After Rome, Nabil and I took a train to Naples – the gritty, fast-paced, mafia-run, pizza capitol of Italy. 3 days of checking out sights and eating A LOT of Italian food later, I then took 2 days to check out Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
Our first stop in Napoli, after dropping our bags off into the world’s tiniest loft room, was PIZZA! Right around the corner from our hostel was a pizzeria made famous by former president Bill Clinton. He ate there once and now, of course, his picture is all over the wall! After a few ordering issues, we ended up with an amazingly delicious full-sized margherita pizza….for only 3 euro!
After pizza, we stumbled into a limoncello factory. Limoncello is an Italian liquer, commonly drunk in the south as a digestive after dinner. Contrary to the shot glasses it’s usually served in, the drink is actually sipped slowly. Lucky for us, this place was offering free samples! We got to try the original limoncello plus a variety of cream flavours such as melon, strawberry and chocolate! After our tasting, we both picked up a few tiny bottles (that looked like potions!) for home.
Continuing on our gastric tour of Napoli specialities, we went right next door for baba. Baba is an Italian dessert that people, apparently, enjoy. We were not those people. It’s a stale cold muffin that they squirt with rum and tasted like a sponge soaked in alcohol. I could feel the taste in my mouth hours after eating it and still get shudders thinking about it. I lasted only a few bites. But dear Nabil decided to tough it out and finish the baba – which resulted in a HUGE final bite and the agony pictured below.
We spent the rest of our first Napolian day exploring the city, walking to the pier and getting lost in the tiny streets. It’s not as picturesque as Rome, but it was definitely an interesting walk. On the way back to our hostel, we ran into the cutest pug! This guy was sitting on the sidewalk, waiting patiently for his owner who was shopping across the street. I almost took him home!
That night we went for Julia Roberts pizza – pizza at the place where Julia Roberts filmed Eat Pray Love (or the Eat part, at least). Despite being a Hollywood film set, this restaurant is extremely popular with the locals! We got there around 7, which is early for Italian diners, and still had to take a number (lucky #13!) and wait to be allowed in. Once inside, your choices for pizza are limited to margherita and marinara. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed just the plain marinara pizza – probably the best pizza I’ve ever had. If you’re headed to Naples, this place gets my highest recommendation!
On day 2 in Naples, we took the very crowded Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii – the ancient town that had been wiped out by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. It was very similar to Ostia Antica in Rome, but much bigger, more crowded and a lot hotter. It was amazing to see how well-preserved this city still was and to see some of the “mummified” inhabitants from 79 A.D. The large amphitheatre, where one of the visitors decided to do an impromptu song for us, was probably the coolest thing to see. As much as I loved seeing all of the ruins, the heat and crowds were definitely getting to me on this day!
After sweating all day at Pompeii we came back for a nap at the hostel before a dinner of, you guessed it, pizza! This time we went to Signollo’s which is run by one of 21 (!) pizza-making siblings! All of the pizzas on the menu have Italian names, which we hoped correlated with each of the siblings. It was nice to get a pizza with a few more toppings and, of course, it was delicious!
Across from the restaurant is a graffa shop we had read about in our guidebook. Graffa is basically an Italian donut, but at this shop, they hand make them and fry them fresh to order. They also have a magical machine that squeezes chocolate into them. So, basically, they’re little bites of heaven. Nabil and I loved them so much, we came back twice more before leaving Naples! The staff started to recognize us 🙂
Our last day took us on another day trip, this time, to the island of Capri! We had a pretty rough time getting there, spending an hour+ walking along a giant pier to try and find an affordable ferry or hydrofoil to take us. But, we made it! And within minutes of disembarking, we were sitting on the beach with Caprese sandwiches in our hands.
After getting in some beach-time we took a funicular up to Capri Town – which is atop the mountain on the Isle of Capri (there’s also AnaCapri, but I won’t get into where that is). I’m really glad we didn’t spend all day at the beach, because the views from the top were amazing! It’s so different than what I picture when I think of Italy – pebble beaches and houses on grassy hills all less than an hour from crazy Naples! We walked along the main road, stopping often to take photos and squeal over the view.
In order to really enjoy our surroundings, we thought it would be a good idea to grab a drink on one of the terrace bars. This turned out to be a horrible idea as the price of the drinks was steeper than the hill we were sitting on top of! We reasoned that all our meals had been about 5 euro each, so a few pricey drinks wouldn’t be too bad.
