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Naples and Pompeii


One of my friends from when I studied abroad in Siena is back in Italy to be an au pair in Florence for a couple months, so we decided to do a weekend trip to Pompeii together!

She planned this entire trip, so be sure to check out her awesome travel blog. She also wrote about our experience and has some great tips to share, some of which I'll repeat below.

It was a very quick trip, arriving in Naples early afternoon on Saturday and returning Sunday evening. I recommend taking the high-speed train. It might be a bit pricier, but I'll argue you ultimately save some money because then you don't have to stay as long and therefore aren't paying as much for accommodations and food.

I'll give my general thoughts on each place, and then some travel tips:

NAPLES

I'd heard a lot of opinions about Naples before, and now that I've visited I understand why. The people are really friendly (true.) The pizza is to die for (also true.) The accent is hardly understandable (so, so true.)

Rick Steves calls Naples the "extreme of Italy, both the good and the bad," and from the very little I saw of the city, I'd agree with him. There's something about Naples that stands out in my mind from everywhere else in Italy I've been.

One thing that struck me was how much graffiti and litter I saw everything. So. Much. Graffiti. I'd never seen so much in my life, and I'm a fairly well-traveled person who's been to a lot of cities across the U.S. and Europe. I thought Rome was bad in this regard, but Naples was far worse.

That being said, the more Reagan and I walked around, the more we discovered the city's own charm and quaintness. I'm not going to lie; I found it pretty sketchy and unsettling (it didn't help that we were staying in not the nicest area), and I was very glad I wasn't alone. But, as I told Reagan, the city sparked curiosity in me. There was so much to look at and take in. It had more character than about any other place I'd been.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

One memory that will stick with me was of this balcony that Reagan and I photographed on our way to the archaeological museum. When we passed by it again on our way back, there was a man standing there singing into a microphone to a crowd below. So random, kind of strange, and completely summed up my impression of Naples. As I said, the city has lots of character.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

We primarily walked down this "touristy" street (I put that in quotes because we noticed a disconcerting lack of Americans the whole time there) that reminded me a bit of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. There was tons of amazing food to-go, and lots of people-watching opportunities.

The pizza, as I said, was to die for. I'd always heard about pizza from Naples, but I hadn't really known what to expect. Apparently really, really thin. "So thin, it hardly exists," was my exact comment. We didn't go to the famous Da Michele place, because there was a two-hour wait and a huge crowd outside. But the place right across the street was, I imagined, just as good and had a more relaxing setting.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Highlight of Naples: Getting to see this floor mosaic of Alexander the Great (that I studied in my Greek Archaeology class last year) in Naples's archaeological museum.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

POMPEII

Pompeii isn't the easiest to get to, what with the struggle of figuring out where to stay (Naples, Sorrento, or the Amalfi Coast), and then getting to Pompeii itself. From Naples, however, it's really convenient. And it's so worth making the effort to get to.

A graffiti-covered tin can calling itself a train carried us from Naples to Pompeii in about half an hour. Just like the pizza, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Pompeii, so I was surprised to see how intact it was. We walked along the same ancient streets, where you can see grooves from chariots. There were so many frescoes in almost every building. The buildings themselves were surprisingly well-preserved, as were the people, as displayed by their plaster casts.

Reagan and I listened to Rick Steves's audio tour, which you can download for free on iTunes. It was a nice alternative to paying for the audio guides there or being in a large tour group. We hit all the major points, which is important considering the city is enormous. We spent about three hours there and still didn't cover a large portion of it.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

There are so many interesting ways to look at Pompeii, from art historical, archaeological, and geological perspectives. I highly recommend this as a must-see if you're ever in Italy.

Travel Tips:

-Take the high-speed train (if you're in Siena, like me, then take the bus to Florence and then catch the train from there. Buses are much more convenient to and from Siena.)

-Don't go to Naples alone.

-Reagan and I stayed at an Ibis Hotel near Napoli Centrale, which I recommend. It was not in a nice area, but it was convenient for catching trains, and the hotel itself was clean and nice. It was also within walking distance of the archaeological museum.

-Tickets to Pompeii and the archaeological museum can be bought at the door, but if you do this, go really early. Reagan and I got to Pompeii at about 8:45 a.m., and we had the whole place almost to ourselves for the first hour or so.

Again, Reagan also wrote about this trip, and she has more detailed travel tips and other things to say about our experience, so be sure to check out her blog linked at the beginning of this post.

Have you been to Naples or Pompeii? What was your experience like?

~Alex

#italy #personallife #travel

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