There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love Naples and those who don’t. I am in the later category while Carolyn is in firmly in the “loved Naples” camp. For me, Naples was crowded, dirty, narrow winding streets packed full of tiny street stores selling junk and absolutely no road rules what-so-ever! Driving in Naples is truely a life threatening experience, if you can survive driving in Naples you can drive anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, Naples is not all bad. The food, especially the Pizza is great, beer is cheap and the people are beautiful.
For me the underground was more fascinating (and less crowded) than above ground. Naples was originally built by the Greeks in the 4th Century BC by mining the compacted ash and rock to use as building material above ground. This left a labyrinth of catacombs and aqueducts to provide water for the city. In the 1st century AD, Naples was conquered by the Romans who extended the mining till there was some 400km of aqueducts and tunnels under the city. During WWII, the residents of Naples used the labyrinth of tunnels as bomb shelters, with almost 50% of the city affected by bombs some residents continued to live underground for ten years until their homes were rebuilt. You can still see remnants of life underground during the war. A visit underground is a must if you ever stay in Naples.
The main reason and major attraction for staying Naples (at least for me) is Pompeii. The 4th century BC city that was destroyed (and preserved) by the eruption of MT Vesuvius in AD 79. Visiting Pompeii was absolutely amazing, we managed to form a group of 12 with 10 other English speaking tourist waiting in the hour long line to enter the city. This meant that we could share the $120 (euros) cost of the tour and jump the que paying just $12 each. This was worth doing if you ever get that chance. We had also downloaded the Rick Steves audio tour app on our iPhone which was also great. This meant that we had over 3hrs of guided information on Pompeii. Be sure to check out the photos from Pompeii.
Another reason to stay in Naples is it’s close proximity to Mt Vesuvius. We can honestly say that we hiked to the rim of crater, however, the weather closed in to the point of snowing and a massive cloud descended on the mountain preventing us from seeing anything. But at least we can say we stood on top of the Volcano that was responsible for destroying Pompeii.
From Naples we headed south to Positano and the Amalfi Coast. There were lots of warnings about driving along the Amalfi coast but I think driving in Naples prepared us well and we had no trouble, in fact, the drive was very enjoyable and we found lots of places to stop and take in the view of the amazing coastline – it truly is spectacular. The last 16km took us about an hour due to the frequent stops to admire the views and take photos.
Link to Pompeii Photos- http://altmanstravel.com/photos/pompeii/
Link to Naples Photos – http://altmanstravel.com/photos/naples/