Naples is often overlooked when Italy’s tourist destinations are being talked about. Naples doesn’t attract the same number of tourists as say Florence or Venice, but it has a beauty and charm that is strikingly different yet equal to those other cities. Here are 10 things that you must see in Naples.
The Underground City
Naples’ underground city, or Napoli Sotterranea, is comprised of the ancient remains of the city when it was occupied by the Romans. If you go a layer deeper than that, you’ll find the ruins of the ancient Greek city, Neapolis, the first incarnation of Naples, as it were.
There are tours available from several spots in Naples’ historic center. Here you can explore the tunnels and caverns in an immersive experience. The sights include a Greco-Roman aqueduct, the remains of a Roman Theatre, and the casings of bombs dropped during Wolrd War 2.
A castle that was built in the 13th century, it is one of many medieval castles that you can visit in Naples. It stands out for a couple of reasons. In the armory hall, you can see Roman ruins under a glass floor and even walk through them if you pay extra. And apart from the other sections of the castle that you can explore and the views you can see, it’s also home to 3 floors of Neapolitan art, mostly from the 17th to early 20th century.
Catacombs of St Gennaro
San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, and at one point he was buried in these catacombs. Although San Gennaro’s remains reside in Naples Cathedral, you can see his tomb here. These catacombs consist of two levels and acted as a burial site for others also, as well as a place of worship. You can see how the different kind of tombs signify class and status.
The Duomo, or Naples Cathedral, is the main church of Naples and all of Southern Italy. Building began in 1272, and it’s gone through a lot since then, like being largely destroyed in 1456 due to an earthquake. Its neo-gothic facade and domed roof/ceiling stand out amongst the buildings it’s nestled between. It’s very impressive to look at walking in, it’s size will grab you. What will also catch your eye is the art; it’s everywhere you look. Just about every inch is decorated in some fashion.
The skeletal remains of Saint Gennaro are found here, in the Chapel of Saint Gennaro. You can also see 4th-century mosaics in the baptistry, as well as a renaissance chapel and basilica.
The Miracle of Saint Gennaro
On the 19th of September every year, people gather to witness the miracle of Saint Gennaro. There exists a vial of the saint’s solidified blood and the miracle is that it liquifies. If the blood does indeed liquify, then it’s a sign of good fortune for the city. If it doesn’t, disaster is expected. The last year that it remained solid was 1980 when there was an earthquake in Naples… There is much speculation about how the miracle is pulled off, so go see it for yourself.
If you’re in Naples for more than a little amount of time, then you surely need to visit Pompeii. An unparalleled glimpse into ancient history, the Roman city was covered in ash when Mt Vesuvius erupted. It’s the most unique way to experience and learn about how people lived during those times. You can walk into the houses of the rich and the poor, see how people could buy fast food on the streets, and wander to the places of entertainment; namely the amphitheater.
It’s a large city that you can explore either by yourself or with a guided tour, which depending on its length will only hit on certain beats. I’d recommend doing the tour and then exploring every nook and cranny yourself. Wander through people’s gardens, look at mosaics and frescos, and see the stray cats and dogs who have made the place their home.
Just hop on the Circumvesuviana train from Naples’ Garibaldi Station. The ride to Pompeii is roughly 40 minutes.
Naples, Pompeii, and all the surrounding cities in the region lie in the shadow of Vesuvius. This volcano destroyed another major Roman city along with Pompeii; Herculaneum. It is still active today, but don’t let that stop you from visiting it. From the same station that you get off at to see the ruins of Pompeii (Pompeii Scavi), you can do so.
A bus takes you up to a certain altitude, but then you have to walk the rest of the way. Once up there, you can walk along the crater and witness spectacular views of Naples.
Located in the historic center, this museum holds all the archeological finds that didn’t remain in Pompeii and Herculaneum – which is most of them, as the museum is a more secure environment. So needless to say, there’s a lot of priceless stuff here. You can find artifacts from Greek, Roman, and Renaissance times. Imposing, beautifully crafted statues, gorgeous paintings, and fascinating scientific devices just scratch the surface.
There’s a section on Egypt where you can see some mummies including a mummified crocodile. And for those of you who are a bit racey, there’s an entire section devoted to erotica. I’m talking sculptures of penises and paintings of people ( or sometimes fauns) making sweet, sweet love. The museum is massive so go in well fed and prepare to spend at least 2 hours there.
This pizza joint almost always has huge lines outside. It’s considered one of the best if not the very best place that makes pizza in Naples, and this is in large part due to the fact that they stick to the traditional methods of making them.
The pizzas are big and are all made from organic ingredients from the Campania region. The most traditional pizza that you can get in Naples is the Margarita. Sorbillos’ does them and just a few other kinds of pizza. It’s not about the vast variety, it’s about how well the classics are made.
A museum dedicated to archaic methods of torture. The old ways are truly the best. In this place, you can see the authentic devices used during the inquisition and witch hunts. Plastic dummies situated on/in these devices display how they worked, along with descriptions (with some admittedly shoddy English sometimes). I have to say, it can be cringe-inducing. I certainly winced several times imagining the application of these devices. It’s a small museum, and not for the squeamish.