Naples, Italy was as I’d expected it would be in many ways. How often does that happen when you visit a new city?
I know quite a few Italians in Dublin, and made sure to get all the scoop as I was planning my visit to Naples. Between glowing restaurant reviews and a list of recommendations to last someone an entire month, there were also the jokes about bringing my bulletproof vest. They were of course trying to be funny, but Naples does have a bit of a reputation!
I was travelling with a small group, and we only stayed for 2 nights and 1 day, so I’m not an expert on the neighbourhoods. If safety is the only thing stopping you from visiting, however, I think you can relax and book that flight. As with any big city, there is crime, so you should always be alert and aware of your surroundings. But, if you stick to the busier neighbourhoods, you’ll find you’re not the only visitor. For a more detailed outline of safety for tourists in Naples, check out this great blog from the Geeky Explorer.
If you’re looking for a day plan for Naples that will give you the highlights, here it is! 8 Things to see, do, eat, experience in bustling Napoli!
Wake Up with Breakfast at a Cafe
The most famous cafe in Naples is called Gran Caffè Gambrinus, and it’s located just next to the famous Piazza Plebiscito. If it’s a nice day they have a covered patio outside where you can watch the (very busy) world go by. Keep in mind that they know they’re an attraction, and our drinks and pastries for 4 people somehow ended up costing us €45. Regardless, this is one of the oldest cafes in the city and has a beautiful dining room that’s worth a peek!
Hit the Pavement
Walk through the city to get a feel for the streets and excitement. Start in Piazza Plebiscito and make your way down Via Toledo, the busy shopping street, where you’ll find familiar brands alongside Italian favourites. Peek in to the narrow streets of the neighbouring Quartieri Spagnoli to see the Naples you’ll recognise from photos. Mind yourself and your belongings though, especially as scooters zip around between the crowds.
Hidden beneath the city are kilometers of tunnels, once a Greek-Roman Aqueduct, transformed during WWII into bomb shelters. You descend 100+ steps with a guide to wander through these tunnels and hear all about the history of the city. Whether you’re spending a day or a week in Naples, I’d recommend this be on your list. It gives you unique insight into the history of the tunnels, but also into the city itself. The tour takes around 1.5 hours and tickets are €10. Don’t miss the entrance in this narrow alley between two buildings!
Eat Pizza in the Home of Pizza
Naples is the home of pizza, so you’ve got to have a few while you’re visiting. We went to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele on via Cesare Sersale. What an experience! We waited around two hours for takeaway pizza, and they only offer margherita or marinara options at €5 each. If you want to dine in, you need to arrive much earlier than we did! You’ll know a good pizza place by the swarm of people waiting outside.
Other options are Pizzeria Brandi (rumoured to be where it all started), Sorbillo (which seems to have a cult following), Di Matteo, and dal Presidente. That being said, you could probably get pizza anywhere in the city and love it.
Visit the Naples Cathedral
There is a famous story behind this one! This cathedral is also known as the Cattedrale di San Gennaro, after the patron saint of Naples. He is well known for the miracle of liquifying his own blood, and the cathedral apparently still has a vial of it. Several times a year believers gather at the church to watch the blood liquify.
If history isn’t your thing, this place is structurally beautiful. Don’t forget to check out the ceiling!
See the Veiled Christ
The Veiled Christ is a marble sculpture by Giuseppe Sanmartino, completed in 1753. It’s housed at the Museo San Severo in the centre of Naples. It costs €7 to enter, and there will likely be a queue, but it’s well worth it to see one of the world’s most famous sculptures. They don’t allow photos, so here’s a nice shot of the city..
Wander back along the water to take in the castle and beautiful views as the sun is going down.
Visit Castel dell’Ovo for a Panoramic View of the City
This is one of the city’s two castles; it sits on the water and offers a panoramic view of the hills. You walk up the ramps and through the castle to take in the sights from the top. The best part is it’s free! There is also an elevator if you can’t bear the walk after a day of wandering, but it’s not too long of a climb anyway.
Have an Aperitivo with a View
Kick off your the evening with aperitivo at Officina on via Santa Lucia.
We sat on this patio for hours as the sun went down. It’s around the corner from the castle, but up the side street enough to feel a bit less hectic. They offer what may seem like a full meal to some, but it’s traditional aperitivo (so, quite a lot of food options). Because of this an Aperol Spritz was around €8.50, rather than €3.50. But it’s great to kick off the evening when you’re feeling peckish!
Have you spent time in Naples? What’s your favourite thing to do?
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