I’ve recently been to Naples with a teenager. Let me explain. Sometime last year I decided I wanted to take my older son on a trip for his 16th birthday, just him and me, something I’d never done before. I’d been brewing the idea for a while ever since a friend took her son away for his 13th birthday. It wasn’t something I’d contemplated before and back then it wasn’t such a fashionable thing to do (this must have been about 9 years ago at least). My boy’s 13th birthday passed by and the time wasn’t right so it struck me that 16 was the next “big” birthday worthy of celebrating in such a way.
Finding the right place was important as this trip was for him, for us, but certainly not just for me. It had to reflect his interests and couldn’t just be an excuse for me to haul him around somewhere I’d always wanted to go. Budget was important, it wasn’t limitless by any means and proximity to Nice mattered too as we wouldn’t have very long (I didn’t think either of us would appreciate more than 3 days together alone and I didn’t want them to be spent in a plane even if the budget had run to long haul). So where would a well-travelled 16 year old want to go with his mum? The obvious “cool” city breaks like London, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam were out as he knows them well. Berlin was perhaps better suited to an adult teen, one who could appreciate nightlife (though not with his mum!), Marrakech was a thought but the flight prices were crazy and then I hit upon Naples.
Naples, the birthplace of pizza, his favourite food, and a world-class historical site to visit on its doorstep plus the excitement of an active volcano, I felt I’d struck the right balance. This teen is a good sightseer and enjoys it to an extent but would never profess to adore visiting churches and medieval market squares, nor does he like shopping and idling away hours in cafés. What he does like however is a good Roman ruin, especially one with a dramatic and tragic history and Pompeii really takes the cake in this department. So we had food, history and a bit of outdoor adventure in the form of climbing Mt Vesuvius – Naples with my teenager seemed like the perfect choice. Tickets and accommodation were booked for October 2015 but he got sick! Not really sick, just a violent tummy bug on the day of departure that meant we couldn’t go. The disappointment was huge, you can read about it here, and at the time the rescheduled trip for 4 months’ later seemed an age away, but it has finally happened.
And I reckon it was a resounding success. We got on! We ate our body weight in pizza, puffed our way to the top of Vesuvius (well I speak for myself, he whizzed on up without catching his breath) and loved Pompeii. We also explored the gritty, grungy and sometimes very beautiful streets of Naples itself, and when not eating pizza managed to find a few holes to squeeze in cake, gelato and sticky pastries too. I got to see the city from a teen point of view cringing at Neapolitan street fashion (so not French Riviera!), marvelling at the phenomenal amount of graffiti (not street art but real graffiti, everywhere, on all surfaces, nothing sacred) and was even impressed that the boy noticed, and found sad, the enormous amounts of rubbish.
Naples is a far cry from the perfect beauty of the wealthy northern Italian cities like Venice, Bologna, Verona and Florence. At times it felt more North African than European, with its traffic chaos, rubbish problems and general sorry state of repair of many of the buildings. It felt like we’d gone somewhere far more exotic than a one hour flight from Nice could take us and this was good for my Riviera son. While he’s very well-travelled for his age (I just totted up 31 countries on his list) our life on the Côte d’Azur is, without doubt, privileged and it’s good for him to get out of his little bubble as often as possible. We live an hour’s drive from Italy and visit often, for weekend breaks or even just for lunch, but this was an eye-opener and not what he’d expected. I loved the rawness of the city and the birthday boy loved his pizzafest, more of which I will write about soon.
Have you been to Naples? What do you think of going on a trip with just one of your children? I’d love to know.
Why not PIN it for later!