Category Archives: Travel

NAPLES – EXCURSION DAY 2 Pompeii & Naples National Archaeological Museum

On Day 2 of our excursion to Naples we hit two sites.

The first was Pompeii. Just below the entrance to the site is a restaurant by the name of Ristorante Vesuvio. We ate here primarily because of the parking. The lot attendant is very abrupt and even though the lot was not full, was angry that I could not get within six inches of the car next to me. If you read the reviews on Trip Advisor you will others had issues with him as well. The basic deal is that if you eat there you get free parking. I didn’t have him demand extra money, but the waiter also wrote something on my receipt for lunch after I gave them a good tip – which I think is what saved me from any hassle.

So how was Ristorante Vesuvio? The food was not that expensive and the portions huge. I would say the quality of the food was good, but not great, but I would put the restaurant up against other fair at a park or amusement venue. If you want an amazing Italian food experience, don’t go to what is essentially a tourist trap to get it – so keep that in mind when grading the place.

After eating we walked up the hill and paid for tickets to enter Pompeii. I almost bought tickets online via www.getyourguide.com before realizing it was a few Euros cheaper to just do it right there. My advice if you are going there in the summer is to bring a few frozen bottles of water, a good hat with a wide brim, and maybe even an umbrulla. The ruins are on the top of a hill and are very exposed. The sun turned all the rock into a giant heat sync, and we baked while we explored the ruins.

The size of Pompeii is hard to appreciate until you are actually walking around. The city was huge, and the level of sophistication is truly impressive. I tend to think about life 2,000 years ago as the stone age, but the construction at Pompeii is amazing. I couldn’t stop thinking about the size and scale, and wonder how the inhabitants managed to build such structures with no power tools or heavy lifting equipment. My son kept reminding me that the pulley was invented close to 300 years before Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii. Even so, it is truly impressive.

Most of the artifacts have been removed to museums, but there are still a few items left in the city.

It was honestly the little details left in Pompeii that impressed me the most thought. Here and there you would find bits of marble still in place, or amazing tile moziacs in the entry ways to buildings.

The tiles here were smaller than a centimeter in size. It must have taken a craftsman of incredible skill to create such beautiful pieces that have lasted through the ages. I highly doubt the tiles in my bathroom will be around in twenty years, much less two thousand.

After leaving Pompeii we headed to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Be forewarned, if you are driving, parking may be hard to find. The museum reinforced how ignorant I was about how skilled the peoples of two thousand years ago were.

The detail of the pieces is hard to truly describe. An artisan took hand tools and turned blocks of marble into life sized and larger than life sized snapshots of leaders, warriors, and other nobles.

If you want to appreciate some history, you should definitely put Pompeii and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples on your travel list.

NAPLES – EXCURSION DAY 1 Dinner

My youngest son enjoys good food and one of the channels he watches mentioned a restaurant in Italy called Pepe In Grani, which has won several “Best Pizza” awards and is well known to food bloggers.

Our Spain/Italy trip was a combined graduation present (my youngest just graduated high school) as well as birthday present (he just turned 18) and he really wanted to visit Pepe in Grani and have their pizza.

Here are a couple of tips.

Tip 1: If you fly into Naples, you will need to rent a car. Pepe in Grani is roughly an hour outside of the city.

Tip 2: Make sure you have a reservation and make sure you are prepared to wait.

Tip 3: The parking lot was packed and I had to make my own spot. Luckily I did not get a ticket or towed. The parking is beneath the restaurant, and requires you to climb a few hundred steps. Be prepared to work for your meal.

Is the effort to get to Pepe in Grani worth it? Yes, yes it is. The pizza was honestly the best pizza I’ve ever had. How do I know? Because i ate the crust.

On top of whatever other fresh ingredients they use, the dough is what makes this pizza special. it was somehow light and delicious all by itself, and the cheese and olive oil and tomato were just extra bits of heaven on top of that.

My suggestion is to go with a group of three or four people like I did, and have everyone order something different. That way you can all share and try out a bit of everything.

Naples – Excursion Day 1

While in Spain we took two days and hit Naples.

View of Italy as we approached Naples.

We had three great experiences in Italy, which we will get to, but Naples itself was a sh*t hole. Sorry to be so blunt, but the city was crazy dirty. I don’t think anyone know how to pick up after their dogs. Literally, dog sh*t everywhere. The city was really a let down.

So what did we do in Italy that we did like?

In the morning after we landed we went to the Catacombs of San Gennaro. Our tour guide was amazing, and you could tell he had so much passion about his subject matter.

The catacombs lie under the Rione Sanità neighborhood of Naples, sometimes called the “Valley of the Dead”. The crypts date back to the 3rd-4th century, and eventually held two saints. The tour is just about an hour long, and it honestly is a must see site if you are going to Naples. 

Spanish Holiday – Cooking Class

If you enjoy meeting new people, drinking, and eating paella, then you should try the Interactive Cooking Experience in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. We met at the Travel Bar, and then walked to the market before heading over to the kitchen.

The class was fun, and the food was good, and it is a great way to meet new people. Our table was super interesting. The three girls at the end were from Chicago, and at least one of them was a stripper. She told a very loud story about dislocating her arm on a dance pole and how her stripper name was “Carmella” but she didn’t get to pick it.

The other two young ladies were from Sweden and were very nice. My brother ended up drinking and having a good time with them until they had to leave.

Spanish Holiday – Sagrada Familia

The Familia Sagrada is a large unfinished Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona, Spain and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is amazing to walk around outside, the scale and beauty are truly impressive.

We paid for the tour, which I have to say was not worth it. The moved very slowly, and standing and listening to the tour guide after you’ve been in the same spot for 20 minutes gets old fast. In fact, it got so old so quickly that we decided to part ways and walk around a bit on our own. I don’t think you’re really allowed to be “self guided” but I guess security did not notice.

Which brings me to the topic of security. Apparently the Familia Sagrada was attacked a few years ago and security was tightened. So expect to go through an airport style screening.

I’m not sure if the sculptures over the main entry were damaged then, or at a different time, but our tour guide made a point of telling us the repairs were done by a Japanese sculpture, and this was the reason the eyes were narrow and “not wide open”. It was honestly very strange and I’m not sure she realized how racist that sounded.

My honest feedback would be to walk around outside the church and appreciate it for free unless you really want to see the inside. But to each their own.