A Day in Naples – Pompeii and Pizza!

A Day in Naples – Pompeii and Pizza!

We only had one full day in Naples, which has left us wanting to return! Even so, you can pack in a LOT if you’ve got a full day!

We got the fast train from Florence down to Naples, which was a lovely way to take in a lot of the countryside scenery of central Italy. We got off the train at midday, right in the heart of the city! It is instantly clear that Naples is less of a tourist destination than Rome and Florence. It still has a lot of older buildings, but the streets and shops are filled with locals. The city felt a little more dirty and dangerous than we had experienced in Italy, with lots of graffiti, but this adds to its charm. It felt less romanticised, and we loved it.

After meeting our Airbnb host Laura, we quickly found out that the city has a high youth population due to its famous university, the University of Naples Federico II. She recommended a few places to see, and we spent the afternoon in the National Archaeological Museum, wandering around looking at the Roman sculptures and artefacts from Pompeii. Hungry from walking around the museum, and knowing that Naples is the location where pizza originated, we scoped out some of the highly recommended pizzerias to try.

The youth culture became apparent at night, as we walked to dinner and saw the students packing into niche bars and cafes. We had dinner at Dal Presidente Pizzeria, right in the heart of the old town. This is the pizzeria that U.S. president Bill Clinton ate at. The food and atmosphere was nice, but we didn’t think that it was worth all the hype. After our meal, we took a short walk back to our Airbnb to begin our adventure filled Naples experience!

Our first experience with Neapolitan pizza, at Dal Presidente Pizzeria!

Our main goal in Naples was to see Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was destroyed when the nearby Mt Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. The eruption covered the city in up to six metres of volcanic ash, which ended up preserving the ancient city until its rediscovery and excavation. This means that many of the buildings, paintings, and artefacts are extremely well preserved. The majority of the artefacts are held in the National Archaeological Museum in the centre of Naples, but we also wanted to walk the ruined streets of the ancient city!

Statue of Hercules in the National Archaeological Museum.

A mosaic from Pompeii shown in the museum. It was tiny, but so beautiful and detailed!

Bust of Tiberius from AD 40.

Exploring Pompeii

We woke up early and had a quick croissant and coffee on our way to the train station. First stop, Pompeii! You can take the train from Naples to Pompeii Scavi station, which is right outside the historical site of Pompeii. The train ride took us right along Mt Vesuvius, a sombre introduction to the ancient ruins of the famous town. We wanted to save a bit of money, so we decided not to get a guided tour, and we waited in the line to the entrance of Pompeii. Luckily there was barely any line early in the morning, and the audio guide they supplied was very thorough!

An ancient countertop from Pompeii. The bowls used to hold food to sell.

Photo of Mt Vesuvius and Pompeii ruins.

Mt Vesuvius as seen from Pompeii.

The old stone roads of Pompeii.

BYD Tip

A warning about hiring a personal guide: they don’t always know what they’re talking about.

Whilst exploring the ruins, and listening to our official audio guides, we overheard an English speaking guide talking to some visitors about the art on the walls of one of the houses. The guide didn’t know any information on the painting, so she lied. The information she said was completely different to what our official audio guide had told us. Personal guides can be great, and can fill you in on more information, but make sure you do your research and hire a qualified guide!

Pompeii was filled will amazing old buildings and statues.

We spent the majority of the day walking around the ruins, looking at the old market stores, the ancient paintings, theatres, and living quarters. We loved seeing the mosaics, statues, and wealthy estates of the ancient population. Pompeii can easily take two to three days to see fully, depending on how much information you want to take in. It’s worth noting that the old stones that were used for the ancient roads can quickly begin to hurt your feet, so it’s important to wear comfy shoes!

With only a day, these were our favourite places:

All the roads were made with big stones. They don’t look so bad, but they hurt our feet after a full day walking on them!

