Visit Naples to see first-hand where the Italian expression “che sceneggiata Napoletana!“, or “What a Neapolitan drama!” comes from. Naples is often described as vibrant or colorful, its people expressive and passionate, its streetlife gritty. And yes, it’s one big, messy, fabulous Neapolitan drama. Take my recommendations below on what to see in Naples, but enjoy the in between as well, because half of why you’ll love Naples will be because of the items on your checklist, and the other half will consist of what you see while you’re getting there.
This means: allow more time in the schedule between activities so that you can people-watch or follow your nose down that narrow winding street with atmosphere. If a native wants to practice their English, make time for them. But keep your wits about you, and don’t make your bag or purse vulnerable to the famous moped purse-snatchers. If you’re female, you may not have been whistled at elsewhere in Italy, but expect it here, and try to take it as a compliment.
What to see in Naples
With a 2800 year history and 448 churches, you can decide how much time you want to spend on…
Art & architecture in Naples:
- The archaeological museumis a must, especially if Pompeii is on your itinerary. There’s also a Secret Museum, a collection of erotic Roman art. Contact the museum or ask at your hotel if you’re interested in visiting the Secret Museum, because it’s not always open.
- The Capodimonte museum, full of masterpieces, also has a gorgeous picnic-worthy park outside with stunning views.
- Check the museums of Naples website for addresses, entrance fees, and opening times.
- Take a walk through the Galleria Umberto I. It reminds me of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, but these two covered galleries were not actually done by the same architect.
- Visit the Church of San Severo to see the incredible veiled Christ sculpture.
- Walk around in the gorgeous cloister garden of Santa Chiara (see photo, below)
- Don’t miss the Church of Gesù Nuovo with its funky façade
- Visit the Royal Palace in Piazza del Plebiscito (closed Wednesdays, 4€ admission)
- Walk down the pedestrian street Via Toledo, all the way down to Piazza Plebiscito.
- From Piazza del Plebiscito, amble down to the water and enjoy the lungo mare or boardwalk.
- Explore the narrow winding streets of Spaccanapoli (translation “split Napoli”), which cuts through the historic center of the city.
Food in Naples
- In Piazza del Plebiscito, have a drink at the historic Cafe Gambrinus.
- Or try the famous nocciolato coffee at Il Professore.
- Eat pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, and expect a line. (If you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love: this is where she ate). But unlike every other restaurant in Italy, this one practically never closes: it’s open 10 am to 11 pm every day. For more suggestions on which pizzeria to visit in Naples, check out the Pizza Napoletana Facebook Group.
- Try vermicelli with shellfish, and buffalo mozzarella, which will melt in your mouth. If you pass an outdoor market during the day, note the fruits and vegetables that are abundant. Those are the ones in season and the ones to order.
Castles and Views in Naples
- Take the funicular up to Vornero for views, and to visit Castle Saint Elmo
- From the center of town, walk up to visit one of the symbols of Naples, the Castel Nuovo, which also houses the Civic Museum.
- Visit the seaside Castel dell’Ovo, a manageable walk from Piazza del Plebiscito. Click here to read about the castle’s connection to an actual egg. Photo of Castel Dell’Ovo below by Verde Luigi.
- Head to Via Calabritto for high-end designer names.
- For shoe shopping, I love the markets, of which there are many. Or head to Piazza dei Martiri, and then go up the tiny Vicoletto della Cavallerizza for a great selection of shoe shops.
- Or go to Via San Gregorio Armeno and Via San Biagio dei Librai for stores filled with nativity scenes and religous figures. Check out the amazing Doll Hospital, Ospedale delle Bombole.
- To visit a vibrant Italian market, head to Poggioreale on Sunday morning. Be careful, and arrive by taxi (expect to pay 7€ from the center of town), not public transport.
- Take the tour of underground Naples, Napoli Sotterranea.
Day Trips from Naples
- Climb the local volcano, Vesuvius.
- Take a ferry to the Aeolian Islands of Sicily and climb the volcano Stromboli
- Head to the Amalfi coast and visit Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello, Vietri or Positano (but you can’t do all that in one day).
- Visit the Royal Palace in Caserta
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