Explore Naples, Italy
Explore Naples in Italy, the capital of the Campania region. The city is the third most populated municipality of Italy, but the second metropolitan area, after Milan. It was founded between the 7th and 6th centuries BC by the Greeks and was named Neapolis, which means new city. The historic centre of Naples has earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site denomination. It has one of the biggest historical city centers in the world, and its pride is the 448 historical and monumental churches, the highest number in the World for a single city.
A vibrant city with plenty to see and do, a city where the large influxes of tourists like in Rome, Venice, Florence etc… Have not happened and have thus allowed the city to retain much of its original culture, allowing you to visit a hidden gem just 2 hours south of Rome. Its territory, particularly the iconic sight of the gulf of Naples (but also Mount Vesuvius, the music, etc.) is arguably one of the most powerful symbolic images of Italy.
Naples used to be divided into 30 quartieri (neighborhoods), however today these neighborhoods don’t hold much administrative use but are still used by locals to refer to parts of the city. Nowadays the city is divided into 10 municipalities.
Centro Storico (Historic Centre)
- A labyrinth of history built in several layers of one period over the other and Naples prime tourist attraction. With excellent pizzerias, barouque churches, underground greco-roman ruins, famous streets like Spaccanapoli with shops selling traditional Neapolitan nativity figures, mozzarella, costumes and souvenirs and a vibrant night-life and atmosphere makes this free-of-charge living museum a must see among the must sees of Naples.
- A volcanic crater famed and favored by the Romans and the Greeks for its hot springs, now one of the centers of Neapolitan fun with one of the city’s largest discos and one of the biggest sporting centers of Naples. Also to be found within the area are thermal baths, ruins of Roman baths, la Grotta del Cane a mofetta and home to numerous volcanic phenomenon’s and the Astroni crater a WWF oasis.
Posillipo and Chiaia
- With Roman ruins both on land and underwater, the famous view of Naples, a walk by the sea with dark blue water contrasting with seagulls perched on white skerries, Norman castle Castel dell’Ovo, barouque churches, palaces and gardens make this one of Naples’ most charming destinations.
Arenella and Vomero
- A nice neighborhood dotted with trees, more churches and castles and villas.
San Carlo all’Arena
- Nice neighbourhood with piazze a graveyard and the largest monumental palace of Naples, the Ospedale L’Albergo Reale dei Poveri (Bourbon Hospice for the Poor).
Zona Industriale (Industrial Area)
- The business section in the city, filled mostly by skyskrapers designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. The largest cluster of skyskrapers in southern Europe.
The most widely spoken language in Naples is Italian or a mixture of Italian and Napulitano (Neapolitan). Spanish and French words are understood by the locals. English is the most commonly spoken foreign language, although the average knowledge of English is far from excellent.
The city of Naples is thought to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet, but its recorded history began when Greek settlers established colonies in the area during the second millennium B.C. Later, another colony, called Parthenope, was founded by more Greek colonists from the Aegean island of Rhodes during the ninth century B.C. Parthenope eventually declined, however, and the true beginning of Naples (as such) was found in the New Greek settlement called Neapolis during the sixth century B.C.
Neapolis became of major importance within the Greek Mediterranean empire called Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) and an important center of trade.
The climate of Naples, Italy falls within the category of “Mediterranean,” meaning that its winters are mild and rainy while its summers are hot and dry. Naples also qualifies as a “subtropical” climate since its average summer days register a mean of 23º C.
Naples is served by Naples Airport, also known as Capodichino Airport.
Naples is directly connected with Rome by the A1 highway, and the trip takes generally less than 2 hours.
You will be surprised how easily you can get around by foot, too. Interesting spots are almost on every corner and most distances – especially in the (historic) centre – are small and can easily be walked in a matter of minutes.
What to see. Best top attractions in Naples, Italy.
