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Naples is a city often overlooked by tourists, as there are many rumors it’s unsafe. But sometimes, when it comes to travel, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Naples will give you a true taste of Italy — thanks to its winding cobblestone streets, authentic pizza and real Italian flavor. The city has an entirely different vibe than fashionable Milan or touristy Rome. Although you should keep an eye on your belongings, use street smarts and avoid hanging out at train stations in the wee hours of the day — as you would in any other European or US city — I never once felt unsafe here, night or day. Here’s why you should visit this underrated part of Italy.
1. It’s the Real Italy
Sure, Florence and Rome are stunning, but they’re also packed to the brim with tourists, often preventing you from having a more authentic Italian experience. Whereas Naples may not be as visually exciting as Rome, as glamorous as Milan or as picturesque as Florence, the city offers a truly local experience. There’s nothing like wandering around the city center and hearing only Italian being spoken. This type of travel may not be for everyone, but if you are hoping to understand how real Italian people live, this is the perfect city to experience that. Plus, prices aren’t as touristy, they’re local prices, meaning it’s a cheap spot to visit. As my Italian nonna always preaches: “Rome is the heart of Italy, but Naples is the soul of Italy.”
2. It’s Home to Awesome Attractions
Many think of Naples as just a cruise port, but there’s so much more to see. The city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to 470 B.C., has many incredible attractions to visit: three enormous castles, a royal palace and more churches and cathedrals than you could ever manage. With piazzas around every corner, there’s always outdoor seating where you can enjoy an Aperol Spritz (or several) and people-watch for hours. Naples is located on the water, and walking along the pedestrian-friendly Lungomare, the two-mile seafront promenade teeming with restaurants and attractions, is an activity that many locals enjoy during both balmy summer evenings and crisp winter mornings. Whether it’s high-end shopping, street stalls or budget fashions you seek, Via Chiaia has something for everyone. There’s even a funicular that takes you up to the top of the city for panoramic views.
3. It’s the Perfect Base for Seeing Ancient Ruins
Naples is located just a short distance from the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both of which were covered in volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79. Today, you can walk around the ruins and even see the bones of those who were buried alive in the ash. Some of the best artifacts found at both sites were excavated and taken to the Naples National Archaeological Museum, which you can visit without even leaving the city. The museum also features a section with historical coins and a secret room dedicated to both cities’ famous erotic art.
4. It’s a Jumping-Off Point for Nearby Island Vacations
Naples is close to so many wonderful seaside spots such as the islands of Capri and Ischia, the picturesque town of Sorrento and, of course, the Amalfi Coast and its gorgeous spots like Positano. Best of all, these areas are easily accessible from Naples by a short boat, train or car ride, making them all ideal for a day trip. Even if you don’t plan on spending any time at all in Naples, you’ll likely pass through the city on your way to the coast, as the Naples airport and train stations are easily accessible from Milan, Rome and other European cities.
5. The Pizza, of Course
Pizza in Naples is no joke. There’s actually a stringent set of rules for pizzaioli in Naples, with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana ensuring pizzerias are meeting the requirements for official certification, including that the center of the dough is stretched to no more than 0.4 centimeters in thickness, and that pizza makers are only using specific tomatoes and certified mozzarella di bufala in their creations. From a non-technical perspective, the pizza in Naples is fresh, delicious and not to be missed. Plus, even at the city’s most famous pizzerias, you can almost always get one for less than $10.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Naples, Italy? Tell us about them, below.
All images by the author.
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