Naples is a lovely, vibrant, colorful area of Italy with many things to do and it’s very hot in July. I’ve been in Naples for about a month now and I’ve been mostly spending my time volunteering. However, between my volunteer days, I have been able to venture out and see the area. Of course I managed to see several of the museums and stunning churches, but I had a few other must-dos on my list.
(The essence of Naples – arches, graffiti, pizza, trash, and a dude leaning on a wall…)
During my first week in Naples, I made sure to find somewhere to scuba dive. Scuba is quickly becoming a big hobby of mine and I was sure to add Italy to my list of dive countries. The coast line here is stunning, with fantastic views of Vesuvius, and I being near the water is a must. I spent a day in Pozzuoli at Centro Sub Campi Flegrei where I completed two dives. My dives were at the Baia Underwater Archeological Park. Diving amidst ancient ruins was an amazing adventure. I am a bit remiss at the state of my underwater camera and hope to get better dive pictures in the future.
Gaiola is another underwater archeological sight in Naples. It is one of the only public beach areas in the area, but only allows 100 people at a time in in order to keep pollution down. The area also aims to protect its biodiversity. The center at Gaiola offers many classes for young people to understand the environment and the importance of protecting it. I was fortunate enough to visit the area and snorkel the preserve area and learn about the historical significance. The water now covers a port that was used by the Emperor Augustus for his vacation home on the bay. Fancy…
Another must do around Naples is to visit the ancient city of Pompeii. As many people know, in the first century A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted killing thousands and preserving the city in a bed of ash and rubble. Over the years, Pompeii has been excavated and preserved, and those interested can wander through the remains and be taken back in time. I’ve always had a love for Roman history, and so seeing Pompeii was a special treat for me. I believe the best of Pompeii is the mosaics. So many mosaics are still intact and display some of the most beautiful geometries. They really spoke to my math sensibilities and spoke of the same within the ancient residents of the city. Finding commonalities that touch the inner workings of who I am allows me to experience something beyond my normal senses.
(Sunny wall at Pompeii. Photo by: Andrew Ahmed.)
After Pompeii, I found it only suiting to conquer Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius towers over the Bay of Naples and is stunning from any view-point and any time of day. After a 45 minute bus ride to the entrance of the park, I hiked the rest of the way up. The path is very loose and gravely and steep making the walk rather slow. But it was worth it! As beautiful as Mount Vesuvius is, the view from the top is even better! I was able to see the entire Bay of Naples. The view was breathtaking and the breeze was the icing on top!
So first I went high, then… then it was time to go low. Naples means “new city”, it was built on top of many old city ruins. This means that there are tons of underground ruins to see. Tours are available to these areas that take patrons 40 meters down where temps are a refreshing 75ish degrees. The climate in the underground tunnels is very stable, the temperature and humidity remain relatively constant throughout the year. Researchers exploit these benefits to run experiments with plants. These underground areas served as bunkers during WWII. It was haunting to see the displays of left over toys and supplies and reminds you of how prepared many people had to be in order to survive. This is definitely a must do during your time in Naples.
So when you’re not stuffing your face on pizza and pasta – al fresco style – there are many beautiful things to see and do in this area. The islands offer many tours as well as exploring other cities on the Bay such as Amalfi and Sorrento. Naples is a place to experience, not just visit. Viva Italia!