First Timer's Guide To Naples, Italy
A popular city in Southern Italy, Naples is known for its nearby Mount Vesuvius as well as the ruins of Pompeii. In fact, the historic centre of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it’s home to some of the world’s most significant archaeological treasures.
Besides that, there’s also plenty of other things to discover in Naples and the nearby towns. Check out the main highlights of the city that are not to be missed as a first-timer in Naples!
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Things to do in Naples
When in Naples, it’s a must to make a trip to Pompeii, an iconic archaeological site in the province. Pompeii was once a thriving ancient city but was destroyed after a catastrophic volcanic eruption by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Today, you can visit the once-booming ancient city and explore excavated ruins of millennia-old buildings from houses to temples, cafes, amphitheaters and even a brothel. Discover the history of the Forum as well as the House of the Faun, an impressive private residence in Pompeii.
More famously known as the volcano that destroyed the city of Pompeii back in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius still stands tall and proud in the skyline of Naples. The Vesuvius National Park founded in 1995 is centered around the active volcano of Mount Vesuvius.
You can take a hike up the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and enjoy a number of interestings views from looking down the crater of the volcano to the vast view across the Bay of Naples. The walk up the slopes takes about 20 to 30 minutes, so it’s best to put on comfortable walking shoes!
As one of Europe’s most significant archaeological museum, the Naples National Archaeological Museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts. Many of them include items excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum like large frescos, sculptures and mosaic panels.
Besides that, you can also find Roman and Greek antiquities like gems, glass, silver, sculptures and more in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Full of ancient archeology, it’s a history buff’s haven!
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Although not as well-known as Pompeii, Herculaneum is also another archeological site that is worth a visit when in Naples. About a 30-min drive from Pompeii, Herculaneum has been said to be better preserved with certain wooden structures, frames and roofing still intact.
Also destroyed by the same volcanic eruption by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, you will find that Herculaneum is a smaller site and easier to explore. A couple of interesting spots are the famous Villa of the Papyri and House of Argus where you can find incredible wall paintings and fresco.
The Catacombs of San Gennaro lies below the city of Naples, with history dated back to the 2nd century AD. Influenced by the city’s strong relationship with faith, the catacombs is name after San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city.
You can find different types of tombs in the catacombs, divided by social class. Separated into 2 levels, the bottom floor is a home to over 3000 graves while the top level has more artworks and frescos. The network of tunnels and corridors hold more secrets than one can ever uncover.
Enclosed by a stunning 360-degree view, it’s no surprise that Piazza del Plebiscito is the main square in Naples. The piazza is surrounded by important buildings and monuments of Naples like the royal palace, the church of San Francesco di Paola, Palazzo Salerno and more.
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On any day, you can see many locals stroll by for a walk or relaxing and soaking in the sun during the summertime. It’s definitely worth the walk to witness the view and the daily lives of the people of Naples.
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Located just a short distance from Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel Nuovo is a medieval castle from the 13th century you can easily spot from a distance. Also known as Maschio Angioino, this massive Napoli monument features 5 towers surrounding the castle.
Make sure to look up and admire the beautiful paintings on the ceiling In Baron’s Hall inside the castle. Besides that, you can also check out the view of Naples and the harbour from the fortress towers easily accessible by elevators.
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Inspired by Milan’s iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the 19th century Galleria Umberto I is a sight to behold. The stunning architecture and detailed glass dome are the main features of this shopping gallery.
Nothing short of magnificent, the arcade is full of ornate details from the tilings on the floor to the carvings on the pillars, artworks on the ceiling and more. Even if you’re not looking to shop, Galleria Umberto I is still a spot in Naples worth taking the time to explore.
One of the most beautiful churches in Naples, the San Domenico Maggiore, is another one of the top highlights in Naples. Heavily inspired by the different styles over time, you can identify the Gothic and Baroque influences from the architecture to the artwork.
The interior of the church features a myriad of Renaissance artwork, statues, and decoration. IN the Brancaccio Chapel, you can witness the artwork of Pietro Cavallini, an Italian painter and mosaic designer from the Middle Ages.
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Surrounding Naples is the stunning Amalfi Coast as well as other nearby towns that are also worth a visit if you have the time. Sorrento, is a beautiful tourist town that also happen to have great lacework and ceramics which are perfect as souvenirs or keepsakes. The cliffside village of Positano and its vibrant houses and streets will make you never want to leave!
The even more picturesque Amalfi town will make you feel like you’re stepping into a fairytale with its white houses and charming alleyways. Although these towns are not in the heart of Naples, you will certainly not regret taking a short drive or tour to these stunning locations.
Must-try food in Naples
You’re probably thinking this is an obvious choice for everywhere in Italy but what exactly makes pizza in Naples stand out? Well, if you didn’t know yet, pizza was actually invented in Naples! So, you can bet that the most OG of all pizzas can be found here.
Go simple with a Pizza Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil) or try something new with a Pizza alla Napoletana (tomato sauce anchovies, olives, pickles, capers and oregano). You could also go for a Calzoni (pizza pocket) if you’re feeling adventurous.
A few of the recommended pizzerias in Naples include L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Pizzaria La Notizia, and Pizzeria Dal Presidente.
Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campania
This sweet pastry dish may not roll off the tongue easily for the Italian noobs but it sure does taste heavenly! You can find them in 2 different types - sfogliatelle riccia (flaky and clam-shaped) and sfogliatelle frolla (smooth and bun-like).
The pastry is filled with sweetened ricotta or almond paste and dusted with powdered sugar. While many Neapolitans prefer to have them in the morning with a cup of espresso, you can choose to have it anytime!
Head to Caffè Spaccanapoli, Sfogliatella Mary or any of your nearby cafe or pastry shop to get yourself a sfogliatelle.
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In Italy, fritti is battered deep fried snacks which can range from meat to seafood and vegetables. Whether it’s cheese sandwich, croquettes, rice balls, stuffed pasta balls, vegetables, or seafood, there’ll be more choices than you can finish trying. You can also find something called pizza fritti which is basically exactly what it sounds like - a deep fried pizza dough!
In Naples, you can find fritti in restaurants or in the form of street food. You definitely can’t go wrong with these, even if it’s just a streetside stall.
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