The previous time I visited Naples, I was given the mission of reviewing 30 hotels across town in just a few days. And while I got to know the place pretty well after, it made the intense city all the more hectic. Immediately after stepping out of Napoli Stazione Centrale this time, however, the apprehension I felt the first time was replaced with excitement. First of all, I knew my way around the city (more or less) and, after experiencing Palermo, I was more than ready to handle all of Naples’ eccentricities.
There were a few noticeable differences this time around. Most notably, the city is much cleaner than three years prior; the once overflowing trash bins are now mostly maintained (empty, even). Additionally, the roundabout over the new-ish Toledo Metro Station (one of the most beautiful metro stations in Europe, according to the Daily Telegraph), whose crossing once instilled anxiety even into a local friend of mine, is now paved over and solely for pedestrians. Another local mentioned to me that the government has taken great steps in making the city more walking friendly.
I had about two and a half days to explore Naples once again. I endeavored to see the sights I missed the first time: the Cappella di Sansevero (with its amazing marble sculpture, the Veiled Christ, and two bodies on display with circulatory systems intact — yeah, weird, but worth the 7€), the Castel dell’Ovo (free) and the Castel Sant’Elmo (up high in Vomero with the best views of the city and an art gallery within, and all for 5€).
But catching the sights I missed wasn’t all I wanted to do in the city; I wanted to eat pizza. Everyone living here seems to have a different opinion on the best pizzeria in Naples, so I decided to ask someone who would know for sure: Luca, the proprietor of Hostel of the Sun, a top-rated hostel in Naples. He’s a local and knows the city better than anyone I could possibly know, as he’s been assisting travelers with finding cool places for years.
Luca, his partner Harriet (also an expert on the city’s offerings) and I met at Pescheria Mattiucci, a seafood shop and bistro in Chiaia, a fancy and hip neighborhood located west of the historic center. Over amazing plates of local seafood (including a sampler of raw fish and shrimp I can only describe as sushi napoletano) and entertaining presentations of aquatic life, the pair gave me the skinny (irony alert) on the city’s best food finds, Mattiucci aside.
For lunch, Cibi Cotti, located in a market west of the waterfront park Villa Comunale, is an affordable choice. Head there around 1pm if you want to avoid the crowds, and don’t try visiting at night because it’ll be closed. Trattoria Castel dell’Ovo is also a favorite for waterfront dining, as it’s located next to the aforementioned fortification. But for a really authentic experience, Trattoria da Nennella is the place to go; it’s a small eatery complete with all the clamor and “flavor” of Naples. Afterwards, for sweets, they recommend the taralli and fiocchi di neve at Pasticceria Poppella (of course, this is assuming one has already sought out sfogliatelle and rum babà).
They also have favorite destinations for drinks. For coffee, there’s Gran Caffè Ciorfito, located on Spaccanapoli, the historic nickname for the major street that visibly divides the historic center. Cammarota Spritz, located in the Quartieri Spagnoli, a historic area that reverberates with the truly Napoletano vibe, is a “garage” of a bar that’s great for imbibing.
They both really like 50 Kalò and Pizzeria I Decumani, but agree that the hands-down best pizza in Naples can be found at Starita a Materdei. I had to give it a try. Verdict: it’s now the best pizza I’ve had. Ever.
Of course, I did find a few amazing attractions on my own. In the Convento di San Domenico Maggiore there was an excellent exhibition entitled Il bello o il vero, an in-depth sculptural adventure into the contrast between the beauty of classicism and the truth of realism. (I happened to find realism more beautiful.)
Another favorite of mine is Alabardieri 25, a bottle shop and bar for birre artigianali (craft beer) with local brews from Campania and offerings from around the world (on tap: Punk IPA, St. Bernardus Prior 8, Falkenturm Bock Hell and Birrificio Italiano Tipopils; in bottles: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Porter, Founders All Day IPA, a number of Brew Dog beers, a Brooklyn Brewery offering and much more). Needless to say, I spent some time admiring the store.
There are still a few top Naples attractions I still have yet to visit, including Napoli Sotterranea (the Underground Naples tour) and the other “best” pizzerie like Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele (I visited L’Antica Pizzeria e Friggitoria Di Matteo during my last visit and it was exceptional). It’s not surprising that, while wandering the city, I wished I had an extra stomach…
If I missed your top spots in this post or my last post on Naples, let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out whenever I’m back! Hover over photos for descriptions…