Foro di Pompei – The Forum at Pompeii

Much like the Roman Forum, Foro di Pompeii was the main marketplace and hub of the city. The now ruined remains display old columns and storefronts, with an amazing view of Mt Vesuvius. Surrounding the forum are temples and ancient monuments, as well as a storage site of ancient wares found during excavations of the ruins. This is one of the places you can see the petrified remains of some of Pompeii’s residents.

The petrified remains of one of Pompeii’s residents.

Selfie at the Forum at Pompeii!

Malika soaking up the Pompeii Forum.

Mt Vesuvius looming over the Pompeii Forum.

Teatro Grande – The Grand Theatre

Teatro Grande is a beautifully preserved Roman theatre that used to hold comedies, mimes, and pantomimes. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape, and it was lovely to have a sit here and imagine the spectacles that once took place.

Malika loving the old Pompeii theatre.

Malika practising her acting skills!

Terme del Foro – The Forum Baths

These are the Roman baths situated next to Foro di Pompei. Acting as an ancient spa, the baths had separate entrances for males and females. The baths show some beautiful examples of ancient roman architecture and sculptures, as well as give an insight into the lives of the Pompeii population.

One of the roofs in the Forum Baths.

Roman Manors and Temples

Scattered throughout Pompeii are luxurious Roman manors and temples to the old Roman gods. Many of these contain amazing sculptures, gardens, artworks, and mosaics. We would have loved to explore many more of the manors in Pompeii, but we ran out of time. We’d love to go back to visit Casa dei Vettii!

A magnificent garden in one of the many manors.

Another manor garden.

Malika enjoying exploring the Pompeii buildings.

Anfiteatro di Pompei – Amphitheatre of Pompeii

This is the earliest example of a Roman amphitheatre, and the first amphitheatre to be built in stone! It predates the Roman Colosseum by over 100 years! It was used to host many events, including gladiatorial combat. The amphitheatre is in amazing condition, still completely intact. When we went we had a few moments when we were the only people in the entire amphitheatre, which was very special. It’s much less crowded than the Colosseum, and well worth a visit. In more recent history, Pink Floyd did a live album there called Live at Pompeii, and there is an exhibition to the concert within the amphitheatre walls.

Standing in the middle of the oldest existing amphitheatre!

The outer walls of the Pompeii Amphitheatre.

Necropoli di Porta Nocera – Necropolis of Porta Nocera

There are multiple necropolises around Pompeii, all outside the walls of the old town, as was the law. These are found near the gates and main roads leading to Pompeii (“porta” means “gate” or “entrance”). They’re all still inside the current Pompeii tourist site, but they stood outside of the actual city.

One of the tombs at Necropoli di Porta Nocera.

Necropoli di Porta Nocera is very close to the amphitheatre, and well worth a visit. It holds many old graves and tombs of residents of Pompeii, and was less busy than other areas of the site. We had a brief walk through Necropoli di Porta Ercolano on the way to Villa dei Misteri, but didn’t have enough time to have a good explore.

Another tomb.

The gate at Porta Nocera.

The view to Mt Vesuvius from the Porta Nocera gate.

Villa dei Misteri – Villa of Mysteries

The most well preserved villa in Pompeii. It’s covered in beautiful fresco paintings that are believed to show ancient rights of passage to join a mysterious cult. It also includes some plaster casts of a few of the people that died there when Mt Vesuvius erupted. Not much is known about the owner of the villa, why it is situated so far away from the city, or what it was used for. The best estimates come from the modern interpretations of the paintings.

Entrance to the Villa dei Misteri.

The frescos in the villa showing a right of passage of a woman into a cult.

The Villa dei Misteri was our last stop in Pompeii, and from here we went back into the heart of Naples. Close to Pompeii is Herculaneum, another ruin of an ancient town, and well recommended. Our intention was to see Pompeii and Herculaneum in a day, and then finish the day climbing Mt Vesuvius. However, we had vastly underestimated the amount of time we would spend at Pompeii, even though we planned to do it quickly. Pompeii took up most of the day, and unfortunately Herculaneum was closed and we missed the last bus to Mt Vesuvius. Those will be our top priorities when we return!

