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3 Nights in Naples, Italy

Napoli exudes grit and character at every street corner. There are no rules on the road here with Vespas and cars zooming by at their will and pedestrians taking a chance at survival each time they cross the road. Driving in this city was one of the most treacherous experiences, and I wasn't even behind the wheel. The energy is either contagious or repelling, depending on your pace, regardless you have no option but to keep up in this bustling city. Even the "sketchy" parts of Naples, which surround downtown, have charm in their neglected, colorless buildings that come to life with bright linens that hang to dry on their balconies. Like any major Italian city, Naples has great restaurants, friendly locals, streets meant to stroll and shop, and access to other nearby towns. Three nights is ample time to explore the city and its region.

Day one: Explore Pompeii and Naples

Just thirty minutes away from Napoli is a city that cannot be missed. The best way to learn about Pompeii's past and remarkable achievements is to book a private tour with "withlocals'; we booked Rafaelle, an archeologist with a load of passion for history. You'll be blown away by the massive site of the ruins, the advanced society of the Romans, and the unbelievable remains salvaged from this city that was wiped out almost two thousand years ago. Make sure to walk over to the watchtower after your tour to overlook the incredible city that once was.

Head back to Naples for a traditional pizza: If you have patience, you may remain in the one-hour line to snatch a pie at any of the locations of the famous L'antica Pizzeria da Michele. I don't do lines. Instead, we got lost in some of the narrow, store-lined alleys, as we searched for the perfect pie while ingesting the sights and sounds of Italy's most iconic cities. We stumbled upon SpaccaNapoli Trattoria Pizzeria and enjoyed a traditional Neapolitan Pizza lunch. In true Naples fashion, they bake a delicious pizza using simple ingredients to maximize flavor.

pros: very reasonable prices, a local favorite, fresh ingredients

cons: none

must order: a margherita pizza and a four cheese pizza

Walk off those lunch calories and explore the Historic Centre of Naples (Centro Storico). Our walking itinerary looked like this: Piazza del Gesu Nuovo, Spanish Quarters, Galleria Umberto, Teatro di San Carlo, Plebiscito, Basilica San Francesco Da Paola, Royal Palace, and Castle Nuovo). This route gave us a great feel for Naples as we wove in and out of its streets soaking in the masterful architecture, history, and lively streets.

Venture out into the burbs. Many tourists don't know about Posipillo, an affluent hillside suburb just twenty minutes outside Naples. You'll love the calm, beautiful feel of this well-kept neighborhood that runs along a stunning promenade with breathtaking panoramic views.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants in this part of town yet the mood is serene and peaceful. We snatched a reservation at Rosiello, which served us an unforgettable meal. From the lush, garden setting that overlooks the sea, to the friendly staff, and the fantastic food, this is a not-to-miss dining experience. Every bite was perfectly prepared. We ordered the oysters, grilled octopus in tomato sauce, mozzarella salad with cherry tomatoes, garden vegetable ravioli, spaghetti with basil and cherry tomatoes, and the tomahawk steak. Each bite was true perfection.

pros: lovely garden setting overlooking the sea, attentive staff, outstanding dishes

cons: none

must order: tomahawk steak, spaghetti with basil and cherry tomatoes, and the grilled octopus

Day Two: Head over to Sorrento and explore Capri by boat

Sorrento is a large, bustling coastal town where Vespas are even more ubiquitous than they are in Napoli. The windy roads that climb and descend are a joy on their own until you take a moment to admire the epic views below you, you'll instantly fall in love with this picturesque town. Keep in mind, that the traffic can be horrendous. It took us forty-five minutes to get through the last six miles of our route but you won't mind, sitting still in your car will allow you to watch the locals pass by and give you a glimpse into the town's unpretentious, laid-back feel.

Rent a boat and spend a day in Capri. We rented a boat via Restart Italy, their service is exceptional and they offer a range of fleets that suit every size and budget. Hiring a boat to take you around the island is the only way to truly experience the true beauty of Capri as you get up close to the famous "white cave", "green cave", "blue cave" (ie the blue grotto, which was closed on the day we visited due to strong waves) and Faraglioni di Capri. Boating along the coast of Capri will take your breath away and provide a perspective of the island that cannot be missed.

Stroll the narrow streets of Capri's Piazza. Once you've explored the coast, dock your boat and embark on this magical island. The main plaza is up the hill which you can access by the funicular, a taxi, or a steep walk up hundreds of stairs. We opted for the stairs, which we momentarily regretted yet in retrospect would do so again as this route took us through beautiful gardens, back streets, and changes in the views as we climbed in altitude.

Capri has many gorgeous shops, not the touristy kind but the kinds that inspire you to want to boost your wardrobe. We were stunned by how many people were visiting this small side of the island, the crowds were almost unbearable in early June, before peak season. Despite the swarms of people, you'll fall in love with the majestic views, the narrow store-lined alleys, the colorful flowers, the charming balconies, and the local lemon sorbet which is divine on a hot day.

Linger over lunch. It's not easy finding just the right lunch spot in a tourist-heavy town. After much research, we settled on La Capannina. The multilevel trattoria creates a fun, tropical mood but more importantly, delivers an incredible variety of traditional, local fare using the freshest ingredients. We ordered a caprese salad, an octopus carpaccio, the zucchine fritte, spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, sea bass with mushrooms and potatoes, grilled chicken, and mozzarella ravioli. Every bite was outstanding. Gosh, the food in Italy is so darn good.

pros: friendly staff, charming setting, delicious food

cons: none

must order: caprese salad, octopus carpaccio, and sea bass with mushrooms and potatoes

After a full day, slow down for aperitivo with a view. Sky Lounge at the Grand Vesuvio Hotel delivers excellent snacks and cocktails, along with mesmerizing views. It's the perfect place to relax after a fun-filled day.

Indulge for dinner at Caruso Rooftop Lounge. Also located at the Grand Vesuvio Hotel, this highly regarded restaurant emanates elegance and sophistication. The atmosphere is ultra romantic especially during dusk as the sun paints the sky pink and the candles twinkle on the refined table setting. While Caruso Rooftop Lounge wins for atmosphere, its kitchen falls short when preparing creative or tasty dishes. The superb setting sadly doesn't line up with the cooked courses. I recommend you book a table to enjoy a glass of regional wine to toast the sun as she retreats to bed and then head elsewhere for your main meal.

pros: magnificent views, romantic setting

cons: staff not polished enough, food subpar, falls short of potential caliber

must order: the spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and zucchini

Where to Lodge: The Grand Vesuvio Hotel

With thousands of hotel options, choosing the perfect place to stay can become an overwhelming task. You'll love The Grand Vesuvio for its old-world elegance, refined service, amenities, and location. A bountiful breakfast buffet, sophistically displayed, is included in the rate and served in a grand dining hall. In addition, the hotel boasts one of Naple's top restaurants, Caruso Rooftop Lounge, and a well-known rooftop bar. The rooms are royally appointed in tapestry, silk lampshades, and balconies that overlook the Gulf of Naples and a historic castle. Despite being in the city's center, the hotel's location is quiet, making it a perfect retreat from an overly active city.

pros: for families with multiple children, you can book a hotel room with three single beds for the younger ones to connect to yours, excellent location, beautiful hotel

con: tiny elevators. i walked up and down six flights during our entire stay to avoid the claustrophobic means of transport

Napoli, you've been a wonderful first stop paving the way for our Italian adventures. With your wild streets and chaotic sidewalks, you're not for the faint of heart. Yet your energy, history, sites, smells, and sounds are uplifting and invigorating. Three nights was just the right amount of time to get to know you. Arrivederci!


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