Famous for being the birthplace of pizza, Italy’s third-largest city may not have the allure of Rome’s Colosseum, Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge or Venice’s Grand Canal but what it might lack in attractions it makes up for in spirit.
There is a saying in Italy that goes “Rome may be the heart of Italy, but Naples is its soul.” Authentic and sometimes gritty, Naples makes no excuses for what it is, an authentic Italian city that just oozes life.
Living under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the very Volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, back in AD 79, Neapolitans live life to the fullest making no excuses for themselves and the city they love.
With over 2,000 years of history dating back to early Greek traders, Naples has plenty of attractions to keep the intrepid travellers occupied for days.
When to visit Naples
The best time to visit Naples is in the late spring or early fall when the cruise ships have left the Mediterranean Sea in favour of the warmer winter weather in the Caribbean.
Having said that, the summer might have more tourists, but most of them are only using Naples as a stopping off place on route to the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, or as a starting point to tour the Amalfi Coast or visit the Isle of Capri.
What many of these tourists don’t know about Pompeii and Herculaneum is that the greatest finds from these two Roman towns are on display in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.
Getting to Naples
The closest airport to the city of Naples is Naples International Airport just 5.3 kilometres from the city centre. The easiest way to get from the airport to the city is to take the regularly scheduled Airport-City bus from the stop outside terminal one. The bus stops outside the train station on the Piazza Garibaldi and at the port. Journey time into the city is around 15-20 minutes depending on the traffic.
Where to stay in Naples
If you want to get a real feel for what it’s like to be a Neapolitan you need to either rent a room or apartment on Airbnb. The best two neighbourhoods to stay in are Vomero, overlooking the downtown or Chiaia where you will find all the high-end shops.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel you won’t go wrong with either the Hotel Excelsior, Grand Hotel Santa Lucia or the Hotel Royal Continental, all of them are located next to each other on the waterfront and offer rooms with a sea view.
What to eat in Naples?
Silly question, right? The answer is, of course, pizza! Truth be told every pizzeria in Naples claims to make the best pizza in the world. And with such a reputation to live up to you will be hard-pressed to find a bad pizza anywhere in the city.
If you want to add a little magic to your visit, or a tale to tell friends back home go to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele on the Via Cesare Sersale as it is the place where Julia Roberts ate pizza in the movie “Eat Pray Love.”
You can also try Pizzeria Di Matteo on the Via Dei Tribunal, which was President Bill Clinton’s choice when he visited Naples for a G8 Summit in 1994.
Things to see and do in Naples
While it might sound a bit odd in a city so rich with history, be sure to check out the Toledo metro station as it is a work of art. Also, if you want to see as much of Naples as possible you can buy a day metro pass for just 3.50€.
We have already mentioned the archaeological museum, so let’s skip that and delve into the fine arts. As well as paintings by Titian, Botticelli and Raphael, the Museo di Capodimonte is home to Caravaggio’s the Flagellation of Christ, just one of three Caravaggio paintings you can see while in Naples.
The Teatro San Carlo is the home of Opera in Naples and just radiates opulence in its purest form. Italy and opera, of course, go together and make for a wonderful memory, but even if you don’t have the chance to see a performance, be sure and take the 45-minute guided tour of this magnificent theatre.
Other attractions in Naples include the city’s cathedral, the catacombs and several castles, but to truly feel like a local you need to take in a football match at the San Paolo Stadium where they still talk about Diego Maradona as if he were a god.