I don’t have to pretend that Naples is quaint or darling for it to be beautiful. It is in its own complicated way. There’s a saying that Rome is the heart of Italy, but Naples is its soul. Naples is gritty and chaotic, yet beautiful and authentic at the same time.
After two years of living a long metro line away from downtown Napoli, I’ve yet to write a guide to Naples. Maybe it’s because it’s a beautiful mess that’s hard to grasp in the usual, “Here’s where to sleep, what to do and where to get the best pizza” (but I will get to that later).
Naples is one of the most poor and densely populated cities in all of Europe. To be honest, I struggle with my own love hate relationship with the city. It’s a complicated and unapologetic. Things run at there own pace. A pace that coincides with “I’ll do as I damn please.”
Cars are old and dented, as you’d expect on a practically lawless roadway. Vespa drivers are joined by other passengers, kids and maybe even a dog at their feet. The city’s cars crawl along the cobblestones like a wounded serpent and scooters honk constantly as they zig zag through the gridlock. Once you get a little speed going, it’s like driving in a Mad Max movie.
All the stereotypes are alive and well in Naples. Neapolitans are always yelling, fiercely gesticulating. You’d think they just crossed their family rival when they’re really simply talking about what they did last weekend. They shout near an old woman shuffling down the narrow alleyways where light is barely coming in from the tall apartment buildings above. She’s just come from the market carrying a bag with passata and fresh vegetables. Another woman is undoubtedly either hanging laundry or sweeping the balcony above, probably smoking a cigarette. Everyone is sweating from the oppressive heat and humidity.
All the while, Vesuvius’s ever present veil looms in the distance. I was told there’s a saying Neapolitans use after saying “See you tomorrow” (after saying “Ciao” no fewer than five times) that translates to “God willing.” As in, “I’ll see you tomorrow if this volcano doesn’t take us all out in the night.”
Naples has with some truly amazing juice. You just have to squeeze really hard sometimes. Here’s my guide to Naples to help you make that squeeze a little easier….
Guide to Naples
Where to Eat
Pizza. Of course, pizza. Eat it. Eat it all and don’t split it. It’s your obligation to Naples. I’ve written a guide for where to find the best gluten free pizza, but these pizzerias also make amazing regular pizza as well (as my husband can attest).
Mennella il Gelato– Hands down, my favorite gelato in town (locations in Vomero and near Piazza del Plebiscio).
To Drink (Coffee and Cocktails)
A “Bar” in Italy is not just a place for a beer. Most of the time it means a place to grab a coffee at the counter.
Established in 1860, Gran Caffé Gambrinus is one of oldest café in Naples.
Officina is a great aperitivo spot near the castle.
Castel dell’Ovo- Entrance to the top view point is free.
See a performance at the San Carlo Theatre- if you don’t have time for a performance, at least go inside and see this beautiful theatre.
Visit Pompeii or Herculaneum
Archeolgical Museum – a close second if you can’t make it Pompeii, or don’t fancy walking around for miles in the baking sun.
If it’s nice weather, take a day trip to the nearby beaches or islands.
Museo Cappella Sansevero/The Veiled Christ statue
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The area along the waterfront near the Castel dell’Ovo has several nice hotels in an ideal location.
As with most things in Naples, Airbnbs are pretty affordable. Choose somewhere around Chiaia or Vomero.
Grand Hotel Parker’s for luxury with an incredible view of the city and Vesuvius.
PIN IT FOR LATER