Ciao and Auguri a tutti! (hello and happy holidays)
It’s been a wild last ten days for me as my friend and I are just returning from our road trip around Southern Italy for New Years Eve. From our homes in south-eastern Sicily, we drove up through the Messina port and spent three nights in Naples, three in Rome, and then three in the Bari / Puglia region.
First stop on the trip from Sicily brought us to the tragically misunderstood city of Naples (Napoli) on the South-Eastern coast. Naples has a reputation of being very dangerous, but even at night we had no trouble with the locals.
On our first night, we met up with my friend’s old colleague from when they worked together in Firenze (Florence, nbd). In typical Napolean fashion, we. Neither of us can remember how many courses there were (I’m pretty sure it was approximately 5 – seafood salad with a side of unnamed fried seaweed appetizers and bruchetta, a round of sausages, seafood pasta, and then the dolce which was a scoop of gelato and two pieces of cake. Then coffee. Finally, finally coffee.) These Italians make you eat so much you actually beg them to stop feeding you.
We spent our second day working off the monster meal by wandering the graffiti-littered streets of Naples, shopping for presepe in the centro storico, and checking out the catacombs of St. Genaro, Naples’ oldest and most sacred catacomb.
On the third day, unfortunately for us, we didn’t get the chance to see Pompeii for lack of time. I would recommend going to Pompeii first thing in the morning or investing in a skip the line ticket as even on December 29, the line looked to be over 2 hours long. I can’t imagine how long it will be when I return this summer! So anyway, we ended up spending a sunny but cold afternoon in beautiful Sorrento instead.
Our first full day in Naples was a Sunday, so we left the hostel first-thing to avoid the early closing times, but as you can see, many shops didn’t open until 11am.
Naples, being located on the sea, offers many opportunities for look-outs and panoramic scenes.
Inside the Chiesa di Madre di Buon Consiglio
The Catacomba di San Gennaro are Naple’s oldest and most sacred catacomb. Seriously astounding and creepy, this is both where they used to bury the dead throughout the 2nd-century, and also where Napolians sought bomb shelter during WWII.
Outside the catacomba
Naples is strewn with busy, narrow streets in the baroque style.
The stunning Napolian Duomo.
Unreal Duomo paintings
4th-century mosaics in the Duomo
Exploring the streets of Naples
This is the line outside one of Naple’s most popular pizzerias. Not kidding you.
Crowded, crazy Napoli
No idea what the name of this church is, but it looked better in B&W.
You can find the Baba of Naples literally in every bakery throughout the city. The originals are soaked in rum- or limoncello-based syrup, but you can also find them with a great variety of fillings like ricotta cream, Nutella, pastry cream or fruit.
Skulls and more skulls in Naples.
If there’s one thing Italian’s absolutely lose their mind over, its a good Presepe, better known as a “Nativity Crib” in English. Nothing compares to the level of detail and dedication of a presepe napoletano. While there are many presepes – in every household across Italy – but Napolians take it far more seriously. Sure, a good presepe shows your patrionage to Jesus etc., but the best presepe is also a demonstration of wealth, ego and good-taste.
Via San Gregoria Aremeno: one of the strangest places I’ve ever been.
The ultimate shopping street for your dream presepe. Mind. Blown.
Sometimes, a presepe also demonstrates your interests in popculture and football. Although, where Lady Gaga should stand in the Nativity scene is beyond me (beside the donkey?).
No end to shopping ops in Napoli.
Yep. Napoli has the best pizza in the world.
Margarita is the only pizza to have while in Naples as it is here where the recipe originated. Yep, definitely the best pizza I’ve ever had. #acceptnosubstitutes
When in Naples / Italy during the holiday season, almost every self-respecting city holds its own “presepe vivente”, a real-life replica of the Nativity Crib. Some do it better than others, and in this Napolean edition featured live entertainment in the form of underaged and under-clothed dancers. Well, at least it’s historically-correct.
There were also live animals. Insane.
Did I mention this presepe was inside the gorgeous Castello dell’Ovo?
View of Naples at night
The next day we headed out to Pompeii, however upon seeing the roughly two-hour line wrapping around the ancient park, we decided to spend the day in Sorrento.
I can’t imagine how beautiful this would be in the summer.
Even during the last days of December, Sorrento is one of the most beautiful cities in the area.
Perfection in the form of a restaurant.
Two pals reunited.
Above: Typical B&W photo of Italy involving a vintage Fiat.
More narrow streets in the heart of Sorrento.
Apperitivo in Sorrento.
Looking out on Mt. Vestuvius after a delicious dinner with friends. Tomorrow, Rome!
Next stop: New Year’s in Rome, Belle Avventure in Puglia