City Break Naples, what to see, how and where

Rome preaches, Milan works and Naples sings! Full of contradictions and a little rough around the edges, Naples has been bustling for over 2000 years and its UNESCO historic centre is full of surprises above and under the ground. Naples is an excellent Christmas Break – its nativity scenes are famous the world over – but the best times are Spring and Autumn when the temperatures are perfect for exploration and the Neapolitans are filling the pedestrian seafront and the shopping street of Via Toledo.

 

Of course, a lifetime is not enough to experience what Naples has to offer, but if you do not have all this time, we will illustrate the most important sites that you can not help but visit.

naples-arte-card

 

Arte Card – The City Pass to Naples’ historic and artistic heritage

 

As most of European cities, Naples and Campania have the Campania Artecard, a tourist pass that contains numerous advantages, especially for those who want to spend a few days and enjoy one of the most interesting artistic heritages in the world.

There are three types of card, which do not differ in the number of days, but in the places you can visit. The  cards are the following:

 

Artecard the whole region3 days – this costs 32 euros (25 € for young people 18/25), it offers free access to the first two sites, subsequent entries are reduced by 50% (in the youth version admission is free for all sites). The cost includes regional travel on all means of transports.

 

Artecard the whole region 7 days – for a cost of 34 euros you get free admission to the first 5 sites, from the 6th there is a 50% reduction. This card does not provide for transport concessions.

 

Are they worth it compare to single entry tickets? Yes

 

Pompeii 18 euros, Herculaneum 13 euros, Paestum 8 euros ( total = 39 euros)  VS  36 euros with the Arte card before even including free urban transport.  The 7-day does not include transports but 5 sites at 34 euros is still a bargain.

 

Artecard Naples – dedicated to those who want to discover Naples has a validity of three days from the first use, it costs 21 euros (12 in the young 18/25 version), in addition to free or reduced admission to the various monumental complexes allows you to move for free on all means of transports in the urban area of ​​Naples.

 

You can visit the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (18 euros), the Museum and Real Bosco di Capodimonte (12 euros), the Certosa di San Martino (12 euros), the Madre Museum (5 euros), the Royal Palace (6 euros) and more.

 

Spaccanapoli: the beating heart of Neapolitanity

 

To get a taste of everyday city life, come for a walk on this street. If you were to look from the top of the Belvedere di San Martino, you would understand the reason for this name – it literally means “Naples splitter” – the road cuts the historic center of Naples in two, marking a straight line from the Spanish quarters to the Forcella district.

 

Seen from above, you will be struck by the combination of colors that characterizes the historic center and makes Naples one of the most colorful cities in Europe.

 

Spaccanapoli encompasses all the essence of Naples: the splendid monuments that narrate its history, the workshops of the artisans, the fishmongers who scream and the chaos of people and scooters that carelessly dart through the alleys.

View of SpaccaNapoli from the Vomero Hill
View of SpaccaNapoli from the Vomero Hill

 

Naples’ Churches

 

“The city of the five hundred domes”, as Naples is also known, because this is roughly the number of its churches. Gothic or Baroque, imposing or minute, the churches of Naples tell its history, art and traditions. The tour of the churches of Naples would be infinite! We have chosen 6, certainly among the most beautiful.

Naples' Cathedral of St Janarius

The Cathedral of Naples is a wonderful cathedral of the 11th century that includes inside: the Basilica of Santa Restituta, the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte, the Chapel and the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, patron saint of the city, with masterpieces of priceless goldsmithery.

 

It is at the Cathedral of Naples that every year, on September 19, December 16 and the first Sunday of May, hundreds of citizens witness the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St Janarius.

Pio Monte della Misericordia

This Chapel houses Caravaggio’s splendid work “The Seven Works of Mercy”, created by the artist during his fugitive period in Naples.

The Chapel of San Severo

In this wonderful and enigmatic chapel there are some extraordinary works, including the “Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino, one of the most visited sculptures in the world, exceptional for its realism.

