Tourism is rising in Naples and the city should have more hotels, so if you can you should book a room as soon as you can. If you want to be fancy, consider one of the hotels on the seaside, in front of Castle dell’Ovo, in order Excelsior, Santa Lucia, Vesuvio, Continental. Something less fancy, but still on the higher part of the spectrum, in the centre of the city? NH Ambassador, Oriente, Renaissance Mediterraneo. Bed and Breakfast accommodations are becoming quite popular too, some are good, some aren’t, it’s worth spending some time in TripAdvisor and see photos and comments. Maybe those near Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, Piazza Bellini or Via dei Tribunali give a better feeling of the “centro storico” (the area which corresponds to the old Greek/Roman city). To avoid entirely are Piazza Garibaldi (convenient just because it’s the main transportation hub of the city, but rather sketchy at night) and the Quartieri Spagnoli (although this neighbourhood ends in via Toledo, one of the most beautiful roads in Naples).
It is very difficult to find a bad restaurant in Naples. Pizza is a must (it was born here!), try the traditional ones, Margherita and Marinara are the traditional ones, but definitely you should try also those with the addition of buffalo mozzarella (hard to find outside of the region), all those with vegetables (the Siciliana, with eggplants, is fabulous). The oldest ones are also the simplest and cheapest (3.50/4.00 €), but even the fullest should not cost more than 10 €, no matter where you eat it. A good, traditional pizzeria has to be a spartan, no-frills one. The best are Di Matteo, i Decumani, but really all those in Via Tribunali are excellent! Sorbillo is probably the most popular one, but we don’t see that huge difference and absolutely it’s not worth the long cue you should go through to get in. Again, all pizzerias are very good and cheap in Naples, but maybe you want to try something different too, and you should, since Naples is also the birthplace of the spaghetti and an excellence in Italy for pasta. In all restaurants along the seaside you can eat well, maybe Antonio & Antonio is my favourite. You should try some pasta with vegetables or fish, then some fresh fish. Meat is good too, but it’s not really a Neapolitan traditional thing. At the restaurants the service is generally very courteous, but as everywhere they often try to make you spend more, suggesting expensive food. As long as you ask for the menu, you know what you will spend, and very good and fresh fish can be rather expensive. If you’re up to it, just at the bottom of the Castel dell’Ovo there’s the so-called quartiere marinaro, where many restaurants are specialised in very good fish (but check them on TripAdvisor first). After lunch you might want to get a nice coffee, you’re lucky in this too, since according to all Italians in Naples you can have the best coffee! Everywhere it’s excellent and an espresso costs just 0.90 €! While you’re at it, after lunch or as part of your breakfast, you should try some of our delicious sweets! The sfogliatella and the babà are among the most famous pieces of our tradition, but every season and month also has its specialties, so be brave and explore as much as you can. No need to provide names here, maybe just Scaturchio for their special Ministeriali, the chain Leopoldo (with many shops in all neighbourhoods of the city), the chocolate factory Gay-Odin (once you try, you can’t go back!), and the fanciest cafés in town: Gambrinus and la Caffettiera.
Strolls, sightseeing, and shopping
My suggestion is to explore the centro storico first, get lost among the churches and museums (see also below), but mostly browse the small, alternative shops, take a look at the life in the streets and in the halls of the old buildings. Walk along Via San Gregorio Armeno where the terracotta shepherds for the traditional nativities are created all year around. At Piazza San Gaetano there’s the beautiful gothic church (with baroque façade) of San Lorenzo Maggiore, with the ancient Roman market underneath and a nice small museum annexed. Nearby is Napoli sotterranea, a nice walk in the deep undergrounds of the city. Mostly non-archaeological, it’s fun, though a little expensive, but a very enjoyable experience. Don’t forget to bring a jacket with you, it’s very cold deep there. Piazza San Domenico Maggiore is nice too, with an obelisk and an interesting church. Then walk to Via De Sanctis, where the Cappella Sansevero is. It definitely must be seen!!! From there move towards Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, with another obelisk and two beautiful churches. The cloister of Santa Chiara is worth a visit. From there, the main shopping road, Via Toledo, is just a few steps away. Move towards Piazza del Plebiscito, the third largest square in Italy, very pretty. The Palazzo Reale is there, quite nice, especially the small theatre, and the Teatro San Carlo is there too (excellent for the opera!). From Piazza del Plebiscito take Via Chiaia, another interesting shopping road, which gets fancier and fancier the more you walk through it, reach Piazza dei Martiri, and from there to Via dei Mille. In that area, in the small labyrinth of Vico Belledonne and nearby, there are many bars for drinks and a few international restaurants. From that area it’s very easy to reach the public gardens and the seaside. If you’re staying for a few days, feel free to explore other neighbourhoods, each keeps his own character. Among these maybe just the Vomero is the one I feel to explicitly mention, but you’ll find there just more shops and higher-middle-class people.
Naples has very many museum, in addition to what mentioned above I would recommend the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (closed on Tuesdays), one of the largest collections of antiquities which includes all the goodies from Pompeii and Herculaneum, the huge Farnese collection (i.e. a splendid collection of statues from Rome, some from the Baths of Caracalla), and other fantastic finds from southern Italy. If you fancy paintings and beautiful gardens, visit the Museo di Capodimonte (closed on Wednesdays). From the Certosa di San Martino (closed on Wednesdays) there’s the most beautiful view of Naples, a beautiful garden, and a collection of nativities and transportation of the past royal families.
In order of priority:
- Pompeii (which you can read using the local network of trains called Circumvesuviana, with a station in Piazza Garibaldi);
- Sorrento (same as above);
- Ischia (island in front of Naples, ideal for the spas and as romantic venue);
- Capri (extremely fancy and expensive, the small square and the blue grotto are the high points);
- Paestum (reachable by train from Piazza Garibaldi; the most beautiful Greek temples that you can find in Italy, the museum is fantastic!);
- Reggia di Caserta (reachable by train from Piazza Garibaldi; the fanciest royal palace and gardens in the world, they even filmed some Star Wars there!);
- Benevento (in the Apennines, reachable by train from Piazza Garibaldi; noticeable from the Roman Arch of Trajan and the museum).