Visit Naples, on the coast on the northern edge of the Bay of Naples, one of the most beautiful bays in Italy. Its harbor is the most important port in Southern Italy.
Visit Naples..it sits on the coast on the northern edge of the Bay of Naples, one of the most beautiful bays in Italy. Its harbor is the most important port in Southern Italy.
Naples, Napoli in Italian, is the third most-populated city in Italy and the biggest city in Southern Italy. Its name comes from the GreekNeapolis meaning new city.
Its close proximity to many interesting sites, such as Pompeii and the Bay of Naples, makes it a good base for exploring the area. Naples is a lively and vibrant city, full of wonderful historical and artistic treasures and narrow, winding streets with small shops, making it worth at least a few days visit.
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Many of Italy’s world-famous dishes like pizza and spaghetti were born in this region, so it’s no surprise that Naples offers some of the finest and freshest food in all of Italy. Mouth-watering pizza is made with fresh mozzarella di bufala and fresh seafood is prepared to perfection. Naples is also home to Italy’s best coffee. Espresso bars are everywhere and patrons can be found enjoying coffee at all hours.Try a steamy shot of fragrant espresso at the late 19th century Gran Caffè Gambrinus with a decadent pastry. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Naples is an exhilarating mess of Unesco-listed historic buildings, citrus tree-filled cloisters and electrifying street life. Once the heart of Roman Neapolis, the historic centre is a warren of narrow streets, which open up to an Imperial 18th-century seaside promenade with romantic views of Vesuvius.
With the warm weather and Maggio dei Monumenti cultural festival in full swing, May and June are great months to visit. Alternatively, visit in September or October and catch the infamous pizza-making competition, Pizzafest.
Be forewarned: Traffic in Naples may be extremely heavy, just to compare: very similiar to New York’s. Traffic around the train station is nuts. Before attempting to cross the street, observe the locals. The idea is to spot a gap in the traffic and start across and hopefully people will stop.
There are several ways to see Naples and the surrounding area. These include by taxi, train/subway, bus.
Taxis are the quickest way to see Naples, but also the most expensive. Before getting into a taxi, make sure it is licensed. Licensed taxis will have a city crest on the door and a taxi number. Also, make sure it has a meter. By law, licensed taxis must display a list of pre-agreed fares in a number of languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish). Check the presence of such fares and agree to them before starting the journey.
You will be surprised how easily you can get around by foot, too. Interesting spots are almost on every corner and most distances – especially in the (historic) centre – are small and can easily be walked in a matter of minutes.
By public transportation on land
It is fairly difficult to get a clear picture of the public transportation system in Naples, since different lines are operated by different companies. Nonetheless, one can buy a daily pass for € 3,60 valid on all vehicles. With a € 1,20 ticket, instead, you can travel for 90 minutes on as many lines as you want (Bus, subway, funicolare). This pass is under the Unico Campania banner which has great integrated maps of the various lines in the city on their website.
- Metropolitana di Napoli . There are three lines of underground subway in Naples. Many subway stations are regarded as fine examples of contemporary architecture and artistic urban decoration, being part of the Stazioni dell’Arte project. They are generally safer than the other public transport, because they are always monitored by cameras and security officers. But the subway does not run frequently, so do not rely on it if you are in a hurry. The most important ones:
- Linea 1, built recently, connects the city center to the hill quarters, like Vomero and the hospitals area.
- Linea 2, much older, connects the three main train stations to Pozzuoli. The tracks are shared with the ordinary railway
- Linea 6, a new light subway connecting Fuorigrotta to Mergellina.
- Funicolare. The subway company also operates four cable cars: three of them connect the city center to Vomero, the last connects Mergellina to Posillipo.
- Trams . ANM operates two tram lines (1 and 4), of which one goes along the shore of Santa Lucia – Castelnuovo – Garibaldi (Central Station).
