A teen-friendly weekend in Naples – our guide to entertaining a teenage boy in one of Italy’s more surprising cities!
I normally travel alone – as much through choice as circumstances – but I recently offered to take my teenage nephew away for a few days. I wanted to expose him to a world of adventure: the European city break. His parents were suspiciously enthusiastic about my offer; the only question that remained to be answered was where we should go.
After a little thought I selected Naples, the Italian city most commonly equated with rampant corruption, rubbish in the streets, mad traffic and ‘authentic grit’. What could possibly go wrong? Fortunately, nothing. In fact, the weekend was a real success as it turned out that I’d planned things that appealed to a games console-obsessed 13-year-old boy.
There was also the food. Tasty pizzas and teenage boys… that was a no-brainer. Were weren’t going to starve during our three-day trip.
Day 1: Off to the theatre
We arrived late on Friday morning, checked into our accommodation, dumped our bags and headed off to Pozzuoli to see the Flavian Amphitheatre – the third biggest in the Roman world.
I was hoping to visit Solfatara, a shallow volcanic crater bubbling with mud and shrouded in foul-smelling fumes. Sadly that was closed for ‘safety reasons’ – a local lad had climbed over the safety barriers and died – but the ruined Roman theatre was a hit.
We had the place almost to ourselves, which added to the experience. There’s nothing like addressing an invisible audience from a stage that had once hosted fake sea battles and gladiatorial combat.
The remainder of the day was spent travelling back to Naples and eating… pizza, of course.
Want to learn more about what Naples has to offer? We recommend Lonely Planet’s Naples, Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast travel guide.
Day 2: Some dead Romans
Saturday was the main event: Herculaneum. I’d been to Pompeii, which is really imposing, but felt that the smaller of the two famous sites would be more impressive. There’s a greater level of preservation, for starters, and some dead bodies to see, too. Did I mention I was travelling with a teenage boy?
Getting from our hotel to the railway station was ‘interesting’… the traffic in Naples in mental. How I managed to steer my nephew through the cars without him being splattered is beyond me. His ability to dawdle in the face of an oncoming truck made me break out into a cold sweat on more than one occasion. But we made it onto the train in one piece and thence onto Herculaneum.
The site is truly breath-taking. The city, which was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, contains levels of detail that bring its streets to life, while the bodies of the fleeing citizens who’d taken refuge in the boat houses brought a human scale to the catastrophe.
It was a real winner with my young companion, as was MAV, the Virtual Archaeological Museum, just up the road from the entrance to Herculaneum. It offers 3D representations of the town as it would have been before the eruption and made an ideal sequel to seeing the real thing.
Why not book a tour while you’re in Naples? Check out what’s available on Tripadvisor.
Day 3: Going underground
Our final day was spent hiding away from the sun, exploring some of Naples underground secrets. Our first subterranean excursion was to Galleria Borbonica, a tunnel started in 1853 by order of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who was worried about a rebellion and want a way to escape from the Royal Palace.
The tunnel was used during World War II was a bomb shelter and later still it was pressed into service as a store for stolen and illegal vehicles seized by the police during the fascist period.
This mix of rotting vehicles and abandoned possessions left behind when the war ended was a hit with my weekend ward.
Napoli Sotterranea, our next forage beneath the streets, had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it delivered in style.
The Romans – yes, them again – maintained a series of aqueducts and underground cisterns to ensure that Naples had access to fresh water. They were originally excavated by the Greeks but the locals quickly enhanced the facilities, which were in use until recent history.
Our guide was very good and we both enjoyed the story of the Little Monk who lived in the tunnels. You’ll have to visit to find out more… but it’ll be well worth it.
Getting below ground to enter the cisterns is easy enough but some of the tunnels are very narrow and very dark. If you’re claustrophobic you might struggle – if you’re a teenage boy you’ll be leading the group from the front with nothing more than an electric candle for light. Well, that’s what my sidekick did, anyway.
The tour also included a visit to part of submerged Roman theatre, which was also really enjoyable and slightly quirky. You enter the site by climbing under an old lady’s bed!
Ready to book your accommodation for Naples? We recommend using Hotels.com.
A Teen-Friendly Weekend in Naples – la conclusione
So there you have it – our teen-friendly weekend in Naples. We could have easily spent another day or two in Naples as there’s so much to see and do. However, I think our three days provided my nephew with a flavour of the city and its surroundings and hopefully gave him the taste for travel, too.
The only downside of our brief but action-packed stay was the mad traffic. Mopeds passed stationary cars on the pavement side, which made getting out of taxis ‘interesting’, while larger vehicles blithely ignored traffic signals at every turn.
If it’s got wheels it’s probably trying to kill you. But don’t let that put you off; Naples is a great city for visitors of all ages… even teenage boys!
This is a guest post by Anthony Clark, journalist, copywriter and longtime friend of the Ladies What Travel team. He loves beer, cheese and travel and is a genius when it comes to making the most of his annual leave.