Naples is the most underrated city in Italy
“It’s dirty. The crime rate is so high. It’s full of graffiti. It’s ugly. There’s nothing to do.”. These were just some of the comments I received when I asked friends for advice before visiting Naples when the NCL Epic docked in summer. After everyone I asked said the same thing, it’s not surprising that I wasn’t particularly excited about heading to this Italian city. I mean, if every person I know who has visited the city thinks the same thing, there was no point even getting off the ship, right?
Plot Twist: Naples is the city that sparked my love affair with Italy.
From wandering narrow streets to dodging the mopeds, I loved Naples and would return in a second. Need more convincing? I’ve shared 5 reasons why I think everyone should visit Naples ASAP!
Naples is a ‘real’ Italian city
I’m not even going to try and gloss over the facts, Naples is much ‘grittier’ than other destinations in the area, but don’t let that put you off! In comparison to cities that tend to be more popular with tourists such as Rome and Florence, Naples is much more real.
What do I mean by that? You’re more likely to bump into Italians rather than tourists, although there is a thriving tourism industry. The city has much more of an authentic atmosphere, rather than being transformed to look more appealing for visitors. Yes, the crime rate is higher in the city than in other areas, but then crime rate isn’t that fab in cities such as London or New York either. Essentially, it’s much easier to get a true Italian experience in Naples than it is in other cities.
Naples has lots of things to do
A day in Naples was not enough time to explore this wonderful city and my feet hurt after trying to see as much as possible. Speaking of feet, walking is the best way to get around. Driving in the city is crazy and some of the streets are ridiculously narrow, so invest in a good pair of trainers and get exploring!
Need inspiration? Here are some things to do in Naples:
- If you’re only there for around a day, jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus like we did so you can cover a lot of ground quickly.
- Do a walking tour of the Sainta district or A Miglio Sacro (Holy Mile). Whatever you do, you must visit a church. Naples is a religious city and its churches are magnificent. Grand and opulent they are worth finding. My recommendation? Saint Giuseppe Moscati.
- Visit the huge National Archaeological Museum which is located in the most beautiful 17th Century palace and contains everything from prehistoric artifacts to ancient works of art. If I ever find myself back in the city, this is where I’m heading.
- Be brought back to the 21st Century by a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as MADRE. It’s an Instagrammers dream and is even open until midnight on Saturday and Sunday!
- Do a tour of the San Gennaro Catacombs! Spread over two levels this maze contains over 3000+ burials, frescos and artwork. The tunnels have been used as everything from Roman aqueducts to World War 2 air-raid shelters!
- Walk along the Lungomore, a 3km long seafront promenade. Don’t forget to visit Castel dell’Ovo, climb to the very top and get some incredible views of the city.
- Go shopping in the stunning Galleria Umberto I, Galleria Principe di Napoli, La Pignasecca or Mercato di Porta Nolana.
- Wander the streets. Such a simple thing, but in Naples, every street hides a hidden gem. I recommend the district of Santa Lucia that is full of craft shops, restaurants, cafes and shops
Naples has some amazing food
Any trip to Naples should include a lot of food. That’s right, you can eat everything you see and pretend you’re being cultural and embracing the city. So what should you try? Well here are a few suggestions:
- Naples invented pizza so it would be rude not to try a slice. There are strict rules over how pizza is made, and if you want it authentic, it needs to be from a wood-fired oven. If you’re looking for traditional, opt for a Neapolitan pizza which just has buffalo mozzarella. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele often has queues around the corner thanks to featuring in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ but Pizzeria Di Matteo does incredible fried stuffed pizza.
- The local wine is perfect so opt for those from the nearby.
- You must try Sfogliatelle, Naples’ signature sweet pastry.
- Embrace the cafe culture of Italy and try some brilliant coffee. Ironically, the best coffee bar in the city is called Mexico and thanks to its bright orange look, you won’t be able to miss it. Another good option is Caffee Gambrinus which was apparently Oscar Wilde’s favorite.
- Mimi’s sells the best mozzarella cheese you’ve ever had super cheap.
- As a coastal city, the fish of the day is always super fresh.
Naples has incredible architecture
The historic centre of Naples is a UNESCO Heritage site and for good reason; it’s simply beautiful. A major cultural centre in the Roman Republic, the city has an incredible history and it is shown through the most spectacular buildings, the majority of which are hidden away down narrow side streets. Buildings definitely worth finding are the Church of Santa Chiara and the Castel Nuovo. My personal favourite was Gesu Nuovo, which one of the most unique churches I have ever seen. Featuring a unique 1400s stone facade, the church consists of grand rooms filled with religious art. Other important landmarks include the Royal Palace of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito, Teatro di San Carl, Museo di Capodimonte and Naples Cathedral.
There are some great day trips from Naples
I love exploring an area as much as possible and that’s why Naples makes the perfect base for a trip to Italy. There are some incredible places to visit and more than enough to fill at least one amazing holiday.
Here are a few of the places on my bucket list:
- Visit Solfatara, a shallow volcanic crater at Pozzuoli that is part of the Phegaean Fields volcanic area. A dormant volcano, Solfatara still shoots out jets of steam with sulfurous fumes.
- The glamour of Capri is just a short ferry away. Procida is also worth considering. Filled with cobbled streets and brightly painted houses, it’s an Instagrammer’s dream.
- The Amalfi Coast is literally down the road with the likes of Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi all accessible.
- Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum and discover the destroyed towns in shocking detail!
- Hike the many trials covering Mount Vesuvius located on the Gulf of Naples.
- Go on a snorkeling and boat tour of submerged & above-water Roman ruins at Gaiola Underwater Park.
Have I convinced you to visit Naples, Italy? It’s an incredible city that deserves much more attention than it receives.
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