Day One can be found here!
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Gabi and I start the day with a coffee and a croissant at a nearby cafe, Ceraldi Caffè.
Here we go for your standard cappucino (it is Italy after all), a chocolate croissant (can’t mess with perfection) and Gabi tries a crema & amarena Ischitano or, cherry with cream. The chocolate croissant was AMAZING. Instead of what you usually find, a cold, hard, log of hard chocolate, the croissant was filled with a creamy, melting chocolate center. It was pure heaven. Gabi’s reaction to hers was of similar astonishment. We had found our breakfast nook for the next day.
I’ve been in Europe for nearly 10 months at this point, and I never thought I’d say this but… I’m used to a European breakfast now. I grew up on an American breakfast of eggs, sausage/bacon, a starch like pancakes or grits – I love it, I’m into it, forever. But… a coffee and a piece of bread is also just enough. I don’t know what it is.
While munching away at our flaky croissants, Gabi and I work on our game plan to get to Pompeii (pom-pay). Pompeii was an ancient city in Italy that was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago by a volcanic explosion by Mount Vesuvius. You can see Vesuvius in the distance as you approach Naples, and on a clear day, you can see it from different places in the city. It’s one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and what killed the inhabitants of Pompeii so long ago was not the heat, not the lava, but the ash and gases expelled by the volcano. As a result, the city itself is in remarkable shape for something so old, but it has been a shell of itself ever since.
To get to Pompeii from where we were, we knew we would have to take some combination of the train and the metro. After buying the tickets from a tobacco shop using our Spani-talian, Gabi and I try to understand the directions the stationmasters gave us. “Go up, make a right, make a left, and straight.” “Did he mean go up up, or did he mean go up and out?” After nearly getting on the wrong train, getting on another wrong train, and finally getting on the Circumvesuviana (the train literally circles Mount Vesuvius), we’re on our way to Pompeii.
Rule Number 2 of Travel: Watch Ya Nuggets
Pick-pockets are notorious in Naples. They were all over the Circumvesuviana, preying on tourists and taking advantage of the crowded train. Being the main route to one of the world’s greatest tourists attractions, it was full of tourists of every nation. Gabi and I had to stand apart, and could see each other reacting to pick-pocketers around the train as they moved about. As the train neared our destination, a pick-pocketer got behind me and pulled a classic move- reaching behind you to hold a pole. Problem for him was, Gabi was facing me, and every time he inched closer, I moved closer to Gabi – we were both aware of his tricks. He eventually gave up and went into another car.
Don’t forget kids, watch ya nuggets. It’s rule number 2 of travel.
Pompeii, the Buried City
Stepping foot into Pompeii was surreal. I remember reading about Pompeii growing up. One story in particular was about a dog named Bimbo that died trying to bring his owner some food. For some reason, this story stuck out to me and countless other adults my age. The human tragedy of an entire city was a bit much for a middle schooler, but putting a dog into the story made it a lot realer for us! Either or, there we were, exploring a city that somehow still stood, despite destruction and looting.
Gabi and I decided against paying for the guided tours and thought we’d explore the city on our own. And boy is it a city. It’s quite large, and walking on the cobblestone streets got harder as the hours went on.
We explore as much as we can, taking selfies and pit stops where we can. The longer our feet were on those stones, the more they started to hurt. We started to trip all over the place, leading us to coin Rule Number 5 of Travel, “Don’t bust ya ass.” Just don’t. It can ruin your trip.
Eventually, Gabi and I were pooped, so we limped our way to the train station and went back into town.
Pizza Number 2: L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
This pizzeria was selected by Gabi and immediately became her favorite. The line was a long one, but we were hungry, sweaty, and not willing to go upstairs to our apartment to change, so we decided to stick it out.
This pizza was incredible as well. An Italian pizza is closer to a New York pizza in terms of crust. Flimsy, to say the least, but the crust is still doughy. It’s hard to describe. And it’s very tomato heavy, which is something I didn’t think I’d like but as it turns out… just fold that sucker and you’re good to go. It’s a wonderful flavor the way it all comes together. Papa John’s and Pizza Hut and so on are just different pizzas. I love them all. They all hold a space in my heart.
Oh, and this pizza spot is famous not just for being amazing and winning a bunch of awards, but also for this scene in Eat, Pray, Love – which is essentially all of my feelings about the Pizza Tour in one.
After this, Gabi and I waddle home, stopping by some art in the streets to take a few photos.
After searching all social media websites for information about places to eat in Naples, Gabi and I both were curious about about what I called Pasta Tacos. They were basically huge servings of pasta deep fried.
To get here we walked uphill. Walked and walked uphill at what felt like 80 degree weather at around 9pm. Google gives us some strange zig-zagging directions, and just as we stared uphill at what awaited us, we saw it – a cable car that could bring us up the mountain. We use the metro tickets we bought for Pompeii to get us uphill, and within a few minutes we’re at Timballo eating pasta tacos. We were unimpressed!
We got gelato to cheer us up at Fantasia.
Here’s where things get… dangerous.
So to get back to our apartment, we have to go downhill. Gabi and I are extremely tired at this point, so we head to the metro station to catch the train. It’s not running anymore, and it’s only 11pm. Okay…. so we have to walk. The cable car isn’t running either, so we have to walk downhill. Okay… It’s not late, people are everywhere, drinking and relaxing and looking out at the city (and from where we are uphill we can see that our neighborhood is still partying with fireworks and music, just like the night before). So we end up at the Panoramic Stairs. This is the zig-zag that Google wanted us to take earlier that we got around by taking the cable car.
Don’t go down the panoramic stairs at night, guys.
After a few minutes going downhill and watching our neighborhood from above, we notice that we’re being followed by four teenagers, two boys and two girls. Our conversation immediately goes quiet, and I can tell Gabi is listening intently. She says under hear breath, “They’re talking about us,” and “I am NOT getting mugged by a bunch of teens in Italy.”
Our joyful jaunt downhill, poorly lit aside from the lights outside of people’s houses, or inside their houses – some people have their windows or doors open to the street – becomes a tense speed walk down 414 stairs. FOUR HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN. It took us at least 15 minutes to get down those stairs, and at least 10 of those 15 minutes were crazy uncomfortable. Eventually these kids give up, and once closer to our apartment Gabi and I exhale and can take a moment to laugh at our near-mugging for sub-par pasta tacos.
So once again everybody, rules of travel!
Number 1: Watch where you’re going
Number 2: Watch ya nuggets
Number 3: Watch ya goodies
Number 4: Hold on to ya nuggets
Number 5: Don’t bust ya ass.
Tune in later this week for the final installment of the Naples Pizza Tour. It’s a calm day at a the beach. No mugging involved.