Planning Your Trip
Itineraries & Day Trips
Things to Do
What to Eat & Drink
Visitors seeking to scratch beneath Italy's sometimes idealized surface should head south to Naples, the third-largest city in the country and the capital of the Campania region. With its colorful regional language and international population, Naples offers a real slice of urban Italian life, from the crowded, narrow streets of the centro storico to its busy seafront. It's rich in history, hearty food, character, and scenery, and it's the stepping-off point for trips to Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and points further south. And once you've gotten to know Naples, you'll feel like a real Italy insider.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit: Naples is most crowded in the summer months and at the Christmas and Easter holidays. Winter is less crowded but can be quite rainy. For that sweet-spot combination of weather and fewer crowds, we pick late spring and early fall as the best times to visit.
Language: Italian is the official language in Naples, though throughout most of Naples and Campania, you'll hear Napolitano (Neopolitan), one of a related group of regional dialects spoken in the south of Italy. It's mostly interchangeable with standard Italian, so your phrasebook or rudimentary Italian should get you by. You'll find English spoken in most hotels and many restaurants, but less-so in smaller shops and eateries.
Currency: Naples and all of Italy uses the euro, and other currencies are not accepted. Credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, though some restaurants, most street food stalls, market vendors and smaller, independent merchants will want you to pay in cash. American Express and Diner's Club are less widely accepted in Italy. Be sure to confirm in advance with your hotel or restaurant if you intend to pay with one of these cards.
Getting Around: Most of Naples's tourist attractions are concentrated within the seafront and centro storico, both areas with either little or gradual elevation change. Both zones are walkable and are within a one- to two-mile walk of one another. If you'd like to rest your feet, Naples has a comprehensive public transportation network of Metro trains, buses, and trams. Funiculars take residents and visitors to several prominent hills in the city, such as the top of the Vomero, site of the Certosa e Museo di San Martino and Castel Sant’Elmo, and regional trains connect to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Sorrento. Naples International Airport is connected to the city by buses. We strongly advise against renting a car or driving in Naples—a car is unnecessary, parking is scarce, there's a confusing maze of one-way streets and traffic is often at a standstill.
Travel Tip: If you plan to spend a lot of time sightseeing in Naples and also figure on visiting Pompeii and/or Herculaneum, the Naples Pass is a worthwhile investment. Sold in three- or seven-day increments, it includes free and discounted admission to attractions, plus free travel on all public transportation.
Things to Do
Visitors come to Naples for its Greek and Roman underground, its numerous mosaic- and relic-filled churches and its museums stuffed with art and archaeological treasures. Then there's the food—Naples is famous for pizza, seafood, fried everything, and decadent pastries. And as much as anything, visitors come to Naples just to be in Naples, and witness the soulful authenticity of the city. Here are some of the top things to see in Naples.
- Museums: Naples's National Museum of Archaeology has the world's preeminent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities from Italy, including artifacts from Pompeii. The collections of the San Martino complex has an extensive collection of Italian art within a beautiful, clositered monastary. The Palazzo Reale Museum contains collections of Italian art and historical documents, plus royal apartments and grand public spaces.
- Churches: Naples's most important church is the Duomo, the seat of the Festa Di San Gennaro honoring Naples favorite saint. Not far away, the San Severo Chapel is home to the breathtaking "Veiled Christ" by Giuseppe Sanmartino and a host of other sculptures.
- Castles: The number of major castles and fortresses in Naples speak to its strategic importance through the centuries. Castel dell'Ovo slouches along the waterfront, with turretted Castel Nuovo nearby. On top of the Vomero Hill, imposing Castel Sant'Elmo looms over the city.
- Underground: Unless you're claustrophobic, plan to spend some time exploring Naples' fascinating subterranean layers. The Catacombs of San Gennaro and the Naples Underground tours are both highly recommended.
- Shopping: Naples is known for its hand-carved nativity figures, some of them with an amazing attention to detail. Buy yours, or a Christmas ornament, on Via San Gregorio Armeno, known as Christmas Alley.
