HolidayCity Flash December Edition
I once heard Italy described as the "kingdom of chaos" and thought it a worthy
title. But if the country is the kingdom, then Naples is the imperial palace and
every one of its residents a member of a slightly loony royal family. A long
weekend in Napoli has confirmed quite categorically that it is the maddest,
noisiest, most lawless city I've ever visited. And it is absolutely brilliant!
Braving the traffic in Naples
Arriving in Naples on a cold, clear Friday morning, it was immediately obvious
that the Neapolitans like to do things a little differently. Catching a bus from
the airport to my hotel, the bus driver gave me two tickets for a one-way
journey, took them away to validate them, gave them back and took my money, then
took them away and gave them back again. And apparently this is the efficient
way of doing things.
Negotiating the roads and traffic in Naples is, quite simply, an utterly
terrifying experience. There's no such thing as road rules here in Italy.
Traffic lights are merely a vague guide - at an intersection, everyone drives
when and where they like. Scooters are the most common way of getting around and
it is the norm to see two or three adults or an adult and several small children
crammed onto one - all helmetless, of course! One taxi driver actually laughed
at me as I searched in vain for a seatbelt. "Not possible," he said. "I good
driver" (sic). Obviously. My first day was spent wandering the streets and tiny
lanes around my hotel, in the heart of the city. Not an easy task considering
there is a serious absence of street signs and all manner of piazzas plonked
inconveniently in the middle of streets which the maps proclaim are straight and
Eventually I found the Duomo, Naples' most important church. Unfortunately the
steps of the church had been commandeered by a motley bunch of protesters and
there was no apparent way into it. I returned to the Duomo area that night in
search of the Pizzeria di Matteo, a restaurant billed as "one of the city's
best". And so began my quest to eat my way through Naples. (Is it a bird? Is it
a plane? No, it's the tourist who ate Napoli!) Without a hint of exaggeration, I
declare that the pizza is the best I have ever tasted. These things are
absolutely enormous but so light (unlike the concrete Pizza Hut variety) they
even leave room for dessert.
On the way back to the hotel after dinner, I stopped by the Duomo again to see
it lit up at night - only to discover the sad little bunch of protesters had
swelled to "baying mob" size and were now being beaten back by riot police
complete with shields and batons. Just a typical Friday night in Naples!
Pompeii: A petrified Roman City
Saturday brought what I had really come to Naples for - the chance to visit
Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. The Naples skyline is dominated by the volcano - and my
hotel in Piazza Garibaldi afforded a spectacular view — of the mountain which
erupted most spectacularly in 79AD, burying Pompeii in ash and entombing 2000 of
its 20,000 residents. The ruined city is eerie and moving - and not at all what
I had expected. I had imagined a modern town with just a few excavated ancient
sites dotted here and there. In fact, the entire ancient city has been excavated
and is open to tourists. I wandered everywhere, from the law courts and the
athletics field to the amphitheatre and people's houses, complete with
incredibly detailed mosaic floors and murals on the walls.
The most fascinating - though macabre - attraction at Pompeii are the body
casts. When the ash rained down on the residents of the town, it set hard and,
as their bodies decomposed inside, hollow casts formed - frozen tableaux of
their last moments. The casts include a woman, sitting with her knees drawn up
to her chest with her head in her hands, and even a dog which lay on its side as
if snoozing in the sun.
Because Mt Vesuvius is still an active volcano and could affect up to 1.5
million people should it erupt again, the Italians have formulated an evacuation
plan. The funny thing is, the powers that be have admitted that it is,
basically, completely pointless - Neapolitan society is so lawless that many
people would probably be shot or crushed in a panicked stampede.
On Sunday, I parked myself in a cafe for some people watching before leaving for
the airport. Here, I officially discovered chocolate heaven. Ask an Italian for
a hot chocolate and you don't get a mug of the frothy milky stuff - oh no, you
get a cup of actual melted dark chocolate! Sigh...life doesn't get much better
From Naples I travelled north to Milan, for some serious retail therapy in a
slightly less chaotic city. I knew Milan was my kind of city from the moment I
touched down at Linate airport. The main aircraft hangar on the tarmac has an
enormous neon Emporio Armani sign on top of it. You have to love a town where
Moda Milanese — Style Capital of the World
Not one to waste any time, my first stop was Piazza Duomo - Milan's central
plaza and home of the Duomo, undoubtedly the most spectacular cathedral I've
ever seen. It can hold a congregation of 40,000 people at a time and - for the
benefit of my fellow fashionistas - was where the funeral of designer Gianni
Versace was held.
Piazza Duomo is surrounded by shopping streets and an incredibly beautiful
shopping arcade, Galleria Emmanuel Vittorio II. The Galleria is perhaps best
known for its central mosaic depicting a bull. It's apparently good luck to
place your heel on the bull's "manhood" and spin around three times. I don't
imagine the bull feels particularly lucky, however.
Behind Piazza Duomo are Milan's most exclusive shopping streets, Via della Spiga
and Via Montenapoleone. Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci: they're all here!
And this was the scene of my own near-religious experience.
Handbag. Green suede. Miu Miu. True love.
