Southern Italy’s largest city and the capital of the Campania region, Naples (or Napoli) is a destination pulsating with life and the proud preacher of the north-south divide present in the country. Sat on the shores of the breathtaking Bay of Naples and with the dramatic backdrop of Mount Vesuvius it is a city oozing self-confidence and overflowing with activities yet also one of extreme contradictions. For each crumbling Baroque façade there is a swanky avant-garde nightclub and at the end of every filthy back alley arrive gorgeous leafy avenues. However, it is these contradictions that create the infectious draw of Naples and allow the city to match all presumptions.
There are literally hundreds of things to do here, from admiring ancient religious houses to wandering the cobblestone streets of the centro storico, tucking into Italy’s tastiest pizza to sampling the wines of the Campania vineyards, partying with the hip crowd at Chiaia to enjoying an ice cream down by the waterfront and shopping at designer boutiques to exploring the magnificent museums and galleries. One thing to bear in mind is that Naples is a huge sprawling metropolis, therefore, especially those who like to get around on foot, it is important to choose a hotel or hostel commanding a prime location. Most visitors arrive at Napoli Stazione Centrale just off Piazza Garibaldi and from here the centro storico, home to the largest concentration of sights, stretches west to Via Toledo. Peppered with hotels, hostels and guesthouses and being close to the waterfront this is the ideal area in which to be based.
One frustration of Naples is that the streets are incredibly hectic and so at times makes walking somewhat of a challenge. If walking is not an option then the city has an extensive public transport system, although at times is as baffling as the city’s contradictions. Taxis are the best way to get around, however, insist on the meter being turned on, check that it is licensed and be prepared for a wacky-races like journey. As the south’s biggest destination, Naples serves as a transport hub to the southern regions and Sicily. Local buses run to Amalfi, Sorrento and Pompeii and national services, including trains, make their way to and from Bari, Brindisi, Rome and Salerno. Those wanting to see the coast and islands off the Bay of Naples will find boats heading for Capri, Corsica, Sardinia, Palermo and the Aeolian Islands.
Naples Historic Sights - Alike many Italian cities, Naples is brimming with a magnificent array of historical architecture and simply wandering the streets is a great way to appreciate the glory of the city. Take a stroll around Spaccanapoli, the true heart where women hang laundry out to dry along the maze of narrow lanes that pass through Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. Buildings of particular interest across the city count: Il Duomo, the striking 13thC Gothic cathedral; the Capella Sansevero, one of Naples oldest sights housing the tomb of the di Sangro family; Catacombe di San Gennaro, southern Italy’s most prized catacombs believed to have been in use from the 2nd to 10th centuries; and the waterfront Castel dell’Ovo affording the best views of the city.
Museo Madre - Naples contemporary art museum boasting works by Horn, Kapoor and Lewitt alongside famed Italian artists.
Certosa e Museo di San Martino - Spectacular Carthusian monastery home to arguably the finest Neapolitan art and history exhibitions in the city, all collected by the residing monks.
Failing these, many of Naples’ churches are considered museums in themselves with most adorned with inspiring frescoes and collections of artwork and artefacts.
Napoli Football Club - Football enthusiasts arriving during the playing season should make a special effort to watch a game at the Stadio San Paolo and be part of the intense support for the club that made Diego Maradona its lifetime idol. Witnessing all the highs and lows, from winning the Serie A to being at the heart of match-fixing scandals there has rarely been a dull moment at this historic club.
Shopping in Naples - Naples residents, alike most Italians are extremely fashion conscious and therefore the city is a great place to shop with designer boutiques competing with antique and craft stores for top billing. A word of warning, this is rumoured to be the city that pioneered fake goods, so be careful when not purchasing in official stores. Chiaia is the best spot for top-end brands like Versace, Gucci and Prada and Via Toledo is good for independent labels. For crafts and souvenirs head to Via San Gregorio Armeno in the heart of the old town.
Restaurants in Naples - Dining in Naples is an absolute pleasure, the home of pizza and the creators of many fine Italian pasta influenced dishes. Pizza is everywhere and whether sat in a restaurant or buying from a street vendor, sinking the teeth into a fresh slice of mozzarella laden margherita is an absolute must.
Da Michele - Family run pizzeria producing Naples finest since 1870.
Day Trips - With its perfect setting on Italy’s west coast Naples is ideally located for some wonderful day trips. Head to the imposing volcano of Mount Vesuvius, explore the archaeological site and ancient city of Pompeii, bask in the glorious sunshine and setting of Capri or visit the small towns of Amalfi and Sorrento.
Naples Wine Festival - Celebration and showcase of Naples wines that raises money for underprivileged children.
Naples Film Fest - International film festival aimed at promoting the work and artistic talents of independent moviemakers.
Napoli Teatro Festival - Held in June, Naples theatre festival holds performances by emerging companies in some of the city’s most spectacular locations.
Naples Nightlife - Naples residents and the large student community love to party and taker advantage of the myriad cafés, bars and nightclubs spread throughout. Ever popular drinking spots are at Piazza Bellini and the fashionable Chiaia district.
Bars in Naples
Intramoenia - Fabulous literature-café cum bar located on Piazza Bellini.
Kinky Jam - Naples top spot for reggae, dub and ska on Via Toledo.
Clubs in Naples
Rising South - Busy club in the historic centre popular for its wide range of music.
Jail Club - Large student favourite with DJ nights and the odd live band.
S’move - On the waterfront of Chiaia, by day a bar-restaurant and by night a funky lounge club.