Naples is nothing like the majority of tourist destinations in Italy. Naples is raw and dirty and often charmless. The people and the city in general, don’t cater to the tourist. Frankly, that is understandable as someone who lives in the major tourist destination known as Maui, Hawaii. However, I also work in the tourism industry like tens of thousands of others in Hawaii. Visitors is how I make my living – and I spend all of my spare living on travel. Thus, without tourism, I wouldn’t have the current life I have and that would stink. So, while it’s an odd decision on the part of Naples, I can also respect it. I know the city isn’t a wealthy one and more or less run by the mafia – however – there is an overwhelming feeling of being unwanted here.
I went to Naples for four things: Pompeii, Pizza, the Archeological Museum and Herculaneum. When we landed at the Naples Airport we had to store our luggage before heading out to achieve two of our goals – which was easy to do, but difficult to research. Basically, if you need to stow your luggage at the Naples Airport you need to go to the second floor area by security. There is a phone on the wall next to a machine that you use to pre-pay for the luggage storage. You lift the phone and request assistance storing the luggage and pay per piece on the machine. A member of security comes and helps you and it’s very secure and easy.
Our first order of business was to have pizza in the birthplace of pizza! Unfortunately, our taxi to Starita Pizza was ridiculous… A ride we calculated should be about 5-7 minutes took 20 and we were “taken for a ride” in all senses of the statement. Twenty five Euros later… we landed. The good news is that the pizza made us forget about the insane taxi ride. It was mother’s day so I let my Mom pick the pizza joint, and she’d done a ton of research and chose Starita – and thank goodness she did.
The second order of business was to visit the Archeological Museum – to see the artifacts of Pompeii prior to our visit to the ruins. I would say I found this museum to be the same as I found Naples in general – not very tourist friendly. Signage is lacking in general and all of the signage is only in Italian. The museum does have an elevator which is great – but keep in mind this will be a hotter than usual museum going experience.
After establishing a home base in Sorrento, a bit more idyllic than staying in Naples, we headed out with a guided tour of Pompeii and Herculaneum. We started out at Herculaneum first, which is a smaller, somewhat more well preserved town that was also destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius during the same eruption that covered Pompeii. The reason it’s more well preserved is because it was covered by a mudslide just prior to being covered by ash and pumice. The mud was a perfect preservation agent and you can even see wooden beams in the architecture that is devoid at Pompeii. However, Pompeii is the much larger city and if you’re choosing between the two, still choose Pompeii. I told y’all I’m a bit of a Clark W. Griswold so I didn’t pick either/or – the decision was for both!
What you need to know as a fluffy visiting Herculaneum is that you start out way above the town and work your way down towards the ancient docks where the largest amount of skeletal remains were found. Because we’re all morbid no matter how much we pretend we’re not – we all want to go down to see the skeletons – even if they’re recreations. Which means you’re climbing your way back out of town – through a very steep and long tunnel. I gave myself a head start coming back up, and indeed I had to stop a couple of times for a bit of a rest and was a bit sweat drenched once on the top. However, five minutes sitting in the shade with a bottle of water and I was fine again. The rest of Herculaneum is obviously cobblestone strewn and uneven, so really good shoes are a must and even a walking stick if you’re a bit unsteady.
After a revivifying lunch we got to Pompeii. Pompeii, my friends, is a bit of a beast. Not a dragon, but this is a physical challenge for most average folks, so for the fluffy it’s tough. But doable and ever so worth it! It’s the opposite of Herculaneum in that you start at the bottom and work your way up. Sidewalks and cobblestones and stairs, OH MY!
If you keep in mind their streets doubled as drainage paths for rain and sewage, you’ll know that their “sidewalks” are sometimes a full two feet off of the ground. And due to heavy traffic flow of visitors in large groups, you’ll be up and down sidewalks and crossing streets and up down up down up down – a lot.
If you go with a tour, as I did, you’re obviously going to have to keep up with the tour guide. Mine was a teeny little Italian blonde wearing wedge heels… making my labored groan to climb up a steep step seem a bit sad. But, hey! We do what we can, don’t we? If you go on your own, take your time and go either really early or really late to avoid the midday sun… but as I understand it’s much busier the first half of the day versus the second half. Sit down in the shade often and forget about any of your insecurities – the humbling truth of how fast it can all end is really thick in the air at Pompeii. Remember that you’ve already accomplished a lot just by getting on the plane and making your way to realizing your dreams! This is our one life – and no one is perfect – but perfect or not it could end in a day for any of us.
(Back to reality…) Also keep in mind it’s pretty hot during the summer months at Pompeii so bring lots and lots of water! There aren’t many facilities throughout the area, so rely on yourself as if there were none. I brought a selfie stick and encourage you to do so as well. You’ll want to remember this amazing trip and this crazy bit of life and death, frozen in time forever.
So, while getting to this part of Italy is so incredibly worth it, it definitely isn’t a stroll in the park. There will be some challenges and sore muscles – but there will also be lifetime memories and a deeper understanding of the world and how different and yet the same, we all are.
Pompeii – 5-6
Herculaneum – 4-5