Naples is a rumbling mixture of paradoxes, contradictions, architectural masterpieces, bustling markets, sclerotic streets, pickpockets, bel canto, religious fervor, roaring motorinos, and chic boutiques. The city in the shadow of Vesuvius is accustomed to living as if on a volcano. In terraces, it descends the hill from the castle of Sant'Elmo to the blue bowl of the Bay of Naples. A favorite place for evening strolls among the locals is the street of Partenope, which runs along the bay with a string of expensive hotels. Towards midnight, the bustling Neapolitan crowd moves to Piazza Trieste e Trento — the city's entertainment center with many nightclubs and discos. The true soul of Naples city can only be found in its historic center, listed in its entirety as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore Castel dell Ovo
Castel dell'Ovo is located on the small island of Santa Lucia in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Naples city. This castle has a rich history: since ancient times, it has managed to be a manor, a fortress, a prison, and a museum. The name in Italian means "Castle of the Egg". There are two versions of how Castel dell'Ovo got its name: either it was nicknamed "egg" for its unusual shape, or because of the magic egg hidden under the castle by Virgil. There's now a museum here, covering all periods of the castle's life.
Listen to the opera in Teatro di San Carlo
The San Carlo Opera House in Naples city is located near the central Piazza del Plebiscito, adjacent to the Royal Palace. It is one of the oldest opera houses in Europe and has never been interrupted; it opened to the public as early as 1737 — decades before La Scala. Because of its size, construction, and age, this theater became a model for the construction of many others in Europe. As king of Naples, Charles VII of Borbone wanted to build a new and bigger opera house to replace the ancient Teatro San Bartolomeo, built in 1621. The new theater was inaugurated on the King's name day: there was staged the opera Achilles on Skyros by Domenico Sarro.
At the time when the theater was built and till the end of the 19th century, the Neapolitan school of opera had great success in Europe, and on the stage of the Teatro di San Carlo shone the greatest singers of the time. Giovanni Manzuoli, Caffarelli (Gaetano Maggioreano), Farinelli (Carlo Broschi), Gizziello (Gioacchino Conti), and Jean-Battista Vellutti, in particular. In addition, many composers have made it their career goal to hear their works played at the Teatro di San Carlo — on par with Haydn, J.H. Bach, and Gluck.
Visit the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace in Naples city is the residence of the Bourbon monarchs of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was built in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana and was enlarged and restored several times after a fire, often drastically changing its appearance. In the 19th century, the entrance to the Royal Palace was adorned with the statues of the "tamer horses", presented by the Russian Emperor Nicolas I to Ferdinand II. Currently, the building houses the National Library of Naples and the Museum of Historical Apartments of the Royal Palace. Particularly worthy of mention are the Central Hall, the Throne Hall, and the Hall of Hercules, as also the works of Titian, Guercino, Mattia Preti, Spagnoletto, and Massimo Stanzione.
Discover Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscita, or Piazza Municipio, is the center of Naples and the largest square in the Naples city. This is where the tour of Naples usually begins for two reasons: first, most of the sightseeing buses leave from here for the city tour, and second, there is also something to see here. In antiquity, this was the site of the Greek city walls and the castle of Lucilius. Today, the square is framed by the Royal Palace, and on the other side is the neoclassical building of the Church of St. Francis of Paola. In the center is an equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the king who unified Italy.
Listen to the holy silence in the Cathedral of St. Januarius
The Cathedral of St. Januarius (official name: "Cathedral of the Assumption of St. Mary") is the cathedral church of Naples city, dedicated to the patron saint of the city, St. Januarius. The main shrine of the cathedral since the Middle Ages has been a vessel with the blood of the saint. Twice a year, on the first Saturday in May and September 19, the vessel is taken out to display it to the faithful gathered outside the church, and the blood immediately boils. The interior decoration is eclectic and sumptuous and holds many valuable relics. Besides the blood vessel, there is a gold bust of Januarius from the 14th century with the remains of his skull in his head; an ancient headdress embroidered with diamonds and emeralds; and a necklace of 13 gold chains and four crosses, studded with precious stones.
