Naples - for kids

PART TWO - NAPLES - It's all about the kids!

So Naples hey.... isn't that a place filled with crime? Isn't it unsafe? What about my kids? Okay to answer that I say if Naples were unsafe and crime ridden, there is no way I would take my child there. I'm the same as any parent and the safety of my kids is absolutely paramount for me. Never, at any time, did I ever feel unsafe or witness anything unsafe in Naples and in fact Sam has asked me 'mum why are people afraid to visit Naples? It's fantastic!'. Take a look why:

Pull up a chair and take in the view of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius
Pack of chips and Fanta optional

Naples - we invented pizza! They actually did. Look at the blackened bubbles on the crust indicating authentic wood fired base and the rich, cheesy centre. This wasn't even at one of Naples famous pizza places - we were at Marino on via Santa Lucia

Friendly locals. We were in Naples for a week and every day we saw this lovely man walking his dogs (who were rescue dogs, he told us). He happily stopped so Sam could have a pat.

Above and below. A Historic Centre that is UNESCO World Heritage listed and  yet maintains its authenticity. Real people live here. They go to school, they shop, they chat with their neighbours, they go to work and church. It's vivid, vibrant and alive.

This photo of Sam walking along via Tribunali captures the unique and unexpected beauty that is Naples' Historic Centre - see the extraordinary light and stillness- even in this hectic city of one million people.

So are you sold yet? Yes, Naples is beautiful.  Let's talk, then, about activities for kids - hey, these are even good for the whole family:

1. Naples Archaeological Museum. If you go to Pompeii or Herculaneum, you must go here as well. It has the majority of the sites paintings, frescoes, artefacts and household items unearthed during excavations dating back to the mid 1700s.

Above - fresco from House of Venus in the seashell (Pompeii). Ask the kids to take a look at her legs....looks like a photoshop fail. Below is the bronze statue of Apollo from the forum in Pompeii.

These are just a sample of what you can see at the Naples Archaeological Museum. The kids will love the mosaic room and the upper floor which contains the frescoes. To get to to these rooms you take a walk through the Great Hall of the Sundial which is one of the most impressive roofed halls in Europe - being 20 metres high and has a sundial in the floor.

Kids will love this scale model of the Pompeii site - it was commissioned by Giuseppe Fiorelli (one of Pompeii's pioneering archaeologists) and was made between 1861 and 1864. It shows the buildings of Pompeii excavated before 1879.
And since this is also about families - carers and parents will appreciate this 'blue vase' found in a tomb in Pompeii - it is said in the presence of King Ferdinand III.The fact that it is in one piece will really surprise the kids.

2. Pizza
We've already mentioned this. But I'll say it again and again. Pizza in Naples is a must - in fact it's your moral imperative to eat pizza in Napoli. They say it was 'invented' in 1889 when Queen Margherita of Savoy was visiting. She apparently preferred the tri-colour pizza with the tomato base (red) the buffalo mozzarella (white) and the basil leaves (green), representing the recently unified Italy and the flag. Sam and I ate pizza everywhere in Naples and can honestly say we never had a bad one. Our favourite pizza places are Starita, Sorbillo and Da Michele.

Pizza at Starita (above). Sophia Loren starred in the movie L'Oro di Napoli here in 1954. The restaurant has changed a bit since then and is very modern on the inside, the pizza is perfect and the bill for the two of us (including entree and drinks) was only 15 euro. Yep. 15 euro. Apologies for quality of the image. Sam is having the legendary Margherita and mine is a mixture of four toppings. Starita is a bit out of the way but you can get there by taking the metro to the Materdei stop. It's an easy downhill walk out of the metro and to your left. Just ask a friendly local if you get lost.

This Margherita came from a non famous Napoli pizza place but it showcases just how good they are everywhere. The restaurant is called Mammina and is on Via Partenope on Naples' waterfront. I come here every time I'm in Naples and love the atmosphere and service.

The big daddy of them all - Da Michele. They serve two varieties - Margherita and Marinara. You take a number outside and wait for a table - unless you do what Sam and I did and turn up just after opening (11am seven days a week). This pizza was truly THE best we had in both our trips in 2013 and 2014. Bellisima!

3. Bike riding on the Lungomare
What? You riding in Naples? Isn't that a form of self-annihilation? Well maybe on Corso Umberto but try going literally five minutes away and you're on Via Partenope where traffic has been diverted since 2012 and a pedestrian zone rules where once a four lane roadway dominated. Bikes? Sure! Even try one of these:

Sam and I rented one of these family bikes a couple of nights in a row and it was SO MUCH FUN. Imagine your whole family on one of these - and in a safe and quiet pedestrian zone hugging the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius as a backdrop. It will cost you only 7 euro for two hours - that's all.

4. Funiculars
What? Isn't that a song? Funiculi Funicula is indeed a song - written by a Neapolitan (Luigi Denza) to commemorate the opening of a funicular (cog railway) on Vesuvius. This little railway has long since closed but Naples has many of these efficient and unique modes of transport dotted around the city to help you get up and down.
The Mt Vesuvius funicular

Kids will love a funicular because it is different - and it will take them high above the city so you can all see some incredible views. The Montesanto and the Centrale funicular take you to Vomero - an eagle-eye view of Naples where you can also visit some of Naples many incredible sights - such as the Certosa of San Martino and Castel St. Elmo - one of Naples three castles. 

