Diary: a weekend getaway to Naples with my (little) brother!

My nine-year-younger brother Maurits turned eighteen last January! Eighteen is, of course, a special age and should be rewarded with a special gift. I didn’t have to think long about what to give my brother: he wanted to visit Naples and Pompeii since he was little! So there we went: a whole weekend to the south of Italy to enjoy warm weather, Italian food and of course Pompeii!


Birthday cake and Tarot cards

After a short but bumpy flight, our Ryanair aeroplane landed in Naples. Maurits and I didn’t sit side by side, this is a budget trip and with Ryanair, you even have to pay extra for chairs next to each other. As soon as we step out of the plane a warm air is blowing towards us. The temperature in southern Italy is much more pleasant than in the cold rainy Eindhoven (a town in the South of The Netherlands) where we have just come from.

The centre of Naples is just a short bus ride from the airport. We are dropped off at Napoli Garibaldi station, near our apartment for the next three days. Naples is a relatively poor city, something you notice well in the vicinity of the station. Everywhere you see garbage, people trying to sell you stuff and young people hanging out on the street. Nothing bad, you just have to watch your pockets a little better.

Carlo, the owner of the apartment where we are staying, warmly welcomes us at 10.30 pm and shows us quickly where we can find everything. After this, I look at Maurits, it’s his decision: are we going to sleep, or does he want to go into the city? He decides for the later one and from my previous visit to Naples, I know a nice bar: Libreria Berisio, a former bookshop where you drink cocktails between the old books. Officially Maurits has been allowed to drink alcohol for a week and a half and since we are in Italy, where my favourite drink comes from, we toast with an Aperol Spritz! In the bar where we are at, it’s busy, the other guests are all Italian and soon we get talking to a group of locals. They tell passionately why Naples is so different from the rest of Italy! When they hear that Maurits has just had his birthday, he is congratulated from all sides and suddenly birthday cake appears. After another Aperol Spritz and a future prediction with Tarot cards (the prediction: I will make a long trip), we walk back home cheerfully. It is already two AM when we are tired in bed and we all fall asleep fast!

By train to Pompeii

When the alarm clock rings we aren’t completely rested yet. However, today Pompeii is on the schedule and we want to arrive on time. Our apartment has a typical Italian breakfast, served in a restaurant just ten meters away. Ober Marco immediately recognizes us as brother and sister and conjures up huge chocolate croissants and strong coffee. While we eat these on the terrace in the sun, our sleepiness slowly disappears. Maurits is very excited about the fact that he will finally see Pompeii. He loves history, especially that of Roman times, during the train ride to it he tells everything about how people lived 2000 years ago.

And he does not stop there, unbelievable how much he knows about the history of the Roman empire and Pompeii itself. When we walk through the old city in the sun, he bounces around with enthusiasm and facts. With the app Pompeii – A day in the Past I fill in his information by reading about the buildings we visit, the houses we enter and the theatres that we see. I have been to Pompeii a few years ago with Ries. This time, having more information and with the enthusiasm of Maurits, the ruins are coming alive much more. It is really special that we walk around in a city that was wiped out 2000 years ago by a volcanic eruption.


Are you planning to visit Pompeii? Then read this blog in advance: “Travel guide: everything you need to know about Pompeii“.


Four hours later, when we have seen the largest part of Pompeii, we walk back to the train station. We are a bit tired and Maurits falls asleep during the train journey. We don’t go straight back to Naples but get off the train at the city of Ercolare. Here too, there are excavations that you can view from above. Herculaneum, the village that was discovered almost 300 years ago, is about six meters lower than the rest of the city. It’s already late in the day, so we decide not to buy tickets to go inside, but it’s nice to have seen this from above.

Half an hour later we arrive in Naples. Before we walk back to our apartment, we get for a Sfogliatella for Maurits, a typical Neapolitan pastry consisting of dozens of layers of puff pastry. I take an espresso to wake up a bit. But that is not the only Italian food we eat. After a short break back at the apartment, we walk into the city. There we eat delicious pasta, Maurits with lemon and turmeric, for me a pasta Vongole! Then we walk towards the main square Piazza del Plebiscito, passing through the busy shopping street Via Toledo. Here is the well-known chain Mennella Il Gelato, where not only the ice is made fresh, but also the horns are still warm from baking. And so we end the day with real Italian Gelato!

