Cruise Ports: Naples, Italy

Naples, while not especially picturesque, offers preserved towns and perfect Neapolitan pizza. The city serves as the port for both Pompeii and Herculaneum, towns frozen in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on Aug. 24, 79 AD.

Naples, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

Naples, while not especially picturesque, offers preserved towns and perfect Neapolitan pizza. The city serves as the port for both Pompeii and Herculaneum, towns frozen in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on Aug. 24, 79 AD.

In either ancient city, you enter a lost world. Although falling buildings crushed people, most died from the noxious gases released by the volcano. Ash and mud covered the dead. Over time, the flesh decomposed, leaving just the skeleton, which was filled in by the muddy ash, creating a carapace or mold. Like stage sets, the empty streets, taverns, baths and temples seem poised, ready for townspeople to enter on cue.

Touted as the birthplace of pizza, Naples serves up tasty examples of this well-liked staple. Some food tours take you to various pizza eateries while others also include wines, pastries, and pasta.

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Pompeii

Pompeii, frozen in time.

Pompeii, located 15 miles south of Naples in western Italy’s fertile Campania region, had a population of 10,000- 20,000 and served as a busy trading center until Mt. Vesuvius erupted. The volcano buried Pompeii in 20 feet of ash.

The casts of people and animals caught in their last agonizing moments of life are some of Pompeii’s most powerful images. The bodies look sculptural. Among the casts: a man curled hopelessly in a fetal position, a pregnant woman, forever big with child; and a dog on his back, feet in the air as if wriggling to get free of a tether. The casts on view vary as some go on loan to museums in Naples and elsewhere.

Much bigger than Herculaneum, Pompeii’s highlights include the Tempio di Apollo (Temple of Apollo), the Anfiteatro (Amphitheater), the well-preserved Stabian Thermae (baths), the Casa dei Vettii (House of the Vettii) adorned with frescoes, some of which are erotic, as well as the frescoes in the Villa dei Misteri (House of the Mysteries).

Herculaneum

Located west of the exploding Mt. Vesuvius, Herculaneum, six miles southeast of Naples, was buried in mud and lava. Smaller and less crowded than Pompeii, Herculaneum, ancient population of 5,000, is known for its well-preserved mosaics, especially the still vivid designs in the Terme Femminili (Women’s Baths) and the Casa del Nettuno ed Anfitrite ( House of Neptune and Amphitrite).

Food Tours

With literally a boatload of food available on your ship, it may seem odd to select a foodie tour, but the best of these outings wind you through an interesting section of the city, provide background on the region’s dishes plus platefuls of local cuisine.

If your Italian isn’t conversational, then make sure that the guide for your outing speaks English. If you book a group tour, ask for one that caters to English speakers; otherwise, you will be wasting time listening to discussions in both Italian and English.

Food Tours of Naples offers a day-long eating adventure that features city sights and seafood, pasta, pastries, and pizza.

Viator’s Naples’ Food Walking Tour, is a three-hour excursion that focuses on street food. Taste sfogliatella (a layered pastry), visit a food market, and find out where to bite into the best pizza.

Eat In Italy serves up a variety of food tours. Take a hands-on, pizza cooking class or discover the delights of local neighborhoods. In Chiaia, the “new” city center, sample chocolates, ice cream, pizza, and cheeses. In Vomero, a more residential area, visit an open-air market, a deli, and taste local wines, chocolates, and gelato.

Have you visited Southern Italy? What was your favorite part? Comment below, or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.