In Napoli Beside the Sea

A post (mostly) by Adam!

When we put the plan together to visit Italy, there were a lot of factors we considered when choosing where to stay. Since it was summer aka. high tourist season, prices had skyrocketed in the locations typically considered “the most beautiful parts of Italy”, so we were forced to prioritize our criteria to find the best location. Our criteria included: a coastal location, co-working space, nearby gym, good walkability, and convenient public transportation. After research and weighing our options, it became clear Naples was going to be our base for a month. Despite the stereotypes we’d heard regarding cleanliness, safety and the mafia rule, what intrigued us about Naples was that it was a city with grit. We’ve been to picturesque Italy; it’s exciting, charming and touristy for good reason. But how those on vacation experience Italy isn’t how locals live and we wanted a taste of that local Italian life… la dolce vita… and a lot of blogs pointed us to Naples.

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Impressive right?

People are quick to point out the negative aspects about Naples, but Italy’s 3rd largest city has a lot of great things going for it. First and foremost, pizza was invented in Napoli meaning they arguably have the best pizza in the world. Second, it’s a port city and a major train hub which makes travelling throughout Italy easy breezy and affordable. Third, it is still Italy; meaning the food, wine, and espresso are something of another world. It’s safe to say we will be buying an espresso machine as a “to us from us” Christmas gift.

Upon arrival from the airport, we were very quickly reminded of home. Hello humidity. For the prior four months, we’d been spoiled with a relatively dry climate but was very clearly over. We lugged our backpacks into a taxi and off we went to our Airbnb. For now, I’ll spare the details about insane Italian driving, but I will say that for stretches we drove on the wrong side of the road and seemed to play chicken with some large trucks as we dodged around less “slow” vehicles. Maybe it was a good thing jet lag dulled our senses.

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Piazza del Plebiscito

When we arrived, we were greeted by our host, Clara, who showed us around our new temporary home. Everything was wonderful, however we quickly realized that we’d apparently we missed checking the “air conditioning” box on Airbnb’s site when booking. Smh. Clara asked if we were hungry since we got in so late and intrigued us by saying the current best pizza in Naples was just a quick walk from the building, 50 Kalo. We must have looked really exhausted because she drove us there and tried to get us a table. But as you could probably guess, there was a huge wait it being the best pizza in Naples and all. So Clara pointed across the street to her favorite everyday pizza place called Pasquels. We marched on over and were sat right away. We ordered a bottle of wine for $6, caprese salad, zuppa di pesce and our first Neapolitan pizza which was a twist on the margarita classic except subbing creamy, delicious burrata for mozzarella. My goodness it was amazing and not just because we were exhausted and jet-lagged. The fresh ingredients mixed with it’s perfectly thin, toasty, chewy crust was just what pizza dreams are made of.

Although the food was completely hitting the spot, it was actually the staff who truly made our night so memorable. Everyone was so friendly and very eager to talk us via their Google translate app. They spoke, google translated. We spoke, google translated. It was quite a scene with us all clamoring to speak into the phone and laughing when the translation was completely obscure. They asked about popular Netflix shows and if certain documentaries (Pizza Bomber) were true, why we were in Naples, and what life was like in America. The night ended up being one of our favorites during our time in Naples as we had found our neighborhood late night spot for great pizza, good wine and new friends.

The following days, we walked mini-marathons to get oriented with the area and devoured various homemade pastas. Frutti di mare (mussels, prawns, clams, octopus, calamari mixed with a light fresh tomato sauce and fresh pasta) quickly proved to be our favorite. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with this dish in Italy and we must have eaten it 10 times.

Aside from eating, we dedicated our first few days to finding a coworking space and a gym. ProFighting Napoli was a pretty awesome find and a 5-minute walk to our apartment. It was a fighting gym with killer cross-training classes that made us regret stopping working out the prior months. We got to know the trainers and worked our asses off 4 times a week. It provided us with a structure and much needed accountability in a city with so mouthwatering wine, pasta and pizza.

As far as finding a coworking space, well, to put it bluntly, it was a major fail. There weren’t any coworking spaces near us and we weren’t quite confident driving a motorbike in Napoli’s crazy streets. One day, we did make the trek to the closest co-working space, however between its 45-minute commute there, and the fact that it was located IN a daycare adjacent to train tracks… we quickly decided we’d just work from our Airbnb for the month. All in all, working at home was fine, but the experience made it a new necessity for our future Aibnbs to be close to a GOOD coworking space.

Once we nailed down gym and a place to work, the rest of our four weeks were spent exploring Naples and far beyond to Orvieto, Tuscany, Capri, Ischia, and Sorrento. We told you public transport was clutch! More on those excursions and our guest visitors to come soon.

