Travel Diaries – Naples

Gap Year Days 39 – 43

In Rome, we boarded our Italo fast train for the trip to Naples. The trip was to take just over an hour. As soon as we got out into the countryside the speed slowly climbed, until the train was moving along at 300km/hr! It felt like we sat down, got comfy, watched the speed – and then we were there! 190km gone just like that. What a great way to travel!

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Getting to our accommodation I was really struggling. My cold was finally winning, and breathing was becoming a chore when we were around smokers, which was unfortunately almost all the time. We forget how lucky we are in Australia to have smoking banned almost everywhere. Here it is common to still have people smoking in enclosed spaces.

The train stations are a very good example of this. In fact, we’ve even seen people smoking on the trains. So when we arrived at our accommodation, and no one was there to meet us, I just felt like curling up in a corner for a nap – if I could stop myself coughing!

The hills of Naples

Simon eventually got hold of our host, and we got into our apartment. This is one of the downsides to booking AirBnB style accommodation. It may be cheaper, but sometimes it’s harder to arrange.

This place was in a residential area, and no one spoke English. We also had the loudest neighbours ever! I kept wanting to say “Please use your inside voice!” It probably didn’t help that I was feeling terrible and all I wanted to do that afternoon and half the next day was sleep.

The street we stayed in – just like the locals.

Where we were staying was right near the waterfront, and late the next afternoon I did drag myself out of bed and we went for a walk along the seafront. It was nice to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Soon I was back resting though, watching BBC docos and preparing myself for the next day.

The beach near our accommodation
Ovo Castle. We tried to visit, but they had an invitation only wine tasting event on while we were there. We weren’t dressed well enough to sneak in!
A Naples marina, with Mt Vesuvius sitting peacefully in the background

Pompeii was on the list for the next day. I had done some research and knew we wanted to get there early. I had looked up how to get there and knew it would take about an hour on the trains. So off we went at 7:15 am, planning to be at the gates as they opened at 8:30.

All was going well until we made a tiny mistake. I knew that to get to the ruins at Pompeii we needed to go to the Pompeii Scavi train station. Simon had just written Pompeii into the Google Maps app. I didn’t think much of it until we realised they were not even on the same train line. We now needed to catch a bus down the road a little.

After waiting about ten minutes at the bus stop, Simon got impatient and decided we should walk – it was only going to take twenty minutes! Not two hundred metres down the road the bus passed us. I had to have a wry smile. We should have waited for the bus!

With all the extra messing around, we arrived at Pompeii at around 9:30 am. There was a bit of a line, but in about 15 minutes we had our tickets. We also chose to get an audioguide, to help explain some of the ruins.

Click here to purchase Pompeii entrance tickets in advance

Click here to see tour options for Pompeii

For a bit of background, Pompeii was a town of about 11000 people when it was buried by ash and debris when nearby Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. It was undisturbed for many years, and it is commonly believed the ruins were discovered in the 1500s. The archeological dig to uncover the city began in the 18th Century.

There is still about a quarter of the settlement that has not yet been excavated, and only about one-third of what has been uncovered is open to the public. Pompeii is one of Italy’s most popular tourist sites and gets over 2 million visitors every year.

The ruins of Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in the background

My first impression of Pompeii is that it is simply huge! This is seriously a full-day place if you want to have a good look around. I knew we wanted to leave by mid-afternoon, so we skipped a few of the sections to ensure we saw all of the main buildings.

Pompeii is incredibly well preserved due to the way it was buried. There are still mosaic floors and paintings on the walls. Some of the artefacts that survived are amazing – like bread for example. Many of the items of interest on the site are actually reproductions though with the originals housed in the Naples Archeological Museum.

Some of the pottery recovered. The plaster cast of the person in the foreground was made during the excavation.
A large marble water container in one of the baths at Pompeii
A marble water container in one of the baths
A 2000 year old bakery, with ovens and mills.

The main amphitheatre, while not as big as the Colosseum, is almost perfect. Pink Floyd used it as a recording venue in 1971 for the great acoustic effect it has. There is a display about the performance housed inside under the seating.

The large amphitheatre.

It was hot during our visit, but as in Rome, water fountains were found throughout the site to fill up water bottles or just to splash water on yourself to cool down.

While there is a lot to see, we did find after a while things started to become the same. Many of the houses had the same layouts, the bakeries all had the same mills, and the bath houses all had similar design. Something we found a little frustrating was we would be listening to the audioguide about a particular house and it would say “Now go inside…” and probably 75% of the places were not open.

We were inside one place and were asked to leave by an employee as she was closing it. I’m not sure if they were only open at certain times and we were getting it wrong.

Floors and statues were still in tact.
Some of the gardens have been re-planted to show what they would have been like.
The small amphitheatre
The entry way of a house in Pompeii. The fountain at the front and the marbled floor areas would have been inside, with the columns decorating a courtyard in the middle of the home.

We left Pompeii at about 3 pm and walked towards the train station. I had read something about a public bus that could take us to Mt Vesuvius for €5.40 return, a lot less than all the tours. Unfortunately, I had not taken good notice of where this bus left from, so I had to do a little asking around. As luck would have it, the bus left from right outside of the train station.