Finishing our time on Capri with a cup of gelato, we headed back to the mainland and relaxed a bit before dinner. Finally tired of pizza, we turned to our hostel staff for a non-pizza recommendation and ended up at Tandem. At Tandem, you can play a game where you pay 1 euro/minute for either a bowl of ragu and bread or ragu with spaghetti. Stepping up to the challenge, I went for the spaghetti and Nabil got the bread. Once served, a man from the kitchen came out with his cellphone timer and counted us in. After a few giggles and complaints over the heat of the sauce, I got serious and was able to finish my bowl of pasta in just over 3 minutes! Nabil had me beat at 2 minutes 40 seconds, but we both agreed it was the yummiest ragu we had ever not really had the time to taste!
The next day concluded our time in Naples and my time with Nabil 🙁 It was sad to be heading different ways at the train station, after having had so many fun adventures through Rome and Naples. I was used to travelling with someone, and having that someone be as organized , informed and enthusiastic as Nabil was such a treat. But I was also really excited to check out Positano and, essentially, do nothing for 2 days before getting back to my oh-so-hectic-and-demanding life of 1 class per week in Amsterdam 🙂
Having survived an extremely long Circumvesuviana ride and very windy bus trip, I walked up to Hostel Brikette and was greeted by two lovely British guys and an amazing view! Positano was winning me over immediately.
Hostel Brikette is located at the top of Positano, which is a town on a hill. The beach, of course, is located at the bottom. I took a series of secret staircases down and was amazed by how well-designed this precarious town perched on a hill seems to be. I arrived at the Fornillo beach to find the place pretty much deserted. There were maybe 5 other beach-goers present. So I got to read my book, stare at the ocean and take a scary amount of photos – aka my perfect afternoon!
From Il Fornillo, I took the path over to the main beach: Spiaggia Grande. This one had a few more people, but was still relatively quiet. I checked out the touristy shops and enjoyed a pizza sandwich under the shade of a palm tree.
Following my day at the beach, I headed back up the hill to my hostel. I’m not a huge fan of ascending steep staircases, so I opted to follow the road which winds up and down the mountain (less steep but less direct). It took about an hour to get back to my hostel, but I was able to stop and take in Positano from lots of interesting angles. I even befriended a couple of old ladies from the States!
Back at the hostel, I hung out on the balcony and met the few guests who were also staying there. Most hostels I’ve stayed at have felt pretty impersonal and nothing more than a place to sleep at. Hostel Brikette was really different. On my first night, I met 2 students from Melbourne, a social worker from Brisbane and another student from San Francisco. The 4 of us, and one of the English guys who worked at the hostel, decided to go for dinner together. It was really nice to chat with new friends and spend a night together laughing over pasta, wine and lemon cake! After dinner, and for the rest of my stay, we all spent a lot of time chatting on the balcony and grabbing food together. It was a really nice feeling of community, something I don’t get that often in hostels.
The next day, I headed back to the beach! There’s not a ton to do in Positano, besides beach-time and hiking (which I passed on), but that suited me fine. I took my time walking down, checking out little boutiques along the way. I went into one cafe that doubled as a decor store. They had an open kitchen in the back, where they prepared made-to-order organic food. Tables lined one wall and the other was used to hold the beautiful homeware they sold. If my budget (and backpack space) had allowed it, I would have loved to buy some of the gorgeous bowls and table runners. But, I settled for a lemon ricotta cheese cake and tea!
I spent the rest of the day shopping around, reading and relaxing on the beach. Unfortunately, being a Saturday, bus-loads of other tourists had also descended on the beach. It wasn’t as relaxing as my first day and made me very glad I had opted to come in April, instead of the summer when the place gets swarmed.
My last night ended with (another) pizza, though it wasn’t up to Napoli standards. It was nice to sit out on the balcony with new friends and take in the last of my sights of Positano and the sea. The next morning, I woke early and took a shuttle to the Napoli Airport and back to Amsterdam. It was sad to leave Italy, but also exciting to return “home” and get back into my routine. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to check out a few more amazing Italian cities and can’t wait to visit the rest on my list (Venice, Pisa, Florence, Verona, etc.) one day!
Shockingly, I don’t have any future travel plans at the moment. The plan is to stay in Amsterdam until my mom comes to visit/travel in late May. But, I’m still keeping busy! The day I got back from Italy, we hosted a friend from Berlin and today another friend from Sweden is coming to stay! I plan to do more local sightseeing – such as checking out all the museums (for free with my MuseumKaart) and beautiful parks. This local touring started off well with yesterday’s visit to the Amsterdam Zoo and through an Easter fair. There’s also the gorgeous tulips at Keukenhof and King’s Day on April 26th!
So while I might not be crossing country borders, I plan to be crossing a lot of things off my Amsterdam to-do list in the next month!