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Trip Report A few days in Naples - what a great city

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There were few trip reports on Naples when I was researching for our latest trip so, having returned from 3 nights there at the beginning of February here are my thoughts.

First some context - we've spent time in Milan, Venice, Florence but not Rome yet and were visiting Naples so we can see partner's son who is currently 100 miles east of Naples teaching English as a foreign language while he tries to learn Italian. Travel for us is a mix of cheap and expensive so our Michelin dinner was bookended by pizzas both other nights.

As we were there for just there nights we concentrated on the city and decided to leave Pompeii and Herculaneum for another trip.

We try using Airbnb when we can and so had booked a lovely apartment for the three of us towards the southern end of the old Spanish Quarter just off the main street Via Toledo - we found this a great location close enough to all the main sites.

We fly cheaply and so flew Dublin to Rome with Ryanair and then got a very fast train down to Naples. The train took just 70 minutes and flew along at almost 190mph and while it was more expensive than flying direct it was an experience and we were glad we did it. Of course the tickets could have been bought in advance much cheaper but we would have been limited to a fixed train so we didn't mind the extra expense.

The taxi from the station was a little chaotic - no lines, you are just directly towards one of the several taxis that seem to be at the front of the 4 car deep queue. Even though we had the address printed there was much discussion with the driver and the guys directing people to the next taxis. When we arrive we understand why - the streets in the Spanish Quarter are very narrow and just about take a car, turning a corner looks a serious challenge.

As we arrive late Joshua has found a late night pizza place close by and we get a takeout. His simple margherita is definitely the best.

I'd researched a place nearby for breakfast and it doesn't disappoint - great coffee and excellent croissant (cornetto) filled with runny chocolate - gorgeous probably one of my favourite breakfasts in the world - a great cappuccino and a white chocolate filled mignon (a mini cornetto).

Ready for the day, we're close to Castel Nuovo and so just take a quick look close up at the amazing triumphal entrance that dates from the 15th century - the detail of the stone carving is amazing but our destination is Castel dell'Ovo, built in the 12th century. On our way we book a tour of the San Carlo theatre and then visit the royal palace - Fodor's guidebook describes it as overblown imperial and it turns out to be as fabulous as billed - the free audioguide is very good. Then the few minutes back to the theatre - one of the world's most famous opera houses for a 45 minute tour that is well worth doing. We stop off at the famous Caffe Gambrinus where Oscar Wilde drank and where Mussolini shut some of the rooms to keep out left-wing intellectuals. We drink our coffees at the bar - they are more than 3 times more expensive if you sit at a table.

We continue down to Castel dell'Ovo, which looks incredibly old, as indeed it is. It has the advantage of being free and the views from the top out over the harbour and towards Vesuvius are excellent. Even in February the weather is plenty warm enough - 60 degrees. Joshua was here in the summer as describes it as unbearably hot. As with Venice, which we visited out of season, Naples seems to be so much nicer without the crowds and the heat. The lack of crowds means we get a table for lunch right by the waters edge at little harbour at the foot of the castle - simple seafood, lovely white wine, Vesuvius in the background - perfect. We then go and ruin the perfection by asking for tiramisu which is still a little frozen in the middle.

Our destination for the afternoon is a gallery/shop in Chiaia that our Time Out guide says is where Andy Warhol met Joseph Beuys (when the building was in use as a club). When we get there it's not a shop or a gallery but instead a workers coop but we are greeted and shown round - a lovely reception that I doubt would be given in many other places. It's typical though of our stay - at no point did we ever get a response that was anything less than positive - helped I'm sure by Joshua's surprising semi-fluency in Italian - such a contrast to the monosyllabic teenager of some past European holidays.

We wander back along Via dei Mille and Via Chaiai, both interesting shopping streets where the best chain stores are located - very upmarket and a contrast to the less cared for parts of the city. There seems to be much scaffolding about though and there does seem to be an effort to improve the appearance of the place.

Dinner tonight is outside the city, a €50 taxi drive away (we have to pay for his return to the city) at the area's only Michelin two-star restaurant Taverna Estia - a lovely evening, especially for Josh who has lived on pasta and beans for many months as he doesn't get paid until the end of his contract in May.

Concluding part soon.

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