The city under Naples

The weather forecasts indicate rain for today, but when we wake up, the sun shines through the windows. That means that we will have breakfast on the terrace again! With sunglasses on, but without watches or jewellery (we are warned for pickpockets) we walk into the city. Today I want to show Maurits more of Naples, both above and below the ground! We start with the underground part: underneath the modern city, you will find tunnels and buildings from Roman times. Some have always remained in use, such as the aqueducts. Other parts have just been discovered and need to be completely excavated.

It is clear that I am still a bit sleepy when I buy tickets for La Neapolis Sotterrata: after a few minutes I find out that we don’t have tickets for the aqueduct where I had been with Ries last time, but for an underground market hall. The tickets can not be changed anymore, but afterwards, it turns out to be a very good mistake. During the guided tour, which runs under a large basilica, among others, the guide shows everything from the recently excavated market hall. We even see the bathtubs of a launderette. The modern Naples is built on top of the Roman city, which in turn was built on the Greek city of Nea Polis (new city), founded in the eighth century BC. During the tour, we also see parts of the excavations of the Greek city, and even the underground streets that we walk over are part of the Greek street plan.


Are you planning a trip to Naples? Be sure to read my City Guide Naples. This is full of tips in terms of food, activities and accommodations!


A little before noon we are outside again and decide to immediately join the guided tour of Napoli Sotterenea, which I initially had in mind, through the aqueducts. First, we have to descend a bit deeper (40 meters below the ground), after which we squeeze through narrow tunnels, sometimes no wider than 50 centimetres. During Roman times, more than 400 kilometres of aqueducts have been laid out to supply Naples with fresh water. During the Second World War, this space was used as a shelter and nowadays you can find art and a plant project here. We walk past a beautiful, artificially operated, water storage room. Then, above the ground, we pay a visit to an old amphitheatre that nowadays lies beneath a number of houses. This is perhaps the best thing about Naples, under a seemingly simple house, are the cellars of a large Roman building.

The tastiest lunch ever!

After the tour, we start to get some appetite. I know a nice Osteria (a typical Italian restaurant) in the district Spagnoli. This district is located behind Via Toledo, a big contrast. Where Via Toledo bustles with the high street shops, people and street vendors, you will find narrow, sleepy streets in Spagnoli. Via the steep streets, a scooter rips up at times and a grandmother brings her groceries up by bucket and pulley. In the evening, this neighbourhood isn’t always safe, but during the day I like to wander around here.

When we arrive at Osteria della Mattonella, we get to hear from a typical Italian grandmother that the restaurant is full and there will be no place. At least, we think she says so, she does not speak a word of English and we only make this up, from the waving gestures she makes. Nearby is also Osteria Il Gobbetto, where a long line of people is waiting. They are all Italians, but fortunately, there is a couple who speaks English. They talk to the owner and arrange a table to be released for us in 20 minutes. And indeed, 20 minutes later we are sitting in the full restaurant and I get a large glass of white wine poured. It is now almost 3 pm and we are very hungry. Fortunately, soon the waiter arrives with our appetizer: nine plates full of antipasti, all of which taste divine. We have just followed the advice of the Italians around us in terms of ordering. It tastes delicious and so does the seafood pasta that comes after the starter. We’re a bit sluggish after all that food but Maurits is completely satisfied: “This is the most delicious lunch I have ever had”!

Sunset on the hill of Vomero

Satisfied, we walk out of the establishment and decide to climb the Vomero hill. It is located directly behind the neighbourhood where we are now and from here you have a nice view of the city. You also find the Museum of San Martino and the castle Sant’Elmo on top of this hill. With full bellies, we walk the dozens of stairs. Once upstairs, however, we are rewarded with a beautiful view of Naples and its bay. When the sun breaks through and a piece of the city lights up gold, it is perfect!

Once again downstairs, we pay a visit to the Santa Lucia neighbourhood, which is located next to the water. Here you will also find a beautiful castle, castle dell’Ovo, which is literally built in the water. This district is a lot more upscale than the rest of Naples, you immediately see how clean the boulevard is and how well the houses are maintained.

After the many kilometers of today we arrive tired in the apartment. We are not really hungry, so we watch some Netflex and then take a take-away pizza for Maurits at the Via dei Tribunali. Since, of course, we can not leave Naples without having a pizza. The pizza is delicious and that’s how we end Naples: tired but satisfied! Tomorrow morning we will fly back to the Netherlands!


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