Naples is one of Europe’s largest and oldest cities – they call her the Grande Dame; it is a chaotic, surprising and intense place stuffed with character; modern life and history clash on every street. With sunny islands, ancient history, beaches and a volcano, there’s enough here to fill an entire summer break, so if you decide to stay for the weekend plenty for you to choose from—just try not to lose track of time while wandering through ramshackle alleyways stuffed with the world’s best pizza.
As well as the many obvious things you should do whilst in Naples (Pompei, Herculanum, Vesuvius, National Archaeological Museum) here are a few tips on other things you could do to experience the city.
Drink coffee in Mexico
Popular with everyone from local workmen to holidaying hipsters, Caffè Mexico is the best coffee bar in town. Stop in for an espresso, which in Naples generally comes sweetened unless you demand otherwise. Its sunny yellow awning and bright orange espresso machine will perk you up as much as the caffeine does.
Go mad for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (MADRE)
A world-class museum of modern art that’s named after the gothic fourteenth-century church that sits within its walls. Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina’s beautiful main building holds site-specific works by Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and many other superstars of the visual arts.
Take the funicular to Castel Sant’Elmo
Though you’re not likely to need the metro during your visit, it’s worth seeking out the funicular lines that shunt residents up to the hilly suburbs. Their colourful carriages are used by 10 million passengers per year. For the panoramic views from the top. Take the Centrale line from Augusteo to Petraio then walk to the medieval Castel Sant’Elmo. The tangle of Naples city centre’s buildings is framed by the sea on one side and Vesuvius on the other.
Go deep underground at the Fontanelle cemetery
Beneath the heat and bustle of Naples’ streets is an old quarry that became a burial site in the seventeenth century when a plague took out 250,000 of the city’s residents. Though the Fontanelle cemetery’s piles of bones are undeniably unnerving, the local tradition of caring for a lost soul’s skull lends the place a very spiritual feel.
Drink like the locals in Piazza Bellini
Like a meeting post for the young and thirsty of Naples, this bar-lined square bubbles over with students, locals and tourists come aperitivo time (and beyond). There are also some ancient ruins left casually unprotected in its centre. The walls at Intra Moenia are covered with rows and rows of vintage postcards and curios. Buy one to send home then claim a table outside to sit back and sip while the crowds gather.
Pay respects to the pizza gods at Sorbillo
One of the few things that all Neapolitans can agree on is that they make the best pizza. You can get the signature chewy, crispy dough all over town but you have to start somewhere, and that could be La Pizzeria Sorbillo. Gino Sorbillo’s dad was one of 21 siblings, all of whom were pizzaiolo. His dough is totally traditional but – very unusually for Italy – he messes with convention on the toppings.
Get a breath of sea air on the Lungomare
A 2.5km strip of pedestrianised road that runs along the seafront, providing the perfect stress-free route for a stroll. Stop for lemon granita at the beach kiosks, claim a rock to sunbathe on or stop for a sundowner.
The views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and Naples itself are spectacular.
Take a boat to Procida
Of the Bay of Naples’ three islands, it’s Capri that is most beautiful, but that also means it’s constantly smothered in tourists. Ischia offers thermal spas, but it is Procida’s charming colourful houses and cobbled streets that make it the off-the-radar offshore choice. Be sure to visit the pretty fishing village of Corricella & tell us if you recognise it from binge-watching films from the 90ties