Exploring the Underground Aqueducts

Sore and tired from our big day in Pompeii, we headed home to relax before getting dinner. We passed Napoli Sotterranea on the walk from the train station to our Airbnb. Even though we were tired and our feet were in pain from all the walking, we decided to have a look. A tour was starting soon, so we booked tickets and waited in line. This turned out to be an amazing experience, and we were so glad that we took the chance!

Napoli Sotterranea is a tour of the aqueducts that run below Naples. We began the tour by walking down a staircase deep into the ground. It felt like the decent would never end! We emerged into a large underground cavern, carved right into the rock.

The history of the aqueducts was extremely interesting. They were built by the Greeks in 400BC, when they constructed the first buildings in Naples. Apparently the caverns were created when the Greeks needed stone to build the original houses and temples above ground. Each cavern was its own quarry, with the stone used for the building above it. When the Romans took over Naples, they connected these caverns to create an aqueduct network to supply fresh water for the city.

Exploring the narrow tunnels underneath Naples!

The connections get extremely narrow, and are not for claustrophobic people! However, if you do push through them you’re rewarded with an extremely beautiful room with fresh water baths and stone staircases in the walls.

The beautiful fresh water still in the aqueducts.

The roof got VERY low in some parts!

In more recent times the caverns were used for multiple purposes, such as waste disposal and World War II bomb shelters. We finished the tour by emerging above ground, and being shown the remnants of an old Roman theatre, which have been enveloped by the city. Overall the tour was an amazing experience, and we were incredibly lucky that we put in the extra effort to do it, even with our sore feet. We were now incredibly hungry, and we made our way to another highly recommended pizzeria, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

The Worlds Best Pizza

The crowd outside waiting for a seat at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

It was only a short walk to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Even though it was late at night, there was a large crowd out the front waiting for tables. People could only enter after their ticket number was called, so we went to the door, got a ticket, and waited. We waited for over an hour. We were sore, tired, hungry, and second-guessing whether the wait was worth it. The locals were obviously prepared for the wait. They had brought alcohol with them and sat in the street drinking beer. Some others came to get a ticket, then left and came back later on.

Our ticket was called after an hour of waiting. We’ve never waited for a meal as long as that. We went in, begrudged and even more tired. The interior is very simple, with white tiled walls and fluorescent lighting. The tables and chairs were simple, and it was obviously not a place focussed on atmosphere. We knew that they only served the two original Neapolitan pizzas, margherita and marinara, so we ordered one of each.

Malika’s face after eating the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD!

What can we say? The wait was worth it. They were hands down the most delicious pizzas we have ever tasted. They’re extremely traditional. The focus is on the flavour of the base and the sauce (rather than extravagant toppings), which are both exceptional. The base was soft, warm, and light. The sauce was very traditional, and was like nothing we’ve ever tasted. We both agreed that the marinara, even though it didn’t have any cheese, was the superior pizza. However, we recommend getting one of each, because they’ll both be the best pizzas you’ll ever eat.

After a long adventurous day, with full bellies, sore feet, and smiles on our faces, we walked back to the apartment. We packed our bags and went to sleep, before returning to Rome to fly out of Italy, and into the U.K.!

If you want to read about the start of our Italian journey, read this post: Oh Rome, You Bustling Beauty!

We only had one full day in Naples, which has left us wanting to return! Even so, you can pack in a LOT if you’ve got a full day!

We got the fast train from Florence down to Naples, which was a lovely way to take in a lot of the countryside scenery of central Italy. We got off the train at midday, right in the heart of the city! It is instantly clear that Naples is less of a tourist destination than Rome and Florence. It still has a lot of older buildings, but the streets and shops are filled with locals. The city felt a little more dirty and dangerous than we had experienced in Italy, with lots of graffiti, but this adds to its charm. It felt less romanticised, and we loved it.

