Naples and its surroundings embody all the elements how we envision the stereotypical Italy. This article will be your guide to Naples and for the nearby attractions!
Naples is incredibly divisive, the opinions of those who visited it moves between the two extremes: they either love or hate the city! The author of the article falls into the first category, so if you want to walk around until you cannot feel your legs during a long weekend, you might want to read the whole article!
There will be no shortage of walkable distances, as you will have to explore the city which has the largest historic city centre in Europe, where the easiest way to visit the sights is definitely on foot.
Life in Italy’s third largest city is busy, only gets quieter before midnight, and many visitors get tired or confused by this. Narrow streets, seemingly chaotic traffic, endless honking, litter, crumbling buildings, and unfortunately pickpockets also make careless sightseeing difficult for those who are used to other quiet big European cities.
Could it be these little things that make this city alive? Naples is the honest city.
Duomo di Napoli
The construction of the beautiful cathedral of Naples was ordered by Charles I of Anjou in the 13th century and was not completed until the 14th century. The square itself has been in use for centuries before, the early Christian basilica called Santa Restituta and a small chapel of Giovanni next to it dated back to the 4th century. The floor and columns of the original church have survived!
Unfortunately an earthquake in the 17th century destroyed most of it, and when it was rebuilt, got an age-appropriate Baroque style. Today, it is the home of St. January’s relics whose celebration falls on September 17, when the relics are brought out of the church for a procession.
Santa Chiara complex
Santa Chiara includes a church, a monastery, a crypt system and a museum. According to the records, it was built between 1310 and 1340, on the instructions of Robert Anjou, who finally chose this as his final resting place.
It has characteristic Gothic style features, and its most beautiful part is the monastery courtyard and the belfry. According to a legend, the yellow glazed Rococo-style majolica bricks were painted by a nun who glued the small tiles with egg whites according to the customs of the age. Interestingly, this technique is still used today, for example in Morocco. The richly decorated yellow and blue tiles of the quiet courtyard, the peace that dominates it, stands in a harsh contrast with the bustling world beyond the gates. It is the resting place of leaders of different eras, definitely the most interesting part for history geeks.
In addition to the many attractions, there is also a museum section with Roman baths and utility items.
During World War II, it was hit hard by bombings as the rest of Naples’ old town, and almost the entire complex burned down. Traces of unrecovered parts can still be seen today.
Underground Naples can be visited on organized tours, such as Napoli Sotterranea. Forty meters below the city’s historic centre another world can be seen! This is considered the true heart of Naples and will take you back to the past! All historical eras, from the founding of Neopolis to the bombings of World War II have left their mark on the yellow tuff. During the tour you can see the Greco-Roman underground heritage, the old plumbing system, and the remains of the Roman theatre.
A chapel named after the builders, aka the princes of Sansevero, was built next to their palace, in 1590. It is interesting because of its rich interior decoration, which is over-decorated even in for the Baroque style.
Piazza del Plebiscito
The largest square of Naples with spectacular triumphal arches and columns. It got its eloquent name from the referendum held on 21st of October 1860, during which locals voted for unification, thus Naples became part of the Italian Kingdom.
The newly designated seat of the Kingdom of Naples also needed a new castle, so construction began by the French masters in 1279. Among other things it also served as the home of Charles II of Anjou, and the popes of the time also had their seats here, as long as they were considered Anjou-friendly.
The legend associated with the castle is one of the funniest! According to the story when Virgil visited the castle he locked an egg in an iron cage , with the following prophecy: when the egg cracks, it will mean the end of the lord of the castle. History has confirmed the prediction, the egg cracked during the reign of Johanna the II. She was the last ruler of the House of Anjou.
Located on the outskirts of the old town, the castle, built on a small island, awaits visitors with an imposing iron gate.
The construction of the fortress can also be linked to the Anjou dynasty, it was started in 1329 during the reign of Robert Anjou and completed in 1343. The star-shaped, six-bastion fortress offers unparalleled views over the city and the entire bay.
Boats leave to the beautiful island hourly. Capri is a karst rock formation and once was attached to the Sorrento Peninsula, but during time slowly broke away and became an island. Capri has been a sought-after summer residence since ancient times for former poets, writers and famous people, offering beautiful bays and sea. Expect for higher prices here and can be crowded in high season.
Bucket list experience, even if the climb itself take only 30 minutes, an easy walk, on a well-built road. There are two paths to choose from:
- By public transport: A path leads up on the volcano from Ercolano. It is not an impossible mission for those who endure the scorching heat.
- Organized tours: in this case they take you by a minibus to the upper car park, from there a 30 minute walk leads up to the crater. The organised tours start from Pompeii, and after the hike the combined ticket can be used to visit the ruins. This is a good option because on the one hand it is difficult to predict the weather from below, which is very variable and not really worth going up in cloudy weather as there is not much to see from the famous panorama nor the crater. Tour operators can offer a morning or afternoon tour based on weather forecasts. On the other hand, you don’t have to wait for local public transport, which isn’t as punctual as the Circumvesuviana.
The ancient Roman city is an unmissable experience around Naples! There are three ways to visit:
- With a tour guide, in a group: this option is perfect to get to know as much as possible about the ruins, how the city worked, its structure, and the little things of the everyday life, how the locals lived before the fatal volcanic eruption.
- With audio guide: if you love to roam freely, but you still need the information this is a good option. With the audio guide, all you have to do is select a number, and will share the information just like a tour guide.
- With a booklet: a guide with detailed descriptions and a map can be purchased locally, in several languages, including Hungarian.
In addition to the must-see sights, it’s worth tasting the local limoncello, which is sold in small bottles around the entrance and exit.
Portici, Ercolano, Torre del Greco
If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Naples you can visit beautiful, authentic Italian settlements, along the coast. Ercolano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Herculaneum, just like Pompeii, was covered by ash and lava. The hiking trail to Vesuvius, which can be reached on foot, also starts from here.
Attractions in Portici and Ercolano include the villas of Vesuvius, which are the ornate holiday homes of the elite of Naples, for example: Villa Bourbon in Portici, or Villa Campolieto, Villa d’Elboeuf, Villa Aversa, Villa Pignatelli di Montecalvo. Unfortunately, most of them are in a dreadful condition, but there are some that were converted to guesthouses where you can sleep at a reasonable price.
It is a beautiful city built on rocks, with colourful houses that made the small town on the Sorrento Peninsula famous. It is worth visiting, and can also be reached by train from Naples.
Places suitable for bathing
there is an entry fee, but it is the best and most easily accessible, sandy beach with calm water.
Beautiful view of the coastal villas and Mount Vesuvius! Rocky shoreline, but quiet part where locals swim. The free one, used by locals, will be to the right of the stairwell, it can be reached by passing between the boats on a narrow wooden deck and then climbing a small ladder mounted on a rock. Adventurous but beautiful!
Iconic coastlines around Naples
Leaving Naples behind, the iconic black sandy beaches begin! The sand here is silky and soft, but because of the volcanic rock, it has a darker black color. Thanks to the Circumvesuviana trains, these beaches are easily and quickly accessible, with trains running hourly.
- Lido Arturo (Portici)
- Lido Mappatella (Torre Annunziata)
- Peter’s Beach (Sorento)
Slowly deepening, beautiful blue water welcomes those who want to relax here. You will find here everything that you need for a day of bathing and relaxing: drinks, food, ice cream, sunbeds. Easily accessible by the trains from Naples! The train ticket must be purchased in advance, before boarding the train, and validated after boarding!
- Bagni Regina Giovanna (Sorento)
- Fiordo di Crapolla
Very small bays, but they are beautiful and safe with a child who can swim, the best of these coastlines is their closeness to nature!
Within Naples, the metro network can be helpful, but there are walkable distances. The safest choice for visiting attractions around Naples is the Circumvesuviana, which takes you all the way down to Sorrento.
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