- Grandeur and graffiti
- City life
- Urban bustle by the bay
The birthplace of pizza, tri-coloured ice-cream and an oversized take on the rum baba, Italy’s ancient ‘new city’ has always known how to attract attention.
Edgy and intense, Naples isn’t a looker when compared to the tourist head turners of Florence, Rome and Venice. But don’t be fooled by appearances: it’s what’s inside that counts. Who cares about canals or Gucci-trodden shopping streets when you’ve got the best pizzerias on the planet? Situated on the eponymous gulf, with Vesuvius visible from almost every angle, Naples is a modern city with a long history: the remains of the ancient Neapolis (‘new city’) are still evident, with its countless churches and mediaeval university. It’s also the gateway to the Campania region and the fairytale scenery of the Amalfi Coast, as well as the impressive Roman ruins at Pompeii. The buildings may be crumbling, the traffic hectic and the volume loud, but that’s what makes Naples fun. It divides opinion, but look beyond its reputation: this vast, energetic city has an animated nightlife, a bustling port and some of the world’s tastiest food. Neapolitans are proud of their city – visit, and you’ll feel the same.
Naples is the birthplace of pizza, the bread-based meal-in-one that’s now favoured the world over. Pizzaiolos follow strict rules on what makes an official Neapolitan version (the dish has EU Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status): it must be cooked in a wood-fired oven, be hand-spun by a trained chef and only contain San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella.
- Taxis regularly pass Via Cristoforo Colombo, the main road that runs along the seafront. They’ll also be waiting at the larger train and metro stations.
- Tipping culture
- 10–15 per cent is appreciated.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops shut their doors for a couple of hours after lunch and reopen at around 4pm, not closing until 7pm or 8pm. A lot of shops close on Sundays and Monday mornings. Neapolitans eat late; restaurants get busy around 9pm.
- Packing tips
- Although warm summer weather (and the influence of glamorous locals) might inspire you to bare your shoulders, they’ll need to be covered when visiting churches so pack a suitable cover-up. Also, street crime does happen in Naples, so be careful: lock valuables away in your hotel and don’t carry lots of cash. A money belt might come in handy.
- Recommended reads
- Naples ’44 by Norman Lewis, a diary of the wartime city of the Forties; bring the nearby ancient city back to life with Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard.
- As well as the ubiquitous pizza (the local forte that proves the original really is the best), seafood fresh from the Tyrennhian Sea is another Neapolitan speciality. For dessert, try the huge versions of the liqueur-soaked sponge, the rum baba, and, of course, the triple-striped blocks of ice-cream made famous by Neapolitan immigrants arriving in America. One of the more popular local wines is the Lacryma Christi (‘tears of Christ’), made from grapes grown on the slopes of Vesuvius.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Italy: +39. Naples: 081.
- Do go/don't go
- Naples gets its share of sunshine, but in July and August, temperatures can get a little stifling – as can the crowds. Visit in May, June, September or October, when it’s still warm, but far quieter.
Don't go home without...
…Finding your favourite bit of street art. There’s plenty of local talent on display, in addition to pieces by travelling artists – some by Banksy, no less, including a Madonna with a pistol-shaped halo that’s spray-painted on a church wall in Piazza Gerolonimi.