There is nothing quite like a good Italian vacation to inspire la dolce vita! From romance-inspiring Lake Como, the unrivaled art galleries in Florence, to sun-drenched Tuscany, tourists of all forms, shapes and sizes always find something to fall in love with in Italy.
Sadly, most trips conclude in Rome. Of the 60 million+ gelato-licking tourists who hobble each year to the Italian Peninsula, only a small percentage make their way 120 miles southeast of the Eternal City to Italy’s red-headed stepchild — Naples.
Naples, or Napoli in Italian is the capital of the province of Naples in the Campania Region of Italy. Sure, it may be rough around the edges, and there are definitely sketchy areas you need to avoid, not to mention the “triangle of death” that smears the city’s reputation even further.
But sway past all that, you will find Naples, Italy with its 3000 years of history, definitely packing more than a few pleasant surprises. I spent 5 days in this city alone, came out unscathed and absolutely loved it! I’ve compiled 10 reasons why Naples should earn a spot in your Italian Itinerary.
IT’S THE BIRTHPLACE OF PIZZA
The modern-day pizza’s conception can be traced back to humble Neapolitan hearths back in the 1700’s. It was eaten largely by the poor. The Italian haute found the dough topped with cheese, basil, and Peruvian tomatoes repulsive.
It wasn’t until Queen Margherita of Savoy (queen consort of Italy) sampled the delicacy and had taken a liking to it that the dish gained popularity. The Margherita pizza was named after her.
Italians who later immigrated to the US would replicate their recipe in New York and would give birth to the New York-style pizza. The process of making a true Neapolitan pizza is very particular, the ingredients?—select; hence, UNESCO designated the art of making a Neapolitan pizza an Intangible Cultural Heritage. And where better place to enjoy a true Neapolitan than the in the city where pizza originated.
BANKSY WAS HERE
The street artist incognito Banksy left a graffiti on a wall of a pizzeria in the heart of Naples—much to the owner’s delight. Normally, you’d be pissed. But not when it’s Banksy.
Street art by the enigmatic artist has been popping all over alleys and walls of decrepit buildings all over the world. And, as it turns out, Naples was “tagged” by the English artist.
The Madonna with a pistol can be found on the unassuming wall of Dal Presidente Pizzeria in Piazza Gerolomini, Naples, Italy.
YOU CAN GO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING ALL YEAR ROUND
The Christmas Alley or Via San Gregorio Armeno is a pedestrian lane where you can shop all things Yuletide all year round. From figurines depicting the nativity scene, miniature reindeers, angels, mistletoes – the place is buzzing with Christmas cheer.
YOU CAN HIKE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO
Mt Vesuvius is the only active volcano on Europe’s mainland. Visitors can hike this sleeping giant up to the crater. It offers an amazing view of the Campania Region of Italy from the top.
YOU CAN VISIT THE RUINS OF AN ANCIENT CITY DECIMATED BY MT VESUVIUS
The eruption of Mt Vesuvius one fateful day in August 79 AD caught the entire city of Pompeii and Herculaneum by surprise. Some 2000 residents of this unfortunate Roman city perished under ash and toxic fumes.
The volcanic ash which covered the victims, also preserved the outline of their bodies, later filled with plaster to reveal the death pose of the victims. The ruins of Pompeii in Naples displays sobering relics of this once wealthy Roman city.
YOU CAN TOUR FIVE CASTLES IN 1 CITY
Naples, Italy was originally known as the city of seven castles. Today, five remains intact. The Castel dell ’Ovo in particular is right by the sea and offers amazing view of the city. Admission is free.
YOU CAN TOUR A SUNKEN CITY
Baia (10 miles west of Naples) was the favorite resort town of the wealthy. It is also known as ancient Rome’s sin city. The wealthiest of the ancient Romans built opulent villas and bath houses here designed to indulge the senses and where they could partake in all forms of debauchery. Today much of it is underwater.
You can tour the structures remaining inland and take a boat tour where the transparent floor of the boat lets you see through the submerged sculptures, and structures underwater.
YOU CAN TOUR A 3 IN 1 TOMB, MONASTERY AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM FROM MEDIEVAL PERIOD
The Monastero di Santa Chiara is a gothic church built in the 1300. This is one of the most important church in Napoli. The tombs of the royal family of Anjou who commissioned the building of the monastery, now rest inside the monastery.
There is also an archaeological area featuring ancient Roman baths. The enclosed courtyard is the highlight of the place featuring bright golden-yellow tiles and frescos. It is an oasis of calm in the heart of Naples.
YOU CAN TOUR THE UNDERBELLY OF THIS 3000-YEAR-OLD CITY
The Roman cistern is an underground waterway built by the Romans. Hidden under the bustle of modern-day Naples, the winding passageways and tunnels were converted into a shelter where people hid when Italy was being bombed by allied forces during WWII.
NAPLES, ITALY HAS ONE OF THE GREATEST MUSEUM OF ROMAN ART
The National Museum of Archaeology in Naples curates some of the most important archaeological finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
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