The bustling city of Naples is only an hour drive from Sorrento and even a brief visit will give you a taste of the city’s fascinating culture, ancient traditions and its delicious cuisine.
Italy’s third largest city, Naples can feel anarchic and untidy but do not let ramshackle buildings covered with graffiti and chaotic streets turn you off. You just need to know where to look for the treasures and there are plenty of them in Naples. Start from Posillipo Hill, city’s most beautiful quarter with some of the most exclusive private villas. Ancient Greeks and Romans knew this hill as a "respite from worry" and, over centuries, many celebrated artists came here to paint majestic panoramic views over the city, the bay with the islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida on the horizon.
Naples boasts three impressive castles, which are all worth a look: Castel dell'Ovo, the oldest castle in the city, 13th century Castel Sant’Elmo and Castel Nuovo that houses the Civic Museum.
At the impressive Piazza Del Plebiscito you will see the grand Palazzo Reale that was once the residence of the Bourbon Kings. Today, the restored royal apartments in the palace house an excellent collection of paintings, tapestries, and furniture from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The nearby San Carlo Opera House, one of the oldest opera houses in Europe, is famous for its exceptional acoustics, opulent décor and outstanding performances.
Basilica of San Francesco Di Paola, a rare example of the Neo-Classical style in Naples, is often compared to the Rome’s Pantheon for its grandiose 53 metres high dome.
Another must see site in the city is the catacombs of Santa Maria della Sanità. Excavated during Roman times for water storage these underground labyrinthine were used for burials from the fifth century. The dimly lit atmospheric corridors are filled with skulls, patches of ancient mosaics, and frescoes.
For authentic gifts pop over to via San Gregorio Armeno in the old part of Naples where generations of local craftsmen have been making figurines for nativity scenes.
Do not forget about the city’s main attraction – pizza! Try the authentic local types: marinara, margherita and napoletana margherita DOC with buffalo mozzarella.
Photos via Flickr by: Alexandra Svatikova, Gabriele Ravanetti, Maritè Toledo.