Falling in love with Naples

Vibrant, gritty, elegant, and with some of the best food in Italy, a trip to Naples has it all.

But do take into account the fact that the capital of southern Italy doesn’t dress itself up for tourists. Equal parts grit and elegance, this vibrant, noisy, and engaging urban sprawl is like nowhere else in Italy. It’s a crash course in the culture and lifestyle of the country’s south, a sensory experience that for many is overwhelming. But give it a chance, and you’ll quickly fall in love with Naples.

Naples colourful houses

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With almost a million residents, Naples is the third-largest city in Italy behind Rome and Milan.

There was a settlement here as early as the 9th century BCE; afterward, everyone from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the Aragon and Spanish empires took control of the city.

The historic centre, one of the most remarkable in Italy, is a place of ancient castles and forts, soaring churches, captivating art, and elegant architecture. The nucleus of the city contains over 2000 years of history and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Positano - the most popular and picturesque place on the Amalfi Coast

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Naples is hectic and fast-paced, but inside all that chaos are some of the friendliest people in Italy.

Locals might offer you a seat at their table and a cold beer or some produce from their garden, while restaurant owners welcome you like a long-lost family member. And it’s the people here that make falling in love with Naples so easy.

Dine with a view in Naples

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Perched at the edge of the Mediterranean, the port city enjoys a generally sunny summer.

But as the humid heat descends in August, locals retreat to the seaside towns and nearby islands for a seaside escape. From the Amalfi Coast to the sparkling islands in the Bay of Naples, there are many gorgeous places to discover near the city.

Here are just a few reasons to fall in love with Naples.


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The foodie’s delight

Dream of Italian food, and you’re dreaming of the food in Naples. From sumptuous pizzas and pasta dishes to creamy mozzarella and the country’s best espresso, eating your way through Naples is a pleasure.


The birthplace of pizza

Pizza is must-to try dish while you are in Naples

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Of course, the one thing visitors can’t miss in Naples is Neapolitan pizza.

Despite now being found around the world, nothing comes close to the authentic taste of the city’s premier dish. It’s all because of the local ingredients: a basic dough topped with sweet local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a few leaves of basil, and a dash of olive oil. It’s then baked in a wood-fired oven for between 60 and 90 seconds, emerging with bubbling cheese and a blistery char on the crust.

To try some, join the queues of locals for a table at either Sorbillo (Via Tribunali, 32), Gorizia 1916 (Via Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 29), or Starita (Via Materdei, 27/28).


The pasta of Naples

Spaghetti alle vongole - iconic Napoli pasta dish

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For an iconic Napoli pasta dish, it’s all about spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams). Simple and delicious, this dish makes use of fresh clams plucked from the Mediterranean that are cooked with spaghetti in a heavenly mix of garlic, olive oil, and white wine. The dish is finished off with a garnish of fresh parsley.

The other popular pasta dish you’ll see on menus across the city is ragù – a decadent mix of slow-cooked meat and a sauce made again from those sweet, local tomatoes. The sauce must simmer for at least six hours, turning into a rich, filling, and sumptuous meal that’s served in restaurants all over.


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Ancient history

Like most of Italy, Naples is a city that wears its history on its sleeve. Settled by the Greeks, conquered by the Romans, and falling to several different empires throughout history, there’s a lot to discover.


Castles and ruins

The oldest castle in Naples is the Castel dell’Ovo

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In ancient times, Naples also went by another name: the City of Seven Castles. Today, some of those castles are still standing, while others are crumbling into decay, poignant reminders of the city’s importance during its early history.

The oldest castle here is the Castel dell’Ovo (Via Eldorado, 3), which dates to the 12th century. This is one of the city’s most interesting historical attractions, offering magnificent views from the castle ramparts.


World-class museums

The National Archaeological Museum in Naples

As far as museums go, visitors are spoilt for choice. The National Archaeological Museum (Piazza Museo, 19) is the most popular, filled with artwork from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance period as well as artifacts and mosaics from Pompeii.

Visit Cappella Sansevero for some of Italy’s most important works of art

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Art buffs will want to visit the Cappella Sansevero (Via Francesco de Sanctis, 19/21), a chapel filled with some of Italy’s most important works of art.

More artwork and antiquities fill the Museo di Capodimonte (Via Miano, 2), a lavish palace in the north of the city.


The ruins of Pompeii

When in Naples don't miss out visiting the ruins of Pompeii

When in Naples, don’t miss out on visiting the nearby ruins of Pompeii. This is one of the most alluring and haunting historical attractions not just in Italy but in the whole world.

The Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 CE, raining ash and pumice down onto the Roman city and its residents, freezing it in time.

Today, it’s a web of roads leading between ancient temples, merchant houses, faded frescoes, and preserved bodies.


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The natural beauty of Naples

Once you’ve had your fill of the city, leave it behind to discover some of Italy’s most storied and alluring natural landscapes.


The Amalfi dream

One of Italy’s most glamorous region - the Amalfi Coast

Sixty-five kilometres to the south of Naples lies one of Italy’s most dazzling and glamorous regions: the Amalfi Coast.

With craggy cliffs plunging into sparkling turquoise waters, this has been one of the world’s most popular destinations since Roman times. Strung along the coast are beautiful towns, sparkling coves, and dazzling beaches.

From Naples, trains travel down the coast to Sorrento, where bus connections take you across to the southern side of the peninsula, where most of the towns are located.


Islands in the Bay of Naples

Bay of Naples, including Procida, Ischia, and Capri

Scattered across the Bay of Naples is a clutch of offshore islands including Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Like the Amalfi Coast, these islands feature rugged cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean, beautiful coves for swimming, and spectacular natural beauty.

Capri is all about glitz and glamour and is known as a luxury hotspot.

Ischia is the largest island in the bay and home to thermal spas, gardens, and crumbling castles perched high on mountaintops.

Procida is the smallest and least crowded of the three, offering an authentic local atmosphere.


Seaside escapes

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Visit Naples in the summer, and you’ll more than likely appreciate a cooling day spent at the beach.

The most popular options are along the coast to the west of the city centre. There’s busy Gaiola Beach and the Miliscola and Miseno beaches at the end of the peninsula, all reached by a combination of metro and buses.

Head south along the coast to the Sorrento Peninsula to discover even more beaches.

Touring around the tip of the peninsula reveals gorgeous coves, pebbly beaches, and small strips of golden sand reached by steps carved into the cliffs.


Mount Vesuvius

Volcano Mount Vesuvius in Naples

Brooding over the entire region is the imposing Mount Vesuvius. For a glimpse at the volcano that caused so much destruction, daily tours travel from Naples to the peak. At the summit, peering into the crater reveals vents spewing forth sulphur-rich steam, a clue to the raw power bubbling beneath the surface.


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Text by James Taylor

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