When people bring up where to visit in Italy, many people leave off visiting Naples, Italy. Some people call it gritty, unclean, and ugly, while others think it is too chaotic. However, part of the charm of Naples is it has not lost its original character, it is not touristy and I found the locals friendly towards tourists, especially me as a solo traveler here. There are also so many things to do in Naples, Italy that it would be a pity if you skipped it. So here is a travel guide with some of the best things to do in Naples, Italy as well as everything you need to know before traveling to Naples.
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Ciao e Benvenuto (Hello and Welcome)
What is Naples best known for?
Want to experience some of the best authentic Italian food and wonderful historical sites near the largest coastal city in Italy, then Naples is the place! Where else to taste some of the best pizza, but in the city where it was created? Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy, after Rome and Milan, but it is one of the most ancient cities in the world given its location on the Gulf of Naples that connects it to the Mediterranean Sea on Italy’s southwestern coast.
Naples has some of the most historical churches and the oceanfront, and it is a jumping-off point to places like the Amalfi Coast, the Island of Sicily, or a day trip to places like Pompeii or the Island of Capri. I was very impressed with my visit to this coastal Italian metropolis, with over 9 miles of coastline, including my stay on a new yacht. First, let’s explore a little history, then places to see as you travel through Naples, named Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2022.
A Brief History of Naples
With a population of over 3.1 million, Naples is one of the largest cities in Italy and it has a long history founded by the Greeks in the 1st millennium BC. Naples is also considered the longest-inhabited city in the world. Later, it was a significant Roman center given its location on the Gulf of Naples (and later housing NATO’s Allied Joint Forces). The historic city center is the largest in all of Europe and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, and where I suggest you start your Naples journey. The UNESCO site includes the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 2017, the BBC called Naples the “Italian city with too much history to handle” given its long history. There are 448 historical churches including the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque styles of architecture.
Naples was at one time its own Kingdom, before the country of Italy was united and at one time it was even united with Sicily, thus it has a rich history. Another major historical event was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which resulted in the destruction/burial of the city of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. (Interestingly enough, it is still considered an active volcano).
And let’s not forget the history of one of the world’s favorite dishes, pizza. Naples was responsible for the creation of the original Neapolitan Pizza and later in 1889 the Margherita Pizza. You must try the originals before you leave this city.
The center of this historic city is where you need to start to see the main historic sites, then later go to the waterfront, and see the town then from above at Castel Sant’Elmo.
Naples Weather: When is the best time to visit Naples, Italy?
The hottest month is generally August with an average high temperature of 85 F degrees and a low of 69 F. While summers are hot, being on the waterfront, you may get some nice sea breezes. The coolest months are from November through March 24, with an average temperature below 61 degrees F. One must also consider rainy months during this period, with November having the most rain. You likely may want to visit on-the-shoulder seasons when the temps may be ideal with fewer tourists if you can’t take the summer heat or tourists. I do love the summer though since that is my favorite time of the year, so I would tend to come here during that time given the access to the beaches and islands.
Where to Start Your Adventure?
Notably, the historic center’s main street is the narrow roadway called Spaccanapoli which splits the historic city center into two halves. Spacca means “split” in Italian and Napoli is the Italian name of the city. (Although Via Toledo is the main shopping street, for you shoppers.) Other notable shopping areas include the streets of Via Dei Mille and Via Filangieri. The Chiai District I particularly loved has some great boutiques and luxury goods.
Currency in Naples
Like all of Italy, the Euro is the Naples currency.
Languages – What language do they speak in Naples?
Naples Italy’s primary language is Italian, but the Neapolitan dialect is widely spoken in this region (given the history of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, etc.). It is one of the primary dialects after the standard Italian, which is a Tuscany dialect. Either way, many people here speak English, especially in the touristy areas. I had no problem getting around. If you want to learn some Italian check out Babbel to learn on the go online.
Best Tours and Things To Do in Naples, Italy
There is so much to see and do in Naples, from historic sights to a great food scene.
- Food Tour: Food tours are one of my favorites. Notably, there are so many and you can check them out on Get Your Guide. I was fortunate to go with Streaty Tours on an amazing food tour that brought us through the market in the old city guided by their local expert since Naples has a great street food scene. Check out the tour on Viator by Streaty Food Tours.
