Fox Guide: Naples
Culturally rich, geographically stunning, gastronomically enchanting (and home to our very own Pale Fox) we believe Italy has it all! Hugging the coast, there is a lot more to discover in and around Naples than just pizza.
Things to do
Huge and looming over the city is Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano that you can actually hike up. While this is a tiring activity, the volcano is renowned for its eruption in 79AD, which destroyed the city of Pompeii but left behind a preserved ancient city. Wandering around Pompeii is truly fascinating, layers of pumice and ash kept the Graeco - Roman city in that moment of time. You can see bakeries with bread in the oven, lavish villas, and grand public buildings. If you’ve already been to Pompeii or are a budding ancient historian, Herculaneum is the alternate option. The small fishing village was quite wealthy in its time, so the preserved art and architecture attest to that.
If you need more encouragement to visit Naples, a trip to one of the Bay’s three islands is certainly convincing. Rugged Capri is constantly smothered in tourists, which makes for a lively atmosphere. But, a more relaxing choice is Ischia with its thermal spas or the undiscovered Procida with its cobblestone colourful charm. Don’t want to travel by boat? The 2.5km lungomare (promenade) of Naples has long stretches of seafront aperitif bars to enjoy the ocean view. Just a few miles from the very centre of Naples, Casina Vanvitelliana is a 17th-century lodge that’s built upon the water, a peaceful isolated place to visit in the evening.
Back in the city itself, the stunning Palazzo Reale holds the centre of attention in the Piazza del Plebiscito and sits opposite the Basilica Reale. The exterior has an official and imposing look, and the interior rooms are lavishly decorated, more so than your average palace. Nearby and close to the Church of Jesus Nuovo, you’ll find a network of cloisters belonging to the closed order of Santa Chiara, a lovely destination for a morning stroll. Bombed by the allies during the Second World War, the vast complex’s walkways are lined with blossoming orange trees and covered in bright tiles depicting typical 18th-century Neapolitan scenes. Much like other Italian cities, there is an abundance of basilicas all over the city for you to visit, such as the Sam Domenico Maggiore.
The National Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of antiquities, marble statues and remains. Many of the items were brought there from early excavations of Pompeii or Herculaneum and laid the foundations for the western canon of art as we know it today. However, you should also take a break from things that are older than Naples itself and head to the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) and its beautiful main building that holds works by stars of the visual arts. Peculiar, but very much appreciated is the art installations that line the Metro system around Naples. Toledo station is gorgeous, each level is designed around a different colour representing a different theme related to the city. Discover it descending on the escalator beneath a gorgeous ceiling mosaic painted in a psychedelic swirl of violet-blue.
For the opera lovers, visiting the San Carlo Theatre will be one of the best things to do on your trip as they put on world-class performances. Nevertheless, if you only want to appreciate the architecture, they do a comprehensive hour-long tour of the incredible building.
We have held off mentioning pizza in our city guides until now as the first pizza is said to have been baked in Naples. Although flatbread had been sold for centuries under the same name, in honour of Queen Margherita, baker Raffaele Esposito created a special pizza in 1889. He topped the flatbread with tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil, in the colours of the Italian flag. Nowadays in Naples, either no-fills Da Michele or Di Matteo are obligatory stops if you’re hunting for authenticity, both located on the famous Via Tribunali. Beware, you can be waiting a while. If you need a chilled spot for a spritz beforehand, the bars at the western end of Piazza Bellini are the ones to aim for if you want to be surrounded by locals.
It goes without saying that you simply can’t visit Naples without trying the fresh seafood, aside from simple fish and squid dishes, leave room for Impepata di Cozze. This delicious local speciality is a simple bowl of mussels prepared with tomatoes, peppers, and white wine. Mimi alla Ferrovi is the place to go for seafood, hosting great wine, food, and most noteworthy, staff. Finish off your evening with a Babà al rum, a spongy-sweet cake soaked in rum!