“See Naples & Die”
With that famous, not massively reassuring phrase ringing in my ears, I fought my way through to the car hire yard at Naples International airport looking forward to 2 days in the future. When I could bugger off out of Naples & crack on with part of my shoot on every travel photographer’s bucket list, photographing The Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Positano.
I’ll be honest I didn’t really know much about Naples, apart from that it is the home of Pizza, The Camorra & Maradona (adopted son). Also It has a reputation for being pretty rough, so I was likely to get mugged being a lone female photographer who is prone to getting lost.
Spoiler alert! I didn’t get mugged, the Pizza is to die for, Maradona’s image is everywhere & Naples was far more fun than Sorrento & Positano. So I now tell anyone who will listen, they HAVE TO GO!
How do you get an authentic travel experience in just a few days?
I get asked this a lot, especially when I have my work head on. As a travel photographer I am often briefed with getting under the skin of a place & bringing back a collection of images to inspire people to book their next city break or holiday, often with minimal notice & not a lot of time on the ground.
The one thing I always go back to is a piece of advice given to me waaaaay back in about 2003,
Don’t try to see and do everything. It’s better to really experience one or 2 places than clock up the miles ticking off stuff but never really feeling it…
Or as the kids say now, focus on having an authentic experience.
So how do you do this in Naples? Make like an Italian, pick a spot, sit & people watch over a coffee / wine / Negroni / water. Soak up the vibe & plan your trip from there. I did this on the promenade by the Castel del Ovo (I had a few hours to kill waiting to shoot a hotel restaurant). I grabbed a table outside one of the many cafes & bars, ordered a wine & watched the people & the life going on right in front of me with the castle & the stunning afternoon light as the stage.
How to make the most of 48 hours in Naples.
Naples is at it’s best & most revealing when you have a vague destination but get distracted on the way by food & art & people. So here is a quick overview of what I did with the links for you to find out more & plan your own Neapolitan Adventure.
DONT DRIVE! Instead grab yourself a TIC Biglietto Giornaliero (daily ticket) for about €4.50 and you get to jump on & off all the city’s public transport till midnight.
Lines 1 & 6 of the metro are known as the Metro Del Arte with each station designed by a different artist you could quite easily ride round all day and just take in the art at each station. My favourite is Universitat, a pretty psychedelic space designed by New York Artist Karim Rashid.
Take in the views over the whole City.
Take the cable car from Parco Margerita to Palazzo & then a 20 min wander to the Terazza Panoramica Villa Floridiana. The views from here are amazing & the park has that great neighbourhood felling, so in Italy that means lots of snogging teenagers & nattering pensioners.
Centro Storico, Pizzas, Skulls & Murals
For me the Centro Storico is the real heart of the city. Use the Via del Tribulani as a base & wander up & down & up again, nip down sidestreets, into churches, galleries & shops, eat Pizza, sit in bustling squares enjoying a Negroni & take photos of everything including the amazing murals and street art. The giant mural of St Gennaro signifies the entrance to the Forcella neighbourhood & will be a familiar sight for fans of Gomorrah.
See how many murals, posters & statues of Maradona you can spot.
Queue up with the locals at the Pizzeria de Matteo for a pizza for €1 (2017 prices) washed down with a lemon granita for another €1. You will appreciate this €2 lunch if you are heading out to the Amalfi coast where it’s eye wateringly expensive.
Visit the Purgatorio ad Arco, a church like no other (open 10-2 Monday to Friday). Historically used by worshipers of the Neapolitan Cult of the Dead or Skull Cult, the church is split in 2 levels with skulls lining the underground hypogeum (crypt) which was once a burial place for the city’s pezzentelle (poor & homeless).
Get lost in the Quartieri Spagnoli
Naples most authentic & traditional neighbourhood. Get lost in It’s grid of streets bursting with life with neighbours chatting on balconies high above the streets & laundry drying above your head as you wander through. Glimpse artists at work in small studios, maybe even pop in, have a chat & buy a postcard or souvenir.
So get planning, have a safe trip & remember, when you’re in Italy it’s impossible to eat too much pizza.
These are just a few areas in a vast city & I haven’t listed the main tourist attractions because…. Well that’s what your Lonely Planet book is for… Though I hope I has given you some inspiration to plan your Neapolitan adventure.
One last recommendation is Like a Local, Its a great app & website with local residents posting their tips to explore & there are some great tours run by independent, passionate businesses. I use this all the time to plan work trips & most importantly my own holidays.