Church of the Veiled Christ - Photo Vittorio Sciosia
Church of the Veiled Christ - Photo Vittorio Sciosia

Church of the Gesu Nuovo

In Piazza del Gesù, behind the ashlar black stone facade of the Renaissance Palazzo Sanseverino, there is the Baroque church which houses the body of Giuseppe Moscati and many ex-votos dedicated to him. Among rich marble decorations, frescoes and paintings, the interior presents, among others, works by Ribera, Fanzago, Giordano.

Royal Basilica of San Francesco di Paola

The Royal Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, located on the north side of Piazza Plebiscito, is certainly one of the symbols of Naples, a perfect postcard to introduce the rich history of the city. The Basilica, in fact, in the heart of the historic center, is considered one of the greatest examples of neoclassical architecture in Italy.

the Cloister of the Poor Clares

The Basilica of Santa Chiara, one of the most famous churches in Naples, is perhaps one of the most loved by the Neapolitans themselves. To make this place even more surprising there is the internal cloister with its beautiful majolica, the result of the skill and quality of Neapolitan craftsmanship.

Naples’ Museums

 

Naples is a city that hosts a truly impressive number of museums: from art to history, from traditions to science. The most difficult thing will be to choose which one to visit first.

Naples National Archaeological Museum
Naples National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum

Housed in a monumental seventeenth-century building, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples boasts a very rich and valuable heritage of works of art and artefacts of enormous archaeological interest. The quantity and quality of the works housed inside make it undoubtedly one of the most important museums in the world: in numbers we speak of over 3 thousand objects of exemplary value and hundreds of thousands of finds dating from prehistoric to late antiquity.

 

The huge historical heritage comes from nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, and from the acquisition of relevant antique collections, starting from the Farnese collection that belonged to the Bourbons, founders of the Museum. In short, if you are a fun of archeology and history, especially the Greco-Roman one, the National Archaeological Museum is definitely the one for you.

Museum of Capodimonte

From the top of the Capodimonte Woods, the Royal Palace, wanted by Charles of Bourbon in 1738, dominates the Gulf of Naples. It houses the Museum of Capodimonte, one of the most important collections of works of art in Europe. Here, you can admire Titian, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Goya, Masaccio, Caracci, Bruegel, Mantegna and many others.

San Carlo Opera Theatre

The Real Teatro San Carlo is one of the largest Italian theaters and among the oldest in Europe, recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. King Charles of Bourbon ordered its construction in 1737 to give the city of Naples a new theatre, a symbol of royal power. The project was entrusted to the architect Giovanni Antonio Medrano and after eight months from the start of the works, the theatre was completed: 184 stages plus a royal stage, to accommodate 1379 people.

 

Besides going to an evening performance, it’s posssible to visit the theatre everyday between 10.00 and 17.00. The visit last 45 minutes and costs 6 euros.

San Carlo Theatre
San Carlo Theatre

Royal Palace Museum

From the Palazzo’s courtyard of honor, you reach the museum through a monumental and very bright staircase, covered with marble and stucco. Inside the Museum you can visit most of the royal rooms magnificently decorated and embellished with paintings, statues, tapestries and period furniture.

Greek-Roman Naples

 

The origin of Naples is linked to ancient myths and tales. Neapolis, founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. C. and undisputed pearl of the Mediterranean, is linked to the legend of the Siren Parthenope. We must turn back the hands of time 3500 years! The mythological figure, described in the Odyssey, is famous for its melodious song. And the Odyssey, although it was written in the eighth century BC, tells stories that take place between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries BC. From this also derives the nickname “Partenopeo” that the Neapolitans still use to identify themselves.

Remains of a Greco-Roman city underneath the Monastery of St Clare

Pausilypon Archaeological Site and the Seiano Grotto

The Seiano Grotto is a gallery built in Roman times and almost 800 meters long, which connects Bagnoli with the Gaiola valley and leads to the Pausilypon Villa.

