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Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Campania, Italy

The Top 18 Things To Do In Naples, Italy: The Naples Travel Guide

The Top 18 Things To Do In Naples, Italy: The Naples Travel Guide was originally published in August 2020

My fascination with Napoli is multi-faceted. My Mom’s family spent some time living there before boarding a ship bound for New York in the earlier part of the 20th century. In my early 20s when I finally made it to Italy I was more fascinated Sicilia and the Ionian Sea coast of Calabria where my family had hailed from originally, so Naples hadn’t landed on my must-visit list- but a woman I met on an overnight train to Syracusa (who was on her way home from a weekend in dirty Napoli) whipped out a switchblade and told me and my friend that she never travels to Naples unarmed piqued my interest.

Naples has a bad reputation for being polluted, piled with trash, riddled with crime, and infested by the Camorra for several decades. Despite all that, Naples has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years with a movement that has sought to clean the city up starting with the trash and pollution. Of course, things aren’t perfect in Naples, but is it really anywhere? Personally, I have a soft spot for Naples as it is my favorite place to eat in Italy without a doubt, and a perfect little weekend escape. In this guide, I’ll include the best things to do in Naples and more.

Start planning your trip around the South of Italy

 

A Quick History Of Naples, Italy

Settled in the second millennium BC by the Greeks, on to become a colony known as Parthenope in the 9th century BC, and then founded as the city of Neapolis in the 9th century BC, Napoli has quite the long history. An important center of the Magna Graecia, a capital of the Duchy of Naples, the Kingdom of Naples, and finally of the Two Sicilies before the Unification of Italy in 1861 Naples has been a center of culture, the arts, and politics. Naples wasn’t always so prosperous though. The 19th and 20th centuries saw droves of Neopolitians emigrate to the US, Argentina, and Australia citing poverty and fading opportunity (a common theme throughout Southern Italy in general at the time). During WWII Naples was badly damaged in bombing campaigns by the Allied Forces.

Naples, Campania, Italy
Naples, Campania, Italy

Things To Do In Naples, Italy

Order A Pizza At Gino Sorbillo’s

Before I headed down to Naples for a weekend after my arrival at my temporary home in Terracina back in 2018 I asked my friend Igor who grew up between Itri and Naples where to grab a pizza and instantly he whipped back “Gino Sorbillo’s of course!” This place is well known, and you’ll likely have to wait in line for quite some time, but in all honestly, it’s totally worth it- this is the pizza you’ve been dreaming of (I still dream about to this day now that I’m far far from Italy). Gino is a third-generation pizzaiolo, who is widely regarded (arguably) as the best in all of Italy. His ethos behind the perfect pie is the art of keeping it simple.

The family’s original restaurant opened in 1935 along Via dei Tribunali in the historic center of Naples and is still there to this day.

Metro stop: Dante

Santa Chiara Complex

The Santa Chiara Complex is a religious complex centered around the Santa Chiara Basilica and features a monastery, the tombs of the King Robert of Naples and Queen Sancha of Majorca, and an archeological museum. The church was badly damaged during WWII, but has since been renovated.

Entrance to the Santa Chiara Complex: €6

Metro stop: Dante

 

Visit Castel St. Elmo

Castel St. Elmo is now appreciated for its amazing panoramic views of Naples and for its Museo del Novecento housing numerous 20th century Neopolitian pieces, but it was originally a church built in honor of Saint Erasmus. in the 14th century the church as converted into a castle and fortified.

Entrance to Castel St. Elmo: €5

Metro stop: Vanvitelli

Wanna see Italy’s lesser-known side? Check out my favorite off the beaten path destinations in Italy

Explore The Quartieri Spagnoli

The Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter) is a colorful and the most densely populated neighborhood of Naples. The Spanish Quarter came to be as a garrison for Spanish troops in the 17th century when the Kingdom of Naples was ruled over by the Spanish. Now its a maze of colorful, crumbling and peeling buildings crisscrossed by alleys so narrow some pavement never sees the sunlight.

Metro stop: Toledo

Naples, Campania, Italy, Piazza del Plebiscito

Take A Break At Piazza del Plebiscito

Piazza del Plebiscito is the grandest and largest public square in Naples, home to the Basilica of San Francesco da Paola, Palazzo Reale, Palazzo della Prefettura, Palazzo Salerno, statues of Charles III of Spain and Ferdinand I, and the Gran Caffe Gambrinus. The Piazza del Plebiscito is one of the best places in Naples to just sits and watch.

