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Eight days exploring and eating in Naples, Paestum and Rome

Eight days exploring and eating in Naples, Paestum and Rome

May 6th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Eight days exploring and eating in Naples, Paestum and Rome

In October 2011 my mother and I spent eight days visiting Naples, Paestum and Rome. We've been to Italy quite a few times, but this was a first trip for the both of us to Naples and Paestum (home to Greek ruins and buffalo mozzarella). From Naples we took a day trip to Herculaneum and from Paestum we took a day trip to Agropoli. Rome was at the end of our trip and is one of my favorite cities (you'll find two previous trips of mine posted here).

I've written many trip reports here on Fodor's and in the past I've written lengthy day-by-day text, but this time I'm going to change it up a bit. This report will summarize what we did (and ate, because when in Italy, it's all about the food!), featuring the highlights for each location. I'm hoping the (somewhat) shorter version will be easier for people to gather tips and advice.

Transportation: Planes, trains, and automobiles

Planes

LAX-FCO-LAX on Air Canada
We flew Air Canada from LAX to Rome. My mother went two weeks ahead of me on a frequent flyer ticket and traveled alone before I arrived. We met up in Rome and and I bought my ticket to coincide with her flight home. The seats on AC were fairly comfortable with a larger than average pitch (32") in economy and seatback video on demand with tons of choices. Some of the economy seats also have A/C power ports and USB ports for charging your electronic devices. Headset jacks are the standard ones for an MP3 player, so bring your own because they charge for headsets (and pillows, and blankets, and food) on the US-Canada portion of the route. Those items are free on the Canada-Europe routes.

On the way to Rome I flew through Montreal and on the way back we flew through Toronto. Both airports have free wifi which is nice and way better than LAX which still does not.
In Montreal I had my passport checked but my luggage was checked through to Rome. In Toronto we had to get our luggage, go through passport control for US entry, then through customs, then re-check our bags. Thankfully we had a 4 hour layover because this process took up almost half of it. In Toronto, my mother could have gone through customs in a flash using her Global Entry pass, but since I didn't have one, she waited with me. I now have my own Global Entry Pass and I'm good to go!

Note; If you are a US Citizen who travels internationally a few times a year, and want to learn more about the Global Entry pass, I've written about my experience here:
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2012/0...entry-program/

TRAINS:
Leonardo Express: FCO-Termini (Rome's central train station)
On arrival into Rome, I took the "Leonardo Express" train from FCO to Termini for 14 euro. Don't forget to validate your ticket in one of the machines before getting on the train or you could face a large fine.
Meeting in Rome Termini: My mother and I planned to meet at a specific cafe in Termini, but both of us had a hard time finding it. It was sheer luck we found each other after wandering for over 20 minutes.

Trains: Rome-Naples-Paestum-Rome
We didn't rent a car this trip and instead just stuck to riding all manner of trains in the Trenitalia system from the super fast bullet train which sped us from Rome to Naples (and back) in just over an hour each way to the commuter rail line which took us to Paestum.
The tickets from Rome to Naples were 45 euro each, bought same-day, but if you buy them in advance you can sometimes get them 2-for-1 or at least a little discounted (we didn't buy in advance because we were concerned my flight from LA would arrive late). The slower trains take an hour or two longer but cost less (about half). You know the saying, time is money and for us, it was worth the extra money to save the time and arrive earlier. To get to Rome from Paestum we had to take the train back to Naples and switch to the fast train to Rome.

Commuter rail, bus and metro:
The commuter rail tickets from Naples to Paestum were only 6.20 euro each way.
We also took the circumvesuviana line from Naples to Herculaneum. We bought day passes for Naples bus and metro system and did the same in Rome. In Pasteum we bought bus tickets to Agropoli and then waited along side the road in front of the cafe, for the bus to come when it felt like it.

Car
Cabs:
In Naples we took a cab from the train station to the apartment and it was a set 10 euro. On the way back to the train station, the guy ran the meter and it was 7 euro. We did not take any cabs in Rome as it's easy to get around by bus and walking.

