There is a special atmosphere in Naples, it’s an ancient city steeped in history and culture, with one of the most celebrated coastlines in the world on its doorstep. And while it has its problems, it is a remarkable and utterly charming city.
Its historic heart is unlike most other modern metropolises, with a shambolic feel and walls scrawled with graffiti, but look beyond this, and there is a city worth returning to time and time again. Labyrinthine lanes showcase stunning yet sometimes dilapidated architecture which travels through the ages – Roman ruins, medieval structures and Baroque palaces share cobbled streets and grand piazzas. The backdrop of Mount Vesuvius adds to the dramatic nature of Naples, and acts as a gateway to the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, just around the Bay of Naples. Plus, Neapolitan cuisine is world-renowned, so either grab a few slices of pizza or head upmarket to one of the city’s 20-plus Michelin-starred restaurants. If you are looking for a holiday destination with a frenetic and inexhaustible energy, then look no further, book your flights to Naples now.
Designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Naples’ Centro Storico boasts a breathtaking array of historical gems. On the bustling Piazza des Plebiscito, gaze in awe at the majestic dome and columns of the Church of San Francesco di Paola. Admire the beautiful façade of the Royal Palace and gleaming golden stucco-work of the Teatro San Carlo opera house. For endless retail therapy opportunities, make your way along the meandering Via Toledo, taking in the magnificent fin de siècle Galleria Umberto I mall.
While you will need to keep your wits about you here and a watchful eye on your belongings, the Quartieri Spagnoli offers a slice of true Neapolitan life. Laden scooters whizz through narrow streets festooned with washing, while local residents chat from their balconies. Street vendors offer everything from food to souvenirs from their colourful stalls. And some excellent pizzerias are also to be found tucked among the quarter’s alleyways. For those a bit apprehensive, hire a local guide (often students making a bit of extra cash) who will show you the sights and give you some street cred.
Perfect for when the bustling streets of downtown Naples become a bit much, Vomero is a relaxed district offering spectacular views of the rest of the city. Ride the rattling funicular railway to the upmarket hilltop streets. Take in the Bay of Naples and imposing Mount Vesuvius from the star-shaped Castel Sant’Elmo. Browse in fashionable boutiques and wander around the lush grounds of the Parco della Floridiana. Then admire the exquisite frescoes and beautiful baroque architecture of the former monastery, Certosa di San Martino. Take it easy in Vomero.
This little island, just across the bridge from Santa Lucia, has a nautical atmosphere with bobbing boats and yachts moored along its marina. Borgo Marinari is where locals come to eat fantastic fresh seafood, sip cocktails and chat well into the small hours. It is also home to the imposing fortress Castel dell’Ovo, which was legendarily named by Roman poet Virgil, who supposedly buried an egg under the foundations, which once broken will cause the fall of the castle and ominously, Naples itself. Definitely worth a visit, if only for the mouth-watering food on offer, but you’ll also get great views of Capri offshore.
Take a stroll along the scenic shoreline in trendy Chiaia. Long-time home of Italy’s finest tailors, you’ll find some spectacular suits in this neighbourhood. So browse in the stylish shops and galleries or wander at your leisure through tranquil, leafy parks and visit the 16th century Palazzo Cellamare. Make sure to visit the South Italy Food market, which triples up as a store, café and artisanal butchers focussing on food from the regions south of Rome. In the evening, join the fashionably-attired locals at chic eateries and enotecas, where wine flows freely.
From the pretty port of Mergellina, follow the meandering Via Posillipo past beautiful buildings to the exclusive Posillipo. Take in stunning views across the glittering Gulf of Naples from the wonderful Parco Virgiliano (Park of Remembrance) – a stunning hilltop perch at the peak of this exclusive quarter. You can see Capri to the south, Naples and Vesuvius to the east and the picturesque Bay of Pozzuoli to the west. Also worth visiting is the Pausilypon Archaeological Park, which shows Napoli’s heritage as the villa was built by consul Pollio and was later used by the Emperor Augustus.