See Naples and Die was the saying in the 18th century, when Naples was Europe's second-largest city and at the very height of its power and wealth. See Naples and diet is also good advice. This city is heaven for foodies - pizza originated here after all.
Lying between two volcanic areas, Campi Flegrei to the west and Vesuvius to the east, Naples is a hilly city sloping into the Gulf of Naples. The Bay itself is gorgeous, its sparkling blue waters are framed by Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri.
Italy's most populous city is industrial and faded in parts. The old town is Unesco-listed, but you'll find scaffolding propping up crumbling stucco in some places and Bourbon palaces standing beside streets of laundry-slung tenement buildings in others. There is a wealth of museums, galleries and awe-inspiring churches. The Cathedral is Naples' most important place of worship and hosts an annual "miracle" when the dried blood of its patron saint, Saint Januarius (San Gennaro) liquifies.
Many travellers booking flights to Naples plan to visit the Roman city of Pompeii, buried by Vesuvius's eruption in AD79. Herculaneum is a better-preserved site, just 20km east of Naples.
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Warm dry summers and wet falls and winters characterize Naples. The inland winds make the winters chilly with January temperatures ranging from the upper 30s (F) to low 50s. Most of the rainfall is during the fall and winter. July and August are the hottest months and temperatures can reach the upper 80s. When the Sirocco wind blows, it brings high humidity and hot air.
When to fly to Naples
The high season in Naples is July to September. Most residents leave the city for the second half of August and close many restaurants and shops, but this also means fewer crowds for the summer tourist.
April to June and October may be the best times to visit Naples. The weather is pleasant and there are fewer crowds. Although the Maggio dei Monumenti has exhibits, fairs, and special events in May, bringing visitors to the city.
Spring and autumn provide the best views from Vesuvius, but the days are shorter than in summer.
The off season is November to March when you will see few tourist crowds, but the weather can be chilly and damp.
Getting around Naples
It’s a good idea to get a map of Naples’ bus terminal and schedules before you hop on your flight to Naples. Stazione Centrale is the city’s central station, but the bus map provided at the station isn’t known for its accuracy. Doing a little homework ahead of time will help you get in and get out quickly. Naples is considered the heart of southern Italian rail, so you won’t have any trouble getting around. The city is divided into four quarters.
Despite its name, the so-called underground, Metropolitana, actually runs above ground, from Giunturco, which is just east of Stazione Centrale, through Piazza Garibaldi and Bagnoli to Pozzuoli. You can buy a ticket at any station, ANM booth or tobacconist. While tickets are valid for unlimited travel on buses, trams, or the Metropolitana, they expire after one hour. Taxis are best found around taxi stands and piazzas; drivers rarely stop for fares on the street. Avoid catching a cab during times of heavy traffic, as the traffic delays could rack up your rate.
Driving yourself in Naples sounds easier than it actually is, and high theft rates make mopeds difficult to hire.
Naples insider information
- The centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site as are the nearby archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata.
- Among the famous artists who have lived here are Giotto, Pietro Cavallini who painted frescos in Santa Maria Donnaregina, Tino Da Camaino whose sculptures can be admired in San Lorenzo Maggiore and Caravaggio who arrived in the city after a brawl in Rome, which left a man dead. He painted Madonna del Rosario and The Seven Acts of Mercy, which now hangs in the Church of Pio Monte della Misericordia.
- The Duomo - built between 1294 and 1323 - houses the relics of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples. The relics are two bottles of his blood, which are said to liquefy twice a year (in May and September).
- The Teatro San Carlo is a beautiful opera house with a backdrop that can be removed to reveal the gardens of the Palazzo Reale.
- Napoli Sotterranea is a series of underground caves, catacombs, passageways and aqueducts in the Old Town. This is the “original city”. The Greeks took out lots of the tufa stone to build walls and temples and the Romans followed, building an aqueduct and tunnels. During the Second World War, the area was used as a bomb shelter.
- The Royal Botanical Gardens, on more than 12 hectares, is one of Italy’s largest botanical gardens. It has 10,000 species of flora from all around the world.
- The Museo Nazionale displays artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as Greek and Roman sculptures. There is also a wonderful mosaics section and a fine Egyptian collection.
- The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida are worth a visit. Ischia is very popular with spa-goers. The island receives about two-and-a-half million visitors per year. Spas on the island feature steam baths and mud treatments.