A Fa Napoli! + The Ruins of Pompeii

Fun fact: “A fa Napoli!” in Italian means, “Go to Hell!” but literally translates to, “Go to Naples!” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Italy’s third-largest city, but would it prove fitting?



After kicking off our Easter week trip to Italy with a few days in Rome, my mom and I headed south toward our next destination, Naples. We navigated an intercity train to a dodgy metro and then, in limited Italian, found our way up a funicular to the luxurious, five-star Grand Hotel Parkers, where my mom had scored a great deal.

Planning your own Italy trip? Check out this guide to where to stay in Naples on any budget.

Perched atop a hill, the hotel overlooked the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. We took in the view, appreciated the unusually warm night, and then climbed down steep stairs and winding roads in search of food, settling for one of the few open businesses in the quiet neighborhood, which offered deliciously ginormous pizzas and plentiful glasses of house wine. Did you know that pizza was invented in Naples? How could I not have pizza napoletana for every meal?

Just a bit of an upgrade from my usual youth hostel standard

Just a bit of an upgrade from my usual youth hostel standard

We breakfasted overlooking the bay and then set off to explore Naples’ city center. Naples has a reputation for being dirty, ugly, and unaccommodating to tourists, but, while it doesn’t offer the glitz and glamour found in some parts of Italy, I found it extremely charming.

I could count on one hand the number of tourists we encountered the entire day, and many of the locals we encountered spoke no English, giving the city an authentic feel. No landmark stood out as particularly impressive, and, really, I liked that. Naples was about exploring gritty alleyways, admiring Christmas decorations in family-run shops, and stepping into unassuming churches.

One of Naples’ plazas

A hidden alley

A hidden alley

Grazie mille for this invention, Naples.

Grazie mille for this invention, Naples.

We stumbled across an art museum that featured a temporary exhibit on Disney art (right up my alley!) before returning to the hotel for some rest and relaxation. For dinner, we roamed the neighborhood until we found another pizza place (when in Naples…). While the waiter’s attempt to overcharge us may not have been a fond memory, I felt pretty smug about my ability to discuss this with him in 100% Italian, even four years after my last elementary Italian class.

Italian Mickey!

Italian Mickey!

Naples, Italy

Me + Napoli

From Naples, we headed toward the great volcano we had seen looming in the distance, Vesuvius, and to the victim of its wrath nearly 2000 years ago, Pompeii. As you may remember from history class, the volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing 16,000 people in neighboring towns, many of which were frozen in time by an immediate onslaught of ash. The city has been unearthed over the last few centuries, with artifacts, buildings, and even people remarkably preserved.



Because the original street layouts and building foundations are still in tact, we immersed ourselves in the city, imagining we were there two millennia ago. As much as life has changed since the Pax Romana, what is most striking is how many familiar sights can be found in Pompeii’s ruins, from snack bars to brothels to graffiti. Definitely a must-see for any trip to southern Italy.

A gloomy day at Pompeii

A gloomy day at Pompeii

Next on our agenda, and coming soon on my blog, Sorrento, a charming town that served as base-camp while we explored the Amalfi region. As for Naples and the expression, “A fa Napoli”? If that’s Hell, take me there!

19 Responses

  1. Cassandra says:

    I’m more familiar with northern Italy (Trentino-Alto Adige, which is stunning) and am looking forward to the day when I can explore more of Italy! The south–specifically Sicily, Puglia, and Naples–are high on my travel wishlist.

    I had no idea that the “Go to Naples!/hell!” expression existed. Judging by all of the activities that you did there, the expression needs to be updated!

    How was transportation to Pompeii, was it pretty painless?

    • My other trips to Italy have all been in the north, although I haven’t been to Trentin-Alto Adige. The photos are spectacular!

      Everyone talks about the big cultural difference between the north and the south (similar to Spain), and I wasn’t there long enough to fully experience the difference, but the south does give you a different side of Italy…and delicious food!

      Our train from Naples to Pompeii was packed, and we had been warned of pickpockets, so it wasn’t the most comfortable, but this was also Semana Santa, so I’m sure it’s better other times. At least it’s an easy direct train, and there’s a luggage check at Pompeii, so we were able to go straight on to Sorrento from there.

  2. Love the go to hell thing. What I remember about Naples (when I was 15) was awesome pizza, getting sunburnt on Capri island and a super sweet hotel with old elevators and beautiful views. Pompeii was sweeeeeet as well!

  3. …I couldn’t imagine being in Pompeii just as Vesuvius erupted–it must’ve sucked, being petrified like that…

    On a side note, you mean to say that there is NOTHING standout in Naples (besides the awesome pizza!!)???…

    • No, I thought it was great, I just meant that there was no one big thing you have to see, like some cities have. Instead, it was more about just wandering and exploring. Still worth seeing, I think!

  4. Oh Italy! Just this week I wrote about Rome vs Venice and have seen at least 3 new blog posts about Italy and now your Naples post – I think this is a very serious sign that I should head over there 😉 How funny about that saying ‘a fa Napoli’ I had no idea! This is something my Italian teacher forgot to mention..

  5. I spent 2 nights in Naples last December, mainly to make it easier to get to Pompeii. I arrived on a dark, rainy night and couldn’t for the life of me figure out the shitty “metro” system which was really more like ancient, repurposed trains that happened to run beneath the city…yikes. The part of Naples that I saw was mainly the graffitied, littered side of town, and I didn’t spend much time exploring apart from gorging myself at the glorious classic pizza joints downtown. The archaeological museum was amazing though; that’s where they stuck all of the statues and mosaics and such from the ruins of Pompeii!

    Maybe I would like Naples more if I went back and checked out the old town/went on a walking tour. But for now I’d have to agree with the “go to hell” saying hahaha

  6. Lovely photos, Kirstie! We haven’t been to Naples yet but it looks amazing!
    If you like photography, we would like to invite you to participate in the next edition of our Travel Photography Competition. Every week we publish 3 winning shots on our website and write a nice bio with a link to the photographers’ websites/FB/G+/Flickr pages etc.
    Find more details here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/your-contributions/travel-photography/
    Take care & have a great weekend!

  7. Courtney says:

    THAT PIZZA. I want it in my belly. Right now. That view from your hotel isn’t too shabby either 🙂 It sounds like Naples is pretty much the opposite of hell!

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