Naples. The land of Pizza. For my love of food, Italian especially, I so wanted to visit this place. And now that I am finally getting a chance, I am going to pen down every bit of knowledge that I have acquired about Naples.
Best thing about Naples, there’s Pizza everywhere. Every nook and corner flashes the mouthwatering aroma of oven, wood and sizzling cheese. Although pretty infamous for its gritty and chaotic nature (thanks to the mafia!), Naples still manages to fascinate the tourists.
So here are a few cheat sheets for people (besides me) planning a travel to Italy. Do visit and experience these few things. I’m sure Naples won’t let you down!
1. Drink in the exotic views of Park Virgiliano
The Garden of Remembrance is definitely worth a stroll. With a line of terraces dotting the Bay of Naples, this emerald green oasis showcases exotic views of Cape Misseno through Sorrento Peninsula.
The panoramic views of this park are enhanced by sculptures and an amphitheater used occasionally for events.
2. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum stands out to be one of the most fantastic museums across the globe. With the largest collections of mosaics and frescoes by Pompeii reserved here, it sometimes works better than Rome.
Amazingly intricate sculptures and stunning mosaics, this place even has a ‘secret cabinet’ full of frescoes and artifacts considered inappropriate for the public. You can seek permission from the front desk if you are above 14.
The Farnese Bull is the largest sculpture here. It is believed that almost all the works here are Roman copies of Greek works which no longer exist.
The elevator is working. So get your gear set to spend a good 3-4 hours here.
3. Hit the high spots of ‘Christmas Alley’
Via San Gregorio Armeno connects the Spaccanapoli and Tribunali street. It exhibits amazing artisan workshops in line. The intricate creations of baby Jesus and Mother Mary, miniature meals to entire landscapes- everything leaves you awe-struck here.
This Christmas alley shows you some of the best expressions of local creativity. During Christmas time, this place turns into a 24*7 haven for locals and tourists alike. Important monuments like St. Gregorio Armeno Monastery are stationed here. You can purchase some truly amazing nativity scenes from here.
4. Explore the diverse Capodimonte Museum
This museum is not very popular since photography was prohibited here earlier. But many believe it to be one of the most significant Fine Arts museums. Here you get to see Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ and Andy Warhol’s Vesuvius, besides amazing portraits of Napoleon and Murat (the king of Naples).
Other than that, it stores exquisites art collections spanning from 13th to 20th century. The museum is closed on Wednesdays. So plan your visit accordingly.
5. Stop by the inconspicuous Sansevero Chapel
The Veiled Christ Structure centered in the Sansevero Chapel Museum is so vivid and real, that you may feel it is about to come to life. Christ looks like covered under a very fine sheet of cloth. The facial features, the folds of cloth, even the crucifixion wounds are very well-defined.
There are various other masterpieces ornate here in this family chapel. But this marble classic steals the show.
6. Visit the extravagant Duomo di Napoli
Best part of the Cathedral of Naples, the entry is free (Except if you wish to make donations)! It may not be as spectacular as the Florentine Duomo, but it surely leaves you jaw-slacked.
Built in the 4th century, the cathedral was rebuilt several times and eventually skewed away from Gothic to mild baroque. So you may notice a mild hodgepodge of styles and elements.
Non flash photography is allowed. Also it opens everyday with varying time slots.
7. Hit Castel St. Elmo around dusk
Offering a panoramic view of the city and Mount Vesuvius, the Neapolitan castle at Sant Elmo has an excellent trail for adventurers. It’s easily visible to tourists, so you can practically find your own trail as you move forward looking at it.
The castle has a quick elevator that takes you up to the rooftop. Earlier used as a prison, the place serves as an Exhibition center for historians and artists. Entry is payable.
8. View the grandeur of Piazza del Plebiscito
With The Royal Palace on the east and the Church of San Fransesco di Paola on the west (which reminds you of the Pantheon in Rome), this Piazza serves pedestrians only. It is the largest square in the city with a vast cobblestone expanse. A nice escape to rest or grab a bite.
There is a tradition at Piazza del Plebiscito. You have to face opposite to Palazzo Reale and try walking between the two metal horses with your eyes closed. Easier said than done. The undetectable slope of the Piazza makes it nearly impossible to do that.
9. Stroll through Palazzo Reale
Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace, was damaged during World War II, but was later on restored to its original glory. It has 30 rooms on its first floor, now open to public. The designs on walls and ceilings are truly captivating.
There’s a private theater and very stylish staircases. Then there is a Coach House which is used for exhibitions. Giardini di Palazzo Reale ( Garden of the Royal Palace) has the most amazing landscapes and Eco-friendly environment.
10. When in Naples, Go underground!
You will be surprised to know that the city of Naples has a whole ancient city underneath. Napoli Sotteranea is the underground tour of Naples. It showcases the ruins dating back to Greek and Roman times.
Under San Lorrenzo Maggiore, you can see the remains of a local market. The whole area can give you chills, and not just because it’s cold down there.
11. Naples is incomplete without Mt. Vesuvius
Mt. Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe, besides being one of the most widely explored volcanoes around the globe. It last erupted in March, 1944; took away several villages in its wrath.