The archaeological park is located in a splendid position on the sea and surrounded by greenery. It is not surprising that the wealthy Roman Patrician Pollione chose to have his villa built here in the first century B.C.. This was later ceded to Augustus and from there the whole complex was further expanded.

 

Here you can wander around the remains of the 2000-seat theater, the Odeion, a smaller covered theatre and soem of the villa’s rooms. The complex also included spas, gardens, neighborhoods for service workers, show areas, and even port facilities with a complex fishpond system.

Naples Underground

Perhaps you didn’t know it, but the underground of Naples is a real archaeological site open to the public, with an intricate complex of tunnels, galleries and aqueducts that cover almost the same area of ​​the city on the surface, as if they were the roots of a tree.

 

The underground network dates back to the third century BC, at the time of the Greek presence in the rgion: the excavations were used both to obtain the materials for the temples on the surface and for funeral functions. The Romans further developed the underground network, especially with road tunnels and aqueducts, which remained in operation until the 16th century.

 

During the Second World War, part of these underground sites was converted into air raid shelters, capable of hosting hundreds of people fleeing the bombing.

 

There are several guided tours that allow you to access this phenomenal parallel universe of history and hidden architecture.

 

The remains of the Greco-Roman aqueduct will leave you speechless with the ingenuity of the architects of the time. The Catacombs of San Gaudioso and those of San Gennaro will make you shiver down your spine. Bomb-proof wartime shelters will be a vivid testimony to how the Neapolitans managed to shelter themselves in the 1940s.

 

And then again, you can visit the remains of the Roman theatre, where Nero performed; the medieval Bourbon tunnels; the War Museum; and, among the most recent installations, also the seismic scientific station “Arianna“.

Roman Aqueduct in Underground Naples - Photo Vittorio Sciosia
Roman Aqueduct in Underground Naples - Photo Vittorio Sciosia

Naples’ Street Food

 

Strolling the food stalls of Naples is understanding the city’s culture, traditions and pride. Mobile cooking-stations, kiosks, cafés, tiny eateries, food markets and other street food havens are the city’s law and order.

The perfumes of freshly-baked dough, deep-fried seafood, milky mozzarella balls, stuffed rice suppli, freshly-made tomato sauce and other delicacies will convert even the most resistant to street food feasts. It is no wonder that Naples and street food have formed the strongest of marriages, transcending centuries of change.

 

A fertile volcanic soil, Buffalo dairies and the Mediterrean Sea – Neapolitans’ connection to their rich natural surroundings has made their street food one of the world’s most revered, and absurdly friendly to wallets too!

 

You shouldn’t have a problem find a a great meal in Naples but look out for these as you stroll in the historic centre:

 

Il Cuoppo Friggitori Napoletani – This is one of the best street food stalls for fried seafood. Located in the historic Via San Biagio Dei Librai, the stand offers many variations of all things fried, from fried vegetables to fried mozzarella balls, all wrapped in a paper cone. Try the fried seafood mix, freshly prepared in just a
few minutes, for just €6. Portions are very generous so your money goes far and beyond here!

 

Friggitoria Vomero – Another great fried snack bar, decades-old in the art of fried Neapolitan appetisers. Here you must try the zeppole, arancini, omelette di maccheroni pasta, fried potatoes and zucchini flowers. Located next to Naples’ funicular, this street food bar is a great stop before or after your funicular ride, or both! Prices vary between €0.20-2 apiece.

 

Pizzeria Di Matteo – For the best street pizza in Naples, head to the family-run pizzeria di Matteo, on Via Tribunali near Piazza San Gaetano. This is the place for typical Neapolitan pizza, both oven or fried, in a typical Neapolitan atmosphere. Even Bill Clinton squeezed in for his share of pizza during his visit to Naples in 1994. No fancy, no fuss. Just pizza. Go for the Margherita, the most typical pizzas of all! Prices vary between €2-6.

