Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Rome and Naples

Phil in front of Neptune's Fountain in Navona Square, Rome Phil in front of Neptune's Fountain in Navona Square, Rome © Phil Harper

Phil Harper, PR Manager at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Rome and Naples, Italy.

Tell us more… I’d been to Rome before, nearly ten years ago, but always wanted to return. This year I decided to go back and take my dad (who had never been) along with me, and I insisted we add on some time in Naples for the chance to explore somewhere new.

In a nutshell… As a history buff, travel destinations don’t get much better than this. Few places can match Rome for architecture and archaeology; and while Naples is a bit more down-to-earth it’s also the perfect place to explore Roman ruins as well as beautiful coastal landscapes.

Tourists wandering the ruins of Pompeii Wandering the ruins of Pompeii © Phil Harper

Good grub? You’re kidding right? Pizza, pasta, risotto, seafood, gelato… there are few places in the world where you can eat as well as you will in Italy. Naples is the home of pizza, so it was pretty much obligatory. A good local spot is Gino Sorbillo’s where fresh dough and simple toppings, like a classic tomato and mozzarella margarita, are cooked for just a couple of minutes in a wood-fired oven, then washed down with an ice-cold beer. We spent a considerable part of the week trying to find the best gelato in Italy too. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it…

You’d be a muppet to miss… Pompeii. Sometimes you wonder if iconic places are going to live up to the hype – Pompeii absolutely does. While the ruins of Herculaneum in Campania are better preserved, the sheer splendour and scale of Pompeii is absolutely jaw-dropping. It also really brings home the human tragedy of the eruption of Vesuvius, which buried this Roman town beneath the ash for centuries.

Inside Rome's Colloseum at night The Colosseum after dark © Phil Harper

Fave activity? For the first time this year, visitors to Rome can book on night-time tours of the Colosseum. With only 300 people allowed in each night, it’s a fantastic opportunity to explore this incredible monument without the crowds – and to take a peek at the corridors beneath the arena floor, which are out of reach for most visitors.

Quintessential experience? Grab an after-dinner gelato and take a stroll through the streets of central Rome in the evening. The streets are quieter and many of the city’s piazzas, fountains and monuments take on a whole new look under lights. Evening is a great time to take a trip to the Trevi Fountain – don’t forget to throw your coin in to ensure you’ll return to the city one day!

Top tip... Invest in good walking shoes. While public transport is cheap and accessible in both Rome and Naples, it’s often easier to walk – and cobbled streets and Roman ruins require sturdy footwear. There’s plenty to see just wandering the streets and you’ll discover loads of hidden gems. Plus, you’ll definitely build up a good appetite for all that fantastic food!

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Assistant Editor Christina Webb got up to on her recent road trip to Croatia and Montenegro.