For the trip back to FCO I booked a car to pick us up at 8am (for our 11:30 am departure) using RomeShuttleLimosine for 40 euro (only slightly more than the two of us taking the bus to Termini and then the train to the airport). The service was "ok" but the guy was 10 minutes late and frankly a little weird. In the past I've used RomeCabs but they were 10 euro more for 2 people. Next time I would call RomeCabs.
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 04:22 PM
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This sounds like a great trip, I can't wait to read more.
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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Accommodations

In Naples and Rome we rented apartments for 4 and 3 days respectively and in Paestum we stayed in a hotel for 2 nights

La Stanza di Dante
The Naples apartment was called Le Stanza de Dante and was right at Piazza Dante. The location could not be better and we walked everywhere from there or took the bus. The central area of Naples is now closed to most traffic and the street which fronted the apartment is where the traffic had to turn so there was always a police presence there.

The apartment was just fine for our needs and fit our budget well. It's listed as 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms, but technically two of the bedrooms are lofts, one over the living room, one over the master bedroom, so they are not private. The space would probably be fine for families with kids or teens.
The main bedroom has a queen sized bed with one of the hardest mattresses I've ever slept on. The loft above it has a twin bed and the other loft has two twins. All have very hard mattresses, almost like sleeping on the box springs. There is a ton of storage space (a wall of closets) in the bedroom.

The bathrooms are ok, but the small one, while it has a shower, would drench the entire room if you actually used it. The other one had good hot water and pressure, but the shower did not drain well, and the bracket to hold the shower head on the wall was broken so it was impossible for anyone over 5 feet tall to stand under it.
There is a washer/dryer combo machine. Do not use the dryer. You could blow on your clothes and they would dry faster.

The only natural light coming into the apartment is from the front windows on the balcony. The kitchen is serviceable with a good sized refrigerator, stove and oven but there's very little counter space so I think it would be hard to cook a full meal there. We never made anything more than coffee.
No wifi offered. There was a TV but it only got channels in Italian and we never watched it. The apartment is on the 2nd (3rd US) floor with a lift.
Link to apartment:
http://www.lestanzedidante.com/html/en.html

Il Granaio dei Casabella
This is a small hotel within walking distance of the ruins at Paestum. Location here was important for us because we did not have a car. The hotel picked us up from the train station and brought us back when we left.
It's a lovely place, in an old converted farm house and barn. Our room was nice, on the back of the house with a view of the garden, separate glassed in sitting room, and additional exterior entrance. The rooms are filled with antique wood furniture, have a small refrigerator and a TV. There is wifi available for free but it seemed to be hit and miss. One disappointment is that we had booked a room on the front of the building which has views of the Paestum ruins but when we arrived it had been given to someone else.

One of the reasons we'd booked this place is because it has a restaurant which got raving reviews (in a town where there are not a lot of dining options). Unfortunately, at the time we were there someone else had taken over the kitchen and the food was disappointing. We were assured by the front desk manager that this situation was changing and they were bringing back the woman who had been cooking there for years.

The staff and owner are very accomodating and friendly. We spent a good deal of time talking to the woman who manages the hotel about their plans for changes and the things which appeal to travelers.
When we arrived we were offered complimentary coffee in the breakfast room and drinks on one of the evenings. The public areas are lovely and comfortable and the breakfast room is sunny, overlooking the garden. Breakfast was good with options like yogurt, fruit, home made breads and sweets, and excellent coffee.
Link to hotel:http://www.ilgranaiodeicasabella.com/en/lacasa.html

Coronari Lauro
In Rome the apartment was called Coronari Lauro on TripAdvisor and Corlau on the Guest in Italy website (which is where we rented it). It's on a wonderful street, Via dei Coronari, a little north-west of Piazza Navona. The the apartment is beautifully decorated and filled with natural light in every room. There is only one bedroom with a queen bed and one bathroom. The couch is also a pull out bed. The bed in the bedroom, while still firm, was the most comfortable of the trip. There are two small balconies but we did not use either of them (I can't remember if they had chairs and tables or not). The bedroom has ample closet space.

