We decided that for our birthdays we would each choose a destination for a trip.  Nell and I told our parents that we wanted to be included about making plans about our trips this year. So for my 10th birthday, I got to chose the place and our hotel and helped pick the restaurants and activities.

Because I am really into food, I wanted to go to where I heard the best pizza is in the whole world. I also chose Napoli because a lot of places where we have gone my parents have been before, but they had never been to Napoli. So it was a new place for all of us. Also, I wanted to see Pompei and so did Nell because she is really into natural disasters, and she read a book about a girl who was living in Pompei when Vesuvio exploded.

A lot of people say that Napoli is so gross and dirty. But having gone there, I can say that I would have been happy to do a sabbatical there instead of Roma. I know a lot of people don’t like it, but we all really, really liked Napoli.

It can feel overwhelming because the streets are very crowded, there is a lot of graffiti everywhere (but some of it we thought was funny), and Napoli is a very poor city. BUT I found this place very interesting and the people there very nice. There are a lot of narrow streets and you see right into people’s houses where they are watching TV or cooking because their windows are open. And outside of people’s houses they have pictures of people in their family who died and they have lights or candles and decorations all around the pictures. I think Napoli is VERY underestimated by people. It is probably a harder place for Americans to visit than Florence but it is less touristy and less expensive and really unusual. Florence is really set up for tourists but there are not a lot of tourists in Napoli. It might not be as beautiful as Florence (which I also loved) but it is much more unusual and the food is amazing. I think it was the best food we have had so far in Italy.

When I read on line about things to do in Napoli, I learned about a small ancient city that is less famous than Pompei called Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian). I know most people would have chosen Pompei. But reading the reviews online, every person gave Ercolano 5 stars and said that it was a way better destination than Pompei. Pompei gets crowded with a lot of tourists but Ercolano is so small that tour buses can’t get there. We had to take a small train to get there. In Pompei a lot of the buildings got damaged by rocks from Vesuvio. But in Ercolano, the town got covered in hot mud during the eruption in 79 AD. So a lot of these buildings that are 2,000 years old are still standing. It was really quiet and there were hardly any people there. There were even skeletons of people who were covered with the mud and couldn’t escape. You can see more about it in my pictures that I took with my new camera. And here’s a link to a video of my sister and me in one of the ancient snack bars of Ercolano, right before the volcano erupted. Apparently they used to fry donuts in these holes.

We also went to the Museo Archeologico in Napoli that has a lot of the stuff that was in the buildings at Pompei and Ercolano when they were destroyed almost 2,000 years ago. There were more sculptures than you would expect. There were two sculptures that I particularly liked – one of a lion and one called the Farnese Bull that showed some men and women fighting a bull. You can also see them in my pictures. In Ercolano there was one sculpture that was very small that was kind of odd. It was Hercules touching his penis!

Our hotel was not my first choice (one that I wanted was full), but it turned out to be one of my favorite hotels. The people there were so nice. I liked being in the old section of the city. The streets are crazy and crowded. But most of the buildings had a gate and a huge driveway. When you walked into the private area to get to the hotel it was really pretty inside.

My souvenir from Napoli was a jersey from their soccer team, which is doing really well this year. There was a game on Saturday night, and people sat around outside to watch on big TVs. We stopped to watch for a while, too. A lot of people were very friendly to me the day I wore my Napoli jersey because people there are really proud of how good their team is doing, especially because Napoli is so much poorer than other places in Italy.

The pizza places that we went to- each one was the best pizza I have ever had. And I think my whole family agrees. The pizza places get really crowded. The pizza doesn’t come out perfectly round. I started rating pizzas about two years ago and we keep a list on my dad’s phone. But we are hard graders. This was the first time we all gave such high scores. Nell gave her pizzas a perfect 10 every time. You really have to go have pizza in Napoli.

We did not have a good last four hours in the city. On Sunday, we went to another pizza place that we wanted to try, but they couldn’t seat us for over two hours. So we went back to the place we ate the day before. We waited for an hour trying to get in. But there was a huge crowd all pushing and it was a small street. When a car needed to get by everyone pushed even closer. (In the United States everyone would line up along the side of the building, but in Italy people don’t line up for anything and just stand in a big crowd). Our name was on the third page of names and Mom and Nell were getting upset about how pushed in we were. So we went to two other restaurants, but both of them were full. Finally, right near our hotel we found a restaurant that we wanted to try that was recommended by my parent’s Italian teacher, who grew up in Napoli. And they could even seat us right away. But as soon as we sat down we realized that our train back to Rome was leaving very soon. So we had to get up right away and go to the train station without having lunch. It was already 3 pm. So it wasn’t a good ending but it makes me want to go back to Napoli even more. I know where I want to eat and maybe I will go to Pompei and climb to the top of Vesuvio.

If you are interested, here are places I liked:

Our hotel was:

Costantinopoli 104

via S. Maria di Costantinopoli, 104

www.costantinopoli104.com

Our good pizza places were (I used Katie Parla’s blog to find restaurants):

Sorbillo

via Tribunali, 32

Di Matteo

via Tribunali, 94

A good lunch place is:

La Cantina di via Sapienza

via della Sapienza 40/41

— Eli

I tried to fit in with the ancient ruins.

A lion at the Museo Archeologico that I liked. I am wearing my Napoli jersey.

We had a spelling bee waiting for our pizza. But Nell and I were so tired and hungry that we couldn't spell "foreign" because we forgot about the silent g. And the dumbwaiter that delivered the pizza made a loud buzz when it arrived and Dad said our turn was automatically over every time the buzz sounded. So it took us 32 turns. Then the pizza came.

A street in Ercolano. It was preserved by the volcanic tuff. The covered circle on the street was a toilet.

At the top looking down into the city of Ercolano. You can see Mt. Vesuvio in the background.

In the ruins looking up. This picture shows how deep down the ancient city is compared to the current ground level, because of the layers of mud that covered the hillside after the volcano erupted.

The crowded streets of Napoli.

The courtyard of our hotel had a huge clementine tree. The oranges in Napoli were amazing.

This is me in front of the Farnese Bull. This is from a Greek legend where Dirce was punished by being tied to the horns of a bull. The figures are life-size.

Nell gives her pizza a perfect 10

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