In Naples, some may find the actual conditions of many buildings and streets, and the rampant graffiti, off-putting. Others claim this is “the immense character and culture of Napoli…and even the dirt and grime has its own flavor…a Neapolitan recipe for reality, and great fun”. Naples’ peculiarity is that the city centre is not the elegant part of the city. Just do not expect in the city centre the pristine conditions of many other major European cities, since the historical centre, unlike most European cities, is not the “downtown”. If you want to visit the elegant part of the city, you can walk around the wonderful lungomare (the Riviera di Chiaia or Via Francesco Caracciolo), and visit Via dei Mille and Vomero hill (main shopping areas). What to see in Naples.
What to do in Naples, Italy
Naples has an abundance of attractions and activities that await its annual tourists. There is no way to list them all here, but below are some of the most popular things to do in Naples:
- Stop by the Piazza del Plebiscito, which sits near the Gulf of Naples and between the Royal Palace to the east and the Church of San Francesco di Paola to the west. Colonnades stretch along its edges, and there are many famous buildings within short walking distance. Occasionally, open-air public concerts will be held in the piazza.
- Visit Lake Agnano, which is not a lake but once, was. The lake, which occupied the crater of the now-extinct Agnano volcano, was drained in 1870. On the southern rim of “the lake,” you will find natural sulphur-vapor baths and a cave called Grotta del Cane nearby.
- Relax in the Villa Comunale, a park on the bay built on land reclaimed from the sea. The park dates back to the 1780’s and was originally the royal garden of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. The park has much greenery, a playground, a mini roller rink, and the Anton Dohrn Aquarium, which was built in the 1870’s.
- Another park to relax in is the Villa Floridiana in the Vomero Quarter. You will find plenty of trees and flower gardens along with a neoclassical house dating from 1819. The park is named after Ferdinand I’s wife who was Duchess of Floridia. On the grounds, you can also visit the Duke of Martina National Museum of Ceramics.
- The Centro Sub Campi Flegrei is a diving/snorkeling center set on the shore of the Gulf of Naples. It is not far from the offshore Phlegraean Islands and lies within the bounds of the Archaeological Park of Baiae, which is the site of underwater archeological finds known as the submerged Pompeii. The diving center is open all year round.
- Attend the Open Air Cinema Festival during the summer in the Viale del Poggio di Capodimonte. It is “cinema beneath the stars” that takes place in an amphitheater surrounded by an artificial lake.
- Take a guided tour of the city or nearby locations, either on foot, by limo, by motor scooter, by private car or by bike. There are urban routes to the historic center, the panoramic Vomero Quarter and throughout the city. There are day tours based in Naples that go to nearby Vesuvius, Pompeii, the ruins of Herculaneum and along the beautiful Amalfi Coast. You can also take an underground tour of the Catacombs of San Gennaro, to see the remains of ancient Christian tombs.
- Visit Naples and the surrounding areas at your own pace.
What to buy
Naples is famous for its outdoor markets and small shops (the city has an impressively high number) and that is where many tourists prefer to spend most of their shopping time. However, it also has other retail establishments of note, such as shopping malls and wine vendors. You can find expensive, upscale items, rare antiques, handcrafted clothing and souvenirs, and just about anything else you are looking for in Naples — and much of it at prices much lower than in Western European nations.
What to eat
Pizza comes from Naples. Look for pizza margherita, the original one, with nothing more than fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and a little olive oil. Eating a pizza in Florence or in Rome is not the same as eating it in Naples! Here the dough is thicker and is a little chewy.
In Naples every pizzeria makes a decent pizza. Some places display the label “Vera Pizza Napoletana” [“True Neapolitan Pizza”] with a Pulcinella mask baking a pizza in a stylized Vesuvio, which indicates that the pizzerria follows the standards of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana [True Neapolitan Pizza Association].
In general it is easy to find a good pizzeria, just look for one without tourists!
