Naples, Italy’s third largest city, is full of surprises. Although widely regarded as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and the island of Capri, Naples is a perfect city break option in its own right. It is a city of immense contrasts, dominated in its historic centre by breath-taking architecture which has earned the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With some of the continent’s finest art on display in its museums, which also trace the history of Naples from the 8th century BC, culture vultures are guaranteed to be inspired. By contrast, a relaxing saunter through the city’s gardens is a delightful escape from the city’s hectic streets – even more appealing in the summer when average temperatures top 25C (76F).
Exploring Naples’ heritage
There are many ways to explore the historic centre of Naples, but wandering aimlessly has its own merits, particularly along the narrow, winding streets lined with traditional shops that have remained unchanged for centuries. It’s almost like looking in on a reconstructed museum exhibit, except for the hustle and bustle that makes Naples old town very much alive.
The National Archaeological Museum – just one of the important museums in the city – houses a fine collection of relics from Pompeii and Herculaneum; if you’re planning a daytrip, you’ll probably wish to view the more extensive collection of exhibits housed in the museum. For an alternative view of Naples’ past, head underground to the city’s Roman ruins, the most impressive of which is to be found under the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, which feature an incredibly complete Roman market.
A culinary delight
Italy is world-renowned for its cuisine, but Naples is one of the country’s culinary leaders, offering an unsurpassable variety of dishes that are certain to delight. From enjoying authentic coffee and a sweet treat at a table in the street to savouring the taste of fried seafood or traditional pizza for a more satisfying meal, indulging in Naples’ foods is an unmissable part of any city break. You’ll be literally spoilt for choice when choosing a restaurant at which to dine.
Beyond the city
A trip to Naples need not mean restricting yourself to the city itself, as some unmissable local excursions offer the opportunity to soak up Italy’s cultural and historic landscape.
Only 20 minutes from the centre lie the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the ancient city destroyed by an overnight eruption of Mount Vesuvius, whose dominant presence still looms over Naples. Wandering idly through Pompeii’s cobbled streets feels like stepping into the shoes of a Roman two thousand years ago, an experience which is as mesmerising as it is haunting.
From Naples, a host of other attractions are easily accessible for a day trip, the Royal Palace of Caserta, with its delightful gardens, and the stunning Amalfi Coast among them.
From large, intercontinental hotels to intimate, family-run establishments – in addition to a large number of rental apartments – Naples offers a wide choice of accommodation to suit all tastes. With an equally impressive array of attractions to visit, you’ll leave feeling you’ve only scratched the surface of this ancient, yet highly underrated, city.