too much or show many photos here, as it is not a museum for those of weak disposition, but it was fascinating all the same! At this point we were well versed with Spaccanapoli but hadn't spent too much time exploring its stores, as well as the connecting roads from it, so we had a nice afternoon venturing down back streets and seeing all that was on offer. Naturally, we came away with some Limoncello with a few nice souvenir bottles from Mouse Store - La Sorgente Liquori 1920, and when it came time to pick food again Rox was a little flummoxed so I decided I would choose. I found a well-rated pasta place not too far away, we headed over and placed our order. Just off of Spaccanapoli is 120 Gramm, a takeaway Spaghetti store that, while I have gushed about much of the food on here, may just be the highlight of the trip. My Cacio E Pepe was so cheesy and delicious I wish I could eat it now, and Rox loved her Carbonara and Nonna - the biggest thing was the portion size, we were stuffed! But with just enough room for something sweet, I went out in search of another Italian staple and must-eat, gelato. Following reviews I found Mennella Il Gelato on Via Toledo and boy did they knock it out of the park too! Perfectly creamy and flavoursome gelato, I adored mine - Rox loved hers too, although her decision to have pistachio gelato may have been a mistake, it wasn't bad by any stretch it just lived up to its name being EXTREMELY pistachio flavoured! Rox had an unfortunate week with food, not loving Ricotta which popped up on most sandwiches and having a couple of disappointing meals (none of which are listed here, everything here we adored), so I'm glad that for the last couple of days, we got some meals she absolutely loved!

120 Gramm Spaghetti and Mennella Il Gelato

As quickly as you arrive on holiday, it comes to a close - today was home time, and we had a mid-morning flight, so we made one last visit to our breakfast halt before quickly popping to a few places before returning to the hotel to get our bits-and-bobs together. We had booked an airport transfer through the hotel and a lovely Italian man weaved his way through Naples backstreets and got us there in great time. Now onto some of the problems, firstly, I had booked the airport transfer based on the Lufthansa flight, but our new Air France flight was departing an hour later. No big deal, we grabbed some food, grabbed some more food and then spent some time in the outdoor terrace, feeding the little birds in the sunshine - it was actually quite nice! We had to wait an hour before we could even check our bags, but once that was done we fled through security, and I mean fled there was no one there, before gaining access to a few more stores and eateries, plus duty-free, to keep us sane. Naples is actually a lovely airport, with a surprisingly dense amount of things to do and stores to wander around - we gathered a stockpile of interesting Milka variants and snacks to take with us on the plane and after nearly 4 hours in Naples Airport we were finally departing. The Air France flight was lovely, they provided a little sandwich and drink and the staff were lovely and friendly, the flight went smoothly and before we knew it we were touching down in Paris Charles De Gaulle.

A LONG journey home

Originally, we had been scheduled for a 50-minute layover in Munich, a nice short stop we were frankly worried wouldn't be long enough! We had now traded that for a 4-hour layover at Paris, and I was not having a great time! Already over the whole travel thing and more than a bit overcooked, I was not feeling brilliant. We decided to just get over to our terminal and grab some food to hopefully return me to a more human state, after corridor after corridor and the longest set of travelators I've ever seen we got to our terminal. Now, an airport is an airport is an airport, but compared to most I've ever been to, Paris had a bit of a crap selection of food and stores. This is probably due to the particular terminal we were in, but there wasn't a great deal of options - I settled for a toasted sandwich from Starbucks and some junk food to tide me over, and as it hit my stomach I slowly started to feel better and better. Unfortunately, also burnt out with travel, Rox was starting to feel worse and worse; walking around duty-free, a handful of shops and a few eateries will only keep you sane for so long, and Rox was simply itching to get home. I was grateful for the PS5 stand, although it was frustrating that not a single display had more than one pad working, but I spent some time playing FIFA (or whatever that game is called these days, the last time I played FIFA it would have been on the PS2) as the sun gradually set... Deep into the night now, we finally got to queue up for our flight, a 45-minute hop across the channel it would thankfully be over fast, and thanks to the taxi of Dad we had a smooth return home. Credit where credit is due, Lufthansa handled the rebooking smoothly and Air France was great, but by the time we were home, we were both excited to be able to drive or take the train to our next holiday destination...

Related Content

Santa Chiara Monastery and Museum Santa Chiara Monastery and Museum
Castel Sant'Elmo - my must-see in Naples Castel Sant'Elmo - my must-see in Naples
Pompeii - an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site Pompeii - an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site
Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro - The Treasures of San Gennaro at Duomo di Napoli Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro - The Treasures of San Gennaro at Duomo di Napoli
MUSA - Museo Universitario delle Scienze e delle Arti - An anatomical experience in the heart of Naples MUSA - Museo Universitario delle Scienze e delle Arti - An anatomical experience in the heart of Naples

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