It was a 40-minute ride up to the highest carpark on Mt Vesuvius. We then had to purchase entry to the national park, which cost another €10. I had read it was about a twenty-minute walk up the mountainside.

This information was right. It was hard work though. The path is made up of small pebbly bits of volcanic material, so it can be unstable to walk on. Not quite as bad as soft beach sand, but on the way to it. I struggled a bit, but I think a lot of that had to do with not being too well with my cold.

The view into the crater is not all that exciting, but we did see small amounts of steam rising in certain places that did not show up in the photographs. The smell of sulphur was also obvious in some areas, reminding us that this is a real live volcano, expected to erupt again sometime soon.

The crater of Mt Vesuvius

The view out to sea though was spectacular. We could see all the way down the peninsular to Sorrento, and across the sea to Capri. It was also plainly obvious just how many houses now lie in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. It’s not a few thousand people any more, but around three million instead.

The view from Mt Vesuvius

Our plans for the next day were to take the ferry over to the island of Capri to visit the Blue Grotto. On our arrival home from Pompeii though, we had some family news that required us to call home. Due to the time difference, we had to wait to do it in the morning. This meant that by the time we were ready to head out, it was too late to go over to Capri. Instead, we jumped on the train and went down to the lovely seaside town of Sorrento for the afternoon.

We had considered spending a couple of nights at Sorrento after Naples, but we struggled to find accommodation within our budget (or almost any budget really!).

Our visit made us kick ourselves because it was such a relaxed seaside town, perched up on the cliffs. It was certainly different for us to see the climb down to the beach, with most of the available space to sit and relax actually being man-made piers. It was a little cool for swimming when we were there, but I could imagine this place would be crowded in the middle of summer.

The cliffs of Sorrento
One of the piers at Sorrento leading out to a breakwater. All used for people to relax on.

We enjoyed a lovely late lunch and explored the narrow laneways full of lemon-scented shops. There was lemon almost anything available to buy. It’s times like this I am so glad I cannot fit another thing in my backpack, otherwise, I would be tempted to take so much home.

This small taste of Sorrento has put the Amalfi Coast firmly on our list for our next visit to Italy.

The streets of Sorrento smelt lovely, thanks to the many stores selling an abundance of lemon products.

With our time in Naples coming to an end, we had to get pizza for dinner on our last night. Up until now we had been taking advantage of the kitchen in our apartment to cook for ourselves. It’s surprising how satisfying that is after a few weeks of not having the time or option. Naples is reported to have the best pizza in Italy. I had my usual margarita pizza, and yes, it was pretty good. Not sure if it was a lot better than all the others, but it was at least as good.

Pizza from Naples. It’s huge – that’s a normal sized fork.

And that was it! We were moving on again. I’m not sure we did Naples justice, because we didn’t see a whole lot of it. Where we were staying was a bit out of the centre. With me being unwell, the day I had thought to use to explore we instead spent staying near our accommodation. I definitely want to come back and spend time on the Amalfi Coast and visit Capri at some point, so maybe then we will see Naples properly. I also feel like I need to go to the Archeological Museum to see all the things taken from Pompeii.


Riviera House
Vico San Guido 26, Chiaia, 80139 Naples, Italy

Want more from Italy? Try these posts
One Day in Pisa
Things to do in Siena
An Easy Budget Visit to the Colosseum

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6 thoughts on “Travel Diaries – Naples”

  1. That pizza looks AMAZING! Pompeii is really confronting. I did like the fact that it was filled with dogs rather than cats and that they were up for pats and cuddles. I know what you mean about backpack space… I was a broke student in Sorrento but still managed to budget for some Limoncello! Sucks you didn’t make it out to Capri… Hope the family is okay!

    • We only saw one dog at Pompeii, so maybe there aren’t so many anymore.

      My backpack is slowly getting a little better. I had so many toiletries to start with. I had been keeping all the little bottles and samples I had come across for ages. I figured since I had them I may as well bring them. There have been a few things that have come in handy already, like the little hotel sewing kit when my button came off! My other issue is books. I only left Australia with two (and boy was that hard!) but I went to a Bookcrossing convention in Oslo and was gifted a few more. It was easy for me not to take others, but the ones I was given was another story. I am down to three left. No idea what I am going to do when I run out.

      Family is okay, thanks for asking 🙂

  2. You need book ?! I’ll like to give you a help for books. Just send me a mail what you like to read. ?
    BTW – Pompeii is on my list too.

    •, I don’t need books – yet! I will let you know closer to Prague if I am getting down to my last one! I am planning to give you at least one book though (kinda for safe keeping, but I will explain later!)

  3. The beach near your AirBnB looked lovely. Sorrento is truly beautiful with amazing views. I would love to go back and explore the Amalfi Coast. I also missed the Isle of Capri. Pompeii is confronting and personally, I preferred the ruins at Ephesus in Turkey. Hope you have fully recovered from your Cold Josie

    • Thanks Carol. All healthy again now! We preferred Ephesus too, but not sure if that was because there we had a guided tour, whereas Pompeii we only used an audio tour. Our tour at Ephesus was fantastic (one of the best we’ve ever done) because when we were there last year tourism was really low, so only five people in our group. This allowed lots of questions and personal discussion. That really does make a difference

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