- Buses . ANM also operated all bus lines within Naples, most of which are circular. Naples suffers from a serious problem of traffic jam and usually buses are overcrowded, so if you can (unless in the evening or on the weekend) try to avoid them. Another point to note is that unlike in Rome, tickets are not sold on buses. The bus company assigns staff to check if a passenger has a ticket. The staff members are notorious for targeting at tourists who are unfamiliar with the ticket-selling system. Once they see the tourists get into a bus, they will ask to see a ticket. No matter how much you explain, they will insist on getting your passport first and then requiring you to pay a penalty of 41.2 Euro. If you do not pay, they will threaten to call the police. Again, if you can, try to avoid taking a bus.
There are three different regional train services that operate in Naples and the surrounding areas. They are listed here:
- Circumvesuviana. The Circumvesuviana railway operates from the lower level of the main train station at Piazza Garibaldi and has various routes that service the local Naples area. One route goes from Naples to Sorrento with several stops in between, including Pompei Scavi (Pompeii) and Ercolano (Herculaneum). A second route travels around Vesuvius. Other routes go to Acerra and Nola-Baiano. The Circumvesuviana website has more information on timings, routes and cost of tickets.
- Cumana. This railline that operates from Montesanto in Naples and follows the coastline for approximately 20 km before ending in Torregaveta (Bacoli). The Cumana runs the urban centres of Montesanto, Fuorigrotta, Bagnoli, Pozzuoli, Arco Felice, Baia, Fusaro before reaching Torregaveta.
- Circumflegrea. This railline also starts in Montesanto and ends in Torregaveta. However, it runs along the western edge of Naples through the districts Soccavo, Pianurat, Quarto Flegreo, Licola and Cuma. It also approximately seven kilometers longer than the Cumana. because the Cumana and Circumflegra start and end in the same places one can quickly transfer from one train to the other. Both services are owned and operated by the same company and more information can be found at the S.E.P.S.A website .
- Regional Trains. In Addition to the aforementioned trains, Trenitalia operates regional trains from Naples to Salerno.
In Naples, some may find the actual conditions of many buildings and streets, and the rampant graffiti, off-putting. Others claim this is “the immense character and culture of Napoli…and even the dirt and grime has its own flavor…a Neapolitan recipe for reality, and great fun”. Naples’ peculiarity is that the city centre is not the elegant part of the city. Just do not expect in the city centre the pristine conditions of many other major European cities, since the historical centre, unlike most European cities, is not the “downtown”. If you want to visit the elegant part of the city, you can walk around the wonderful lungomare (the Riviera di Chiaia or Via Francesco Caracciolo), and visit Via dei Mille and Vomero hill (main shopping areas).
Most sites in Campania (including Pompeii) accept the Campania Card for tourists (free entry). Some cards also include a pass for the local public transportation.
- Castel dell’Ovo at Porto Santa Lucia Naples’ known port with the Egg Castle on a small peninsula. The castle currently houses the Museum of Prehistory.
- Castelnuovo (Maschio Angioino) A huge medieval castle at the shore which houses the main city museum featuring various collections, but most importantly a picture gallery (with focus on 19th Century Italian painting). From the roof, you can get one of the best views of the city.
- Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte – Napolitan National Gallery, a must-see! Displays the Burgia, Farnese and Borbon collections with mainly Renaissance and Baroque Italian painting. Among the famous artists on display: Caravaggio, Tizian, Giovanni Bellini, Annibale Caracci, de Ribera and Giordano. A beautiful park surrounds the museum.
- Museo Archeologico Nazionale – It is the biggest roman architectural museum in the World, even bigger than the National Museum of Rome. Its collection is astonishing both considering the quality and the quantity of the objects on display. Naples Archeological Museum houses wall paintings and different objects removed from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other excavation sites in the area. In addition, you can admire the Farnese collection of Roman sculptures (including the famous sculptures of the Caracala Baths). €9.00 for admission. European citizens pay € 6.5, children get in for free. If you are a EU-citizen, under 25 or over 60, you can get in for the reduced price of €3.25. There is also an audio guide available talking about the statue collection on the first floor, however most of the amazing artifacts such as original Roman murals of mostly Greek mythologies are not covered. All descriptions of the exhibits are in English and in Italian. It is a must-see, an incredible collection of artifacts. The Museum also contains the well signposted “secret room” containing the erotic sculptures, paintings and murals from Pompeii.
