Mount Vesuvius looms over Naples, as the city gazes seaward toward lemon laden Capri and its Tyrrhenian neighbor Ischia in the beautiful Bay of Naples. Naples, or Napoli in Italian, is the largest city in southern Italy, and the third largest city in Italy. It is known for its Neapolitan cuisine (world famous pizza), its historic riches, and for being one of the most densely populated cities in the country.
It is not the greenest or most welcoming of Italian metropolises, though those who search for the soul of the city have much to discover. Garbage, graffiti, and ramshackle development are persistent problems, and crime is a thing to watch out for. But even for its faults, Naples remains one of the world’s great places to visit for its enthralling atmosphere, its complex centuries old history, and its position as an important port and as a gateway into the rest of southern Italy, including the nearby ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Naples is a city of layers, both culturally and historically. This is clearly evident to any sightseer, and is most literally apparent to those who visit the underground labyrinth of tunnels, Roman roads, aqueducts, caves, and catacombs that lie hidden beneath the hectic streets of the modern metropolis above.
Greeks, Romans, Normans, and Spanish influences are all felt here, interwoven into the intricate fabrics of the city. Each has played a role in the evolution of the city over the centuries, since Neapoli (“New City”) was first founded by the Greeks around 470 BC.
- When to Go
- Top 5 SItes in Naples
- Top 5 Things to Do in Naples
For all the strife the city has endured, Neapolitans choose to live each day to the fullest. An old Neapolitan proverb proclaims “Campa un giorno e campalo bene” – Live for the day and live it well.
The people do their best to live each day to the utmost. They are proud to be Neapolitan, and many are especially proud of the local food, which is famous throughout Italy and the world. Neapolitans may not be overtly friendly with foreigners, though if you have the chance to get to know some locals, take the opportunity to strike up a conversation and you may be able to achieve a glimpse into the life and culture of this chaotic, complex, multi-layered city.
Naples is most famous for its pizza. People travel from far and wide to sample Neapolitan pizza, savored for its quality toppings and its flavorful, thin, slightly chewy crust.
True Neapolitan pizza must have a crust of a designated thinness. It is topped with items such as San Marzano tomatoes from the slopes of Vesuvius, mozzarella from Campania, and extra virgin olive oil. It is cooked very briefly (60-90 seconds) in a very hot wood-burning stone oven.
The most renown Neapolitan pizzas are pizza Marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, olive oil), and pizza Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil).
Other specialties of Neapolitan cuisine include pasta dishes such as linguini or spaghetti with clams, tomato sauces, and the sweet pastry called sfogliatelle (filled with ricotta cheese and candied citrus peel). There are many specialties from around the region, such as buffalo milk mozzarella, the prized tomatoes that grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and seafood from the Bay of Naples.
The Naples international airport is located less than 10 miles from the city. Naples has a city bus system, and a metro system. Tickets are reasonably priced, though the metro may not get you everywhere you want to go. Day passes and packages are available for public transportation.
Road traffic is hectic, so beware if you are driving. Driving in Naples is not really recommended if you can avoid it, as traffic is terrible, and car theft is high (secure parking lots are available for visitors who wish to leave their car parked for a few days).
Taxis are available, though they can be expensive. Walk if you can, wherever it is safe to do so (locals and/or information obtained from your hotel or hostel can tell you which areas may be wise to avoid).
Crime, including theft, pickpocketing, car theft, and various scams is something to be aware of while in Naples. Travelers should be especially mindful in crowded areas, at the main train station, and in tourist areas.
Keep your purse close to you at all times, including when eating in a café or bar. Carry your valuables securely in a money belt or cross-body purse (not in your pocket or on your shoulder), be especially watchful in crowded spaces, and avoid leaving your valuables in the car while you are away (even if locked). In some places there are guarded lots you can leave your car in. Find out which areas are best to avoid before setting out to explore the city.
Visa requirements are the same as the rest of Italy. Residents of EU countries and the UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil, and the US do not need a visa for entry as a tourist, and can stay for up to 90 days. Citizens of most other nations may require a visa, and those wishing to stay in Italy for work or study, may be required to obtain a special permit or visa.
When to Go
A nice time to visit southern Italy is from April to June, when the weather is pleasant and the biggest crowds have yet to arrive. Keep in mind that in Naples, huge crowds gather for the Maggio dei Monumenti festival in May, and things are also busy around Easter and Christmas.
Prices are high during these times, and also throughout the main tourist season which runs from about June to September.
Many people travel through Naples en route to the Amalfi coast or to the islands of Capri and Ischia, in the Bay of Naples. A good time to visit these locales may be during the off-season (April-May and September-October), when weather is still decent and hotel prices are somewhat discounted compared to high season rates. If you don’t mind higher prices and some crowds, summer is the most popular time to visit (June-July).
The weather in Naples is warm or hot in the summer, with mild winters and some rain in autumn and winter. July and August are the hottest months. The coast, and islands tend to be a bit cooler than inland areas in the region around Naples. November tends to see the most rain.
Dress is similar to other European cities. Weather will most likely be hot if traveling in the summer season, so dress appropriately. Rain is a good possibility from October through February, with the most rainfall usually occurring in November.
Top 5 SItes in Naples
1. Naples National Archaeological Museum
2. Castel dell’Ovo
3. Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace of Naples)
4. Flavian Amphitheater
5. Teatro di San Carlo (San Carlo Theater)
Top 5 Things to Do in Naples
1. Take a tour of Naples Underground
2. Dig in to a Neapolitan pizza (or two)
3. Take a day trip to Pompeii (and Herculaneum, if time allows)
4. Stroll along the pedestrian only Via Partenope and have dinner overlooking the Bay of Naples
5. Explore the Spaccanapoli district in the historic heart of Naples