Got one or two days visiting Naples? I applaud you for your visionary trip-picking skills; Naples has far more to offer than you may think! Often not considered one of Italy’s main cities to visit, missing out to the more well-known sights in Rome, Venice and Florence, Naples actually has a wealth of cultural distractions to suit any taste. And speaking of taste, the food… many of the local dishes are based on ingredients grown in the rich volcanic soil, and you’ll struggle to find anything finer anywhere in Italy.
But what’s the most fun you can have? The best sights? The greatest museums? The finest food? Read on!
Museo Archeologico Nazionale
You simply can’t go to Naples and not visit here. It contains some of the glories of the Greek and Roman eras of Italy – you know those highly impressive classical statues and busts that you see on the front of history books? Lots of those. Stunning amounts of those, and you’ll marvel at the quality of the work, especially that of the famous and historically important Farnese Marbles. And even better than that, the museum also holds a huge array of artefacts from the local sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae, preserved in the safety of the building. There’s bronzes, such as the statue of the faun, which you’ll recognise if you’ve visited Pompeii (the one on the archeological site is a reproduction), with my personal favourite being the huge and intricate mosaic of Alexander the Great. The museum also contains one of the more infamous collections in the world – the Secret Room, which basically contains ancient Roman porno. Including people having intimate relationships with goats. It’s a good giggle!
A visit to the Naples area really isn’t complete without a trip here, completing the insight into Roman life provided by Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Under 18s – free
EU citizens between 18 and 24 – €6 (bring valid ID)
Full ticket: €12
Mon to Fri: 9am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Saturday: 9am to 2pm
This chapel, located just northwest of the San Domenico Maggiore church, is small but mighty. As well as being an historic church in its own right (be sure to pick up an audio guide for €3.50), it houses some stellar sculpture. Most famous is Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Christ Veiled Under a Shroud, an awesome example of of a sculptor being able to form the illusion of soft silk from hard marble. It really does look like soft fabric, with the face of Christ visible underneath – it’s a stunning piece of art that you really shouldn’t miss. And then there’s all the other artworks and sculptures which line the walls of the building, of equal quality, plus a couple of bizarre anatomical models created in 1760. The skeletons of a man and woman are surrounded by (fortunately fake) blood vessels, in a somewhat unusual and slightly grim display.
Children up to 9 years: free
Standard ticket: €7
Every day: 9.30am – 6.30pm
Want to spend two hours skittering through tunnels 40 metres below the surface? It might sound rather different, but it’s honestly one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on – have a look here to read about my experiences! You’ll see Greek quarries and deathtrap cisterns, remnants from the Second World War, plants growing underground, and the remains of a theatre where the Emperor Nero used to perform – indeed, you’ll stand in the corridor leading to the dressing room that he would’ve used. The highlight of taking a candle in a terracotta holder, and walking through the tiny gaps in the rock to see the ancient aqueduct, complete with flowing water and illuminated pools – it’s not to be missed.
Tours in Italian take place every hour; tours in English are every two hours. Find the entrance (very visible!) at the Piazza San Gaetano.
Read more about this beautiful church here – it really is worth a visit. Built in 1470 for the Prince of Salerno, it may look unusual and blocky from the outside, but stepping inside will take your breath away. The ceiling frescoes are a riot of gold and azure blue, with scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Other areas of the church display canvases and sculptures, and a side-chapel contains an urn with the remains of St. Joseph Moscati, a doctor born in 1880 who dedicated his life to helping the poor. His shrine remains constantly well-used. Also nearby is the church of Santa Chiara, which is also well worth a visit – it’s less visibly impressive than Gesú Nuovo, but full of historic interest, including the tombs of kings, queens, saints, and soldiers.
Both churches are free to enter, but please make a small donation if you can.
Mon – Sat: 7.30am to 1pm, 4pm to 8pm
Sunday: 7.30am to 2pm, 4pm to 9pm
You didn’t think you were going to make it out of a feature about Naples without me encouraging you to try some pizza, did you? Naples is the undisputed home of the dough-based dish of delight that we know and love; indeed, the modern pizza was first created there in the 18th century, and the Neapolitan art of pizza-twirling was recently given UNESCO world heritage status. So in a way, having some pizza is a cultural experience (that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway).
If you fancy trying something a little new, buy a pizza fritta (fried folded pizzas which look almost like pasties) from any of the street stalls and shops. But what’s the best place for a traditional pizza?
You can’t get much more traditional or authentic than a pizza from L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, on Via Cesare Sersale. It’s been around since 1870, and staffed by master pizzaiolos ever since – it’s so authentic that you have a choice of only two pizzas; a margherita or a marinara, the two oldest and most traditional forms. You’re definitely not going to find pineapple on your pizza anywhere near here! Be prepared to queue; the fame of Da Michele’s means that there’s an ever-present hungry horde in attendance, but it’s certainly worth the wait!
So that’s my top five, but have you got a place that should be on the list? Let me know in the comments!