Naples, located at the feet of Mount Vesuvius, is the largest city in Southern Italy, and the third largest in the country, after Rome and Milan.
It is yet another Italian city full of reminders of its great past, dating back to the second millennium BC. Naples has one of the largest historical city centers (Centro Storico) in Europe. It also has a huge catacomb system beneath the city, just like Rome does. There are more than 400 churches and many historical buildings and palaces, and due to its many monuments, Naples is also called a „living museum”.
Things to see and do in Naples and Amalfi Coast
The historical city center lies between Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza del Plebiscito, and possibly the most beautiful thing you can visit here is the Capella Sansevero, which was built around 1590. The chapel houses 30 beautiful baroque masterpieces, the most famous of them being the statue of Giuseppe Sammartino: The Veiled Christ, created in 1753. The entrance fee to the chapel is 7 EUR.
The Cathedral of Naples
The most important church is The Cathedral of Naples (Il Duomo), built in the 14th century. After suffering consistent damage in a 17th-century earthquake, it was rebuilt in baroque style. They keep the relics of Saint Gennaro, the patron saint of the city, here in the cathedral, interestingly even some of his blood. The relic is brought out from the church every year on the 19th of September. On this day, the blood, that is solid throughout the year liquefies. Some say it is a miracle, but there is also a scientific explanation for it: they added a certain chemical to the blood (already known in the middle ages) that liquefies it upon movement. The entrance to the cathedral is free of charge.
The Santa Chiara
The Santa Chiara is a whole complex, it consists of the church, the monastery, the crypts, the museum and the beautiful gardens. It is worth visiting, as it is a real oasis in the center of the city, tranquil and free of the ever-present graffitis. It was originally built between 1310 and 1340. The entrance fee is 6 EUR.
The Underground Naples is a maze of tunnels, channels, aqueducts, catacombs and mines. It is dark and narrow down there, so if you are claustrophobic do not go down. There are 120 steps leading down to the caves and then back up again. It is an amazing experience to go through these tunnels while walking in the historical center of Naples. There are guided tours every day, both in English and Italian, that take about 1,5 hours, and cost 10 EUR. The entrance is at 68 Piazza San Gaetano.
Streets not to miss
San Gregorio Armeno is a pretty chaotic, narrow, but cozy street in the historical center. There are many workshops here of craftsmen who make the traditional figurines of the nativity scene. The other very famous street of Naples is the energetic Spaccanapoli. Its official name is Via Benedetto Croce, so this is what you should be looking for on your map. Via Francesco Caracciolo is exactly the opposite, a very tranquil street down by the seaside, with a formidable view on both the Vesuvius Mountain and the Gulf of Naples. Don’t miss out on the nice walk and of course the view.
Piazza del Plebiscito
Outside the historical center, you will find the largest square of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito, with two landmarks of the city, the Royal Palace, and the San Francesco di Paola church. The Palazzo Reale Napoli, the Royal Palace of Naples, is dated back to the 17th century, now open to the public every day from 9 am to 8 pm. The entrance fee is 4 EUR. You can take a peek at the royal luxury of old days, at the imposing rooms and paintings.
If you liked the catacombs back under the historical center, you will also enjoy visiting the Bourbon Tunnel, that was built to link the Royal Palace and the Piazza Vittoria. King Ferdinand II ordered the building of the tunnel in 1853 so that the royal family could use it to escape the palace if need be, and to have a way of bringing in more soldiers to defend the palace. During World War II the locals used the tunnel to hide from bombings. There is much filth gathered here over the years, you will even see car wrecks. You can enter either from 4 Vico del Grottone, just beside the Plebiscito Square or on the other end of the tunnel, from 40 Via Morelli (inside the Morelli parking lot). The fee for the guided tour is 10 EUR.
San Gennaro Catacombs
There is one more underground site in Naples, the San Gennaro Catacombs, where you can visit an ancient underground cemetery right under the church called Incoronate Madre del Buon Consiglio. There are guided tours every hour from 10 am to 5 pm, where you can hear about burial customs, techniques and about old Neapolitan belief systems. The entrance fee is 8 EUR.
Naples lies between two volcanic regions, not just Mount Vesuvius, but also Campi Flegrei. You should also visit the less famous Solfatara crater located on the Campi Flegrei. The Solfatara is believed to be the home of the ancient Roman god of fire, Vulcan. It is easily accessible if you take metro line 2 and then from Pozzuoli Solfatara Station walk about 15 minutes to reach the crater. The 4000 years old volcano last erupted in 1198, but there are gaseous manifestations in the crater, and the region is full of pools of boiling mud. It really is a unique experience to walk among these and by the volcano. The entrance fee is 7 EUR.
Naples is the home of pizza, so you should definitely try a pizza Napoletana, made in a traditional wood-fired oven. The Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, the first pizzeria in the world, was opened in 1830 and still operates on Via Port’Alba 18. However, for the best pizza in the city, I recommend to try the famous L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele or the exquisite Pizzeria Sorbillo.
Staying in Naples also means you can visit some very interesting sites in the close vicinity of the city. Mount Vesuvius for example, or the ruins of the two ancient towns that were covered by ash during its eruption in 79 AD: Pompeii and Herculaneum. The entrance fee is 11 EUR. Both sites can be easily reached on the Sorrento line of Circumvesuviana train. You can also visit Caserta and see the 18th century Royal Palace that was compared to Versailles due to its beauty.
After visiting Pompeii, head south on A3 highway to Salerno, and take the SS163 road along the coastline to the beautiful villages of Amalfi and Positano. You can travel by train and bus, but the drive is spectacular along the rocky coast. You can find private beaches all along the Amalfi Coast at hotels or beach clubs. Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi are very famous seaside resorts and pretty pricey too. The largest village on this coastline is Amalfi, a spectacular resort with narrow, sinuous streets, white cliffs and southern vegetation, built at the feet of Mount Cerreto (4313 ft).
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