Okay, one more pizza pic to hold you over.
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Viva la Vida en Barcelona

So let’s pretend we’re dancing in the street, in Barcelona
Come on and dance with me in Barcelona
Drinking Sangria, I just want to be in Barcelona

Ed Sheeran had it right. I don’t think its possible to ever get sick of Barcelona. Marvellous beaches, long pedestrian promenades, vibrant street life, dramatic architecture, an efficient metro system, *phenomenal* food, and a neighborhood to fit any personality. Barcelona is a multi-layered, culturally rich city you can just get lost in, in the best way possible.

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Montserrat Beauty

One reason we were so excited for this leg of the trip is that we were meeting up with our two good friends, Kelly and Cory. They had planned a 10-day trip which happened to time up perfectly with our time in Spain! We had been missing our friends from home, so seeing them renewed our spirits and warmed our hearts. Our first day meeting them was without a doubt our favorite day in Barcelona. It was a beautiful sunny day as the four of us wandered around the beach and hidden streets of a fishing neighborhood called Barceloneta. We stopped to snack on Iberian ham, patatas bravas, little fried seafood, and of course ice cold, bubbly cava. By happenstance, we even stumbled on a lively festival that weaved through all the streets of Barceloneta. Although we still don’t know the exact meaning behind the animated festival, we deducted it had something having to do with ancient fisherman selling their fish for meat… or so I translated from a young girl describing it in Catalon. *Side note: the Catalon language spoke it is quite different than Spanish, so I was a little out of my league with communication.* There were hundreds of colorful dancers, costumes and musicians belonging to different themed groups. It was a wild time and continued late into the night, keeping the fun bar high for the day. We kept wondering, soaking up the atmosphere and ended up finishing the day with some seriously delicious paella at Arrosseria L’arròs. Cory and Adam’s choice of a squid ink variety won us all over. Drooling just thinking about it.

The following day, the four of us took off on a wine/cava tour we had planned months in advance. We hopped on a bus with a small group and made our way to our first stop, Finca Can’Estella, a small boutique winery built in the late 18th century.  Aside from being so quaint and charming, we learned a lot about cava and got to enjoy our first sip in a candlelit, historic stone vat listening to the almost musical sounds of the bubbles. After the rest of the tour, we tasted 3 additional cavas paired with tapas of bread and tomato (pan con tomate), various hams, olives, tortilla española, and local chocolate, among many others. The tapas just kept coming! With full bellies, we hopped on the bus and continued on to the second winery, Oller del Mas Cellar. This was also a very beautiful setting as it is located in a former medieval castle with a 1000-year history of winemaking. You could literally feel the history embedded in this place. We tasted 3 different organic wines and snacked on an assortment of cheeses… all delicious because honestly, everything is delicious in Spain. It was such a fun experience sipping our way throughout the day with great friends, local wines, authentic tapas and excellent tour guides.

The rest of our time in Barcelona was a little more balanced with work :). Kelly and Cory wen to explore Ibiza for a few days and we found a nice co-working space just a 15-minute walk from our AirBnB with welcoming owners and great coffee, called CoCo Coffice. We bought a 5-day pass on Barcelona’s metro and zipped all around beneath the city with ease. Travelling on such an excellent and efficient metro system really made us realize why Barcelona is able to thrive as such an expansive, diverse and desirable city.

Other highlights of Barcelona that have to be mentioned include:

  • listening and dancing to live jazz at the Harlem Club
  • the tour of La Sagrada Familia
  • sitting in Plaça de Sol, located in the awesome Gracia neighborhood, with all the area’s bohemian locals eating pizza by the slice and sipping on our cava we bought from the wine tour
  • meeting up with some locals for a day of very windy beach volleyball
  • the best tapas we had in Barcelona at Samsara, also in the Gracia neighborhood
  • our goodbye dinner with Cory and Kelly at Cera 23 (thanks again you two!)
  • a day trip to stunning Montserrat 
  • the drool-worthy, vibrant market of La Boquería
  • wondering around the Gothic Quarter
  • snail tapas (don’t knock ’em till you try ’em) and rendezvousing with my sister’s friend Kim and her husband Dink at Los Caracoles

Looking back now, we treated Barcelona, unlike the other cities we’ve been in thus far. Since we only had 10 days, we ‘lived it up’ more than we typically would have, indulging in the food scene more frequently, splurging on touristic adventures, using the metro instead of renting bicycles, and spitting time between a hotel and AirBnB. All in all, it was a fantastic time and Adam and I both think it’s a city we could have easily spent a month in and really sunk our teeth into. There are so many neighborhoods with their own distinct charm, so if you plan on going, do your research! Also, contrary to popular belief, Barcelona doesn’t have to be an expensive city for a vacation. Again with a little research, there are a lot of affordable options for accommodations, dining and entertainment. Barcelona is a must see that I would love to experience again, as the city has so much to offer that it would be a completely unique experience each time.