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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE OF WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN AND AROUND NAPLES

BY
JON FLETCHER

OF

CRUISE HOLIDAYS UK

 

 

One of the highlights of many Western Mediterranean cruises is a call to Naples.  There is so much to see and do on a visit to this Port, so you are guaranteed never to be bored when your ship calls in to this amazing port.  In fact there is so much to see and do in and around Naples, that you will not be able to fit it all into a one day visit here.  So this is one port of call that is definitely worth making several return visits to and you will never be bored here.

 

The city lies in a bay and in the shadow of one of the world’s most active volcanos, the infamous Mount Vesuvius, which provides an impressive backdrop and ominous presence. 

 

 

Naples itself is an ancient city it is believed to be at least 3000 years old and once was an independent kingdom before it became a part of Italy.  Traces of this old kingdom are to be found all over the city.  However Naples is a real slice of Italian life.  It is all too easy to head out of the city to explore the attractions and beautiful surrounding countryside and towns.  But you will be missing out on a fantastic experience.  My advice is spend at least one visit getting to know Naples and its amazing people. 

 

One of the essential places to visit in the city is the Quartieri Spagnoli (The Spanish Quarter).  It is a fascinating neighbourhood and easy to reach if you take the Metro to the Toledo Metro Station.  The Toledo metro station is worth the visit in itself, with all its amazing artwork it is difficult to remember that this is not an art gallery but is a busy neighbourhood metro station.  It was voted as the most impressive Metro station in Europe.  Once you leave the splendour of the Toledo station you can start to explore the narrow streets with overhanging balconies with the Neapolitan Nonnas stringing the laundry high above and across the street like colourful bunting and catching up with all the latest gossip.  There are local neighbourhood shops, bar and cafes.  The walls are a colourful canvas for street art and you will stumble across bustling street markets selling everything from fresh fish, meat and vegetables to hardware, clothes and amazing street food like fritti, fried fish bits.  One of the best of the street markets is the Pignasecca.  You will also find fabulous little neighbourhood cafes and bars where you can enjoy treats like real espresso, locals call it café.  But you can also enjoy local favourite treats like sfogliatella, which is a sweet croissant like flaky pastry with a custard-like filling. 

 

Another of Naples neighbourhoods that is well worth exploring is the Sanita District which is famous for the street art that adorns the walls of the houses.  Some of the world’s most famous artists including Banksy have created works in the neighbourhood.  However the most prolific artist in the neighbourhood is Bossaletti.  His most famous work in the neighbourhood is the Parthenope Mermaid. 

 

 

One of the main thoroughfares of the city is Spaccanapoli, a street that literally bisects the city.  As you explore this main artery of the city you will find beautiful piazzas, quiet courtyards and cobbled alleys.  You will find street vendors, second hand bookshops, small individual boutiques, and neighbourhood cafes.  Along this fascinating street you will find the beautiful church of Santi Severiano e Sossio, richly decorated church in the Baroque Style.

 

There are many stunning Piazzas in Naples but none are more impressive than the Plaza del Plebiscito, which on the one side has the old Royal Palace and opposite it the Basilica San Francesco di Paola.  The square is named after the plebiscite that brought Naples into the unified Italy.  Another reason to visit the Piazza is a visit to the famous Café Gambrinus, where you can experience the café culture of Naples.  The coffe is extremely good and there is an extensive range of pastries and cakes.  It is worth visiting just for the atmosphere and the fun waiters.  It maybe stylish and expensive but worth it.

 

Another gastronomic must in Naaoles has to be Pizza.  Pizza was invented in Naples and there are two Pizzeria’s that are key to the history of this Naple’s favourite,  The oldest Pizzeria in the world is the Antica Pizzeria Port’ Alba and the birthplace of the Margherita which was invented by Chef Esposita at Brandi Pizzeria.  The Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil are said to represent the colours of the Italian flag. 

 

 

If you are a shopaholic and in need of a bit of retail therapy then you should head to the Galleria Umberto 1,  a very elegant late 19th Century covered shopping mall of fashionable shops and trendy cafes and bars.  It is a great place to buy the latest fashions or enjoy a coffe and people watching.  The iron and glass roof and dome are based on the Galleria Vittori0 Emmanuel 2 in Milan.  Another magnet for the shopper is the fashionable Chiaia district of the city, where you will find all the designer and chic boutiques.  This is also a great place to get the leather goods that Italy is so famous for.

