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Napoli and the importance of location

I love Napoli. I go almost every year. This time, I decided to change locations of my B&B. I usually stay at a little oasis near the train station (great breakfast, rooftop pool and sauna, family-run), but this time I wanted something closer to the sea.

I chose a B&B with a partial view of the sea, in the Santa Lucia neighborhood near Piazza del Plebiscito. It was very well-located, good bus and metro links, and I loved the neighborhood feel. The B&B itself was good, the staff was great (never failed to ask guests at breakfast if they slept well), and the rooms were large. But a tricky front door caused frustrated guests to lean on the buzzer, which could be heard everywhere, and breakfast was a little monotonous. The neighborhood compensated for this, just as my "oasis" B&B compensated for the neighborhood, which was really convenient for the train station.

A word about beauty: sometimes you have to look closely for it. I realized this in Acireale, my previous stop - I had to understand the neighborhood market cleanup schedule (by 2pm every piece of refuse is bagged, tied, and waiting for trash pickup, and the streets are washed). I also had to realize how close my lodgings were to the Main Street, by turning left instead of right. I had to look at the design of the buildings and how the sunlight washed the pale facades. Basically, seeing beauty sometimes requires looking past the first layer.

Napoli is like that, too. I find Napoli beautiful, but I can understand how a first-time or overnight visitor might not. I have the luxury of staying for several days at a time, so I can slow down and really look at the city. Being near the sea helps, too - I find that it relaxes and refreshes me in mind, body and spirit, which is what good travel should do.

I skipped several museums that I usually visit, and instead took the bus to Vomero a couple of times. Since the theme of this trip is transportation delays, I should not have been surprised that the bus connection I needed to get to Castel Sant'Elmo and the museum of San Martino never materialized before I gave up and had a nice stroll around Vomero, a very attractive neighborhood with a lively population, all of whom have perfectly groomed dogs. The bus driver who dropped me off to make the bus connection came around again and was shocked that I was still at the bus stop, abandoned, an hour later.

The next day my attempt was successful, although I walked up stairs and a well-signed winding road to get to the top of the hill. There is a series of escalators going up from Vomero, which helps. Stairs only going down. There is also an elevator part of the way. The castello and museum rule over the city from the top of their hill - always an interesting interplay between church and fortress.

But the real purpose of my visit to Napoli was the hunt for the perfect sfogliatelle (an impossibly long strip of thin phyllo-type dough wrapped around a filling of sweetened ricotta and bits of candied orange peel). So far the best one was at a bar near the train station in Salerno. But this time, I found two excellent ones: one at the bar at Napoli Centrale, and the other at Gambrinus, a rather fancy cafe in Piazza del Plebescito. When the sfogliatelle is freshly made, the dough is crisp and the filling is fluffy. So this trip was a success!

Posted by
230 posts

Oh Zoe! Your posts of your travels are always a delight.

You are my Travel Hero.

Posted by
9447 posts

I am glad that your success in finding the perfect sfogliatelle surpassed the transportation issues.

Posted by
679 posts

Love reading your trip reports. Thanks for letting me vacation vicariously.

Posted by
5537 posts

Love your perspective Zoe. And your quest for the best sfogliatelle!!

Posted by
1112 posts

I loved Naples too, though so far I've only been once.
The best sfogliatelle we had was at a teeny hole in the wall bar on Spaccanapoli.
It was painted in bright yellow, but I can't remember the name of it. Great coffee too.
The worst we had was at Café Gambrinus.
Terrible service, and terrible coffee!
Loved everything about Naples, especially the people and the food.

Posted by
2454 posts

I loved Naples for the one day I was there too many years ago. And I have been trying to get back ever since. You give me motivation.

Posted by
782 posts

I've been down there a few times over the years and I think Napoli gets a bad rap sometimes. I realize it's dirty and crazy and the petty crime is rampant and whatnot but the city certainly has its charm and beauty. Every time I'm there I look around and think to myself "When Americans picture Italy in their minds, this is what it looks like".

The one thing I remember most from my last visit there was finding the perfect sfogliatelle at a stand near Centrale so your post really struck a chord with me, grazie Zoe.