You may have ticked off Italy’s roll call of top cities, but have you visited Naples yet? A trip to this unsung hero on the south-west coast is definitely in order, for this is where you can truly experience authentic Italy.
Busy, charming, atmospheric, beautiful – there are many ways to describe Naples. It’s also the birthplace of pizza, an arty haven and the perfect springboard for exploring Pompeii. Not to mention its dramatic setting in the shadows of Mount Vesuvius…
Thinking of visiting the Amalfi Coast’s flagship city? Here are the top things to do in Naples:
- Naples Archaeological Museum
- Royal Palace of Naples
- Castel Nuovo
- Mount Vesuvius
- Naples Catacombs
- Naples Duomo
- Galleria Borbonica
- Teatro di San Carlo
1. Naples Archaeological Museum
A trip to Naples is like a constant history lesson and a visit to the Naples Archaeological Museum is no exception. This treasure trove is full to the brim with ancient artefacts, largely collected from Campania and southern Italy. Start with mosaics from Pompeii, move onto Egyptian relics and squeeze in towering Greek sculptures too. Two beautiful plant-filled courtyards can be found inside as well, peppered with more centuries-old gems.
2. Royal Palace of Naples
More of the city’s dazzling architecture is on show at the Royal Palace of Naples. Built at the turn of the 17th century for the Spanish king, this former royal abode is dripping in lavish furnishings and frescoes, with magnificent features catching your eye every corner you walk around. The Historical Apartment is one such example, where you can duck into the Throne Room, Royal Chapel and Court Theatre.
3. Castel Nuovo
This turreted wonder is a masterclass in medieval architecture. Meander through a Renaissance arch into Castel Nuovo to discover paintings from local artists, Roman ruins and mesmerising frescoes. It’s also worth heading to the viewing platform to drink in the gorgeous vistas out across the surrounding sea and to the mountains on the horizon.
4. Mount Vesuvius
Swap history for geography with a day trip to Mount Vesuvius. This brooding volcano is more than 1,200m-tall and can be seen from all around the Bay of Naples. You can get up close to this notorious peak, responsible for destroying Pompeii, with a hike up to its crater. Follow the 2km trail to its rim and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city below.
5. Naples Catacombs
Naples’ treasures aren’t all above ground. Venture below street level into the city’s catacombs for a walk through history. There are two sites to discover – San Gennaro and San Gaudioso. The Catacombs of San Gennaro hail from the 2nd century, with a maze of tombs and eerie corridors to amble along, passing mosaics, paintings and frescoes as you go.
Frozen in time since AD 79, Pompeii is an incredible archaeological experience. The Roman city was buried under a thick layer of volcanic debris, preserving it near perfectly for the world to see thousands of years later when it was excavated in the 18th century. Houses, temples, shops and an amphitheatre can be seen as you wander these ancient streets.
7. Naples Duomo
Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, then destroyed in the 15th, Naples’ cathedral has evolved over the years. Outside, tell-tale Gothic touches give away its revival in the 19th century, while the nave’s coffered ceiling is straight from the 16th century’s playbook. Don’t miss the Cappella di San Gennaro – a true baroque masterpiece.
8. Galleria Borbonica
More subterannean adventures await at Galleria Borbonica. This historic underground network was developed over several centuries, starting as an aqueduct system and later forming an escape route. Take a tour to see some of its best bits – you’ll visit a World War II air raid shelter and see 19th-century bridges.
9. Teatro di San Carlo
Finish off a city break to Naples with an evening at Italy’s largest opera house. Teatro di San Carlo was originally established in 1737 but what you’ll see today is a 19th century revamp following a fire. You can explore the venue with a guided tour or experience it in its full glory when you book tickets to a performance.
Posted: 12th Sept 2023.