After meeting our Airbnb host Laura, we quickly found out that the city has a high youth population due to its famous university, the University of Naples Federico II. She recommended a few places to see, and we spent the afternoon in the National Archaeological Museum, wandering around looking at the Roman sculptures and artefacts from Pompeii. Hungry from walking around the museum, and knowing that Naples is the location where pizza originated, we scoped out some of the highly recommended pizzerias to try.

The youth culture became apparent at night, as we walked to dinner and saw the students packing into niche bars and cafes. We had dinner at Dal Presidente Pizzeria, right in the heart of the old town. This is the pizzeria that U.S. president Bill Clinton ate at. The food and atmosphere was nice, but we didn’t think that it was worth all the hype. After our meal, we took a short walk back to our Airbnb to begin our adventure filled Naples experience!

Photo of pizza from Dal Presidente Pizzeria.

Our first experience with Neapolitan pizza, at Dal Presidente Pizzeria!

Our main goal in Naples was to see Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was destroyed when the nearby Mt Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. The eruption covered the city in up to six metres of volcanic ash, which ended up preserving the ancient city until its rediscovery and excavation. This means that many of the buildings, paintings, and artefacts are extremely well preserved. The majority of the artefacts are held in the National Archaeological Museum in the centre of Naples, but we also wanted to walk the ruined streets of the ancient city!

A photo of the small mosaic from Pompeii.

A mosaic from Pompeii shown in the museum. It was tiny, but so beautiful and detailed!
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of the statue of Hercules.
Photo of the bust of Tiberius.

Exploring Pompeii

We woke up early and had a quick croissant and coffee on our way to the train station. First stop, Pompeii! You can take the train from Naples to Pompeii Scavi station, which is right outside the historical site of Pompeii. The train ride took us right along Mt Vesuvius, a sombre introduction to the ancient ruins of the famous town. We wanted to save a bit of money, so we decided not to get a guided tour, and we waited in the line to the entrance of Pompeii. Luckily there was barely any line early in the morning, and the audio guide they supplied was very thorough!

Travel blog photo of a food counter at Pompeii.

An ancient countertop from Pompeii. The bowls used to hold food to sell.

Photo of the old roads made of stones in Pompeii.

The old stone roads of Pompeii.

BYD Tip

A warning about hiring a personal guide: they don’t always know what they’re talking about.

Whilst exploring the ruins, and listening to our official audio guides, we overheard an English speaking guide talking to some visitors about the art on the walls of one of the houses. The guide didn’t know any information on the painting, so she lied. The information she said was completely different to what our official audio guide had told us. Personal guides can be great, and can fill you in on more information, but make sure you do your research and hire a qualified guide!

Photo of an old building at Pompeii.

Pompeii was filled will amazing old buildings and statues.

We spent the majority of the day walking around the ruins, looking at the old market stores, the ancient paintings, theatres, and living quarters. We loved seeing the mosaics, statues, and wealthy estates of the ancient population. Pompeii can easily take two to three days to see fully, depending on how much information you want to take in. It’s worth noting that the old stones that were used for the ancient roads can quickly begin to hurt your feet, so it’s important to wear comfy shoes!

A photo of a narrow road in Pompeii, made of large stones.

All the roads were made with big stones. They don’t look so bad, but they hurt our feet after a full day walking on them!

With only a day, these were our favourite places:

Foro di Pompei – The Forum at Pompeii

A photo of a crouching figure that was petrified by the ash when Mt Vesuvius erupted.

The petrified remains of one of Pompeii’s residents.

Much like the Roman Forum, Foro di Pompeii was the main marketplace and hub of the city. The now ruined remains display old columns and storefronts, with an amazing view of Mt Vesuvius. Surrounding the forum are temples and ancient monuments, as well as a storage site of ancient wares found during excavations of the ruins. This is one of the places you can see the petrified remains of some of Pompeii’s residents.

Photo of Malika in the Pompeii Forum.

Malika soaking up the Pompeii Forum.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Travel photo of Mt Vesuvius over the Pompeii Forum.
Photo of Jori and Malika at the Pompeii Forum.

