Despite the live version of Frogger playing out on the Naples streets where I was running thru traffic hoping that the cars, buses and scooters would stop to let me cross, I somehow decided “I want to do a bike tour of the city”. I found Bike Tour Napoli on TripAdvisor and sent an email on Saturday asking if there was an available tour/space for Sunday or Monday noting that I understood if not due to the last minute nature of my request.
I quickly received both an email and text via WhatsApp (a great app to have in Europe) confirming that I could do a tour on Monday at 10 am for €20 and I should meet my guide Achille at the hostel. Somehow I thought I saw a “and Hills of Naples” on the confirmation but must have been in carb overload from too much pizza/pasta to realize what I signed up for.
Bike Tour Napoli Meeting Point
I had to take a taxi to the AIG Hostel of Naples Mergellina as the front desk told me it was an hour walking (I would later learn it really wasn’t that far from my waterfront hotel). The taxi opened with €20 for the ride and I said “the hotel said it would be €10” sorry I will need to leave – he said €15 and this seemed the going rate in the city with my other (strong arm) encounters so I said ok. With traffic it was about 15 minute ride to the hostel behind the Mergellina train station (easy to get to by train).
I saw the bikes outside and met my young college student guide, Achille in the lobby. He gave me a helmet, had me sign the legal forms and then we went to find my bike (you pay at the end of the tour in cash). Yes, it was only me on the tour! I’m always appreciative when tour groups will do a solo booking. The first mountain bike was too small, the second was ok (I should have tried a third as I’m tall).
The Bay of Naples and Posillipo Hill
And with that we were off down the hill and into traffic (yikes!) I kept close behind and remembered that I survived the South American version of Frogger on the Lima, Peru bike tour so I should be fine.
We started to go toward the waterfront (which has dedicated bike lanes for 20km (12 miles) overlooking the bay) and the Castel dell’Ovo until I said “I’m staying there so have seen it”, with that we turned to go to the residential district of Posillipo which was up the hill – a long, steady uphill climb.
Achille is a philosophy student who loves to bike, this was his first month doing the bike tours. He was EXTREMELY patient with me as I was now one month out of the gym, full of carbs from the Napoli pizza/ pasta and despite wearing my fat clothes to be cool in the 80 degree heat, was sweating with the climb. The uphill was gradual at first with incredible views so we did stop many times for photos and water.
At the first stop, Achille asked a woman walking by to take our photo together, in Italian she told him her life story (I was just laughing), the second lady he stopped said she was too old for technology (really? It’s an IPhone just press here!), he then asked the young guy walking across the street to help. It was funny and part of the theme for our day – the crazy, unexpected life in Naples.
At the first stop you are rewarded with a panoramic scene of beauty – Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento and the Island of Capri in the distance in addition to the very expensive villas on the cliffs. The next stop would be a small park area for me to take photos, drink water, catch my breath and realize that it’s ok not to keep up with the young kid doing wheelies on his ride up hill because this is so easy for him. My legs were getting a good workout. The further up the hill we rode, the less traffic and smoother road (less cobblestones) made the bike ride quite relaxing in the shade of the trees. It was hard to believe this was still the gritty, chaotic Naples I encountered the past few days.
You Ought to Be in Movies
Eventually after a few more stops we reached the Virgilian Park at the top of the hill. We each brought a banana as a snack (great minds!) however, there is a snack bar if you need to buy water, coffee, etc. We enjoyed more views of the bay and of daily life in the park.
After this break, we rode through the park and saw a duo about to sing with a television camera and presenter (reporter). The musician asked Achille to record the segment on his phone while I stood and listened to the performance (sadly wifi poor on road, will upload to YouTube when I can).
Here we were in Naples listening to a serenade with the beautiful views all around us. The presenter then asked us to be in the segment and if we had any requests (I couldn’t think of anything other than really? I’m wearing my fat clothes that are not TV friendly and nixed Oh Solo Mio and Elvis telling them to do what they wanted). We agreed to be background so Achilles and I stood at the rail in our bike helmets (after he repositioned the bike to show the Bike Tour Napoli name – good marketing!) and looked out while being serenaded – it was unreal and funny too.
Achille pointed out different points of interest such as the islands of Ischia and Procida in the distance. He had to whisper them so he didn’t interrupt the music. I couldn’t stop laughing at it all – we would be on Italian television that night (I need to find that segment).
When we started the ride, Achille told me that “Naples is like a movie set” and it was pretty true on this ride (I was also staying in a movie themed hotel)– we saw a young girl in her communion dress getting glamour shots in the park, fishermen coming into the dock, chaotic traffic scenes and a crazy lady who should have said “no I can’t take your photo” only to tell her whole life story from Lima to Naples. Each character bringing life to the city’s fabric. With that, we started the wonderful ride down the hill and with the wind in my face I smiled having starred in my own movie today.
The End Credits
The ride is 11km (about 6.8 miles), with the uphill first and then a fun downhill ride to enjoy the views again. Note that there are cobblestones on the ride so it will be a bit bumpy but the bikes are comfortable and easy to use. Bike Tour Napoli was a great way to see a different side of Naples. They offer seven different bike tours in the Naples region, each with a different slice of life – I can’t promise you that television serenade but I can tell you Achille was correct that you will see that “Naples is like a movie set” so get ready to play your part “tourist enjoying Bike Tour Napoli”.