Posted by: Ciaran | October 15, 2009

Changing places – Naples

Depending on your cultural frames of reference, you might think of any of the following when you hear Naples mentioned:

  • the mafia
  • Diego Maradona
  • Mount Vesuvius
  • Pompeii

It’s a city well-known for being under the control of the mafia: indeed, while I was there the streets were piled high with binbags filled with fetid rubbish as the mafia apparently have some say in whether or not the refuse is collected (I didn’t want to go into technicalities in case somebody left a horse’s head in my bed).  It’s also notorious for crime and the standard of driving is erratic, to put it politely.

But despite its shady undercurrents, it is a wonderful city to explore; mainly for the final two reasons on my list.  A journey out to Pompeii on the incandescently graffitied Metro is a must – if only so that when the tour guide says “Here is an ancient Roman gymnasium” you get to hear the American guy next to you say to his son: “Look, Tyler, this is where the Romans used to work out!” 

You can also argue with the staff who demand a ludicrous deposit if you want the official audio guide headset, but you’re much better getting into a group and letting one of the charismatic old boys acting as approved guides take you round.  The sights are impressive, although allegations of skulduggery mean that you’re never quite sure if the fresco that you can see is actually real or if you’re looking at something that was actually painted in 2006. 

The ruins of Pompeii

The ruins of Pompeii

Herculaneum is nearer to the foot of Vesuvius and said to be even better preserved, but as I was heading up the volcano instead I chose not to visit.  You can catch a bus from right outside Pompeii up Vesuvius which is especially convenient for people staying on the Amalfi coast and coming up to see the sights of Naples for the day.

The buses go about every 90 minutes and take you to within a 1,000ft of the top; that’s quite far enough as the windy road and generally unsafe driving can make you feel pretty sick.  From there it’s a walk (with a great stick provided, though a tip is expected) to the top.  If you’re reasonably fit then it passes by quite easily, even in the heat of summer.  Get the stick so that when you whack it into the ground you can see steam rising…  The view at the top is gorgeous – you can see back to Pompeii and also all across the Bay of Naples.

A view of Vesuvius from the Bay of Naples

A view of Vesuvius from the Bay of Naples

The back streets are also worth exploring, as the architecture is very spectacular: the churches in particular are impressive.  The shops are filled with bargains, and, as Naples is the birthplace of the pizza, what better way to end a day than eating your own weight in dough and toppings for a fraction of the price you’d pay in England?

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Responses

  1. Glorious! I’m so envious that you saw such incredible sites – I’d love to visit the region one day, if only to see for myself the places that I so often read about in mandatory journal reading for my “Geological Hazards: Volcanism” module. Cool photos too.

    • You would like it – and I am sure you would take amazing pictures, a lot better than mine.

      Have you got your travel itinerary in any way fixed yet?

      • Sadly, no. I don’t seem to have moved forward at all with travelling plans, as it seems such an overwhelming task. I *will* get going with it … some day!

        As for photos, I bet there’d be incredible vistas and features to capture my attention. Will you be posting any more travel photos to Flickr?

  2. Yeah I will do – the plan is to upload quite a few and then link them into a Google map which I will then have as a separate static page on my blog. Just need to get the time free to get going on it!

  3. There’s a useful function on Flickr that allows you to “geotag” your Flickr photos ie. place them as precisely as you like on a Google map, which you can then view as a whole, with each photo on the same map.

  4. Mine for an example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stranded_starfish/map (not sure if this will ask you to log in or not)


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