Known as the birthplace of Sophia Loren and the city with the most churches in the world (dalle 500 Cupole), Naples is ideal for the perfect spring escape. Italy’s third largest city, with its archaelogical treasures, colourful houses and intense nightlife, Naples has something for everyone! Walk through the crowded Spaccanapoli, marvel at the spectacular roof of Duomo, shop at Via Toledo and come hungry for fried fish. Here is my Naples travel guide, I hope you like it.
NAPLES TRAVEL GUIDE
WELCOME TO NAPLES!
At first, Naples centre historico can feel a bit anarchic, dirty and unloved. There are blocks of flats with chipping plaster walls, dilapidated balconies, laundry hanging clotheslines connecting each other and forgotten-by-God petunia pots in various colours.
Spaccanapoli – the most central street leading to Duomo – is so crowded that at points it is impossible to cross, motorbicycles and cars ignore you and drive right next to you, children are running freely in front of you and signori are drinking espresso while talking loudly and doing hand gestures.
But look beyond the chaos, and you will see kind-hearted, smiley people, men who are flirting gently and women who are smilling at your confused face and are willing to provide you with directions. At the end of the seemingly unloved streets in the most crowded neighbours, where literally one house is built on top of the other, there are Holy Families, beautiful flowers and friendly shop owners. The fishmonger with fresh silver fish, the bakery with the old, clay oven baking bread since 5 am, and the espresso bar with limoncello made by the mamma of the owner!
And in all honesty, this is what makes Naples so seductive. The people, the neighboors and the buildings!
Stuffing myself with Cannoli, Sfogliatelle Napoletane; shell-shaped Italian pastry filled with a rich semolina and ricotta filling, and biscotti with chocolate and almonds were a few of the things that kept me going through this trip. Oh, and fried fish! Deep fried fish and vegetables are literally everywhere-they are served in a paper cone and enjoyed with lemonade on the side 😉
And of course, let’s not underestimate the power of some good Aperol Spritz after a full day of walking in the Neapoletan streets, so refreshing, so well-desered!
THINGS TO DO & PLACES TO SEE
Naples is a photograher’s heaven! If you are into colourful buidlings, history, interesting architecture and castles then THIS is the place to be!
A good place to start exploring Naples is Spaccanapoli and Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. Here, you will find cute cafes, gelato in abundance, inependent shops to buy souvenirs and the famous palace Sangro di San Severo that rumour has it, is haunted by the ghosts of Maria d’Avalos and her lover, who were murdered by Carlo Gesualdo, Maria’s husband. Here is also the oldest cafe in the city, Scaturchio that serves original Neapoletan blend coffee.Next comes Duomo the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (or else known as the Cathedral di San Gennaro) which is very much at the end of Spaccanapoli, so once you are here why not visit the Cathedral now! This is a Roman Catholic church with impressive frescos and mosaics built in 1272! People visit this Gothic church for the famous Giovanni Lanfranco’s fresco in the Cappella di San Gennaro, the 4th-century mosaics in the baptistry and the thrice-annual miracle of San Gennaro. Whether you are religious or not, this is a must visit once in the city.
When you are tired of the city centre and in need of some sea views, go down to St. Lucia port and walk up Castel Dell’ Ovo, the oldest standing fortification in Naples, which by far gives you the best seaside city views!
Castel Dell’ Ovo means ‘Egg Castle‘ – the legend says that the Roman poet Virgil, who was also a future predictor, placed a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. He believed that if the egg broke, then the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events for Naples would have followed.
What is even more interesting about this castle is that it is located on the former island of Megaride (nowadays a peninsula) and recently underwater archaelogists discovered what appears to be a 2500-year-old harbor associated with the origins of the first Greek settlement of Paleopolis (which preceded the ancient city of Neapolis) in the sea next to the castle!
This side of St. Lucia port is very popular, it connects the historic and older part of the city with the newest part, including mostly hotels, cafeterias, restaurants and residential buldings. Here the roads are wider, and the buildings are much more well maintained so if you feel that the centre is not for you (which is exactly how we felt) then this is the best place to stay during your holidays in Naples.
Piazza del Plebiscito is another great example of a less crowded place to visit. At the end of the port and next to Palazzo Reale, this is one of the newest squares, greatly noticed by its huge size unlike the rest of the Neapolitan squares. The Basilica at night is simply phenomenal as twikling lights in changing colours are projected on its walls. Palazzo Reale, is a 16th century Royal Palace with interesting Spanish architecture – Naples was under the Spanish occupation at that time. The palace has a rich, eclectic collection of baroque and neoclassical furnitures, porcelains and tapestries. Here is also located the Biblioteca Nazionale with its priceless treasures including 2000 papyri discovered at Herculaneum and fragments of a 5th-century Coptic Bible!
Naples Travel Guide
Naples Travel GuideLast but not least, don’t leave Naples without visiting the spectacular Castle Sant’Elmo located on the top of the hill, next to Certosa di San Martino, overlooking Naples, since the 11th century! The name of the castle derives from the 10th-century Sant’Erasmo Church. The name was later on shortened to “Ermo” and, finally altered to “Elmo”. It presently is a museum and reaching for the top of it provides you with some of the best views of he city. If I had only an hour in Naples, this is where I’d like to be!
WHERE TO SHOP
Via Toledo and Via Chiaia-also great for food and drinks.
Gallery Umberto I. with upmarket shop window displays, mosaic floors and fantastic ceilings. Don’t forget to buy a Sfogliatelli (or two) from La Sfogliatella Mary just in the entrance of the Gallery on Via Toledo. Everything is fresh and goes away really quickly so make sure to grab yourself a treat even if you have to queue for it!
Via San Gregorio Armeno for antiques and craftwork.
I loved writing this Naples Travel Guide! Now, tell me…
Have you ever visited Naples?
(and most importantly did you enjoy this Naples travel guide?)