 

 

If you are a culture lover then there is plenty to do in Naples.  There is a magnificent cathedral dedicated to the city’s patron saint San Gennaro..  The cathedral is richly decorated in a real mixture of styles including Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque.  The cathedral is also the final resting place of several historical figures including Charles Martel, Beatrice of Provence, and the patron saint himself St Genarro.  The cathedral holds a very special relic of the saint, a vial of his dried blood, which legend has it liquefies annually and if it turns to liquid he will protect the city from Vesuvius for another year.  If it remains dry then there will be an eruption.

 

There are also some fantastic museums including the National Archaeological Museum and the Capo Di Monte museum as well some fabulous palaces and castles such as the Nuovo castle.

If you just want to take a walk along the seafront then you should to take a walk along The Mergellina, a road that follows the coastline of Naples Bay.

 

Two of the best ways to get around the city of Naples is either to take a City Sightseeing Open Top Bus and you will be able to both hop on hop off, but you will also get a really informative guided tour of the city.  These buses are wheelchair accessible and make a great way of combining get to know the city and freedom to explore as well.  However if you just want to do your own thing there is a metro system that is both reasonably prices and gives you the opportunity to explore the city at your own pace.

 

Should you want to explore the coastline beyond the city you will have a good choice of excursions and options to explore.  One of the most popular of those options is to catch a ferry across to the island of Capri.  This beautiful island has attracted visitors since Roman times.  Indeed several Roman Emperor chose to have their summer villas there.  More recently stars of stage and screen have made the island a home including Gracie Fields, who did a lot to make the island popular. There are two towns on the island, Anacapri and Capri Town and they are separated by Monte Salano.  For great views across the Bay of Naples it is worth either hiring a scooter or it is much cheaper to take the cable car to the top.

 

Anacapri is the more relaxed and laid back of the two towns and is a great place to just wander and explore the quaint streets.  Whereas Capri Town is far busier and more commercial, there are some high end designer boutiques and classy restaurants particularly around the Marina, which is a haven for millionaires yachts and their owners. 

There are some fabulous villas and gardens that are open to the public and provide a more relaxed way to experience the island. 

 

Another popular excursion from Naples is Pompeii and its neighbour Herculanem.  Both these Roman Cities were buried under ash and lava from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD.  It is believed that the eruption was more powerful than the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  The twin cities thanks to their burial in the ash are remarkably well preserved and in both sites there are some intact buildings.  So they provide a great insight into Ancient Roman life in the 1st Century AD.  My advice is if you are going to visit them it is worth taking a cruise excursion with a licensed guide or hiring a licensed guide to sshow you around.  They will be able to help you get the most out of your visit. If you do visit these sites you should make sure you wear strong and comfortable shoes.  Otherwise you will have very sore and aching feet and legs.

 

 

 

One of the most popular excursions from Naples is a trip along the Amalfi Coast.  It is a breath taking journey on a road that clings to the cliff.  For the best views it is best to sit behind the driver, however if you are of a nervous disposition you will be happier sitting on the other side from the driver.  The Amalfi Coast has some very beautiful and photogenic cliff clinging towns and villages.  The first one that you are likely to come across is the town of Sorrento.  You can reach Sorrento by train from Naples.  However for a real Amalfi Coast experience you can either take a local bus from Sorrento, but my advice for peace of mind, take a cruise excursion as very often they include a visit to Pompeii and a Limoncello distillery for tasting and a great opportunity to buy some of this fantastic liqueur which is great as either an aperitif or as a drizzle on your ice cream.

 

 

A highlight of any visit to the Amalfi Coast has to be the picturesque town of Positano, which is like the set of a 1950s Audrey Hepburn or Italian movie.  It has quaint cobbled streets and lots of little shops and places to enjoy an espresso and limoncello ice cream.  It is certainly a place you will find lots to take photographs of.  If you are looking to enjoy a bit of sunbathing you will find a small town beach here and it is a great place to relax and people watch.

 

So as you can see there is plenty to see and when you call into Naples on a cruise. 

 

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