- View of Mergellina (from via Orazio or via Petrarca)
- Certosa di San Martino A Carthusian monastery at the top of a hill near the city centre. It houses the Museum of City History .
- Parco Virgiliano A nice park with a stunning view of the surrounding area. It is about half an hour off the city centre, but certainly worth the effort! Not to be confused with the Park in which Virgil’s Tomb is found.
- Piazza del Gesù and Piazza S.Domenico Maggiore The New Jesuite Church is among the most extravagant Baroque churches in the world! Across the street you will find the Santa Chiara Monastery . It is worth a visit for its beautiful garden decorated with frescos and coulorful columns. If you continue towards S. Domenico Square you will pass by the St Angelo on the Nile Church with its Donatello’s altar. The Sansevero Chapel nearby is also well known for its marble sculptures of veiled figures.
- Napoli Sotterranea Underneath San Lorenzo Maggiore medieval church.You can witness the remains of the Roman city. The tunnels served as shelters during WWII.
- Castel Capuano
- Castel Sant’Elmo
- Catacombe di San Gennaro Medieval catacombs on Capodimonte hill.
- Quadreria dei Girolamini A beautiful small picture gallery mainly of Italian Baroque painting and some works of famous De Ribera. Free of charge and just across the street from the Duomo.
- Duomo Naples’ main church with two luxurious chapels. Underneath it you can find excavation of a Roman site. Near the duomo you can find the St. Gennaro Treasury Museum, with arts exhibits from the duomo and another heavily frescoed chappel.
- Pio Monte della Misericordia A church and a picture gallery both belonging to an old charity organisation. The gallery mainly displays Napolitan Baroque paintings.
- Teatro San Carlo Naples’ famous opera house.
- Piazza del Plebiscito Naples’ main square. Surrounding it you will find the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale – open to tourists), the San Carlo Theatre and the Galleria Umberto.
- Acquario – Villa Comunale A park near the shore with Europe’s first public aquarium in its centre. Nearby is the Cortes Museum of Applied Arts.La Casina Pompeiana in the park is home to changing exhibitions focusing on photography.
- Galleria Umberto A shopping passage from the 19th Century.
- Villa Floridiana Seat of Duca di Martina Museum of Ceramics and Marchese di Civitanova Museum of Carriages.
- Museo Civico Filanghieri Used to be a private collection mainly of applied arts.
- Citta’ della Scienza
- Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina
- Pinacoteca della Accademia di Belle Arte Mainly features 19th Century Italian painting.
- PAN – Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli Contemporary art.
- Raccolta Mura – Museum of the Napolitan Song
- Museo del corallo e del cammeo Neapolitan typical jewellery
- Museo del Mare (Naval Museum)
- Fondazione Pagliara
- Piomonte di Pieta’ in Palazzo Carafa A Manierist church and a picture gallery. Open only on weekends.
- Textil and Clothing Museum Elena Aldorandini
- Museum of Music History at the San Pietro a Maiella Conservatory. Exhibits important manuscripts of the Scarlatti family.
- Grotta di Seiano An artificial cave underneath Posillipo. It leads to an ancient Greek theatre.
Gastronomy on Naples
Pizza comes from Naples. Look for pizza margherita, the original one, with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella toppings. Eating a pizza in Florence or in Rome is not the same as eating it in Naples! In Naples every pizzeria makes a decent pizza. Some places display the label “Vera Pizza Napoletana” (“True Neapolitan Pizza”) with a Pulcinella mask baking a pizza in a stylized Vesuvio, which indicates that the pizzerria follows the standards of The Naples Pizza Association.
