Naples is the largest city in Southern Italy and is in fact the third most populous in the country behind Milan and Rome. Its name stems from “Neapolis”, a Greek word that translates at new city. Naples is a city that is full of energy, and due to that fact that it is situated fairly close to some fascinating sites including the Bay of Naples and of course Pompeii, it is a fantastic central location for exploring the area. In our opinion it’s well worth taking the time to spend a few days in Naples, exploring the historical and winding streets whilst enjoying a little shopping.
Naples is situated Southern Italy, in the Campania. It’s fairly accessible as it is only around 2 hours drive south of Rome. It sits on the edge of the Bay of Naples, a beautiful bay that is also the largest in Southern Italy, serving cruise ships and commercial companies alike.
Getting to Naples is fairly straight forward as it acts as a central transportation hub for Southern Italy. The city has an airport called Aeroporto Capodichino that connects Naples with other parts of Italy and also Europe. It also plays home to some major train lines with stations for this and also the bus located in Piazza Garibaldi. This can be located towards the East of the city.
Although you can use a car in Naples, driving is not normally recommended if you can help it due to the considerable traffic problems that plague the city. It also has very good public transport so it makes avoiding driving a bit of a no brainer. Think of the congestion in New York and you wouldn’t be too far off! The city has a fairly large network of public transport that included trams, funiculars, a suburban train line and a subway. The suburban train line is particularly helpful for getting to sites like Pompeii and also Herculaneum and also Sorrento. The public transportation systems in Naples can get a little over crowded but largely they work well and are fairly efficient.
As you will surely know, Pizza, one of the most famous foods to come out of Italy, actually originated in Naples. Therefore pizza is taken extremely seriously in the city. You won’t have to look far before you stumble across a pizza place or six but make sure you find one with an original wood burning oven to sample the most authentic and best experience possible. You will also find plenty of other famous Italian foods in Naples including Eggplant Parmesan (another Naples original) and plenty of seafood and spaghetti so make sure you give it all a try!
Spring and Autumn are normally recommended as the best times to visit Naples and the summer can quite often get too hot for many people, although you won’t have to worry about too much rain. September can be a good compromise in terms of sunlight hours and the fact that it gets slightly less rain that some other months. Between March and May can also be another great time to visit, with reasonable temperatures and enough sunshine hours to please most people.
Naples has a fantastic New Year’s eve fireworks display that is often rated as one of the finest in Italy. Indeed, Christmas can be a nice time to visit and there are many nativity scenes on display across the city. Naples also plays host to music festivals during the summer, but probably the most important festival is the San Gennaro Feast Day which is on September 19th and is celebrated at the cathedral before and procession takes place through the streets and there is also a street fair.
Attractions and Things to do
Pompeii – Due to its central location, Naples provides a great base for visiting the famous Roman site of Pompeii, which is only a short train ride away. Pompeii is of course famous as one of the best preserved Roman cities there is, with buildings and indeed people frozen in time after the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.
National Archaeological Museum – This museum features a spectacular collection of both Roman and Greek antiques, with mosaics, glass, sculptures, gems and more, not forgetting an incredible collections of artifacts from Pompeii itself.
Spaccanapoli (Via San Biagio) – This is one of Naples’ main streets and is right in the historic centre itself. There’s plenty to see here in this bustling street with churches, shops and winding streets, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
Piazza del Plebiscito – This is really the heart of modern Naples. Notable things to see here are the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) where you can visit restored royal apartments and see the roof garden with spectacular views across the bay. There is also the San Francesco di Paola, a beautiful church with a domed roof that is well worth a look!
The Orto Botanico – Worth a look as it is one of the finest botanical gardens in all of Italy.
Funiculare – Take a trip up the hill on the railway to the Vomero districts, offering up fabulous views along with the Museum of an Martino, Castel Sant’Elmo and Certosa.
Via Toledo – This if one of the main streets for shopping in Naples and is pedestrianised.
Santa Chiara Church – Here you will find a fairly large complex that included a beautiful monastery decorated with tiles and frescoes and also an archeological museum.
The Duomo – Dedicated to Naples’ patron saint, San Gennaro, the is a gothic cathedral from the 13th century. Attached to the side of the Duomo is also the Basilica Santa, which is the oldest church in Naples and dates back to the 4th century. Here you will find columns that some people believe to be from the Temple of Apollo as well as some very nice fresco ceilings.
Castel Nuovo – This huge castle was built between 1279 and 1282 and is home to the Civic Museum. Inside you can find frescos dating back to the 14th and 15th century as well as paintings, silver and bronzes.