Teatro Grande – The Grand Theatre

Teatro Grande is a beautifully preserved Roman theatre that used to hold comedies, mimes, and pantomimes. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape, and it was lovely to have a sit here and imagine the spectacles that once took place.

Photo of Malika acting in the theatre in Pompeii.

Malika practising her acting skills!
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of Malika dancing in the middle of the theatre.

Terme del Foro – The Forum Baths

These are the Roman baths situated next to Foro di Pompei. Acting as an ancient spa, the baths had separate entrances for males and females. The baths show some beautiful examples of ancient roman architecture and sculptures, as well as give an insight into the lives of the Pompeii population.

Photo of the carved roof of Roman bath at Pompeii.

One of the roofs in the Forum Baths.

Roman Manors and Temples

Scattered throughout Pompeii are luxurious Roman manors and temples to the old Roman gods. Many of these contain amazing sculptures, gardens, artworks, and mosaics. We would have loved to explore many more of the manors in Pompeii, but we ran out of time. We’d love to go back to visit Casa dei Vettii!

Photo of a beautiful garden in an ancient Pompeii manor

A magnificent garden in one of the many manors.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of hedges in a garden in Pompeii.
Photo of Malika in one of the manors.

Anfiteatro di Pompei – Amphitheatre of Pompeii

This is the earliest example of a Roman amphitheatre, and the first amphitheatre to be built in stone! It predates the Roman Colosseum by over 100 years! It was used to host many events, including gladiatorial combat. The amphitheatre is in amazing condition, still completely intact. When we went we had a few moments when we were the only people in the entire amphitheatre, which was very special. It’s much less crowded than the Colosseum, and well worth a visit. In more recent history, Pink Floyd did a live album there called Live at Pompeii, and there is an exhibition to the concert within the amphitheatre walls.

A photo of Jori and Malika standing alone in Pompeii's amphitheatre.

Standing in the middle of the oldest existing amphitheatre!

Travel blog photo of the outer walls of the Pompeii Amphitheatre.

The outer walls of the Pompeii Amphitheatre.

Necropoli di Porta Nocera – Necropolis of Porta Nocera

There are multiple necropolises around Pompeii, all outside the walls of the old town, as was the law. These are found near the gates and main roads leading to Pompeii (“porta” means “gate” or “entrance”). They’re all still inside the current Pompeii tourist site, but they stood outside of the actual city. Necropoli di Porta Nocera is very close to the amphitheatre, and well worth a visit. It holds many old graves and tombs of residents of Pompeii, and was less busy than other areas of the site. We had a brief walk through Necropoli di Porta Ercolano on the way to Villa dei Misteri, but didn’t have enough time to have a good explore.

Photo of the Porta Nocera gate.

The gate at Porta Nocera.
(Tap the image for more photos)

Photo of a tomb at Necropoli di Porta Nocera.
A photo of another tomb at Porta Nocera.
Travel photo of Mt Vesuvius as seen from Porta Nocera.

Villa dei Misteri – Villa of Mysteries

The most well preserved villa in Pompeii. It’s covered in beautiful fresco paintings that are believed to show ancient rights of passage to join a mysterious cult. It also includes some plaster casts of a few of the people that died there when Mt Vesuvius erupted. Not much is known about the owner of the villa, why it is situated so far away from the city, or what it was used for. The best estimates come from the modern interpretations of the paintings.

A photo of the columns of the entrance to the Villa dei Misteri.

Entrance to the Villa dei Misteri.

A photo of the frescos lining the walls in the Villa dei Misteri.

The frescos in the villa showing a right of passage of a woman into a cult.

The Villa dei Misteri was our last stop in Pompeii, and from here we went back into the heart of Naples. Close to Pompeii is Herculaneum, another ruin of an ancient town, and well recommended. Our intention was to see Pompeii and Herculaneum in a day, and then finish the day climbing Mt Vesuvius. However, we had vastly underestimated the amount of time we would spend at Pompeii, even though we planned to do it quickly. Pompeii took up most of the day, and unfortunately Herculaneum was closed and we missed the last bus to Mt Vesuvius. Those will be our top priorities when we return!