The bathroom is very small and the shower, even smaller. I don't know if anyone over 150 lbs would be able to shower comfortably in there. They could really use one of those shower caddies to hang off the shower head because there is no where to put soap or shampoo and it's impossible to bend over to reach anything set on the shower floor.

The kitchen is nice, though very small and only had two electric burners, a mini refrigerator, a teeny-tiny sink and no oven. Again, we only used it made coffee. There are no fewer than 4 separate trash bins and written instructions in English as to what goes where.

I would stay here again in a heartbeat; the location is fantastic and the apartment is beautiful. There is one drawback which might prevent me from returning however; the apartment is on the 4th floor (5th floor US) with no lift. This means walking up and down 74 stairs every time you leave the apartment. That may not sound bad, but after a while it's tiring. The apartment does not offer wifi and does not have a washing machine. It's also a little expensive (though maybe not for Rome and its location) and prices drop substantially in the low season.
Link to apartment:http://www.guestinitaly.com/apartmen...ing_472,8.html
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 04:39 PM
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Naples:

The anticipation of traveling to a new city is a little like that of going on a first date. There’s excitement, nervousness, and anxiety all rolled into one big ball of anticipation.

To me Naples looks good on paper, albeit a little like the bad boy that many girls secretly adore. It’s often described as dirty, chaotic and dangerous but with fantastic art, architecture and incredible food. See what I mean? Naples sounds a like the 1950′s rebel complete with leather jacket, charming smile and a taste for mama’s ragú.

But then there’s the worry; I want to like him, but will he like me?
Will I get lost? Pickpocketed? Or will I find the Naples travel trifecta; great markets, the perfect pizza and the world’s best archaeology museum?

The short answer is Naples and I got along just fine. I didn’t exactly fall in love like I am with Rome (there’s nothing like your first love), but I think we could certainly hang out and get to know each other better. In other words, I would love to return for another visit because this one was way too short.
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 05:00 PM
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We did a lot of walking throughout Naples and never felt unsafe even though people had warned us that it was dangerous and dirty. Like any large city, you need to be aware of your surroundings and we were.

Wandering

On our first full day in Naples, a Sunday, we set out on foot from Piazza Dante, walking down Via Toledo, to just wander the streets with no particular destination in mind. There were lots of people in the streets even though most of the stores were closed and the street closed to most traffic. We ended up in Piazza Plebiscito. The view from the piazza is quite good too. Along the way we checked out the glass roofed Galleria Umberto and the Castel Nuovo (which was closed).
On another day we walked around the Centro Storico and what’s a visit to an Italian city without seeing the Duomo? Of course we went in. It's beautiful and worth going inside.

The Spanish Quarter

Another highlight was walking through the tiny streets of the Spanish Quarter, in search of a place to have lunch. I love the narrow, crowded streets filled with hanging laundry and whizzing motorbikes.

I’ve read that people in Naples live their lives in the streets because many people have tiny, one room apartments and this seemed to be true. We walked past many ground level apartments with open windows and doors, which at first glance may look like a tiny restaurant when you see the kitchen table. But upon closer inspection, you’ll often see a bed and the rest of what fits in a studio apartment.

People still use baskets and buckets attached to ropes to send things up and down to street level from their 3rd and 4th floor apartments. We watched a kid forgot his jacket, his mother yell down to him, and send the jacket down via bucket. People also buy produce and other household items from street vendors this way.

National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaelogical Museum is a highlight of any trip to Naples and we made sure to check it out before our trip to Herculaneum. Inside are relics, mosaics and frescos from both Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as classical sculptures and an enormous stunning room covered in murals on the 2nd floor which at one time must have been a grand ballroom. The collection of glass and pottery vessels is vast.

They also have a special room, called the “Gabinetto Segreto” (the secret room) which is filled with all the erotic art from Pompeii’s brothels. There is a sign outside the room which says it is available by appointment only and only for children over the age of 15. However, the door was unmanned, wide open and people were filing in and out at will, including a group of German teens on a school holiday so we went inside.