Later, I also took a pizza-making class at San Marco’s that was so deliciously awesome. Just check it out.
Various tours run from 2 hours to 4 hours depending on your schedule.
Warning for non-alcoholic drinkers: One dessert called the Babba is a rum-soaked sponge cake so watch out, it’s strong. But don’t worry, there are many other sweet desserts.
- Walking Tours: There are also many walking tours as well. There are so many historical landmarks and sights that it is great to have a local guide to learn the history of Naples. I took a free walking tour to get a feel for the city as soon as I got there. One of my top suggestions and things to do in Naples, especially for solo travelers. I took the free tour from Napoli That’s Amore.
- Bike Tour: An exciting way to see a city is by bike tour (while working off some of the great food). Like many places, they have eBikes that may help you experience Naples, especially along the waterfront. Check out the FAT Bike e-bike tour of Naples, Italy on Viator.
- Hop-On / Hop-Off Bus Tour: Another great way to see a city is via the bus tour. This is a terrific way to get highlights and stop and visit or return to one of the locations depending on how much time you have in your schedule. This is a great way to see this historic city. Notably, there are two routes, for the Cultural stops, I would take Line A. But you can check out the website to see if this works for you.
Day Trips to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
As I mentioned there are also day trips, like to Capri, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, etc. I took a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius via Get Your Guide and it was unforgettable. You can also book it with Viator. If you are a fan of archaeology, then this is a must. I highly recommend it.
Private Yachts in Naples, Italy
Another great way to see the city and go to nearby islands is to hire a private yacht. I was fortunate to go to the island of Procida with Partenope Yachting. Their fantastic yachts are a great way to spend your stay in Naples. They can accommodate various passengers and it is a great way to stay and see Naples and nearby areas. Staying overnight on the Partenopes’s yacht was a wonderful, unique way to stay in Naples. www.partenopeyachting.it
Top Things To Do In Naples, Italy
Throughout the city, there is so much to do depending on your interests, from visiting historic places and museums, hitting the blue ocean, eating delicious local food, and seeing the fantastic city as described below. Besides specific tours, here are some suggestions on things not to miss. I would start with the center of the old town, but make sure you see the Castel dell’Ovo on the waterfront or the medieval Castel Nuovo, etc.
- Naples Museums, Castles, and Palaces – As noted in this guide, there are various museums. Some places have a small fee to enter, most are very affordable.
- Royal Palace of Naples – Naples ruled southern Italy for 3 centuries and this was the seat of that government from 1600-1946. The Palace is on the central piazza and it’s great to see. The Palace was built in 1734 by Charles III. The cost is around $11 for adults, again, reasonable.
- Castel Nuovo – This medieval fortress was first erected in 1279 and this imposing structure was the seat of the kings of Naples, Aragon, and Spain (yes Spain too) until 1815, Nuovo is one of the great landmarks of the city and located near the City Hall. It costs around $6.50 to go in and see it. At one time, the castle was also famous, or infamous one may say, for its Crocodile Pit.
- Castel Sant’Elmo – This castle is high above the city on Vomero Hill overlooking the city and is one of the most well-preserved. Originally constructed in 1329, the current structure was built in 1537. Today it now includes a museum and some admin offices. This is a great place to get a great look at the city below. The cost is around $6.40 and it takes 1-2 hours to visit, but the views from the castle walls take an hour and they have magnificent views.
- Castel dell’Ovo – This is the oldest castle on the waterfront in Naples and once was on an island, but is now part of the peninsula. While on my visit it wasn’t open, it’s great to see and an awesome place to walk along the seaport.
- Naples Churches – Given its long Christian / Catholic heritage there are over 400 historical churches in Naples and even more religious monuments. Some popes have also lived in Italy. You may also notice in some old neighborhoods, little shrines that people have dedicated when their prayers were answered. From my readings, some of this may be based on some superstitions, but either way, they add a unique charm to the area. The main ones you may want to see include:
- Duomo di Napoli – The cathedral is the largest and most famous church in Naples and is also known as Cattedrale di San Gennaro in honor of its patron saint. Construction started in the 13th century and was finished in the 19th century. Pope Innocent IV is buried here.
