Naples, Italy is a hidden gem. A destination that scared off many tourists in the past, rumored to be dangerous and gritty, it’s actually a cultural and foodie mecca for visitors wanting a truly authentic Italian experience. Plan to embrace the vibrant energy of the city by doing and seeing some of the items on this list. After all, they say that Rome is the heart of Italy, but Naples is the soul of the country.
Run, not walk to the nearest pizzeria upon landing in Naples. Known as the birthplace of pizza, discover spots on every corner serving up authentic Neapolitan pizza. Pizza in Naples is famous for its thin, chewy crust, juicy Italian tomatoes, and gooey, melted bufala mozzarella cheese. The pies bake for just a few minutes in a wood-fired oven at extremely hot temperatures until perfectly crisped. Sample them for yourself at some of the city’s most renowned spots, like Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo or Pizzeria Starita.
Winetraveler Tip: Take a food and sightseeing tour with a local guide in Naples.
Roam the Ancient Ruins
The ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii are just outside of Naples. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, volcanic ash buried both cities. The cities have remained well-preserved thanks to the lack of air and moisture, which is why you can still explore these UNESCO World Heritage sites today. Walk through the ruins to see what were once homes, streets, and theaters. You may even catch a glimpse of skeletal remains.
Recommended: Take a 2-hour small-group tour of the ancient ruins of Pompeii with an archeologist.
Continue Your Archaeological Journey at the Museum
Naples’s National Museum of Archaeology has an incredible collection of artifacts from the ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian empires. In fact, many say that the best of Pompeii and Herculaneum are actually in the museum and not preserved at the sites. Make sure to check out the gabinetto segreto, or the secret room of erotic artifacts.
Tour the Castles
Naples is the only city in the world that has seven castles within its city limits: Ovo, Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), Nisida, Forte di Vigliena, Sant’Elmo, Carmine and Capuano. Make sure to visit the Ovo, the oldest one, which towers above the crashing waters on the Megaride islet. Or, take the funicular up to see the towering Sant’Elmo, which has panoramic views of Naples and beyond.
Winetraveler Tip: Schedule a walking tour in advance that includes an entrance ticket to many of the Roman ruins around Naples.
Wander the Spanish Quarter
The weaving, hilly streets of the Spanish Quarter are some of the most interesting — the heart of the city. Stroll up and down, listening to the Neapolitan chatter and taking in the crowded apartments, bustling restaurants, and Vespas zooming by for an insight to the daily life of a local Neapolitan.
See the Veiled Christ
The Veiled Christ that was created in 1753 sits in the Cappella Sansevero. Even if you aren’t an art fanatic, this sculpture is worth the wait in line to see it, famous for its incredibly realistic detail. Although the statue is made of marble, it seems like there is an extremely realistic veil of fabric lain atop the Christ figure. Some say it was a real veil, turned to marble by a chemical process. Others insist it was the meticulous handiwork of sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino. Check it out to form your own opinion.
Taste the Pastries
Sipping a cappuccino and sampling a sfogliatella for breakfast is as Neopolitan as it gets. This delectable shell-shaped pastry that has fine layers is usually generously topped with powdered sugar. If you want to start the day off right, swap out the sfogliatella for a babá, a tasty treat soaked in rum.
Walk the Lungomare
Naples features a gorgeous promenade along the water, known to Italians as the Lungomare. You’ll notice many Italian families leisurely walking there on a Sunday afternoon. Start at Plebiscito Square, admiring some of Naples’ most important and historical buildings. Then, check out the views of Mount Vesuvius before heading to walk along the water, spotting the Ovo castle as you meander the waterfront.
Head to Ischia, Amalfi or Capri
Once you’ve had your fill of city living in Naples, it’s easy to head to some of Italy’s most famous waterfront spots nearby, like the sophisticated island of Capri, or towns like Positano and Sorrento along the Almalfi Coast.
For something a little less touristy, though, head to Ischia, which is where the Italians vacation. Ferries take you to the islands, and you can catch trains or buses to Amalfi towns. We recommend scheduling a day tour in advance to Ischia, which includes lunch a round trip ferry tickets.
Giant lemons are native to the regions around Naples. Really, you can’t go wrong eating anything that’s been made with citrus fruit — gelato, sorbet, pastries, even pasta with lemon sauce. But the real fun comes after the meal when you can sip one of Italy’s most famous liqueurs, limoncello. You can also buy it to take home for friends, family or even yourself.
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