What to do in Naples Italy
The rugged beauty and energy of Napoli are enough to charm any visitor, add to this its diverse art, the heart-warming locals, and an array of cultural assets for an extraordinary “La Dolce Vita” experience.
For those that have a day to spend in the city, there are two different itineraries planned for you below, ‘classica’ (the classic way) and ‘verace’ (off the beaten path).
Where To Stay In Naples
Before planning any itinerary, deciding on where to stay in Naples is your first priority. Visitors are spoilt for choice in this homely city that offers an abundance of different types of accommodation to choose from. When visiting Naples, where to stay should come as your primary point of planning to give better structure to the experience that you want to have.
Public transport in Italy is regular with trains running across the country making traveling between cities feasible and economic. Visitors travelling from the capital, Rome, or other larger cities such as Florence can access Naples easily, with the city’s main train station located centrally. It takes just under 2 hours to reach Naples from Rome and the city is also accessible via other modes of transport too.
For a luxury experience, why not travel to the city by yacht? If you’re staying at a nearby Amalfi location or the island of Ischia, travelling to Naples via the sea is certainly worth considering.
Napoli Classica Itinerary
The Napoli ‘classica’ itinerary showcases the most renowned points of culture, art, and architecture throughout the city. While the city itself is adorned with unique sights and historic landmarks, this itinerary is going to give you a classic insight into the city.
Start With Picturesque Panoramas: Castel dell’Ovo
First on this classic itinerary is a castle with a peculiar name. Castel dell’Ovo is a Norman seaside castle located on the island of Megaride, and its name literally translates to Castle of The Egg in Italian. Legend says that a Roman scribe buried an egg on the site in which the castle stands to preempt when the castle will fall, stating that the egg will crack. The castle itself is a great example of medieval architecture and it offers beautiful panoramas across the Gulf of Naples from its external walls.
Admire Decadent Design: Piazza del Plebiscito
The next location on the Napoli ‘classica’ itinerary is the grand Piazza del Plebiscito. Framed with show-stopping architecture, this large piazza located in the centre presents a different side of the humble city. This is a popular gathering spot for locals to meet before they head towards their favourite spot for an aperitivo, and home to many of Naple’s main spectacles including the Church of San Francesco di Paola. Now is the opportunity to take in the city’s glorious architecture before a morning coffee break…
A Coffee Break: Pausa caffè al Gambrinus
After a morning of sight-seeing and taking in the striking architecture in the centre and around the bay of the city, you’ll most likely be ready for a coffee break. Next on this itinerary is a visit to The Gran Caffè Gambrinus. Heir to the historical Napoli coffee tradition, the 19th-century coffee house serves some of the city’s finest refreshments and pastries. The elegant interior is the perfect setting for a spritz later in evenings too, with both Oscar Wilde and Mussolini having visited in the past.
The Oldest Theatre In Europe: Teatro San Carlo
Following on from a coffee and pastry break, you should be ready to soak in some more history. The San Carlo Theatre is the oldest working theatre in Europe and it is directly connected to the Royal Palace. Both its interior and exterior are sights to behold and if time allows, consider getting a ticket for one of the theatre’s infamous opera shows. You won’t regret it.
A Classic Pizza: Antica Pizzeria Brandi
You’ve likely worked up an appetite and no day in Naples is complete without a real pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza with restaurants worldwide replicating the traditional Neapolitan recipe. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll find Antica Pizzeria Brandi located in a side street. Offering a slice of the city’s history with every mouthful, visitors to the restaurant are warmly greeted and welcomed in. Choose from a selection of delicious pizzas ranging from the classic Margherita to fresh Prosciutto di Parma.
Art and History: Palazzo Reale
After lunch, it’s time to take a leisurely stroll back towards the centre to take in the stunning Palazzo Reale. Originally planned as a 16th-century palace to mark Spanish glory under the ruling at the time, the stunning Palazzo Reale houses the remarkable collection of the Museo del Palazzo Reale. In the Palazzo Reale Museum, you’ll find baroque and neoclassical furnishings as well as art ranging from detailed tapestries to delicate porcelain sculptures. You’ll also find many other highlights of the city here, including the Teatrino di Corte, a luxurious private theatre constructed in the 18th-century.
Visit The Old Entrance To The City: Piazza del Gesù
This lively, bustling square situated in the city’s historical centre is dominated by the spiked Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, an 18th-century church that stands as an architectural delight. For centuries, the square was the western entrance to the city of Naples, however, two modifications taking place in the 16th-century saw the piazza’s proportions be redesigned to its modern day layout.
Colourful History: Santa Chiara Church and Cloister
Santa Chiara is a significant religious complex in the city. It includes the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery and tombs as well as an architectural museum. In the heart of the complex, the beautifully subdued church carries with it centuries of history. Though the church was heavily damaged throughout WWII, its colourful frescoes and 17th-century majolica tiles still remain. Outside of the church’s cloisters you’ll find a small yet perfectly curated museum housing the ruins of the 1st-century spa complex which was excavated not far from the church.
Cultural Insights: Piazza San Domenico
In the centre stage of Piazza San Domenico stands the 18th-century Guglia di San Domenico, an impressive obelisk designed by Cosimo Fanzago, Francesco Antonio Picchiatti and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. The name given to the obelisk pays homage to the saint who eradicated the plague of 1656. Another historical monument found in the piazza is the Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore, a beautiful Gothic church featuring a face in its facade.