If you want to try “the” authentic Neapolitan pizza, go to Pizzeria Brandi, (Chiaia Str. closer to Piazza del Plebiscito), where the pizza margherita was born (a stone is exposed outside the restaurant explaining the history of the first pizza). Today the best choices would be Da Michele (Via Cesare Sersale, 1–3) or less enjoyable Trianon a Forcella (Via P. Colletta 46, just in front of Michele). These pizzerias make the authentic pizza, but be careful because they are located near Forcella which is not the safest part of Naples — although generally OK during the day. In particular, Michele has a unique feature: they only do pizza Margherita or Marinara (just tomato, garlic and oregano, and a splash of oil, of course!). They say that these two kinds are the original pizza: if you add too much toppings you’ll lose the real taste of the pizza, which should be very simple, made only of a good, thin base, good tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Note that there is usually a queue at these restaurants: at Da Michele, get a numbered ticket from the waiter on the door when you arrive.
Some other places that are very popular among the Neapolitans are almost all the pizzerias in Via dei Tribunali, in particular Di Matteo (# 94), Il presidente, Sorbillo, and his sister, a few doors away (informally known as “la vecchia” (the old lady), from the owner of the pizzeria, a very small place with only 4 or 5 tables, that looks like a pizzeria of 50 years ago — very hard to find, but it’s worth it!)
In general it is easy to find a good pizzeria, just look for one without tourists!
Neapolitan cuisine in general features much seafood, befitting its status as an ancient and still functioning port. You will find many sauces based on garlic sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, and local red wines. Some of the more popular sauces are arrabbiata (“angry”) or fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”), which means they will contain hot pepper. It’s great cuisine. Enjoy!
Mozzarella is also typical of the region, you should not miss the opportunity to taste the fresh real one!
The city and region are also famous for their pasticceria (pastries), including:
- babà — found in virtually every caffe, bar and pasticceria in town
- jaka pastiera — typical sweet of Easter (but found all year long), made of ricotta cheese melted with steamed corn and sugar, and then baked
- sfogliatella — often filled with ricotta cheese or cream with citrus flavor
- roccocò and struffoli — typical Christmas sweets
Among the best places to try these pastries are:
- Pasticceria Scaturchio offers old typical pastry of Naples. Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19 (just east of Piazza del Gesù). Tel. 081 551 7031.
- Gran Bar Riviera has very good sweets, from zeppole to sfogliatelle passing through babà. Riviera di Chiaia, 181. Tel. 081 665 026.
Naples has a divergent distribution of richness. Keep in mind that the city centre is not the “rich part” of the city, so the historical centre may be somehow gritty and in some parts impoverished. Naples’ bad reputation regarding safety is mainly consequence of stereotypes, since the city’s security level is actually comparable to any other European big city (Barcelona, Marseille, Amsterdam,…). The police and the Carabinieri fight the local mafia (Camorra) strongly. In any case, it posseses little to no threat to tourists, but petty thievery and muggings definitely happen, but yet again, it is no more other comparable European city. Be watchful, but not so much to ruin the magic of one of the most creative, unique and original city in the world. Of course, avoid empty streets and dimly-lit alleys at night and keep your wits about yourself. People in Naples are extremely nice and gentle, and often people are helped by Neapolitans to find some gorgeous attraction not shown in the tourist guide.
Whoever comes to Naples historical city centre has to take some generic precautions:
- Do not leave valuables laying out in the open (such as bar tables) where they can be snatched by thieves.
- Do not flash around money or other valuables.
- It is advised not to carry a purse as it can be snatched or “picked” by thieves.
- Do not wear too expensive watch (Rolex especially).
- Do not wear expensive or flashy jewelery.
- Do not use a costly camera or video camera.
- Do not wander down small dark alleys/streets, especially in the Spanish Quarter.
- Pay attention to fake public service vehicles.
- Be careful around the main train station as there are many thieves in the area. The Piazza Garibaldi, the large square in front of the station, is no place to spend more time than necessary, especially at night.
- In Naples, you can buy over-the-shoulder packs that are excellent, as they allow you to keep an eye and firm grip on your valuables.
- Some people pretend to offer images of old Naples or others things, as gifts but, then, expect payment.
- Pay attention to people who want to involve you in fake road accidents.
- It is advisable not to wear football shirts of any club especially Juventus FC, AC Milan, Internazionale Milano, AS Roma, SS Lazio or Fiorentina. Neopolitans support SSC Napoli with big rivalries with those clubs.