Naples, Italy is not for the faint of heart, as its rough exterior and unapologetic demeanor turn the casual tourist away, and towards the more tourist-friendly cities. But Naples is rich in history and culture, and it has contributed much to the significance that Italy bears. If you can find time to visit Naples, I would recommend it, and so too would Mr. Dean Martin…In Napoli beside the sea, It happened on a night like this, In Napoli our hearts were free, And we surrendered to a kiss…
Read on for advice on what to see and do during your time in Napoli!
- Eat the pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, and it certainly lives up to the expectations! You could spend a lifetime exploring all the pizzerias around Naples, and tasting every different masterpiece. But when you’ve only got a weekend or a week, you should focus in on the small pizzerias on the side streets, where at most one person in the restaurant speaks English. It is these hidden gems that have preserved the original perfection of Napoli pizza, unwilling to cater to the demands of tourists. In an act of pizza destiny, I stepped into a pizzeria one evening where I ordered by pointing to the menu, showing with my hands what I wanted to the waiter that spoke not one word of English. It didn’t matter, I couldn’t have ordered a bad meal at this place. Hours of pizza and wine, music and dancing, and chatting between tables later, I felt I had been welcomed into the Napoli family. And the explosion of flavor from fresh basil with creamy mozzarella and sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, delivered on an airy round of dough is a taste I continue to dream about even now.
- See Mt. Vesuvius. On a clear day, the view of Mt Vesuvius off in the distance is picturesque, always visible down streets and alleyways. And on a gloomy day it looms, bearing the foreboding warning that it still holds great power. It’s a beautiful pairing of the massive Mt. Vesuvius next to the bustling Naples.
- Visit Pompei. Hop on the Circumvesuviana train and take the quick ride out to Pompeii. A visit to these ruins is moving, a sobering reminder of the morbid fate met by the town’s former inhabitants. You’ve studied Pompeii in history class and now you can walk the hallowed grounds where it all happened.
- Climb Castel Sant’Elmo. A beautiful, high vantage point over the city, Castel Sant’Elmo canbe reached by the sloping funicular trolley, or by winding up side streets to reach the top of the hill. Standing upon this medeival fortress, you’ll feel the history of Napoli come alive, see how it continues to influence the city. And those that reach the top of the fortress are rewarded with sweeping views over the city, a direct sightline to Mt Vesuvius, and gusts of fresh sea air wrapping around you and filling your lungs.
- Gelato. Also purported to have been invented in Napoli is the famous Italian dessert, gelato. Whether they created it, had their hand in the creation, or just copied their neighbors, the result is the all the same. The gelato here is sweet, rich, and perfectly refreshing. Grab a cone and stroll the sidestreets of Napoli, ducking laundry lines and dodging mopeds.
- Tour the underground city. The Napoli Sotterranea will take you through an entire ancient world that rests below the modern city. The Roman ruins that rest just meters below the streets will astound you, and will give you a sense of the significance this port city has always born.
- Take the ferry to Capri. Napoli is perfectly positioned as a port city and launching point for adventures, like Pompeii, Capri, and other islands like Cagliari or Palermo. With white washed homes dotting the hillside and mosaic tiled walkways lined with lemon trees, Capri is a blissful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life in Napoli. Take the ferry out for a day trip, or the weekend if your pockets are deep enough! Take a boat tour around the Faraglioni rock formations jutting out of the water, walk along the trail out to Arco Naturale, and sip espresso in the Piazza Umberto. Capri will certainly charm you!
- The Churches. Napoli takes its religion very seriously, which you’ll see displayed all over the city as religious shrines and angelic ornaments in every shop. It is a treat to spend time exploring the city’s many churches, touring around to better appreciate the devotion that is so central to life in Napoli.
Have you visited the great Napoli? What else did you like to do there?