 

DE’ Figliole – De’ Figliole, in Naples’s historical centre since 1860, has the best fried pizza in Naples. Calzone-looking or flat, chewy yet slightly crunchy on the edges, fried pizza is a long-standing Neapolitan tradition not to be missed. Observe the women in the kitchen stretch the dough whilst locals rush in for their pick of the day, and don’t hold back as you indulge in one of the oldest traditions of the city! Prices vary between €4-5.

De Figliole Pizzeria

The Best Views of Naples

 

The panoramic points of Naples are places from which you can enjoy a privileged and exciting view of the whole Bay: a way to take a break from the fast pace of the historic center and breathe a magical and relaxed atmosphere.

 

Belvedere di San Martino – In the upmarket district of Vomero, a few steps from Castel Sant’Elmo, this enchanting belvedere offers visitors an unparalleled panorama over the whole of Naples.

 

Stairways of St Anthony – These are ramps or descents also known by the name of “thirteen descents of St Anthony” are located in one of the most beautiful districts of Naples, Posillipo. Once at the top of the evocative terrace, you can see Vesuvius, Mergellina and the Castel of San Martino.

 

Parco Virgiliano – This park reaches its maximum splendor in spring and summer, is located in the Posillipo district and is one of the city’s most panoramic spots: the lights of the city below and the view of the island of Nisida make the atmosphere peaceful and relaxed, perfect for those who want to stop and enjoy the silence.

 

Marechiaro – The romantic place par excellence, the suggestive village of Marechiaro is the testimony that heaven exists on earth and is right here. With the cliff overlooking the sea, the tranquility of a place where time seems to stand still. The ideal is then to end the evening in one of the local restaurants and clubs right by the sea.

 

Lungomare Caracciolo – Walking on the seafront of Via Caracciolo and through the municipal villa, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Gulf of Naples and, if the day is particularly clear, you will also see the silhouette of the island of Capri. At the end of this walk, Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle) will welcome you. Built on an islet, it is one of the oldest castles in Naples and takes its name from the legend that Virgil has placed an egg in its basement whose breakage could cause a series of disasters for the city. From the terraces of the Castle you can enjoy a magnificent view of the entire gulf, while behind you can admire the entire city.

Shopping in the most famous streets of Naples

 

Naples is not only a splendid city to visit for its monuments, romantic panoramas and excellent food, but it also offers those in the mood for shopping different alternatives. Whether you are a fan of fashion and big labels, or you want to find shoes and clothes at affordable prices, Naples offers many opportunities for every pocket and taste, as long as you know where to go according to your needs.

 

If you are after designer labls like Prada, Ferragamo or Gucci, head straight to via Filangeri, via Poerio or via Calabritto. Via Toledo and Corso Umberto I, both have shops for all budgets. From large commercial chains, such as Stradivarius, Yamamay, Benetton, to outlet shops selling discounted fashion.

 

The upmarket residential Vomero district has all the designer shops on the two shopping streets of via Luca Giordano and via Alessandro Scarlatti, but if you prefer to spend less, then we recommend you go into the nearby alleys where you may bag some good bargains.

Out of Town Excursions

 

A day out of town to visit the beauties not far from the city center: the Phlegrean area, the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida, the Amalfi and Sorrento coasts.

 

Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum are all along the Circumvesuviana metro train and can be even visited together, at least two out of three. From Pompeii, you catch the bus to Mt Vesuvius (55 minutes).

 

Amalfi Coast – Besides hiring a convertible car, it’s best to take the High-Speed rail to Salerno (40 minutes) and work you way back with the Sita Buses – Salerno to Amalfi and then Amalfi to Sorrento via Positano. From Sorrento, you can return to Naples by train or hydrofoil.

 

From Naples’ Porta Garibaldi, you can rail to Rome (1hour and 15 minutes), Pompeii (35 minutes), Paestum (1hour and 20 minutes), Pozzuoli (14 minutes), Caserta Royal Palace (40 minutes).

 

The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida are just a hop on the hydrofoil.