The mosaics, frescos and statues inside the secret room are very graphic. Let’s just say there was all manner of artifacts to provide inspiration and ummm, luck, in the realm of fertility and sex, for both humans and animals, and sometimes, both of them together. While it was interesting, I wanted to mention it because it's probably not appropriate for children of all ages.

Getting lost...

Naples has four funiculars and on our last afternoon, we took one up to the top of the hill to see the view and check out the Castel St Elmo. Little did we know it was a bit of a hike to get from the funicular to the castle’s entrance, only to discover it closed on that day!

Instead of walking all the way back to the funicular, I looked at the map and said, let’s follow this street downhill to get to the middle stop on the funicular. Big mistake. Huge.

The “street” wasn’t a street at all, but rather a series of wide and uneven “steps” in a switchback downhill. After about half an hour of walking, we started to wonder if we’d ever get out and when we did, where would we land? Finally we heard cars and the steps emptied out onto a busy street where we eventually found the middle funicular stop (turn left when exiting the steps). It was quite an adventure, but I don't recommend it unless you have a better map than we did and lots of time!

For photos of our daytime wandering around Naples, go here:
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2011/1...dering-naples/
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 05:13 PM
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Naples at Night:

A city at night is an entirely different animal than a city in the day time, isn’t it? Some can be romantic (think Paris), some can be rockin’ (think New York) and some can be downright dangerous (insert your favorite scary city here, I won’t take sides).

Naples at night didn’t fit any of those stereotypes, despite all the warnings we had before arrival. As during our daytime wanderings, we walked the city at night, mostly in search of meals in various parts around Piazza Dante and in the Historical Quarter. What we found was a city which seems to shut up tight except in neighborhoods where there are a lot of restaurants and/or tourists. In fact, I was surprised at how quiet and deserted it seemed at times. We never really felt unsafe either, even when in search of a restaurant, my phone's GPS led us down some sketchy streets which weren't much more than an alley. As with most cities at night, it's best to keep aware of your surroundings.

Here are my photos of Naples at night:
http://www.wired2theworld.com/2011/1...ples-at-night/
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 05:26 PM
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Naples Markets:

There are many outdoor markets in Naples and we visited two; one in Porta Nolana and the other, an organic Sunday market right in our own Piazza Dante.
If you like markets, I highly recommend you check out Napoli Unplugged’s extensive list of markets in Naples at: http://www.napoliunplugged.com/locat...tegory/markets

Having been a chef who specialized in fish and seafood, I’m always attracted to a city’s fish market and the Porta Nolana market did not disappoint. It’s outside, on the street, and very much reminded me of the La Vucchiria street market in Palermo with the crumbling buildings, artfully displayed food, and vendors in rubber boots calling out jokes to each other and selling their wares to passersby. We seemed to be the only obvious tourists there, and while we got a few curious looks, no one seemed to care.

To get there, we walked from the train station at Piazza Garabaldi to the streets where it starts; Via Santa Maria delle Grazie a Loreto and Via Padre Ludovico da Casoria.

Farmer’s market in Piazza Dante; this one seemed to focus on organic and artisanal products only, from cheeses, to meats to bee keeping and honey production. There was even a display encouraging people to grow their own produce. I believe it's only there on Sundays.

Photos of the markets are here: http://www.wired2theworld.com/2011/1...armers-market/
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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I'm planning a first trip to Naples (not until 2013, alas), so I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it and that you found it didn't live up to the old "dirty and dangerous" reputation!

Do you mind if I ask how you found the apartment you rented in Naples? Was it through an agency or vrbo or ?

I haven't looked at your photos yet, I'm going to make some tea first
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Apres-
Yes, we really enjoyed Naples. But I love cities with "character" like Palermo or Bangkok which some other people don't. ;-)

I found the Naples apartment originally through VRBO (actually through a suggestion here), but then the owner gave me the address of his site. We liked the location (VERY central) and the price was right (less than listed on the web site). Lack of wifi and the hard beds might be a deal breaker for me if I were to go again however.

