Travel date: October 14th, 2018
Published: April 5th, 2019
We arrived in Naples just after noon on October 14th, after taking the train from Rome. After a little bit of confusion, we found our way to the metro and took it to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and started exploring. The hotel was only a few blocks from the historic center, so we took a walk over. It was around lunch time, and our hotel manager had recommended we go to Gino Sorbillo’s for pizza, but when we got there, they were closed that day – but when we passed by, there was a picture of someone’s face that we recognized on the wall outside the restaurant – NYC Mayor Bill de Balsio. Apparently he had been there a few years ago. We walked down the street a little further, wandering our way through the city and seeing tons of historic monuments and churches (with all different styles), until we found a different restaurant and got some pizza.
After we ordered the pizza, we saw someone deliver a pizza to our restaurant, and we were pretty sure that pizza was served to the table next to us. We weren’t sure if the kitchen was actually in a different building or what was going on, but sure enough, a few minutes before our pizzas arrived at our table, someone came to the restaurant with pizza boxes! So I guess we got pseudo-delivery?
The history of Naples itself goes back to when the Greeks established a settlement there in 2000BC, and it’s been inhabited ever since (the name comes from the Greek “Neapolis”, or New City). The layout of the city is partially based on the original Greek rectangular grid. When we listened to descriptions of Naples, multiple people described Naples as “gritty”, and we could see why. It can be crowded, chaotic, and loud. We weren’t there during peak tourist season – far from it, and some of the streets were jam packed with people. But there’s also a realness to it, an authenticity – it’s not just a city full of tourists. Almost one million people live in the city.
After lunch we made our way over to the Castel Nuovo. It’s closed on Sundays, so we couldn’t go in, but we did walk up to the front of it and look around. It was first built in 1279 and is right on the water – it’s a huge castle which was used as the Royal Court for the King of Naples hundreds of years.
We also passed by the Galleria Umberto I, a large shopping mall that was built in the late 1880’s. It’s shaped a bit like a cross, with four wings that all converge in the center, where the center has beautiful mosaics on the floor.
On our way out of the Galleria, we passed by a gelato/confectionary store, and so I got a chocolate gelato and Kelly got a pistachio cannoli.
We also passed by the Palazzo Reale di Napoli – the Royal Palace of Naples in the 17th century and the Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola. In between the two is the Piazza del Plebiscito, the main square of the city. One interesting historical footnote about the Basilica – construction on it started under King Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law. King Ferdinand was the King of Naples and the King of Sicily before the Naples, but when Napoleon took over much of Italy, he installed his brother Joseph as the King of Naples and Sicily in 1806. Two years later, Joseph was crowned the King of Spain, and Napoleon picked his brother-in-law Joachim Murat to be the King of Naples and Sicily. When Napoleon was finally deposed, King Ferdinand was reinstated as King of Naples and Sicily, and the construction of the Basilica was finished a few years later.
After a long day of traveling and exploring, we went back to the hotel to take a quick nap before dinner. We ended up going out to eat at a restaurant near the monument of Dante – another public square. Dinner was great!