The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Posted by on in European Travel

Naples with a teenager

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. 

bay of Naples with Vesuvius

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 night life (though not with his mum!), Marrakech was a thought but the flight prices were crazy and then I hit upon Naples. 

pizza in Naples

Napoli, the birth place 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 it was then.  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.

merchant house in Pompeii

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. 

buskers in Naples

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.

lads at shop in Naples

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!

visiting Naples Italy with a teenager

 

 

 
 
 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Erin Tuesday, 28 March 2017

    I love the idea that you took him somewhere not "perfect" to be honest. The eye opening is definitely a worthy opportunity especially when it allows for conversations and observations. Pizza sounds awesome and I love the idea of one on one time with your teen. Need to plan stat. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Friday, 24 March 2017

    I LOVED Naples! I've now been on one-to-one trips with both my sons - to Paris and Amsterdam - and think they're such a great mother and son bonding opportunity. I think Naples is a fabulous choice. One to think about for our next adventure! Great read for #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    jo Thursday, 23 March 2017

    What a wonderful idea! Is there a teenager alive who wouldn't be tempted by all that pizza! What a fortunate young man he is and what a lovely time together you look to have had. #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels Thursday, 23 March 2017

    I've visited Naples too:) remember the food, the dirt and the police on the streets. but it's got lots of gorgeous buildings and two castles:) #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Katy Thursday, 23 March 2017

    Yay! Glad to see the site back up and reading about Naples. We are heading that way for Easter. Love the idea of one on one travels and we will do that when our kids are older. Being twins they've almost always been together so it is extra special when we have time with them on their own. #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Claire at Tin Box Traveller Wednesday, 21 September 2016

    We did a flying visit to Naples while on a cruise this year. We saw Pompeii and has views across the city but that was it. It sounds like you had a great time visiting with your son, despite it not being the most picturesque of destinations. And thank goodness you were able to rearrange! Thanks so much for linking up with #MondayEscapes!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    I think many people only see Naples from a cruise or as a place to get to Capri from but it has a lot to offer in its own right and I'm realy glad I've spent a few days there. Particularly for the food!

  • Guest
    Karen (@karenjwhitlock) Tuesday, 20 September 2016

    I was involved in a school trip some years ago, taking 80 teenagers to Naples. Reading this bought back some very happy memories- including Pompei, pizza and gelato. Loved reading this and love how you and your son celebrated his special birthday there.
    #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    80 teenagers! Wow! That beats the school trip I recently dd with 50 ten year olds to Barcelona. That must have been quite an experience but I bet they loved it, it's a great city for teens.

  • Guest
    Trish Monday, 19 September 2016

    I went to Naples with my parents many many years ago and it was poor and grubby then but,as you say, full of life. We have passed through on the way to Pompeii on recent trips. Lovely idea having a mother and son trip - you'll always treasure that.
    #mondayescapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    Yes I will Trish, just like you remember going with your parents (I hope my son remembers it too!)

  • Guest
    Clara Monday, 19 September 2016

    Hey Phoebe! I went to Naples in 2001 as a respite after working through the hardest work period of my life in the immediate post 9/11 period (when I was working in the press office of the Foreign Office). I loved it! And totally agree with your description of it being a lot edgier than many other Italian cities. I would defintely go back one day - perhaps I could take my eldest daughter for her 16th! PS I saw no mention of ice cream/gelatto? Was this an oversight or did you actually not have any.....!! #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    You know now that you mention it, we didn't actually eat too much gelato at all, I think because we were always stuffed with pizza! We go to Italy a lot, being only an hour away and we always eat plenty of gelato in other cities just not Naples.

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Monday, 19 September 2016

    What a special trip, Phoebe! Naples really does sound like a perfect trip with a 16-year-old - such a great mixture of things to see and do. It's a city I'm longing to go back to. I love one-to-one trips with your children. I took my 11-year-old to Paris and it was such a special time for both of us.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    It turned out to be really the perfect place for our trip. I'm so glad I did the one on one trip there.

  • Guest
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) Monday, 19 September 2016

    Oh I remember at the time, when your son was ill and couldn't go! I'm so pleased the trip worked out ok in the end. Those pizzas do sound mightily delicious! #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 26 September 2016

    Thanks Nell, yes the pizzas were to die for!