If you are interested in Naples apartments you might want to read through the responses I got when I asked about Naples apartments and neighborhoods when we were trying to decide where to stay:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-in-naples.cfm
Kristina is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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Thanks, Kristina. One the hotels recommended in your thread, the Decumani, is one I've had at the top of my list since deciding on Naples...we're planning to spend 6-7 nights so I'm still playing around with the idea of an apartment. But it seems like the apartment options are relatively limited in Naples, so maybe we'll stick with a hotel this time.

It's the "character" aspect that makes me so curious to see Naples for myself Well, that and the archeology museum.

Anyway, I'm off to check out your photos, thanks for a great report so far!
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 06:46 PM
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Absolutely gorgeous photographs!
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 6th, 2012, 11:56 PM
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Thanks, that made for fun reading - and lovely pictures, of both our region's rakish capital and the national one!

For some tedious stuff that may be of interest or assistance to those following in your footsteps:

If fixing a meeting point at Termini, the station's Italian pages have a lot more detail... with this for instance being the one for the first entry in the "Bar e Ristoranti" list:

http://www.grandistazioni.it/cms/v/i...003f16f90aRCRD

..................................................

And if down in Campania for long, do look into the local 'Artecard' scheme here - which is perhaps rather better value than the roughly equivalent RomaPass:

http://www.campaniartecard.it/

For many the simplest choice could well be its 3 day, with transport, version - titled 'tutta la regione"..

http://www.campaniartecard.it/itinerary.cfm?id=13

..........................................

With their staggered closing days, it's not difficult to find locked doors facing you at some of the sites and sights in this area - indeed, we (I!) dragged visiting friends ashore from Ischia for the Archaeological Museum one Tuesday, which I'd thought OK...

To save that embarrassment, try the list here:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic..._Campania.html

..........................

Both cities have handy visitor magazines that are well worth a look, with more recent stuff than guidebooks can offer:

"Un Ospite a Roma - A guest in Rome". For the month's PDF version, click on the picture of its cover, over to the right of the screen here:

http://www.unospitearoma.it/en.html

The bimonthly 'Qui Napoli' (published only for the busier times of the year) is available for download from...
http://www.inaples.it/eng/quinapoli.htm

..........................

Sounds like more than a holiday romance? Luckily, Campania has plenty to offer for a second date...

http://www.pbase.com/isolaverde/tele

Peter
A_Brit_In_Ischia is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 05:51 AM
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Apres- Thanks, so glad you liked them, more to come.

Peter- Thanks for the additional info. You were very helpful when I was planning the trip as well. I did look into the Arte Card but in the end we didn't end up buying them.
Kristina is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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Kristina I'm a big fan of your reports and this one just cemented your reputation! Many thanks!

Where to, next?
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 06:44 AM
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Kristina,

I haven't read it all yet, but I'm bookmarking because there is an on-ging discussion with me & my mom about Naples in 2013!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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Kristina - What a great trip report! This will certainly help us enjoy our upcoming trip even more! Seems like you ate very well in Naples! And if Istanbul is your next trip, you'll absolutely love it! We've visitied twice and wouldn't hesitate to return for a third trip ...
Debs is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 09:11 AM
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it's not just foreigners who worry about crime in Naples, kristina. an italian teacher I had [who came from milan] said that he and a friend were driving in Naples and got completely lost. they were sitting at traffic lights studying the map, when the driver in the car next to them started gesturing at them so they immediately locked the car doors and did up the windows. He continued to gesture, and eventually got out of his car and came over to them, holding up all the traffic behind them.

letting down the window an inch or so [or should that be a centimetre?] they discovered that he was offering to give them directions, and when they said where they wanted to go, told them to follow him!

loving your trip report by the way. we went to Naples on a day trip from Sorrento nearly 40 years ago, and I still remember the lovely shopping gallery we found, the beggars, the washing on the lines, and general chaos. glad to know it hasn't changed!
annhig is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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So happy to see your report. I am a member of the W2W fan club and always enjoy your reports and advice. I'm torn between Naples or Puglia for next year, and your report is making Naples very enticing. Thanks!
jmct714 is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Great report. We're looking forward to a visit to Naples in September and your TR is very helpful.
yestravel is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 10:28 AM
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I'm looking forward to the Food: section!
Marija is online now  

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