Naples is the largest city in southern Italy. It is located in the Campania region. It is famous today, and maybe for 4000 years, for its bustling, lively, and chaotic centro. Naples is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, having been founded during the Neolithic period. Naples’ history is long and varied. First settled by the ancient Greeks during the Magna Grecia, successive peoples have built their lives and culture literally right on top of one another.
Your sure to feel alive when walking around Naples. With its long history the people carry centuries of lessons on how to live…well. As they say in Naples, “campa un giorno e campalo bene,” which means “live for the day and live it well.”
Many people think of pizza when they think of Naples. And there’s a lot more to Naples than Pizza. This city has such an amazing culture with all the architecture, ruins, beaches, people and exquisite foods. Just walking down a street in Naples, one can appreciate the antique roads with a story and a history left behind. Enjoy promenading down these narrow roads with a gelato in hand and look at the beautiful architecture and vistas. Along the way enjoy the friendly natives (i Napoletani) out on their balconies or usually on their vespas driving by and greeting you in their musical language of Italian. Of all the beaches in the world it is hard to find one that compares to the beaches of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Take a cruise around the Bay of Naples. The different shades of blue and green waters look like a scene in Homer’s Odyssey. The way the sun hits the white cliffs with multi-colored houses overlapping each other accenting the clear blue waters like pristine images from a postcard is unforgettable.
An easy way to travel from Naples (Napoli) to Sorrento and Pompeii is by the high speed express train Campania Express. This train departs four times daily around the Bay of Naples and includes stops in Herculaneum, Pompeii and Sorrento.
Naples Sightseeing Guide
Driving along the Naples waterfront on the scenic Via Partenope you’ll pass the seaside Castel dell’Ovo, a castle built on the site where 2600 years ago the ancient Greeks in the 6th century BC founded the city. It is the oldest foundation in the city. The Castel dell’Ovo was built by the Normans in the 12th century and as it stands to day by the Aragonese in the 15th century. According to legend Virgil placed his magic egg in the foundation, from which its name is derived. In addition to Castel dell’Ovo several large castles and edifices remain here from long ago, such as King Charles III’s former hunting lodge aka The King of Two Sicily’s. It is now the Capodimonte museum, complete with both paintings and porcelain collections.
Naples is renown since ancient times as a vacation destination. One of its many highlights is its network of thermal spas. You can’t go wrong in the largest town of southern Italy with good public transit and its reputation for delicious authentic Neapolitan pizza!
Naples Archaeology Museum
The Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) is a museum in Naples, at the northwest corner of the original Greek wall of the city of Neapolis. The museum contains a large collection of Roman artifacts from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum. The collection includes works of the highest quality produced in Greek, Roman and Renaissance times. It is the most important Italian archaeological museum.
The museum has the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy, after the Vatican Museum and the Museo Egizio in Turin. It is made up primarily of works from two private collections, assembled by Cardinal Borgia in the second half of the 18th century, and Picchianti in the first years of the 19th. In the recent rearrangement of the galleries the two nuclei have been exhibited separately, while in the connecting room other items are on display, including Egyptian and “pseudo-Egyptian” artifacts from Pompeii and other Campanian sites. In its new layout the collection provides both an important record of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) up to the Ptolemaic-Roman era.
Artifacts from the Magna Grecia period, and Ancient Roman pieces from Pompeii and Herculaneum, among other local sites, are highlights of the collection. All these local artifacts are very well preserved because Mt. Vesuviuss volcanic ash covered and preserved priceless works of art. These provide incredible insight into life thousands of years ago where western civilization was born.
The Capodimonte Museum is an art museum, which includes the best collection of Neapolitan School of art. It is located in a Bourbon palazzo built by Charles VII of Naples and Sicily, later Charles III of Spain. It is one of the largest art museums in Italy. The museum includes work of art from the 13th to 18th centuries. It also includes the Farnese art collection because Charles inherited collection from his mother Elisabetta who was the last Farnese when she died in 1766.
San Lorenzo Maggiore
A church located at the precise geographic center of the historic center of the ancient Greek-Roman city, San Lorenzo Maggiore at the intersection of via San Gregorio Armeno and via dei Tribunali. The name “San Lorenzo” may also refer to the museum now opened on the premises, as well as to the Roman archaeological site beneath the church itself.
The church’s origins derive from the presence of the Franciscan order in Naples during the lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi, himself. The site of the present church was to compensate the order for the loss of their earlier church on the grounds where Charles I of Anjou decided to build his new fortress, the Maschio Angioino in the late 13th century.
San Lorenzo is a church and monastery. The museum takes up the three floors above the courtyard and is given over to the entire history of the area that centers on San Lorenzo, beginning with classical archaeology and progressing to a chart display of historical shipping routes from Naples throughout Magna Grecia and the Roman Empire. The museum provides a detailed account of the local “city hall” that was demolished in order to put up the church in the 13th century and continues up past the Angevin period and into more recent history.
Beneath San Lorenzo, about half of an original Roman market has been excavated. The site has been open since 1992, the result of 25 years of painstaking excavation. The market place is the only large-scale Greek-Roman site excavated in the downtown area. In this church Boccaccio meet his beloved Fiammetta (1338).
Castel Maschio Angioino
Castel Maschio Angioino, also known as Castel Nuovo, was built originally in the 1200s. It has been renovated several times through the centuries and has served as an important location for functions of high-ranking individuals.
Piazza del Plebiscito
This piazza, seen above, nestles between the royal palace and the church of San Francesco di Paola. It is the public square and pedestrian space in the center of Naples.
Posillipo Hill is one of those consistently beautiful high views over an Italian bay, known as a spot for lovers to feel romantic.
Eating and Drinking in Naples
For pizza check out Pizzeria 50 Kalò. It’s a nice walk along the water from Piazza Vittoria toward Piazza Sannazzaro in the Mergellina neighborhood. Another classic is Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Lombardi off Via Cavour and Via Duomo serves more than pizza and is a classic. Another pizzeria close by the Duomo and Naples Archaeology Museum is Di Matteo.
Espresso in the morning go to Caffè Gambrinus. It is located at end of Via Chiaia across street from the Galleria and Naples Opera house. Big difference between price to sit down versus standing at the bar. If you decide to stand at bar pay the woman at cash register first then place receipt on the counter for coffee barista. Put a euro tip on top of the receipt.
Excursions from Naples
Caserta – Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Caserta is a former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It is one of the largest palaces erected in Europe during the 18th century. Today you may wander around the beautiful garden, which is over a mile long. Inside the palace is gorgeous.
Pompeii & Herculaneum