Check the local beaches
The town has no beaches. Its coastline is filled with huge boulders, and the purity of the water is not the best. The only beach within Naples city limits is "Bagno Elena" in the area of Positilippo. There are bars, sun loungers, umbrellas, and changing rooms. But because of the dirty water, it is hard to recommend it for swimming, although the beach is never empty. The sea is cleaner in the area of Positano, 30 km from the center. There is a wide and crowded pebble beach ("Spiaggia Granda") and a quiet beach ("Fornillo") with pebbles and volcanic sand. The water is very clear on the sandy beach "Lucrino" in the area of Bagnoli Pozzuoli. This free beach with good infrastructure is close to the railway station and can easily be reached from the city by train in about half an hour.
Neapolitans themselves prefer to go swimming on the islands near Naples city. The closest is Procida. Its best beach area, Lido di Procida, with its golden sand, is on the west side of the island. The beautiful beach "Pozzo Vecchio" in the northwest is known from the movie "The Postman". It has a gentle bottom — a great option for holidays with children. On all beaches, you can rest on your towel. The price for umbrellas and sun loungers is 10–20 EUR depending on the place and the day of the week.
There is hardly anywhere to spend your money quicker than at the Umberto I shopping mall, which is like two peas in a pod-like its Milanese twin sister. And even if shopping is not part of your plans, it is still worth coming here to admire the interiors. Calabritto is home to the fashion houses Prada, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Ferragamo, and Armani in Naples. There are equally enticing names on Via Dei Mille and Gaetano Filangi, with one showcase more beautiful than the other: Hermes, Frette, Mariano Rubinacci, and Bulgari.
On a Sunday afternoon, visit the picturesque antique market on Via Caracciolo. It's one of the best antique markets in Southern Italy.
Via Toledo is the longest street in Naples city at 3 km. It is an ordinary shopping street for ordinary people, just like Via Chiaia, another street with mass-market stores, democratic prices, and an emphasis on youth fashion. The most tempting places for avid shopaholics are the Neapolitan outlet stores, where year-round discounts start at 30% and peak during the sales season. The largest ones are La Reggia Designer, Centro Commerciale Campania, and Vulcano Buono, located in the suburbs of Naples. From Naples came pottery, Ischia thermal cosmetics, handmade "presepe" dolls, and figurines of Pulcinella, the protagonist of the Commedia dell'arte and the symbol of the city. Good but not cheap cameos on shells, onyx, or coral. A popular souvenir is Limoncello liqueur (about 10 EUR) and huge lemons for 3-4 EUR apiece.
Taste the local cuisine
The role of the first fiddle in Neapolitan cuisine undoubtedly belongs to pizza. And how else could it be, if Naples is the birthplace of this famous dish, which with Italian ease has flooded the rest of the world? The classic is Margarita pizza, with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, which gives it the colors of the national flag. If we believe the movie "Eat, Pray, Love", it was this pizza that helped the heroine Julia Roberts cheer up. Like all Italians, Neapolitans adore pasta in all its guises. A local culinary highlight is spaghetti with a spicy puttanesca sauce based on olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers. Another true Neapolitan dish is ravioli "Caprese". They are filled with soft Capri cheese, parmesan, and eggs and served with a sauce of ripe tomatoes and basil. A typical dessert in Naples city is sfogliatella, a puff pastry made of the finest pastry with a sweet filling of ricotta, cinnamon, and citrus. It competes with the chocolate and almond Caprese cake soaked in liquor and filled with ricotta, whipped cream, fruit, and chocolate paste. A great complement to the local cuisine is the white wine, Lacrima Christi, from grapes grown on the volcanic soils of the slopes of Vesuvius. A variety of citrus-based liqueurs are preferred as a digestif.