The Palazzo Reale is Naples’ royal palace, attached to the Teatro di San Carlo. The palace served as one of the four residences of royalty during the Kingdom of Naples and the Kindom of the Two Sicilies. It now houses the Museo del Palazzo Reale.

Entrance to the Palazzo Reale: €6

Metro stop: Municipio

Catch An Opera At Teatro di San Carlo

Located next to Piazza del Plebiscito, Teatro di San Carlo is Naple’s opera house and the longest continuously opera house in the world.

Teatro di San Carlo Tickets: Prices range from €30-250 depending on the show and seating choice

Metro stop: Municipio

 

Get Underground At The Napoli Sotterranea

Explore Naples underbelly by getting underground and diving into the Napoli Sotterranea. The Napoli Sotterranea is a labyrinth of passageway, aqueducts, and cisterns originally laid out by the Greeks to mine tufa stone and channel water from Mount Vesuvius, but later expanded by the Romans, and then on to serve as air-raid shelters during WWII. Tours are mandatory and are offered in English every two hours starting at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm. Tours in Italian run every hour on the hour between 10 am-6 pm.

Napoli Sotterranea Tickets: €10

Metro stop: Municipio

Castel dell’Ovo

Meaning ‘castle of the egg’ Castel dell’Ovo is Naples’s oldest castle, built by the Normans in the 12th century. The site of Castel dell’Ovo is also where the Greeks first settled the city in the 7th century BC naming the island the castle now sits upon Megaris.

Entrance to the Palazzo Reale: Free

Metro stop: Municipio

Shop At Mercato di Porta Nolana

Located right outside the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi Metro Station/Napoli Centrale, the Mercato di Porta Nolana is one of the best places to begin your walking tour of Naples from. You can find almost anything along here, from greengrocers fishmongers, bootleg movies to fast-food snacks.

Metro stop: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

Continuing on the Basilicata? Don’t miss Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa

 

Check Out The Museums

Museo Archeologico Nazionale

  • Museo Archeologico Nazionale entrance: €12
  • Metro stop: Museo or Piazza Cavour

Madre

  • Madre entrance: €7
  • Metro stop: Piazza Cavour

San Lorenzo Maggiore

  • San Lorenzo Maggiore Archeological site and museum entrance: €9 (entrance to the church is free)
  • Metro stop: Museo

Pio Monte della Misericordia

  • Pio Monte della Misericordia entrance: €7 (entrance to the church is free)
  • Metro stop: Museo

Certosa e Museo di San Martino

  • Certosa e Museo di San Martino entrance: €6
  • Metro strop: Vanvitelli

Galleria di Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano

  • Galleria di Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano entrance: €5
  • Metro stop: Municipio

Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte

  • Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte entrance: €8
  • Metro stop: Materdei

Castel Nuovo

Built by Charles I of Anjou in 1279, Castel Nuovo served as a royal residence. Now it houses the city council and two museums.

Castel Nuovo entrance: €6

Metro stop: Municipio

Where To Sleep In Naples

Budget

Hotel Zara Napoli
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Midrange

Hotel Piazza Bellini
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

Splurge

Romeo Hotel
Booking.com | Hotels.com |

 
Pizza, Gino Sorbillo, Naples, Naples Pizza, Napoli, Italy

Where To Eat In Naples

Naples is one of my favorite cities to eat my way across in all of Italy. Here are just a handful of restaurants I loved and dishes you should try in Naples.

Best Pizza

Gino e Toto Sorbillo

Naples is famed for its pizza, and Gino Sorbillo is likely the most famous pizzaiolo in Naples. If you missed it in the earlier part of this post with Gino Sorbillo’s pizzeria being listed as one of the best things to do in Naples, here it is again! The pizzas are wood-fired perfection.

