Finding (and surviving) the crazy streets of Naples

The funny thing about driving a car in Italy is that you just don’t know what to expect. If it’s your first time renting a car in Europe, there are tons of tips you can pick up beforehand to make your adventure a little easier, but really, where’s the fun in that?  Naples has been on my 100 Things To Do Before I Die bucket list for ages… but never in a million years did I think I’d be exploring Italy this soon. I guess you just never know where and when life is going to take you to the most unexpected of places.

We arrived in Rome the night before and what an adventure that first drive was. We probably circled the street of our hotel block for a good 40 minutes searching for a parking spot. I mean, we knew driving in Italy was going to be an adventure but we didn’t expect searching for parking to be one too! Parking in Italy is not always available and often, you’ll either find yourself having to squeeze into the tiniest of spaces or having to pay at a parking garage by the hour. After circling the block a good six or seven times, we managed to find a spot and checked into our hotel.

Next up, exploring Old Town Trastevere and finding our first cappuccino in Italy!

The afternoon was filled with endless conversation and somewhere in between we a found a cute little tiramisu place.

After a little more exploring… we found a pretty bar with some old school music and ended the night with two pretty glasses of prosecco in toast to a 10-year friendship.

We wandered down a few more alleyways before heading back to the room to get some rest. After all, we did have an early morning drive to the wonderful city of Naples.

The morning was filled with lots of giggles as we reminisced about our varsity days. Before long the sweetest breakfast was served straight to our bed! Cappuccinos… Croissants… lemon muffins… orange juice… we really were in Italy!

Bellissimo!

And then… we were off to Napoli, in search of the best pizza in the world! The journey there was an interesting one… as all great adventures are. You see, in South Africa, we drive on the left-hand side of the road which we had to constantly remind ourselves to drive on the right. The worst was taking a turn around a bend because your mind automatically tells you to take the left lane…. and then you’re like… No! No! No! Stay right!

I must admit we had a good few laughs (and scares) at first but it didn’t take too long to get the hang of it.

Eventually, we found Naples.

We also survived driving in Naples.

I can’t tell you the number of people that initially questioned our decision to drive through Italy. In fact, people thought we were down right crazy because Italian drivers can be, somewhat… intense on the road. For my own sanity I chose to stay away from reading up on driving in Italy so as not to freak myself out. As scary as it was, I knew deep down in my gut that I could do this, and well, I also knew if we were able to pull this off, it would be one epic adventure that we would never forget. I had heard a few horror stories about driving in Naples but if I’m honest, I was pretty surprised when we picked up our car rental and the agent told us that we wouldn’t be insured for driving in Naples.

Little did I know that driving in Naples would be a whole other ball game. There are tons of posts out there telling readers about what driving in Italy is like, and yes, it can be pretty stressful… but driving in Naples? That’s a whole other level of crazy. The streets are narrower than any other Italian city and the drivers… a whole lot crazier on the roads. In actual fact, the streets of Naples were built in the middle ages so they’re not really equipped for high volumes of traffic, but some how everywhere you turn… there is high volumes of traffic.

Imagine narrow alleyways, sometimes lacking pavements; with cars double parked on either end and no clear indication if it is a two-way or one-way street…. That being said, even if it was a one-way street, you can be sure in Naples, that it would somehow miraculously become a two-way street… even if only one car, realistically speaking was meant to fit. In addition, picture driving so close to other cars that you have to wind in your side mirrors and deal with your car’s proximity sensors going off so often that becomes a constant background chatter that you just have to get used too.

 After parking the car in one of the paid public garages, we went off in search of what we came for – the world’s best pizza. Now there are pizzeria’s around every corner regardless of the Italian city you’re in… but Napoli is the birth place of pizza and we, were in search of one specific pizzeria – L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was made famous by Julia Roberts in the film Eat Pray Love and is one of Napoli’s oldest pizzerias. The menu is pretty simple, with only two types of pizza on offer – a classic Margherita (tomato and buffalo mozzarella) or Marinara (tomato, garlic and oregano).

The wait time for a table at da Michele is anywhere from 2 hours onwards, especially if you’re arriving at lunch or dinner time. After speaking to some of the locals who had also been waiting a while we decided to go ahead and do some exploring before coming back around 5 pm when the wait time would be shorter (or so we hoped).

Off we wandered. Down narrow Napoli streets, taking in the old rustic look of a typical Italian city.

Soon we came to an open-air fresh food mercato (market).

It was a typical Italian food market filled with fresh seafood, olives and lemons.

Endless types of clams…. oysters… squid and much more.

Before long, the sun began to set and the chilliness of the winter air started creeping in. We knew it was time to head back to da Michele.

Upon arrival we grabbed a number from a friendly man at the door, figured out how to say it in Italian (because all numbers are only called in Italian) and joined the wait with so many others.

After a good hour and a half, we eventually found ourselves inside, starving and ready to devour a hot margherita.

Delicious. Satisfied with our short trip to Naples, we knew it was time to head out of such a crazy bustling city and drive onward to Pompeii.

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I'm Shalinee - a Geminian scientist who loves to travel, write, draw and eat chocolate. I've visited over twenty countries, published a Environmental Science encyclopaedia and somewhere along the way started a science communication company to help students and corporates translate that hard-to-read data generated in a lab. Other than that, I'm just searching for the magic still hidden in the world.

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