Our top tips for your trip in bustling Naples
Naples charms its visitors with its authentic southern Italian atmosphere and magnificent nearby attractions.
Tucked away in Southern Italy, Naples is a vibrant destination that tends to divide opinions. With nearly one million inhabitants, the city is rather cramped, yet the tempo of life is relaxed. Places may be a bit run down and repairs at a standstill, but that is just part of its Neapolitan charm. Some curse the clamour and chaos of Naples while others consider its rough edges to be authentic Italy at its finest.
Naples is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan. This unique destination is the kind of place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. As the old saying goes, “see Naples and die”; once you have ventured to Naples, you have experienced everything the world has to offer.
Spend a day in the city centre
A great way to spend the day is by strolling through the city centre and enjoying its historical sites and Quartieri Spagnoli, the Spanish Neighbourhood. In the narrow alleyways, locals hang their washing out to dry on clotheslines drawn between buildings and scooters weave their way through pedestrians. In fact, it is a good idea to be mindful of traffic.
Spaccanapoli, the main street of Naples, runs through the old city and is lined with souvenir stands, shops, cafes, and restaurants. One of the most well-known shopping streets, Via Toledo, provides over a kilometre’s worth of boutiques and stalls to explore. If luxury stores and fine cafes are more to your taste, head towards the harbour to Via Chiaia.
Naples is a budget-friendly destination and its food, especially the pasta and Neapolitan pizza, offers unique culinary experiences for any foodie. It’s no wonder that Unesco gave world heritage status to the art of Neapolitan pizza-making in 2017.
In the city, you can find pizzerias that have been in business since the 1800s. Among them is Pizzeria Brandi, founded in 1889. Legend has it that the pizzeria’s chef invented and named the infamous Margherita pizza after Italian king Umberto’s wife, Queen Margherita.
Pop by the ruins of Pompeii
A holiday in Naples is incomplete without a day trip to the historical ruins of Pompeii. Buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, the ancient city is exceptionally well-preserved. Archaeological excavations have even unearthed detailed and colourful paintings. Some of the most baffling are the erotic murals of an old brothel that leave nothing up to the imagination.
The easiest way to reach Pompeii is by hopping on the Circumvesuviana train from Garibaldi station in the city centre. It will take you directly to the entrance of the excavations in around 50 minutes.
Reserve plenty of time for exploring the ruins of Pompeii. Excavations cover an area of 45 hectares, and twenty or so hectares remain unexcavated. Be sure to grab a map of the excavations from the ticket office before heading out into the ruins. You can get the most of your visit by going on a guided tour of this ancient metropolis.
Especially on scorching hot days, a hat and water bottle are your best friend. Thankfully you can top up your bottle from any of the water fountains scattered throughout the ruins. Stalls near the entrance also sell beverages to arriving and departing visitors.
There is plenty to see in Pompeii and its museum. However, many of the archaeological finds of Pompeii and Ercolanona, formerly known as Herculaneum, an ancient city that was also buried by the volcanic eruption, can be admired at Naples National Archaeological Museum. It is one of the most popular attractions in Naples.
Escape to Sorrento
If you need a break from the commotion of the city, many peaceful beach destinations are just a stone’s throw away from Naples. You can reach the islands of Capri and Procida via a short boat ride. Though reaching the Amalfi Coast requires a rental car or bus ride, the idyllic coastal town of Sorrento is an easy, 1 hour and 10-minute train ride away.
The inexpensive local train only costs you a few euros while the express train takes you there 20 minutes faster for around 15 euros. On hot summer days, the unairconditioned local train tends to be fully packed, so be prepared to grab an alternative mode of transport.
Located in the Gulf of Naples, picturesque Sorrento is home to around 20,000 people, but especially during the summertime tourist season is in full swing. The town overlooks steep cliffs, and swimmers and sun worshippers can enjoy the warm day on piers down by the waterfront. If returning by foot feels impossible, you can also take an elevator back to town.