Neapolitan cuisine in general features much seafood, befitting its status as an ancient and still functioning port. You will find many sauces based on garlic sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, and local red wines. Some of the more popular sauces are arrabbiata (“angry”) or fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”), which means they will contain hot pepper. It’s great cuisine. Enjoy!
Mozzarella is also typical of the region, you should not miss the opportunity to taste the fresh real one!
The city and region are also famous for their pasticceria (pastries), including:
- babà — found in virtually every caffe, bar and pasticceria in town
- jaka pastiera — typical sweet of Easter (but found all year long), made of ricotta cheese melted with steamed corn and sugar, and then baked
- sfogliatella — often filled with ricotta cheese (riccia) or cream with citrus flavor.
- roccocò and struffoli — typical Christmas sweets
Pretty much anywhere that serves coffee will have some pastries, nutella-filled croissants or other sweets available.
What to drink
Naples is becoming increasingly popular with a younger generation of both Italians and foreigners. In spite of false and stereotypical reports of adverse conditions, they flood into the city and lend renewed vitality to its nightlife. The hippest scene is around the bars and cafes on Piazza Bellini, Piazza Santa Maria la Nova and Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, becoming busy after about 11PM. You should also try the area around Piazza dei Martiri, expecially Vico Belledonne a Chiaia, where you can find many crowded bars, a wine bar and lots of young people, especially at weekends. However, if you are looking for a American/English/Northern European drinking establishments you may be hard pressed to find what you are looking for as that culture is frowned upon in Naples. There are a variety of small drinking establishments but if you’re looking for a crowded beer hall, Irish pub, or an American college-style dive bar, you’ll have trouble finding one.
If you’re in Naples and wondering what local beverages to try, the first answer is that Naples is as famous for its extra-strong, semi-sweet coffee as it is for its pizza.
For those who would like to try the local beer and wine, there are an abundance of options. Beer bars were once rare, beer being traditionally sold with and consumed in pizza parlors, but now they are more common. Wine bars are classic in Naples, which is not surprising since it is the capital of Campania, a major wine-producing region. There are many local varieties of wine you may wish to sample, but the Aglianico is peculiarly appropriate. Aglianico black grapes are grown throughout southern Italy, but Campania provides them with their ideal soil and growing climate.
Some of the main areas of Naples where bars and cafes serving beer and wine are concentrated include:
- On Piazza Bellini, Piazza San Domenico, and Piazza Santa Maria La Nova
- On the street called Vico Belledonne a Chiaia, particularly on weekends
- On the outskirts of town, near the port and the boardwalk called Pozzuoli
Besides the bars in Piazza Bellini, Santa Maria la Nova, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, Via Carlo Poerio, Vico Belledonne a Chiaia there are also plenty of great nightclubs and beach clubs outside but not far from the historic center of Naples.
If you wish to try something outside Naples, during the weekend Pozzuoli is packed with bars around the old port (mainly, but not only on Largo San Paolo and parallel streets) and main square (Piazza della Repubblica), where you will find hundreds of young people hanging out in front of bars loudly chatting with their friends along with some drinks.
Bacoli and Miseno also have some great venues where young people like to go. In Miseno there are some lounge bars on the beach, which are popular during summer weekends.
Places to visit
- Caserta Royal Palace (Reggia di Caserta) Arguably the most beautiful royal palace in Europe, the Royal Palace of Caserta is a huge 18th-century palace and hunting lodge designed for the Bourbon Kings of Naples by late-Baroque architect, Luigi Vanvitelli. The palace is surrounded by a magnificent, enormous park with lakes, rivers, statues, fountains and marvelous views. Just north of the Caserta train station, 40 minutes north of Naples. Open all year except holidays. Last entry at 15:30 in the winter months.
- Ruins of Pompeii. Tour the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii nearby to the south of Naples. Pompeii is 40 minutes
- Gulf of Naples
- Phlegraean Fields
Official tourism websites of Naples
For more information please visit the official government website: