But some would argue – rightfully so – that this authenticity is what gives this southern Italian city its unparalleled charm.
Naples is an ancient port city located between Mount Vesuvius and the steaming Phlegraean Fields. Its history is a vivid montage rooted in Greek and Roman legend with rich artistic and cultural traditions evident in the many castles, churches, museums, piazzas, archaeological remains, and UNESCO world heritage sites. Most notably the San Carlo opera house, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Castel dell’Ovo, Castel Nuovo, Piazza del Mercato, Santa Chiara Church and the Duomo.
In Naples, life is lived on its colourful streets. It is not uncommon to see beautiful, feisty women shouting Neapolitan slurs with spirited gestures, old men playing cards, or Vespas and cars weaving in and out of traffic in a frenetic road dance. Here, people live so passionately and intensely that one of the greatest pleasures is to sit back and watch as this ‘live theatre’ unfolds.
Neapolitans have an enthusiasm for life like no others. Maybe it’s because they live their lives in the shadow of an active volcano with death looming in close proximity. Whatever the reason, this gusto is evident in the architecture, the way people dress and in the delicious Neapolitan cuisine.
Many of Italy’s world-famous dishes like pizza and spaghetti were born in this region, so it’s no surprise that Naples offers some of the finest and freshest food in all of Italy. Mouth-watering pizza is made with fresh mozzarella di bufala and fresh seafood is prepared to perfection. Naples is also home to Italy’s best coffee. Espresso bars are everywhere and patrons can be found enjoying coffee at all hours.Try a steamy shot of fragrant espresso at the late 19th century Gran Caffè Gambrinus with a decadent pastry. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Visitors might be surprised to discover that Naples is a shopping gem. Centuries of artisan traditions continue to be passed down from generation to generation. Renowned for having the finest sartorie custom tailors in the world, the best hand sown suits, dress shirts and ties are skillfully made here.
Naples has been working hard to shed its notorious reputation for pickpockets, littered streets and organized crime and it has been succeeding. This fascinating city is many things – some good and some bad – but if given the chance, Naples will draw you in and stir your emotions with its colourful characters, classical ruins and passion for life’s pleasures.
Naples is Italy’s gateway to Pompeii, approx. 25 kilometers from the city center, where the active Mount Vesuvius looms. In 1997, UNESCO designated Pompeii a World Heritage Site. Take ferry’s to visit the neighboring islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. The Amalfi Coast is breathtaking with its famous cliffside villages of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.
Where to stay
Overlooking the picturesque Castel dell’Ovo and the Bay of Naples, Hotel Excelsior is an elegant property that honours Italy’s old-world craftsmanship and design with focus on modern luxury. Enjoy fresh Mediterranean cuisine on their rooftop restaurant that combines spectacular indoor and veranda views of Naples. www.excelsior.it
Located between the harbour and the old town, the Romeo Hotel brings innovative design elements to a city that evokes old world Italian romance. The highlight of this stunning property is the rooftop restaurant that serves regional dishes with breathtaking views of Vesuvius and Capri. www.romeohotel.it
Where to eat
No visit to Naples is complete without eating pizza at the legendary L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele that many have described as the “Sacred Temple of Pizza.” This small, rather nondescript pizzeria has been making the best marinara and margherita pizza since 1870. www.damichele.net
If you’re a seafood lover reserve a table at Ristorante da Dora. It may look like a run-of-the-mill trattoria, but this modest restaurant offers some of the freshest fish in town and is always packed with local fish lovers. www.dadora.it
Getting to Naples
Capodichino airport is located eight kilometers northeast of downtown Naples. There are daily flights into Naples from most Italian and European cities. You can also take the train into Naples. If you’re renting a vehicle, you can drive from Rome to Naples in approximately 2.5 hours on highway A90/E80, but beware: driving in Naples requires a lot of courage.
• Naples was founded by the Greeks in 7th century BC
• The city was named Neapolis which means the "New City"
• It is said that the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul preached here
• Naples became part of the Italian unification in 1860
• It is the third most populated city in Italy
• Naples has the world’s worst traffic outside of Cairo