- San Francesco di Paola – This basilica was completed in 1816 and is a Catholic church. It is on the main piazza near the Royal Palace and it is constructed similarly to the Parthenon in Rome. It is quite impressive on the square and the interior has amazing artwork.
- Santa Chiara – This complex houses the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery, tombs, as well as an archaeological museum. It is located at the east end of Spaccanapoli. The original church was built in the 17th century. While part of the church and interior were damaged during World War II bombs, it was fully restored by 1953 and is quite beautiful.
- Naples Beaches – Vanderbilt Beach is considered the nicest beach and is in northern Naples. Many go to this area that has cafes/restaurants and shopping and some go here for walks.
Food, Restaurants, and Cafes in Naples
There are many restaurants, cafes, and food stands in the city with so many tasty Italian dishes to try along the way as you explore Naples. Of course, you have to try some pizza! What’s your favorite, the original Neapolitan pizza or Margherita pizza? Here are just a few of Naples’ best restaurants and favorite food stands.
- Galleria Umberto I – Built between 1887 and 1890, the Gallery is well decorated with murals, sculptures, and marble floors with a wonderful glass dome. The first level is filled with restaurants, cafes, etc. while higher floors have various offices, etc. It is great to walk through to see its marvelous architecture.
- Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba – The pizzeria stand where pizza was first created. More recently even actor Stanley Tucci visited it to try their fantastic pizza for his show. The restaurant was the first pizzeria in the world and the Lucianos founded it; their roots go back to 1738. I highly recommend it.
- L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michelle – This is one of the most famous pizzerias in Naples. Not just because it’s been in existence since 1870, but it was featured in the movie Eat Pray, Love with Julia Roberts. Perhaps watch this flick before you go! I don’t know about you, but I had to try it. Be prepared for lines though, it’s quite popular.
- Pizzeria Brandi – This is the place where Margherita Pizza was created in 1889. This was named after Queen Margherita after the unification of Italy.
- San Carlo 17 Trattoria e Pizzeria – I loved eating at San Carlo and meeting the owner/chef. The food and service were fantastic and I hope to return one day. @san_carlo_pizza
Yes, I had to take a deep dive into pizza above, since this is where it all started. There was also a great street food scene and homestyle cooking that was also superb. And, while in Naples there were some great Michelin-star restaurants that one may want to explore like Veritas, George Restaurant, Il Comandante, Aria, and Palazzo Petrucci. Either way, there are so many food options in Naples no matter what your budget.
Where to stay in Naples, Italy?
There are many areas to stay in Naples, Italy. It is a huge city after all and if you are traveling solo you would possibly want to find the safest neighborhoods in Naples, Italy. Chiaia, Mergellina, and Vomero. However, if you want to be in the thick of the action I recommend staying at Naples Historic Center or the Spanish Quarter where you can find amazing restaurants lining the pedestrian street.
Accommodations and Hotels in Naples
Naples is a great vacation destination and has hotels, inns, hostels, AirBnBs, and even yachts given the great waterfront. I am sure you will find a place within your budget and it is for all types of travelers. One way to compare prices is to check www.booking.com
Naples, Italy – Some Hotels to Check Out With over 3 million population, there are many hotels to choose from at various price points.
- Grand Hotel Vesuvio – This 5-star hotel has a great view and is located on the waterfront with 2 restaurants.
- The Britannique Naples Curio by Hilton – This top-rated hotel is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. It offers a great location, a sea-view restaurant, and great staff.
- Hotel Paradiso Napoli, a BW Hotel – This 4-star hotel has a view of the Gulf of Naples with a rooftop restaurant.
Unique Place to Stay in Naples, Italy
- Yacht – Partenope Yachting offers luxury and a unique place to stay while visiting Naples or other areas in Italy such as the Island of Capri, Sorrento, or the Amalfi Coast, etc. as I described above. I enjoyed my stay and they have various size vessels to meet your needs. It was truly memorable and the owners/staff are great. Highly recommend. www.partenopeyachting.it
Places to Stay For Naples Budget Travelers
- Hostels – There are numerous hostels in Naples. Some have dorm rooms and/or private rooms, but be sure to check the House Rules for any age restrictions, free breakfast, etc. The Ostello Bello Napoli hostel is a great choice. They offer breakfast and have a kitchen that is stocked with free pasta for guests to cook.. www.ostellobello.com It’s a great way to save some money and/or meet other solo travelers
- Other hostels are also in Naples, just check with
- VRBO – VRBO is great if you are looking for more of a homey feel as a digital nomad or family traveling. www.vrbo.com
Directions – How to Get to Naples Italy?
