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At last 11 June 2022 arrived and we were able to board the Viking Lines ship, called Viking Sky, for our planned cruise from Rome to Venice.

Entrance to Naples Harbour with Mt Vesuvius

Once again, a coach arrived to take us to the Port of Civitavecchia, which is 60km west-north-west of the centre of Rome and it takes 50mins to get there, according to Bing.com search engine. Our Viking guide told us to expect a 50min drive but it took over an hour due to some heavy traffic in town. Being a Sunday, light traffic was expected but this was not to be. On arrival at the port we experienced the most organised and efficient booking in process than any of the other cruise lines with whom we have travelled previously. We had left the hotel at 09:15, got to Civitavecchia at 10:30 and were in our stateroom (no longer called a cabin) by 11:00. Our luggage was delivered to us during the afternoon.

Other ships in the port

The ship sailed at 22:00 and we sailed into Naples at 08:00. We were able to relax and learn about the layout of the ship during the morning, as our excursion, a scenic tour of Naples by coach and on foot, was scheduled for 13:00 and due to last for 3 hours. The only other excursion offered was to visit Pompeii but we had elected to do that on our 2nd cruise to the Greek Isles later in the month. The evening before we had received a copy of the ship’s information paper, the Viking Daily, which gave us a bit of information on the City of Naples. What was really special about this cruise and what would be our travels in Italy after it, was that all the places, with the exception of Rome, we had never visited before.

For most of us, this city is best known for the major eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the complete destruction of the town of Pompeii in 79AD. There is so much more to Naples than this tragic event. It is an ancient city, originally settled by Greek sailors around 1000 – 800BC and was named Neapolis by the Greeks in the 1st Century. Maybe this is why the people of Naples are called Neapolitans. Over the centuries its development also involved the Romans, “The city was an important part of Magna Graecia, played a major role in the merging of Greek and Roman society, and was a significant cultural centre under the Romans,” according to Wikipaedia. It was first a Duchy of Italy and later, a Kingdom for 500 years. Today, it is one of the main cities of the country and is most famous for its Pizza. It is set in a stunning seaside-setting and has long been the centre of Italian culture drawing architects, artists and other creative citizens.

There are many interesting sites and buildings in Naples, some of which we were able to see during our tour. On our way into the City we drove past an impressive monument to the few soldiers who held the city for 5 days before General Patton’s forces were able to enter Naples, beating Field Marshall Montgomery by just a few days. Thus, Patton is known has the hero in this battle.

Memorial to the men who held the city in WW2

There are several castles in Naples of which we saw three, 2 while on the bus and 1 near which we walked. First, we saw the Castle Nuovo located in the City Centre, opposite the City Hall. The Castle was built in the 13th Century and the City Hall in the 15th. The Castle has 4 towers and an imposing and a more modern marble triumphal arch as its entrance.

Castle Nuovo

High up on a hill is the St Elmo Castle which it was not possible to photograph from the coach with our Tablet but did manage to get one from the Piazza Plebiscito later. It was originally built in 1329 but replaced as the one seen today in 1537. It has a unique shape for a castle, being built as a 6-pointed star and has stunning views over Naples, not that we were able to appreciate these. It has served as Military Base, a Prison and a Government Office but, today, it is a Museum.

St Elmos Castle

The 3rd castle we saw is set on the Island Megaride which is now joined to the mainland by a footbridge making it possible for visitors to enter the castle, called Castle Dell’Ovo, with its halls and rooms used for conferences, weddings and other events. The name means ‘The Egg’ and came about because a sorcerer said that Vergil placed an egg under the foundations claiming that this would protect both the Castle and Naples.

Another beautiful building we were able to see up close as it was made our meeting point for when we had enjoyed time to ourselves and had to return to the Coach. This was the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) of Naples and dates from the early 17th Century. It is a very large building sited on the Piazza Plebiscito or Square of the Vote. From 1600 – 1946 it was occupied by Spaniard, Austrian, Bourbon and House of Savoy monarchs. Today, in alcoves along the front of the building, are statues of all 8 of these who lived in the Palace, the last being Victor Emmanuel II after whom a building in Rome is named. It has been home to the Royal Printing House, the Palantine Academy and Library, the King’s physics cabinet, the Bourbon Archives and the Royal Chapel.

The Royal Palace

The Piazza del Plebiscito is one of the biggest and most attractive squares in Naples. It was developed from volcanic rock from Mt Vesuvius in the early 19th Century and named after the Plebiscite or vote which took place in 1860 to bring Naples into the Kingdom of Italy. There is one other large and beautiful building on the Piazza, the  San Francesco di Paola Basilica, situated opposite the Palace. It is one of Naples’ largest many churches and has a semi-circular, columned gallery across the front. Also found around the Piazza is the Prefecture or Court House of Naples and a lovely restaurant.

San Francesco di Paola Basilica 

The Prefecture of Naples

Just off the Piazza is a circle with a fountain in the centre and 2 narrow, but very busy, roads entering it, buses, cars and every other kind of transport. While Trevor went off to look for photo opportunities I walked up the small side road which was not an easy task as the pavement was filled with informal traders selling a large variety of items from cheap plastic toys to fake Gucci handbags. There was a beautiful shopping mall hidden down a passage so I strolled through this and discovered a large mosaic of astronomical bodies. I was sorry not to have the Tablet with me to take a good photo as it was too big for my phone camera.

Street corner on the Piazza

We all arrived back at the Piazza at 16:00 as arranged and returned to the ship.