Exploring the Underground Aqueducts

Sore and tired from our big day in Pompeii, we headed home to relax before getting dinner. We passed Napoli Sotterranea on the walk from the train station to our Airbnb. Even though we were tired and our feet were in pain from all the walking, we decided to have a look. A tour was starting soon, so we booked tickets and waited in line. This turned out to be an amazing experience, and we were so glad that we took the chance!

A photo of Malika in a narrow tunnel underneath Naples.

Exploring the narrow tunnels underneath Naples!

Napoli Sotterranea is a tour of the aqueducts that run below Naples. We began the tour by walking down a staircase deep into the ground. It felt like the decent would never end! We emerged into a large underground cavern, carved right into the rock.

The history of the aqueducts was extremely interesting. They were built by the Greeks in 400BC, when they constructed the first buildings in Naples. Apparently the caverns were created when the Greeks needed stone to build the original houses and temples above ground. Each cavern was its own quarry, with the stone used for the building above it. When the Romans took over Naples, they connected these caverns to create an aqueduct network to supply fresh water for the city.

A photo of Jori touching the low roof of the tunnels under Naples.

The roof got VERY low in some parts!

The connections get extremely narrow, and are not for claustrophobic people! However, if you do push through them you’re rewarded with an extremely beautiful room with fresh water baths and stone staircases in the walls.

A photo of fresh water in the aqueducts under Naples, with a staircase carved into the stone.

The beautiful fresh water still in the aqueducts.

In more recent times the caverns were used for multiple purposes, such as waste disposal and World War II bomb shelters. We finished the tour by emerging above ground, and being shown the remnants of an old Roman theatre, which have been enveloped by the city. Overall the tour was an amazing experience, and we were incredibly lucky that we put in the extra effort to do it, even with our sore feet. We were now incredibly hungry, and we made our way to another highly recommended pizzeria, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

The Worlds Best Pizza

A photo of the storefront of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, with a crowd of people waiting.

The crowd outside waiting for a seat at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

It was only a short walk to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Even though it was late at night, there was a large crowd out the front waiting for tables. People could only enter after their ticket number was called, so we went to the door, got a ticket, and waited. We waited for over an hour. We were sore, tired, hungry, and second-guessing whether the wait was worth it. The locals were obviously prepared for the wait. They had brought alcohol with them and sat in the street drinking beer. Some others came to get a ticket, then left and came back later on.

Our ticket was called after an hour of waiting. We’ve never waited for a meal as long as that. We went in, begrudged and even more tired. The interior is very simple, with white tiled walls and fluorescent lighting. The tables and chairs were simple, and it was obviously not a place focussed on atmosphere. We knew that they only served the two original Neapolitan pizzas, margherita and marinara, so we ordered one of each.

A photo of Malika looking overjoyed at how delicious the pizza is.

Malika’s face after eating the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD!

What can we say? The wait was worth it. They were hands down the most delicious pizzas we have ever tasted. They’re extremely traditional. The focus is on the flavour of the base and the sauce (rather than extravagant toppings), which are both exceptional. The base was soft, warm, and light. The sauce was very traditional, and was like nothing we’ve ever tasted. We both agreed that the marinara, even though it didn’t have any cheese, was the superior pizza. However, we recommend getting one of each, because they’ll both be the best pizzas you’ll ever eat.

After a long adventurous day, with full bellies, sore feet, and smiles on our faces, we walked back to the apartment. We packed our bags and went to sleep, before returning to Rome to fly out of Italy, and into the U.K.!

If you want to read about the start of our Italian journey, read this post: Oh Rome, You Bustling Beauty!

By | 2018-06-06T19:44:21+00:00 October 22nd, 2016|Italy, Jori, Travel|0 Comments

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