Museum Jewels And Iconic Art: Cappella San Severo
Located in the historic centre of Naples is the Museo Cappella San Severo which houses some of the world’s most profound artworks. Tickets can be bought at the venue or booked prior to visiting online. Inside the museum you’ll find a collection of baroque creativity evoking mystical beauty and allure across all of its exhibits. The museum showcases masterpieces including the Veiled Christ and Disillusion.
A Slow Paced Walk: Via San Gregorio Armeno
Continue your relaxing afternoon by taking a slow paced walk down one of the city’s most characteristic streets, Via San Gregorio Armeno. As you move along the cobbled pathway, you’ll stumble upon perfectly placed markets offering locally made cribs (presepi) and much more.
Take A Break: Back to the hotel
Head back to your hotel for a much needed break – you likely need it after all of the culture, art and history exploration. Refresh yourself and enjoy a drink before going back out into the city for a traditional Neapolitan dinner…
A Dinner With Breathtaking Views: Zona Marechiaro
Naples is a gold mine for Italian cuisine. In fact, many of the country’s finest dishes originate from the city. While there is an abundance of renowned restaurants to choose from, the perfect ending to a day here is one where dinner is paired with a breathtaking view. Zona Marechiaro is a hotspot for some of the city’s most sublime restaurants offering a delicious menu of seafood and pasta.
Napoli Verace Itinerary
The ‘verace’ itinerary takes inspiration from the true Naples, taking visitors away from the obvious and to the off the beaten path. By following this itinerary you’ll still have the opportunity to relish in the city’s rich history and culture but you will also be presented with some of Naple’s best-kept secrets.
Experience the city like a local and see the side of the city you didn’t even know existed. Here is the ultimate itinerary to experience all that Naples has to offer in both its glory and humbleness.
Culture And History: Certosa di San Martino
Start the day right with immersive cultural and historical insights at a former monastery known as Certosa di San Martino. Standing as a museum today, the site offers baroque beauty atop a cliff overlooking the gulf. Inside the museum you’ll be treated with a collection of splendid paintings and intricate frescoes completed by some of Naple’s best 17th-century artists. Delve deeply into the historical architecture of the old monastery as you make your way down grand corridors and into rooms to admire marble sculptures.
An Ancient Stairway: Pedamentina
Take an ancient staircase of 414 elongated steps that date back to the 14th-century and enjoy a shortcut across the city not known by all. Linking Corso Vittorio Emanuele with the Certosa di San Martino on the Vomero hill, the Pedamentina will give you undoubtedly the best panoramic view across the city and beyond. Once you’ve completed the ascent, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas stretching all the way to Mount Vesuvius.
Street Food Tour: La Pignasecca
After climbing the stairs, you’ve likely worked up an appetite. Again, while most travel guides swear by spending lunch in a pizzeria, this itinerary offers a different cuisine experience. La Pignasecca is a market with stalls offering everything you could imagine, but best of all delicious food made by locals. Here you can find the infamous pizza a portafoglio (folded wallet pizzas), ‘o pere e o muss’ (an ancient Neapolitan dish) and pasta with ragù, all of which are traditional dishes worth trying. The difficult decision is deciding on only one!
A Coffee And Sfogliatella: In A Local Cafe
Sfogliatella, is a local delicacy in Naples and almost every bakery offers this delicious lobster tail shaped pastry. Layered, flaky and filled with a custard-like cream, these heavenly sweet treats are perfectly paired with a strong espresso. So, now is the ideal time to enjoy one and boost your energy levels before making your way back to your hotel.
Take A Break: Back To The Hotel
Enjoy a couple of hours of relaxation and preparation for an afternoon filled with street art and a delicious dinner. Why not sit out on a balcony (if you have one) and bask in the Meditterenean sun?
Street Art In The Late Afternoon: Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter)
Naple’s vibrant art scene takes visitors from elegant masterpieces to the more rugged and political street art. With such far reaching diversity when it comes to creative expression in the city, there’s far more than a day’s worth to admire. If you’re looking for an insight into the folklore culture that drives much of the art produced in the city, head towards the Quartieri Spagnoli (The Spanish Quarter). Here you’ll find streets lined with artisan shops, lively markets, and art adorning the walls that cradle the residents and merchants here. From the famous wall painting of Diego Armando Maradona, Naple’s biggest football idol to hyper-realistic works and even the work Madonna With A Pistol by Banksy, there is lots to admire in the area for art fans.
A Romantic Folk Dinner: Posteggia Napoletana
‘Posteggia Napoletana’ is the name given to the Napolitan tradition that is centuries old. Translating to ‘park’, posteggia is the local name given to a type of musical performance which orients around a particular way of making music. Today, the old tradition of these types of small bands composed of a singer and a folk string instrument player (such as a mandolin) are very much still alive. Hundreds of years ago, the performances were solely to woo a loved one by serenading with the harmonious music. You can head to the Quartieri Spagnoli for an ultimate romantic dinner, many of the restaurants here feature these small ‘Posteggia’, providing an experience for all the senses.