It offers a beautiful view of the city. The area offers shuttle services to take you to the top. You need to be adequately fit to trek to the crater point. The volcanic crater is HUGE, with erosions on the sides.
A point to note- Don’t purchase the Trilobite fossil souvenirs from stalls near the entrance. They are fake.
So! besides these obvious locations, Naples has another side to offer and cherish. Check it out!
12. When in Naples, you live to eat
Whenever free in Naples, grab a pizza. Do try the Pizza Vera Napoletana, the true Neapolitan Pizza. Although you may be spoiled for liking Pizza at any other place for your whole life. Nevertheless, savor the moment
If you are in a hurry, treat yourself with a Pizza Fritta (fried pizza). It is a deep-fried pizza dough with cheese and meat inside. Other than that, try Ettore’s Pagnottielli, Di Matteo’s Ripieno Fritto and Friggitoria Pizzaria Giuliano’s pizzette.
Besides the legendary pizza, Naples’ Sfogliatelle is gaining popularity on the world stage. The signature Neapolitan pastry is a layered flaky pile hiding a dense lump of ricotta cheese inside. Mouthwatering as it sounds, it is perfectly sweet, not too much, not too little!
13. Give your taste buds a treat at Gay-odin
Dating back to early 1900’s, this chocolate boutique is responsible for some of the finest cocoa creations. With old-school recipes and original ingredients, it has many outlets across the city.
Do try its chocolate foresta and plumcake.
14. Check out James Bond Style Scooter-Dodging
Find out why they say Naples is ‘crazy’. Almost all the Neapolitans are James Bond at heart. With mama in the backseat and little Joshua standing in the front, papa rides through the cobbled narrow streets at 50 kmph. No helmets, no fear.
So basically you will have an adrenaline rush by simply strolling through the streets of Naples. Make sure you have your insurance in place.
15. Splurge out at Galleria Umberto
Did you ever imagine there was a shopping mall 100 years ago? That too such a HUGE one, with grandiose architecture?
This grand, marble-floored, Glass and iron roofed shopping center was originally built to combine businesses and social life. After getting demolished in the WWII, it was restored with additional beauty and grandeur.
16. A Day-trip to Pompeii is a must
Pompeii, one of the best preserved cities of Ancient Rome. The catastrophic eruption of 79AD buried the town under many meters of ash and pumice. The remains were excavated in 1748.
Take the Circumvesuviana train to Scavi di Pompeii. I’d suggest you to hire a guide to delve deeper into the vast history here.
17. Plan a day-trip to Herculaneum-Ercolano
Dedicated to Hercules, Herculaneum can manage to thrill you beyond Pompeii. It is smaller and better preserved than Pompeii. The mosaic atrium, the Deer’s House, Bicentenary House, etc.; there’s a lot still intact here in Herculaneum. While purchasing the entry ticket, do take the free map and booklet.
Ercolano is amazing too. Most of the artworks were preserved in mud. The wrath of 79AD volcanic eruptions was not as severe here as in Pompeii.
18. Marvel at MADRE
Naples is an overflow of architectural marvel and artistic essence. And if you are bored of the authentic architecture, try out MADRE.
This gallery many renowned international artists like Anish Kapoor, Richard Serra and Jeff Koons. It is open until midnight on weekends, with free entry on Mondays. It is located near the Archaeological Museum and the Historic Center.
19. Savor the beaches of Lungomare
The classic weekend getaway of Lungomare stretches between Santa Lucia through Mergellina. This seafront is famous or clusters of padlocks attached to poles, painted with love knots.
Lungomare is a perfect escape from the hyperactive history of Naples.
20. Be an Opera Fan
Teatro San Carlo continues to be Italy’s finest Opera houses and the oldest active opera house in Europe. Veterans such as Bellini, Verdi, Rossini and Donizetti have served as Directors here.
The design, decor and lighting of this theater is simply magnificent. Honestly, you don’t have to be an Opera fan to appreciate the beauty here.
21. Slurp away the yummy gelato
Gelato is in the heart of Italy. Naples offers a distinct variety of creamy and fruity varieties.
Flavors as Nocciola, Straciatella, Fragolla e Limone and the extra sweet Zabaglione
22. Time for some Tarantella Dance
This Neapolitan dance has its roots further south. The music reflects Arabic and Gypsy style. The dancers take alternate steps by moving closer without really touching each other. Intertwined forearms make wonderful shapes while the dancers’ swing their wrists back and forth.
23. Treat yourself at fancy hotels
Naples has some truly classic hotels in its premises. The artworks, paintings, statues and antiques of Grand Hotel Parker has been a favorite among opulent travelers and bureaucrats. Excelsior has been a personal favorite among celebrities, royals and movie stars.
24. Neapolitan Coffee is an absolute delight
Coffee is only second to Pizza for the locals. The Neapolitan coffee is scarce in quantity, but very strong.
Gran Caffe Aragonese, Cafe Amadeus, Mexico, etc., are some of the most reputed cafes here. Messages inscribed on your coffee foams reflect art too.
The Volcanic city of Naples may not be as popular as Venice. But that doesn’t belittle its offerings. The rich culture and archaeological importance of this town is worth a shot.
I consider it to be one of the first-tier towns of Italy. I hope you enjoy your stay here as much as I aspire to. Felice Viaggio!