Metro stop: Dante

Best Arancini

La Sicilia Di Serafino Napoli

Arancini hail from Sicily of course, created in 10th century Sicily when the island was under Arab rule. These little fried balls of heaven are traditionally stuffed with a ragu consisting of a tomato-based meat sauce, mozzarella, and rice, though there are countless variations (I’ll admit the traditional arancini al ragu are my favorite). I’ve stopped by and grabbed an arancini (or three) at La Sicilia Di Serafino Napoli when I was passing by (typically to go wait in line at Gino e Toto Sorbillo down the street), however, you can find plenty of delicious arancini at many streetside vendors all over the city.

Metro stop: Dante

Best Sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle Attanasio

These popular little pastries, shaped like a seashell are an easy breakfast favorite. Sfogliatelle translates to little leaves- pointing to its appearance of little leaves stacked together. The origins of Sfogliatelle actually trace back to nearby Conca dei Marini along the Amalfi Coast. Sfogliatelle Attanasio is regarded as one of the best purveyors of the flaky sfogliatelle in Napoli, but you can easily find them in patisseries all over Naples as well as the rest of Italy.

Metro stop: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

Pizza Fritta

La Masardona

Pizza Fritta is an essential street food and quintessentially Neopolitan. Did you know that deep-fried pizza predates the oven-baked pizza known the world over? La Masardona is a longstanding Napoli landmark, still family owned and operated, and is regarded among the best fried pizzerias in Naples.

Metro stop: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi

 

Things To Do Near Naples

Visit Pompeii

Pompeii is among the most important archeological sites in all of Europe. The bustling Roman city was wiped off the map in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius blew, though luckily for its residents most had already evacuated 17 years prior due to a massive earthquake that struck the ancient city. You can easily reach Pompeii by grabbing a train from Naples and getting off at the Pompeii-Scavi Train Station

Pompeii entrance: €13

 Explore Herculaneum

Smaller and easier to navigate than Pompeii, the Herculaneum ruins are still very much worthy of a visit. Numerous archeological finds have been discovered here. From the Ercolano-Scavi Train Station, the Herculaneum ruins can easily be reached on foot.

Herculaneum entrance: €6

Climb Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is famous for blowing its top over 30 times since its major explosion in 79 AD. You can view the volcano from just about anywhere along the shores of the Bay of Naples, but the view from the top looking down is outstanding. The cheapest way to get to Mount Vesuvius is by using the public EAV bus.

Mount Vesuvius entrance: €6

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy

Explore The Gorgeous Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is something of legend. This gorgeous stretch of Campania extends south from the southern edge of the Bay of Naples, encompassing a promontory jutting out into the sea. After traveling the Amalfi Coast back in 2018, I thoroughly recommend renting a car from Naples and making your own itinerary if you’re not visiting in high season. But if you are taking on the Amalfi Coast in the height of summer I would recommend utilizing the ferry system between the gorgeous towns that dot the coast. Read more about the Amalfi Coast and start planning your trip here.

Check out my quick guide to the Amalfi Coast

 

See Why All The Celebrities Go To Capri

The natural beauty of Capri has drawn in crowds for centuries, from the Romans to modern-day celebrities. Sapphire blue grottos, sky-high cliffside views, crazy rock formations, and more seem to elicit a visit (except me, because we couldn’t get there when I was in Naples due to bad weather!). You visit Capri for a few days, staying on the island, or you can take a ferry across the bay from Naples and make it a day trip. Shop Capri accommodations here.

Get Off The Beaten Path In Procida

Procida honestly was the island I was most sad not to visit when I traveled around Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria with my friends in 2018. We had our crosshairs set on Procida, but because of the horrible weather and rough seas, the ferries were canceled. A couple of friends that have made it to Procida have described it as the ultimately perfect Mediterranean island with colorful buildings and charming beaches. One thing that I was told by Italian friends is that Procida can be quite crowded in July and August because it’s no secret among the Italians (Italians are privy to the best secret spots that foreign tourists don’t seem to know about). So if planning to visit Procida in July-August, I’d suggest locking in your plans well in advance. Shop Procida accommodations here.

Check Out Big Little Ischia

Ischia is the largest and most developed of the islands in the Bay of Naples. I noticed most of the friends I made in TerracinaSperlonga, and Itri while I was based up that way would say that Ischia was their favorite of the Bay of Naples Islands, over Capri because of the affordability and lower tourist numbers. Shop Ischia accommodations here.

Have Any Questions About Visiting Naples?

Ask in the comments section below.

 

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

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