The Centrale Funicular which will take you from Via Toledo (the main shopping strip) up to Vomero where you can explore this beautiful neighbourhood and views - that look like this. (As at late 2016 the Centrale Funicular is closed for maintenance but there are funiculars at Montesanto, Chiaia and Mergellina).

So who would think public transportation would be fun for kids? When it's a cog railway that is super efficient and whisks you up above the city, like a bird, and down again for about two euro - it gets my vote.

6. Castel Nuovo
Where I come from (Australia) it's kind of light on castles and if that holds true for your country of origin (e.g. Canada and the USA) then look no further - here is one that even looks like a castle -  in fact you'd think Elsa and Anna would come sweeping down the grand staircase in the courtyard. (N.B. Elsa and Anna are characters from Disney's 'Frozen' for those of you with sons or older kids).

The castle was built in the 12th Century for Naples' royalty - the Angevins - and did double duty as a royal residence and a fortress. It is called Castel Nuovo (new castle) to distinguish it from its older relative down the road - Castel dell Ovo. It's very cheap to visit and Sam was free. There are tours but we elected to self-guide as it doesn't take long to see. 

Of interest in there for kids - apart from the fact that they're in a real life castle - is the Armoury Hall which contains a necropolis (burial site) and tombs of Ancient Romans. You can walk over these tombs as there is a clear glass floor (see photo below of the tombs - and our feet). There are still remains on site - skeletons - so your kids may be fascinated by this - or scared - so use your parental judgement on this one.

There is also a terrace with some amazing views over the Molo Beverello port and out to Vesuvius - you'll see why this castle held such a strategic position when you take a look from the terrace. 

One final thing the kids may love in this castle is the cannonball lodged in a bronze door. The door was originally on the entrance to the castle but was taken by French king Charles VIII as part of the spoils he took from Naples. Problem is, his fleet was attacked near Rapallo (Italian Riviera area) and conquered by those sea-faring heavyweights, the Genoese. In the course of the battle, the door was hit by a cannonball which remained stuck in the panel. The Genoese didn't want the prize - so they sent the door back to Naples in 1495. 

7. Napoli Sotteranea

This means 'subterranean Naples' and is literally just that. It's a tour of the area below Naples in the middle of the historic centre. Life goes on above but below ground is this amazing underworld which had some very interesting uses. An aqueduct, a WW2 bomb shelter, a rubbish dump - it all happened here.

The kids will like the fact that it's underground (40 metres to be precise) it has some tiny corridors where you light your way with a candle and it also has some big surprises - like this Roman water storage area (below).

See the link above for some information. There are lots of stairs and very young kids may find this tiring. Also some of the passageways are extremely narrow and may not be suitable for anyone who is very overweight. The tour brings you back up to street level but it also has an extra surprise. You head down the streets of Naples into what looks like someone's home. I won't spoil the surprise about the rest - you'll have to see for yourselves but the kids won't believe it. I've done this tour twice and I still can't believe it.

8. Sfogliatelle
Sfog...what? Okay this is how you say it - sfo-lee-ah-tell-eee
So what is it? It's this..... a beautiful shell-shaped flaky pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese and it tastes absolutely incredible. I'd never heard of them before my first trip to Naples - now I can't get enough. Try some from Sfogliatelle Mary in the Galleria (on Via Toledo - just look for the long queue!) or from Gambrinus - Naples very elegant cafe on Piazza Plebescito.
They taste as good as they look and you'll just have to keep buying more as everyone will clamour for them.

And the rest - it's a mixed bag of Bella Napoli - gelato, museums, churches, galleries - and I hear you say 'but my kids will be BORED with all that'. Well not necessarily. As I said earlier - museums - Naples Archaeological Museum is one of the must sees in the whole world. Naples' churches are a smack in the eye baroque masterpiece with gold, gold and more gold. Naples' galleries contain masterpieces your kids will learn about in school - like Caravaggio who has his own unique story (chased by the police, apparently murdered someone over a game of tennis, fled and hid in Naples and Sicily - and is one of the most revered artists of his time). 
 Caravaggio's 'Flagellation of Christ' in the Capodimonte Museum - take the kids here and then explore the beautiful green parklands outside the musem. And marvel at the fact that Capodimonte was a grand Bourbon palace - actually the hunting lodge of the aristocracy if you can believe it.

Piazza Plebescito - see the kids chasing bubbles, clowns, balloons - so much street fair for kids - they will love it.

One of Naples most famous gelaterias - Fantasia Gelateria. . We dropped in for some gelato after pizza at Sorbillo. We were here at 11.00pm and walked to our hotel - did we feel scared? No! We walked safely home and enjoyed the best gelato in the world.

So finally - Via Tribunali - see some of Naples' most magnificent sights like Pio Monte Della Misericordia, the Cloisters of Santa Chiara, the Duomo - and probably more pizza. If you want authentic Italy - here it is on a plate. Vibrant, Vivacious, Vivid - Naples is all this. Bring your kids. Fall in love. 


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