Italy’s southern capital: 3 days in historic Naples

Often seen as a jumping off point for popular holiday destinations such as Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, Naples is easily one of the most authentic and charismatic cities in Italy’s southern Campania region. It’s far less touristy than Milan or Rome, but still offers all the perks that major cities have to offer. From its first-class art institutions, famed archaeological museums and picturesque landscapes as far as the eye can see, Naples is a rugged city on the rise.

There’s so much to do in Naples that you might not have time for everything, but in just three days it’s easy to get a quick taste of what the city has to offer.

Flights to Naples
Hotels in Naples

Walking among castles and sculptures

The famous Castel dell’Ovo sits in the Bay of Naples

The famous Castel dell’Ovo sits in the Bay of Naples

Just a few minutes walk from the city centre’s historic Piazza Dante is the National Archaeological Museum. It’s one of the most important archaeological institutions in Italy and boasts some of the finest collections of Roman, Greek and Renaissance arts. After spending a few hours exploring the exhibits, move on to the nearby Cappella Sansevero, a beautiful chapel that is home to over 30 works of art, including Giuseppe Sanmartino’s masterpiece, the Veiled Christ, which is said to be one of the greatest sculptures of all time.

Alternatively, start at Italy’s lesser-known but equally impressive art museum, the National Museum of Capodimonte, followed by the nearby San Gennaro Catacombs. Both are located just slightly outside the city centre.

Grab a late lunch at one of the many delicious pizzerias along Via dei Tribunali before making your way to the Piazza del Plebiscito. This dramatic, semi-circular piazza is the gathering spot of Naples – where locals can be seen gathered together enjoying a coffee or gelato while soaking up some sun. Here is where you’ll find major monuments such as the royal palace and Basilica of San Francesco da Paola. From here, the Castel Nuovo is a short walk away. Built in the 13th century, the medieval Castel Nuovo offers a glimpse into Naples’s royal history as well as scenic views over the city.

Because one castle is simply not enough, a 20 minute walk towards the harbour will lead you to Castel dell’Ovo, a seaside castle situated on the peninsula of Megaride and the city’s oldest standing fortification. According to legend, the Castel dell’Ovo is where the mermaid Parthenope washed ashore and today it remains one of the most photographed sites in the city.

In the evening, take a stroll along the streets of the nearby Santa Lucia neighbourhood. Once old fisherman’s quarters, Santa Lucia is now a trendy area where you can enjoy dinner and drinks at one of the many fine restaurants.

An ancient city covered in ashes

A view of Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii

A view of Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii

A trip to Naples is synonymous with a trip to Pompeii. Once a thriving metropolis, the entire towns of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were buried in ashes after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Today, the archaeological site is one of the most-visited in the world – best known for its well-preserved ruins that tell the story of everyday lives frozen in time. Because of the vastness of Pompeii, it is recommended to take a guided tour or opt for an audio guide upon arrival. To get there, take the train from Napoli Centrale to Pompeii Scavia train station. The total journey takes around 30 minutes and you can expect to spend around 2-3 hours visiting Pompeii.

Looming over Pompeii, it’s hard to miss Mount Vesuvius. Currently Europe’s last active volcano, Vesuvius was once considered to be a place of gods and monsters, and a sacred area to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Adding to its allure, according to mythology it’s where the great god Hercules once roamed. From Pompeii, the mountain is easily accessible and only takes about 20 minutes to hike up to the top. The trek up is relatively easy and offers some of the best views over Naples, Pompeii and as far as the Amalfi Coast.

Day trip to the island of Capri

A rowboat drifts along luminescent waters in Capri's Blue Grotto

A rowboat drifts along luminescent waters in Capri’s Blue Grotto

In the morning, grab a bite to eat at one of the local bakeries. In Naples, the iconic pastry is the ‘sfogliatella,’ a buttery, flaky treat that’s shaped like a lobster tail. Traditionally the sfogliatella are filled with ricotta, semolina, milk, candied eggs and sugar; but you can also find varieties that are filled with almond paste or even candied fruits.

Make your way down towards the Bay of Naples where you can catch a ferry to the picturesque island of Capri. The duration can range between 40 to 80 minutes depending on which ferry you select, and they can be reached from either Molo Beverello or Calata Porta di Massa stations. Once on Capri, wander around its charming Piazzetta. The nearby Via Camerelle is famous for its designer boutiques and luxury brand stores, the perfect place for a nice stroll and some window shopping. Continue along Via Tragara until you reach the scenic overlook where you can snap pictures of the spectacular Faraglioni rock formations.

One of the biggest tourist attractions on the island is its famed Blue Grotto. The natural cavern can only be entered with small wooden rowboats and tickets can be purchased at the entrance. Gliding over the electric-blue waters, the boats appear to be floating on the surface in an almost dream-like state. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is an unforgettable way to end the perfect trip to Italy’s southern capital city.

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