A Weekend in Napoli: Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and all the Pizza in the World
Despite being over 6.5 hours away (by bus, each way!), last weekend, I decided to fully take advantage of my Friday Medieval history lecture being cancelled to venture way down South, to Naples. Much like the British North vs South rivalry, the geographic divide is very notable in Italy, with the phrase “civilisation stops after Rome” thrown about the North. However, deciding to ignore these prejudices, I arrived in Napoli, fresh from my bus, ready to eat all the pizza, and explore the capital of Campagna.
Napoli claims to have invented the margarita pizza, in honour of Queen Margarita, with the mozzarella, tomato and basil representing the Italian flag and is home to the first Pizzeria in the world, the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, which opened in 1830. Unfortunately I didn’t go, however, pizza was definitely enjoyed throughout the weekend, meaning I have spent the last two weeks eating vegetables to try and cleanse my body of some of the grease… but oh it’s so good…
Eating it the Neapolitan way- folded in half, out of a paper bag, on the side of the road, having just paid £1.20 for an entire margarita, la dolce vita indeed…
Naturally, it wasn’t just a weekend of carbohydrate-related indulgences, as on Saturday morning, armed with suncream and a map, we took the metro down to Pompeii, the famous Roman city, destroyed in 79AD by the volcano, Vesuvius, and preserved by ash.
Pompeii, you’re looking good
“But why, Catherine? You have already visited Pompeii,” my parents cry… aye, but it doesn’t count when you’re two. Thankfully, unlike my last visit to Pompeii, it wasn’t midsummer, and so the temperature was still only 20 degrees, allowing us to walk around and explore without the usual fear of fainting- seriously, Pompeii has a major problem with tourists getting way too hot from the midday, Italian sunshine.
We decided to get a tour guide, who explained to us all the intricacies of daily life in the town, including a visit to the Forum, as pictured above, which used to be two floors, and of course, a trip to the infamous brothel, where one was given a “menu” offering different positions. I will say no more. We also learned about the baths, producing some serious flashbacks for me to year 7 Latin.
It was actually free to enter the site that day, which means there were hoards and hoards of people, something I imagine is several times worse during the busy months of summer, a fear that seems to be echoed by the Neapolitans…
Following Pompeii, it seemed the sensible activity would be to actually climb the volcano that destroyed the city, so a bus to Vesuvius it was. *I say climb, I actually mean take a bus 5/6 of the way up, and then hike the last few hundred metres.* Did you know, that prior to the eruption, they believed Vesuvius was just any old mountain, and the word for volcano hadn’t even been invented?
Sunsets over Napoli
Whilst the view from the top was pretty spectacular, the sunset ruined most of the photos (absolute 21st-century problems), so you’ll have to just imagine it… Also, I won’t lie to you, having expected the top of Vesuvius to resemble Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings, I was slightly disappointed when it was literally just a big crater with sand, despite the few columns of smoke emerging near the centre. Eh, you win some, you lose some.
Speaking of winning though, a return to food it is. Yes, Napoli has some of the most delicious food in the world, and, if I do say so myself, better pizza than Rome… Mozzarella- it is from Naples! Thank you, Naples! But it also has sfogliatelle, delicious pastries that either are very flaky, called riccia, and frolla, which are more like a mini ricotta pie. I also used the trip to try Cannoli for the first time, which are essentially pastry deep-fried into a cylindrical shell, filled with ricotta cream. Delicious. Technically speaking, these are Sicilian, however, fuelled by my love for The Sopranos, I had to eat Tony’s favourite snack in his home town, and I wasn’t disappointed…
Speaking of the Mafia…
The Mafia Explained for Kids…. the perfect book for children
There is a phrase in Italian that says Vedi Napoli e muori (see Naples and die) meaning that once you have been here, there is nothing that could surpass it. I’m not sure I am ready to go just yet, still have a few more places on my list, but I definitely don’t agree with all of the critics. Napoli is not perfect, with severe problems relating to litter, crime and security and general degradation… But it has a charm, and an atmosphere totally different from that of my home in Tuscany.
It is chaotic, loud, rough, and crazy, something epitomised by the most popular street, Spaccanapoli, which is populated by little, colourful shops and bars, that comes alive at night, filled with people drinking in the street, moving every two minutes to allow a car to pass. But it is somewhere that I am glad I have visited, and I hope to visit again.
A presto Napoli!
However, now I am back in Siena, with a few places to visit nearby before the two-week Easter holiday commences, and I take another trip, this time needing a 13 hours bus….