Where to taste the local cuisine in Naples
In the evening, a table at a popular restaurant is worth booking in advance in Naples. The dinner will cost 40–50 EUR per person. Trattorias and osterias are more democratic; the average bill amounts to 20–30 EUR. But even they are far away from the Neapolitan pizzerias where a pizza from a wood-burning oven costs 4–10 EUR and a drink–2 EUR. There are more than a thousand pizzerias in Naples, and they solve the important task of not letting the city's residents and its guests feel the torment of hunger. In addition, pizzerias are open from 11:00 to 23:00. True, many of them do not work on Sundays. Popular Neapolitan establishments for those who want to eat on the go are frigitorias, of which there are especially many in the historic center. Their food is all meatballs and battered mashed potato balls with ham, cheese, and seasonings, cooked in a deep fryer. Any dish on the menu costs no more than 5 euros. It is worth pampering yourself at one of the Neapolitan pastry shops, where in addition to cakes and pastries, you will certainly be offered the famous Neapolitan coffee — strong, hot, and, like nowhere else, very sweet. Such a "pit stop" will not cost more than 10 EUR.
Hike the Vesuvio mountain
Naples is located at the foot of Vesuvius, one of the volcanoes of Europe. Because of the repeated eruptions, it has a reputation as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Italy. The history of Vesuvius began about 25,000 years ago. It arose as a result of the movement of the Mediterranean belt. Parts of the cone of the first Somma volcano survive to this day. Since 1995, the area near the volcano has been a national park. The park is open year-round, but it is recommended to visit it in the warm season-from March to October. The hours of Vesuvius depend on the season. Due to adverse weather conditions, access to the park may be limited.
Visit Capri Island
Capri is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea and a popular seaside resort known since the days of ancient Rome. The area of the island, nicknamed by Emperor Augustus the "paradise of idleness", is about 10 km2. The capital of the island is Capri, a pleasant village with picturesque old houses and churches. The most popular tourist excursion is to the Faraglioni reefs. They are three bizarrely shaped rocks protruding from the water, which have acquired their characteristic shape due to the effects of wind and water. The first reef, Faraglioni Stella (or Faraglione di Terra), is 109 meters high and is connected to the island of Capri by a cofferdam. The second, Faraglioni di Mezzo (81 m), is known for its sottopassaggio (underpass), a natural arch of impressive proportions under which visitors sail by boat. The third reef, Faraglioni di Fuori, or Scopolo (104 m), is separated from the second by a narrow strait (8 m). It is home to a special kind of lizard, the Farallon blue lizard, which is a deep blue color — the color of the Capri sea and sky.
The island is also famous for its grottoes, the most famous of which is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), a cave lit by natural blue light. The Grotto can be reached by sea from the port of Marina Grande. Capri does not have wide sandy beaches equipped with sun loungers and umbrellas. However, there are acceptable pebble beaches in Marina Piccola, at the reefs of Faraglioni, near the Blue Grotto, and the lighthouse of Punta Carena. Sunbathing in the fabulous scenery and swimming in the purest emerald sea can also be enjoyed in any of the many secluded island coves. Many of them can only be visited by boat.
Spend time with your kids
Naples citizens, like all Italians, adore children, but there are few attractions for children. It's not a bad idea to visit the aquarium in the city park or to the zoo to see the lemurs, giraffes, and monkeys. It's worth taking the kids to San Gregorio Armeno, a pedestrian street. The British call it "Christmas Alley”. It is known for its stores and workshops where the figures for Christmas scenes are made. This art, which has its roots in the deep Middle Ages, has risen to unprecedented heights in Italy. No matter what time of year it is, you can always look at the work of craftsmen and buy a doll, a house, figurines of animals, or household items you like. In addition to biblical characters and saints, store windows are populated by other well-known characters: pop stars, athletes, and politicians from all countries and continents.
When is the best time to visit Naples?
Naples has a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot summers. April and the first half of May are the best times for sightseeing. In June, the thermometer quickly climbs to +30°C. In July and August, the city melts with the heat. There are almost no cloudy days, the beach season is in full swing, and sightseeing is like a feat. The temperature drops, October feels the arrival of autumn, the sea begins to storm, and the weather is ideal for walks around town. November is still comfortable to visit Naples. Winter comes with fog and rain, and strong winds are possible. The coldest month in Naples is February. The weather changes and starts welcoming people to visit Naples in March. The crocuses and mimosas blossom and remind us of the arrival of spring.
The best time to visit Naples is August and September.