I couldn't bring myself to fork over so much cash within barely an hour of being
in Milan, so I opted instead for dinner in the trendy Brera. This for me was the
quintessentially "Italian experience" of the trip. It was a gorgeous, balmy
evening; I sat outside eating pizza, drinking Campari and flirting with the
handsome waiters. Couples strolled past, hand in hand. A string quartet played
the theme from that cheesy 70s romance movie, Love Story.
I awoke on Sunday morning still mulling over that handbag. Fortunately for my
bank balance, Miu Miu was closed so I took to the streets instead, walking what
felt like every street and piazza in Milan, stopping only to spend large amounts
of money and eat gelati.
The waiters are easily impressed
I returned to the same restaurant in the Brera for lunch. I found out that,
apparently, in Italy, eating at the same restaurant twice implies that you fancy
the waiters. At least, this was clearly the impression the staff seemed to have
had when I walked in. I'd never experienced such friendly, attentive service.
And just as I was about to pay the bill, a delicious lemon liqueur miraculously
appeared on my table - a "present" from my new friends. As soon as I'd finished
this, another came out. And then another. And then my waiter Miguel earnestly
told me that I should go out with him that evening. That's when I left.
After escaping Miguel, I climbed the 200+ steps to the top of the Duomo to take
in the spectacular views of the city. An interesting experience in the blazing
heat and after three drinks.
My rudimentary knowledge of Italian let me down severely that night. I ventured
into the very trendy canal-side Navigli district - easily reached by underground
train - and ordered a pizza with "peperoncini" which I thought was pepperoni. It
turned out to be paprika and virtually set my mouth on fire.
Monday was my last-minute-buy-everything-the-credit-card-will-allow shopping
extravaganza. First stop: Miu Miu. I put on a show of indecision for about three
seconds before giving in to the charms of the handbag and buying it. So I now
officially own a slice of the Prada empire. And what a beautiful slice it is...
So now I'm back at home, a little closer to my ambition of being the most
stylish gal in town. And though I've swapped the sunshine, shopping and
gastronomic delights of Italy for rainy London and stodgy food, I have to admit
that I'm incredibly relieved to be back in a country where cars actually stop at
Book Naples Hotels here
Hotel Plaza Naples
Best Western Hotel Plaza
Naples is a first-class hotel located only two kilometers from Capodichino
Airport, in the historical center of Naples. The hotel is situated at the back
of Piazza Garibaldi and only 200 meters from the central railway station. Best
Western Hotel Plaza Naples is built within a 19th century building, which has
been recently refurbished and upgraded. The hotel has been completely
redecorated and equipped with new furnishing in the common area and the guest
rooms. The result is a refined and comfortable setting, convenient to the
business district. All of the recently refurbished guest rooms have been
sound-proofed, air conditioned and equipped for maximum comfort.
The hotel restaurant offers the
colors, tastes and aromas of Campanian cuisine - tasty local dishes accompanied
by an excellent selection of wines. Best Western Hotel Plaza Naples is
convenient to fine dining, shopping and entertainment venues.
Rates from EUR 45. Find rates for other
Naples hotels here.
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Tips and Advice
Check out what our travellers have to say
on the getting around in another travel destination they have
If you are travelling to Italy in the summer months,
July and August or in the winter, January and February
remember the sales are on and you can buy some great
Italian designer clothes at half price usually orless.
Leave with a relatively empty suitcase and return home
with a full case of great clothes at bargain prices.
- kim beeston, Italy
I choose my hotels by the fact they advertise the way I
can get to it by buses or underground. If hotels do give
complete information (prices and frequency, etc) it
makes the choose easier.
- Carol Bernaz, France
When travelling to Hamburg in Germany, remember that all
shops are closed on Sundays. Restaurants are of course
open and Service/Gas stations are also open and carry a
wide range of goods if you get stuck.
- Kerry Gittins, Germany
Always ensure that when getting a taxi that it has a
meter and that the meter is reset before you start the
journey. Take time to research your destination on the
internet. It can help to get more out of your holiday
and save you wandering around aimlessly.
- Bernie Lund, UK
Always research your destinations and travel light, and
do enjoy the wonderful excitement of new and amazing
- Agnes Russell, UK
Beware of this scam I came across in Roma! A person
looks for directions; ingratiates him/herself with you
and offers free gifts, usually samples. Suddenly!
Running out of petrol/taxi fare or whatever and with
petrol card not accepted here, the person turns to ask:
"Could you give me some cash for same??”
- Brian A. Mongan, Ireland
travel with lockable luggage even if you are only
travelling a short distance. Whether by train or plane
it gives peace of mind and makes the journey more
- Kerry Gittins, Germany
If you are
traveling by air at peak times of year, it's worth
remembering that many airlines overbook up to 5% as a
regular policy. If you allow yourself a couple of days
either side of your journey, airlines will often accept
'volunteers' - people who are prepared to slip on to the
next available flight when their flight is overcrowded.
In return, many airlines will offer you a free upgrade,
free use of their lounges, a special cash payment and/or
overnight airport hotel stay and/or free meal vouchers.
Ask at check-in whether the airline requires any
- Mike Hollingsworth, UK
Going on the Ring Road round the north of Brussels
(there isn't one to the south!) don't look for the
names; follow the signs for the airport and you can't
- John Ramsay, UK
traveling in Indonesia, do NOT lay claim to any baggage
until you have seen inside it!
- Michael Honan, Australia
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Tips! Just make sure you include your name or pseudonym
and which country you’re from!
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