‘Vedi Napoli e poi muori’, or ‘See Naples and die’: the often-heard Italian saying about Naples has been around for centuries and captures its essence to this very day. Home to a wealth of cultural and natural heritage, the streets of Italy’s third-largest city offer plenty to see, taste and cherish, long after you’ve returned home. Naples has quite a reputation for being loud, chaotic and a little rough around the edges — and proudly lives up to it. Using Naples as a base for exploring the breathtaking Amalfi coast, life in ancient Roman times preserved by the ruins of Pompeii or the idyllic islands of Campania is a great idea. But skipping this diva of a city altogether most certainly isn’t. Leave it to its scenic setting, drama-filled streets, laid out treasures and inimitable flavours to make your holiday in Naples truly unforgettable.
Watched over by Mount Vesuvius, Naples is the historic capital of southern Italy’s Campania region and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Its story was started in the 7th century BC by the ancient Greeks, hijacked by the Romans, picked up by the Ostrogoths and chequered by the Lombards, Normans, Swabians, Spanish Habsburgs and Napoleon himself. The result is an enchanting backstory of magic eggs planted in castles, city-founder sirens, volcano-whisperer witches and of course, an enormous amount of cultural assets that tell of the thousand tales that is Naples. Soak up the city’s magical atmosphere on foot to make sure you don’t miss out on its main attraction: the warm, vivacious and unpretentious people who populate it.
Does one really need a food guide to the city that has single-handedly blessed the world with pizza? Hardly, but let us give you a few pointers anyway. For a truly memorable gastro-experience, head to Via dei Tribunali, a buzzing street in the historic centre of Naples. Taste Italy’s national treasure at Pizzeria Sorbillo, a family-run affair that serves up an equal amount of authentic Neapolitan pizza and atmosphere, drenched in the best marinara sauce you’ve ever had. Want a pinch of history with your dinner? Head to Pizzeria Brandi, whose former owner, Raffaele Esposito, created the first ever pizza margherita in 1889 – for the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, no less.
Even in Naples, there’s life beyond pizza, of course. Try traditional Neapolitan pasta with ragù in all its fiery red glory at Tandem and clean your plate with la scarpetta like the locals do. Seafood-lovers will never want to leave this city, especially after having a generous serving of impepata di cozze, aka mussels with tomatoes, peppers and white wine. Don’t miss the absolute queen of local pastries, sfogliatella. Filled with ricotta cheese, vanilla and candied fruit, this clam-shaped staple is best consumed with a steamy-hot espresso. Speaking of which: Neapolitans take coffee very seriously – and stronger than you might expect. Get your caffeine kick at the historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus at the corner of Piazza Plebiscito.
Typical of peninsular Italy and the Campania region, Naples’ climate is somewhere between coastline and continental and combines the best of both worlds. Winters are mild and rainy while summers resemble those of the north with plenty of hot, sunny days. There’s practically no bad time to visit Naples but the periods between mid-April to mid-June and from September to early October are generally considered the best. Planning a beach holiday? Arrive between late June and mid-September.
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