  • Guest
    Christine @afamilyday Wednesday, 24 February 2016

    We had an enforced stay just south of Naples a few years back when our 'cheap' Easyjet flight was grounded by the Icelandic ash cloud. I did enjoy the city and we had some amazing pizza but my memories are rather skewed by the expense, lack of transport and delays in getting home (including walking through city centre at 1am trying to find a hotel for the night accompanied by two small children!). I can almost look back and laugh, not cry, now :-)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 26 February 2016

    I can only imagine how stressful it was to be stuck because of the ash cloud Christine, that's certainly notthe best way to appreciate a place. Maybe one day you'll go back under calmer circumstances.

  • Guest
    http://Elizabeth (Wander Mum Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    Fab trip - great idea to do it together - and even better that you got on. I passed through Naples briefly when I went to Pompeii with my parents many years ago and was stuck by how poor (and dirty) the area was even then...it's a shame not much has changed in that time. Thanks for sharing on #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    It's such a difference from northern Italian cities which I know much better, almost hard to believe it's the same country!

  • Guest
    Nicola Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    I would love to go and eat my body weight in pizza. Looks like a fun trip! Pleased you finally got to go!
    Visiting from #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    I'm paying for my gluttony now though Nicola!

  • Guest
    Cathy (MummyTravels) Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    What a fantastic trip - I'm so glad you were able to rearrange it. I absolutely love the idea of a trip away together, and hope that when my daughter turns 16 (or even 13!) she'll still love the idea of travel with me. Naples is somewhere I've never been, although I have visited Pompeii (briefly) - I've always heard very mixed things: the vibrancy, the great food vs eg the rubbish. Glad you had such a great time. Thanks for linking up to #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    I'm sure your daughter will jump at the chance of going away with you...free trip...anyone? Even a stroppy teen usually says yes to that!

  • Guest
    Tracey Williams Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I really enjoyed your post and love the idea of going somewhere just you and your teen. I have a 13 year old, and we keep saying we need to try European breaks with the kids. Naples sounds like the perfect destination for you both, and it must have been horrible to have postponed your trip when he was poorly #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    Yes it was awful Tracey, in my long life of travel I'd never until then had to cancel or missed a flight! But the wait was worth it. I hope you get away with your teen one day.

  • Guest
    Katy Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Great post - I am even more inspired to visit Naples which is the birthplace of my mother in law. Great you could spend such a special experience with your son too. I can't wait until my children are old enough to do this with

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    So your kids are part Neapolitan, how wonderful! It's a great place to come from.

  • Guest
    Corinne Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Phoebe, I love this. I think this is a trip you will forever cherish. I love it when I get alone time with one of my girls. It's so special.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I think you're right Corinne, I will treasure it, it was a very different travel experience for me.

  • Guest
    Nayna Monday, 15 February 2016

    What a lovely trip and it looks like you really enjoyed it.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Yes I did Nayna, thanks!

  • Guest
    Sonia Monday, 15 February 2016

    I'd love to take my teenage to another country for an adventure like this! How amazing that would be x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I hope you can one day Sonia

  • Guest
    Cass Sunday, 14 February 2016

    I try to do lots of one on one things with my two - I'm taking my teen on holiday in April and I can#'t wait x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    How fantastic Cass, I wonder where you're going.

  • Guest
    Marcia Saturday, 13 February 2016

    So glad you were finally able to go on a trip with your son, Phoebe! Travel really is probably the best way to get us - adults and teenagers - out of our routines. Sounds like he had fun, too!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    It certainly is good to get out of our routines, I'm sure he enjoyed it too.

  • Guest
    michelle twin mum Friday, 12 February 2016

    We often do one on one things with our kids, night away and such but never a holiday yet. This sounds amazing. Mich x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I think I'll try and do more one on one now, it was such a fun experience.

  • Guest
    Erica Price Friday, 12 February 2016

    We went about 9 years ago on our last but one trip to Italy. When we went in the summer we could have gone (we were in Sorrento), but it didn't make the cut. I think we didn't have the best experience of it last time as the museum we'd walked (miles it felt like) to visit was closed and we couldn't cross the road at one big junction until some nuns came along and we followed them across.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Naples isn't an easy or obvious choice for a visit but I loved it and it worked well for our trip. Lucky those nuns came along!!

