Naples often grabs the headlines for the wrong reasons, having been blighted by organised crime and widespread theft. To be put off by the controversy would be a mistake though, as behind the apparent chaos lies a remarkable city complete with spectacular castles, outstanding cuisine and enchanting culture. Set against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Vesuvius and looking out across the Gulf of Naples, the city’s natural setting should be enough to spark your attention from the outset, whilst the nearby idyllic escapes of the Amalfi coast and Capri are ripe for day trips out of town.
In this article we’ll introduce you to the best things to do in Naples, from savouring the most authentic pizza around to marvelling at amazing archaeological ruins. For the most flexible way to explore must-see attractions in and around the city, consider hiring a car with easyCar for refreshingly cheap rates.
Take a walk through time and see the sights
With a history spanning well over 2,400 years, Naples has seen scores of civilisations pass through, from the Romans to the Bourbons, and the Normans to the Spanish imperialists. As a result, the city has a fascinating mishmash of sights to admire.
The Centro Storico is packed with churches and museums, the most ornate of which is undoubtedly the Sansevero Chapel, lined with bright marble and spectacular saintly Baroque sculptures. Next, see the city’s underground evolution over millennia first hand at Napoli Sotterranea, with a tour taking you forty metres below street level through an ancient Greek aqueduct, the remains of a Roman theatre and a wartime air raid shelter. Finally, head down to the Chiesa e Chiostro di San Gregorio Armeno for a stroll through splendid cloisters that feature a gorgeously detailed Baroque fountain as their centrepiece.
Pig out on pizza
For Neapolitans, pizza made outside the city is nothing more than a cheap imitation. Expect the freshest mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce for simple yet sumptuous servings, cooked in around 90 seconds in a blazing hot wood fired oven for optimum crispiness.
Head to Sorbillo in the centre of town for a recipe that’s been handed down throughout generations, with celebrity founder Gino now acting as a global ambassador for the cause of true Neapolitan pizza. Otherwise, the incredibly popular 50 Kalò draws in hordes of hungry locals thanks to its light, deliciously simple interpretation of the dish and is well worth a try. Braver souls will want to opt for the heaviest option at La Figlia Del Presidente, which serves golden, deep fried pizza pies with smoked provola, ricotta and a little pork fat for good measure!
Road trip down the Amalfi coast
At just over an hour’s drive from the city, the postcard-perfect Amalfi coast is a feast for the eyes that has attracted glamorous visitors for decades.
Positano will be your first stop, where steep streets and vertiginous views are sure to amaze. Set in a thoroughly dramatic natural landscape, Positano is understandably the coast’s most popular destination. The cliff side road towering high above the Tyrrhenian Sea offers incredible panoramas too, so make sure you stop off for some photos.
Amalfi is next on the itinerary, where you can climb 62 steps to gawp at the gorgeous cathedral and admire the splendid architecture of this former maritime capital. Finish the day off by taking in the sunset from Villa Cimbrone’s aptly named Terrace of Infinity in Ravello.
Retreat to Capri
If you’re still craving coastal scenery, take the ferry out to the stunning island of Capri lying just a few kilometres off the Sorrento peninsula. The winding narrow streets in the main town are packed with charm, and you can enjoy mouthwatering dishes and take in incredible views at the Terrazza Brunella.
Don’t miss out on the striking Arco Naturale, a gigantic arched rock shaped by millions of years of coastal erosion that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Jurassic Park. Then follow the footpath to the Belvedere di Tragara for a final round of infinite sea views before heading back into town for a seafood dinner at Da Tonino.
Get up close and personal with Vesuvius
Hike to the summit for far-reaching views of Naples and the coast, and be amazed by the vast crater which continues to steam as a reminder that although there hasn’t been an eruption since 1944, it’s only a matter of time. Don’t let that put you off though, as authorities will close the park if things get too heated.