Directions depend on where you are coming from, but one of the primary ways to get to Naples is via the international airport. There are also trains, buses, and ferries to and from other islands, Italy, cities, etc. For the most recent trip, I arrived in Naples via the overnight ferry from Sicily noted below. It was a great little voyage and I had a sleeping compartment. It was so nice to see the view from the sea, etc.
- Naples Capodichino International Airport (Code- NAP)
This is an international airport and depending on where you are coming from, you can fly into Naples. It is only 3 miles to the city center and it takes about 15 minutes by taxi or Alibus shuttle that costs about 5 Euros each way. FreeNow is an app that many use in Naples to find an available taxi.
- Train Station – ItaliaRail www.italiarail.com
The main train station is Napoli Centrale which is the upper rail station with 25 tracks. The lower level is known as Napoli Garibaldi which goes to Pompeii and Sorrento. Naples is around 3 hours to Tuscany on the direct train and about 1.5 hours to Rome. Notably, there are trains from Naples to Palermo, Sicily, but it does take time to get there (9+ hours, but is pretty scenic). Also, you can check out schedules and rail times from Palermo to Naples, Italy.
- Bus – Unico Campania www.unicocampania.it
Unico administers all the public transportation in the city including buses, Metro, trams, and funiculars that also use the same passes and tickets. There are various types of passes and fares that you can find on the site. There is a Naples Pass that can cover you for 3 or 7 days. Note that given the age of the city, you may need to use various modes of transportation in different parts of the city. Most of the main historic sites are noted on the system map. The fares are pretty reasonable.
- Ferries – Numerous ferries run to Sicily, etc. and you can check with Ferry Hopper. As I mentioned I took www.GNV.it, the overnight ferry, and chose the option to have a cabin and enjoyed it. It’s a basic ship, vs. luxury cruiser, but I thought I could save time by traveling at night and seeing the sunrise from the ship, a great surprise. To check the schedules you may want to check out FerryHopper. (On this trip I also went to Malta and Sicily, taking the ferry from Malta to Sicily. (See those articles too.) It’s always great to try different modes of travel. www.FerryHopper.com
- Car/Rental Car – Depending on where you’re coming from, you can always drive to Naples since it is a major city with access to highways, etc. Given the airport and size of the city, some cars can be rented, but remember in the old center it may be difficult to park, and driving to the Amalfi coast can be a challenge given narrow roads and limited parking too. Public transportation may be your best bet.
Is Naples Italy Safe?
Yes! Based on my experience I felt very safe traveling around the city. Like in any large city, all tourists should be careful, but overall it is a safe place. Like always watch for simple things like petty crime, and protect your purse, wallet, and valuables. I felt safe as a solo traveler and solo woman traveler. Also, if you are going out at night or arrive late at the airport or station, you may want to take a cab.
How Long Should You Stay in Naples?
This depends on your travel style and budget, and if you plan any day trips or trips to the beach, I would take 2- 3 days to see the historic town, buildings, and churches, and if you enjoy shopping. Many use Naples as a home base for day trips to Capri and nearby islands, Pompeii, etc. There is just so much to see. It was an excellent adventure.
As I prepared to leave I must say, I loved my visit to Naples, Italy. Originally I underestimated how much I would love to visit Naples, but there was so much to do and see (and eat). From its food to the waterfront, to its long and great history, I now have to return to learn more. It was great to explore the city and beyond, from my luxurious stay on the waterfront to visiting the nearby islands and Pompeii. While Naples is the home to homestyle cooked meals, pizzerias, and an awesome street food scene, they also have Michelin star places that I must check out further. This trip certainly opened my eyes more to Naples and this region of Italy and I will certainly return to Napoli! Ciao!
Fun Fact on Naples
The number one reason Naples is known worldwide is Pizza. It has the first pizzeria and it created the pizza in 1830. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, its creator, remains open to experiencing yourself.
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