Yep. I still love Italy.
We left Toronto on Wednesday night and had an easy flight into Rome - they did have to suspend service for turbulence early on into the flight and I thought we were in for a bad one but it only lasted a few minutes. There wasn’t much sleep to be had, though EDP did get a bit more than me, but soon enough we were in Rome and on a train heading towards Naples. Once in Naples, we found our hotel, got checked in, freshened up and headed out to see some sights.
With a fairly light day planned since we knew we’d only have the afternoon, we explored wandered down Spaccanapoli, the main street of the old historic city, just a few blocks from our hotel. We started by heading into Gesù Nuovo, a church with a very unique facade. It was originally built as a palace but the Jesuits bought it in the 1580s and kept the stark exterior while transforming the inside to be fairly typical of an old Italian church - marble and gold everywhere. Then, it was on to Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara for its cloisters and ancient spa ruins. The cloisters featured lovely walkways surrounding lots of citrus trees. The spa dates back to the first century AD, giving us our first taste of ancient ruins. Then it was on to Cappella Sansevero, where Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Cristo velato sculpture is, which was stunning in its delicate detail. Then it was into a queue to head down to the “secret chamber” where two perfectly preserved human arterial systems are housed. They were just... weird.
We did get quite turned around on our way to Capella Sansevero - our map made it feel like things would be much further apart but nope, it was all very close together. So we overshot a little bit but got to see a bit more of the historic city? Once we were done with our sights, it was time for a drink. EDP’s cousin and his girlfriend were also in Naples so we settled onto a patio just as some rain was starting to fall and EDP let them know where we were so they could join us when they were done with their day. We had two very excellent drinks along with some tasty nuts and bread before I could take no more and announced I needed dinner. Derek and Lisa were up for joining us and we soon settled on one of the two pizza places EDP was eager to try out while we were here. One of them, Gino Sorbillo, was only a five minute walk so off we went! And we found it easily enough - because there were approximately 8 million people queued out front. EDP ventured into the crowd to find out the wait and came back with the sad news that it would be at least an hour but probably much longer. So off we went to the other one, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Which also had a massive line out front. But it was only supposed to be a 40 minute wait (faster for takeout but we all agreed we wanted the proper experience) so Lisa and I popped over to a little shop to get some drinks for the wait (proper grown up drinks - not water or juice...) which made the wait go much faster. But it was definitely more than 40 minutes. It was quite late when we got a table but a waiter arrived very quickly to ask for our order - cheese or no cheese. We were unaware there were only two options. If we had, the sign at the drinks place saying you could eat your pizza there if you bought drinks would have been a complete no-brainer. Ah well. Lesson learned. We didn’t have to wait long before four ENORMOUS pizzas were dropped on our table. I guess the advantage of only two items on your menu and a seemingly unlimited demand for them is that you just can just keep rolling them out constantly. So we all dove into our pizzas.
And man, was it ever good. I gobbled up half of my pizza, stopping only because I thought I might explode. EDP’s disappeared without a problem, of course. It was definitely one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. The wait was totally worth it. And when we left at 9:30, the crowd out front hadn’t thinned at all.
Our second day in Naples started at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale which was packed full of statues and frescos and mosaics, many of which came from Pompei and Herculaneum. The mosaics were particularly interesting, though hard to get a good look at because of all the huge tour groups. Then it was time to find the Complesso Monumentale di San Lorenzo Maggiore. We wandered through the streets, passing through Piazza Bellini, which I had heard was a lovely spot to stop for a drink but it was only about 11 and seemed too early for lunch, particularly since we weren’t hungry. We opted to keep going, passing Gino Sorbillo again, where there was already a line, despite not even being open. We decided we’d finish up our day’s sites and go back, hoping that the lunch crowd would have died down and we could get in with a reasonable wait. As we headed toward the Complesso, we passed Napoli Sotterranea, a tour Derek and Lisa had done that they highly recommended. I was really confused when they talked about it because I knew going into Naples’ underground city was something I wanted to do but I couldn’t find it on our itinerary, leading me to think we weren’t able to fit it in and had cut it. But we had the time and we had only 20 minutes before the next tour so we bought tickets and roamed around the area until it was time to go.
This tour was something else. We went down 140 steps into the tunnels where we learned all about why they were built - as quarries for the rock by the Greeks - and then their uses over the years - as aqueducts by the Romans, a garbage dump, and bomb shelters. In fact, they didn’t remove the garbage before the war came and they needed the caves for bomb shelters so the trash is still there, they just put dirt on top of it. As we toured through, we got to go through some very tiny tunnels lit only by (battery operated) candlelight. After the caves, we were taken to see the ruins of a theatre, which was only recently found and used to be the wine cellar of a family home before it was excavated. It was interesting but the underground caves was the real draw.
From there, we went onto the Complesso we still had on the itinerary. And this is when it all made sense - that Complesso offers a tour of the underground ruins, as well. Oops. We didn’t go on the second tour, figuring we’d seen everything we needed to see. So, after walking through the church, we headed over to the Duomo, which was as impressive as I expected it to be. With that, we had finished seeing everything we had planned so we headed back to Gino Sorbillo to see how the line was.
And it was still ridiculous. But, EDP decided to see how long it was and to inquire if they had take out. And they did! So we got a marinara pizza, two glasses of Prosecco from across the street and headed down the road a bit to a little piazza to enjoy. And we did - it was amazing, it was the best pizza I’ve ever had and one of the best meals, as well.
Once we finished, we decided to head up to Museo di Capodimonte, which was originally on our list for Saturday but we had the time so we headed on up. It started raining not long after we set out, which slowed our progress and we didn’t appreciate that it was at the top of a fairly steep hill when we decided to walk. But we were there soon enough and wandering through the museum, which was much larger than I expected. There was a special Caravaggio exhibit on, which was really neat to see, too. Then it was back towards the hotel, stopping for that drink in Piazza Bellini while I read and EDP made a plan for dinner. No pizza tonight but delicious pasta instead! After all, you can’t have pizza for every meal.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Herculaneum and Pompei. We’re expecting rain but we hear that’s good because the place clears right out when the skies open. So here’s hoping for rain, I guess!