  • Guest
    Ruth Friday, 12 February 2016

    What a nice story! I think it is great when a parent and teenager son/daughter can agree to travel together. The memories made together will be there forever. I stopped in Naples once to catch a ferry to Capri. I would like to explore more of the city.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I think many people just use Naples as a convenient place to get to other places from! But it's worth a lot more than that. I hope you get back one day Ruth.

  • Guest
    Kara Friday, 12 February 2016

    We are off to Naples in August and I am hoping the teen gets as much out of it as we will

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Your teen will love the food at the very least! Look out for my future posts on recommended restaurants and tips. I'm sure you'll all have a great time.

  • Guest
    Stephen Friday, 12 February 2016

    What really lovely photos, it must have been amazing to spend the time together, it certainly looks like it was.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Thanks Stephen.

  • Guest
    Oana Friday, 12 February 2016

    Yes, we have been, while on our first cruise! it was only in passing but your "the gritty, grungy and sometimes very beautiful streets of Naples itself" is the perfect description for the place.xx

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 13 February 2016

    Thanks Oana, I'm glad you like d my description :)

  • Guest
    Richard Friday, 12 February 2016

    Yes - excellent choice, Naples, with Herculaneum and Pompeii just round the corner. I remember taking three teenagers to see Hecuba in Ancient Greek at the 2500 year old theatre at Epidaurus, and wondering with my wife whether we were doing something pretty crazy. But they loved it! So much so that we went again, this time to a ribald comedy, again in Ancient Greek, which they loved even more. Teenagers react well to being stretched, intellectually as well as gastronomically. Just try them!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    I agree Richard, and holidays in environments they're not used to help stretch their comfort zones.

  • Guest
    Catherine Friday, 12 February 2016

    So glad that you have made it and I'm sure "the boy". Will always remember his 16th birthday present. We took our 20 something daughter to Egypt a very long time ago. I'm sure she remembers. I wonder what you will do for your number 2 son.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 13 February 2016

    I know she remembers it very well! :)

  • Guest
    Sonya Cisco Friday, 12 February 2016

    Looks amazing! One of the great things about having an older child (my eldest is 19) is being able to enjoy travel and sightseeing together as equals.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Yes I'm looking forward to that stage too, at 16 we're nearly there...

  • Guest
    kizzy Friday, 12 February 2016

    What a wonderful idea, I'd love to tke my eldest to New York for his 18th, need to start saving now!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    That's a great plan and one I considered but just couldn't afford it this time. I wonder how long you've got to save.

  • Guest
    Brooke of Passport Couture Friday, 12 February 2016

    What a fun opportunity! The pizza looks amazing, so much better than American pizza. Love the feel and culture of the city!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    The pizza really was amaaazing!

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Thursday, 11 February 2016

    One-on-one "special time" with children is a fabulous idea. This experience will make treasured life-long memories for your son and you. Our children are now in their early thirties and it seems like yesterday that they where at school! After reaching the age of 55, years seem to be just fleeting moments one's life!
    Your images are seductive. I've yet to visit Naples, but I find its rawness and contrast to northern Italy appealing. Warm regards.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Thank you Elizabeth. I know life is speeding up and I do cherish these moments.

  • Guest
    Jen Thursday, 11 February 2016

    I remember the disappointment when you had to cancel. But it looks like you both had an amazing time. I really need to do more one on one with my kids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    It was sooo disappointing back in October, but it really did go well. I hope you get to travel one on one soon Jen.

  • Guest
    JuggleMum, Nadine Hill Thursday, 11 February 2016

    I love the idea of children getting that special one on one time with a parent, as a way of remaining close. It sounds like you and your son has a lovely time when you got on the trip and Naples looks like the perfect choice!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    It turned out to be a great choice for us this time, I'm so glad I chose it.

  • Guest
    Rachel Thursday, 11 February 2016

    How lovely that you got to spend some time together in such a beautiful place x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Thanks Rachel.

  • Guest
    Izzie Anderton Thursday, 11 February 2016

    It looks as though he had a fabulous break in Naples with his mum. I've travelled quite a lot with only one child in tow over the past few years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thanks for sharing x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Yes I think he did!

  • Guest
    Corinna Thursday, 11 February 2016

    Lovely photos and evocative descriptions and one very lucky teenager!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Thanks Corinna :)

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