What to Eat and Drink
Thanks to the southern Italian diaspora at the turn of the 20th century, the Italian food you'll taste in Naples is more akin to Italian food in the U.S. Pizza, pasta, seafood, fried foods, and rich pastries dominate, and Naples is an excellent destination for street food. Find the top destinations for traditional Neopolitan pizza, or try pizza fritta (fried pizza), which is not as heavy as it sounds. A cuoppo, usually eaten as street food, is a paper cone filled with freshly fried seafood or vegetables. Arancini are deep-fried rice balls filled with ragu or vegetarian fillings. Fresh fish and fish and seafood-based pastas are quite popular. For sweets, try sfogliatella, a crunchy layered pasta with creamy ricotta filling, or babà, a soft, rum-soaked cake filled with whipped cream. Read more about what to eat in Naples.
Falanghina and Greco di Tufo are two reliable white wines grown in the Campania. For reds, try Aglianico and Piedirosso. The evocatively named Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (Christ's Tears of Vesuvius) grapes grow in several varieties on Mount Vesuvius and are used in red, white, and rose wines.
Where to Stay
For a look at what part of the city to stay in, check out our article on the top neighborhoods in Naples. There are a cluster of hotels of every price point and quality located around Napoli Centrale train station, convenient if you have an early or late train. Otherwise, most people head to the centro storico or the seafront for their lodgings. The majority of hotels in Naples are three- and four-star, and there are plenty of bed-and-breakfast and Airbnb options.
Unless you fly into Naples International Airport, you'll probably arrive to the city by train, at Napoli Centrale station. From there, you can catch the Metro, a taxi or a bus to your destination. This is also the point of departure for trains to Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Sorrento, gateway to the Amalfi Coast.
If you've rented a car in Italy and are driving to Naples, get very specific instructions from your hotel on how to reach the property and where to park your car. (Confirm ahead of time that the hotel offers secure parking.) Under no circumstances do we recommend driving in Naples, unless it's to pick up or drop off a rental car as you're leaving or arriving to the city.
Culture and Customs
While there aren't any strict customs to adhere to in Naples, keep in mind that it is an extremely religious city, and residents take their religious holidays, festivals, and other observations quite seriously. You won't be allowed to enter a church unless your knees and shoulders are covered (that goes for men, too), nor should you try to, as it will be viewed as disrespectful. If you stumble upon a procession or other religious observation in the street, be quiet and respectful—if you can't discreetly move on, just be patient and wait until it's over. Other than that, basic good traveler rules apply—no dipping your feet or other body parts in fountains, no matter how hot it is outside; avoiding public drunkenness; and generally, just behaving politely.
Some other tips to keep in mind in Naples:
- Dinner is eaten later in Italy, especially in the summertime. Most restaurants won't start serving until 7:30 p.m. or so, and may not fill up until 9 p.m.
- Your waiter won't bring you the check ("il conto") unless you ask for it.
- Tap water is not served in Italy, so bottled water it is.
- If "servizi" or "pane e coperto" is listed on your restaurant bill, this counts as a tip. If your server has been particularly attentive or helpful, don't hesitate to leave a few euros on the table.
- Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times, especially in crowded areas and where mopeds and motorcycles are zipping by (that means everywhere). Do not wear gold jewelry, expensive watches, or other valuables while walking around, and keep wallets and cellphones in a secure front pocket.
- While most everyone working in hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions and shops speaks some English, it's always polite and appreciated to offer a few basic niceties in Italian, such as buongiorno (good day), per favore (please) and grazie (thank you).
- Read more about customs and culture in Italy with our list of 10 things not to do on your Italian vacation.
Money Saving Tips
Naples is less expensive to visit than many Italian cities, and you can save a few more euros by following these tips:
- Travel in the off-season, when hotel prices are markedly lower.
- Save with street food; Naples has gloriously good street food, which you should eat even if you're not trying to save money. Follow the Neopolitans—if a place has a long line, it's because they make the best of whatever it is they're selling.
Wikipedia, List of museums of Greek and Roman antiquities, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_museums_of_Greek_and_Roman_antiquities#cite_note-1, 15 March 2020
Library of Congress, The Great Arrival, https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/immigration/italian/the-great-arrival/, October 30, 2020
Ferrovie dello Stato Italiano, https://www.fsitaliane.it/content/fsitaliane/it/innovazione/tecnologie-per-i-trasporti/le-principali-stazioni-av/napoli-centrale.html