The fields and hills around Naples have been home to humans since the Stone Age. Greeks settled here around 1500 BC, later establishing a commercial port on what was then the island of Megaride, now a peninsula in the Gulf of Naples. As the city grew and prospered, it took its place as one of the most prominent cities of the Magna Graecia.
Naples later aligned itself with Rome, which brought it into the empire as a colony. Despite being under Roman rule, locals maintained their old language and customs. The city evolved into a rich blend of Roman elegance and Hellenistic culture, and a vacation destination for emperors.
Over the centuries, this bustling city would change hands many times; its beauty and wealth made it an enticing object of imperial ambition. The Ostrogoths, the Byzantine Empire, the Normans, and the Spanish all laid claim to Naples, each leaving their mark. To be sure, all this tumult took its toll on the populace, but without it, Naples would never have become the amazing place that it is today.
Naples Lifestyle and Culture
Modern Naples is a sprawling metropolis, its metropolitan area home to nearly four million. The port is one of the busiest in Europe, with visitors and shipments arriving anytime of the day or night. The pace of Naples is dizzying, the energy electric, and its history and culture enduring. There’s always something happening in this lively kaleidoscope of humanity, and there’s so much to see.
Naples Sights and Landmarks
The Sansevero Chapel Museum (Museo Cappella Sansevero), a lovingly restored 16th-century chapel, is home to mesmerizing sculptures. The most famous is the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, but all are equally impressive. Of course, the chapel itself is a glorious sight as well.
The Bourbon Tunnel underneath the Royal Palace (named for the monarch, not the spirit) was originally commissioned by a nervous Ferdinand II. He wanted an escape route in case civil rebellion broke out. The subterranean corridor was used as a military hospital during World War II bombings. After years of neglect, the tunnel has been restored and displays relics of the people who once inhabited it.
Teatro di San Carlo is an opulent showcase from the 18th century, opened in 1737. The oldest continuously active public opera house in the world, it is where royalty sat in lofty private balconies discussing matters of state in hushed tones as an orchestra performed its repertoire.
Naples Entertainment and Activities
In Naples, there’s never a dull moment. At the Gaiola Underwater Park, the marine world off the northwestern Gulf of Naples reveals itself in its splendor. This protected marine habitat is home to a dizzying array of undersea flora and fauna, and several sunken relics from the Roman Empire. The park can be toured by glass-bottom boat and SCUBA excursions are available for the adventurous.
If you’re fascinated with the macabre, stop by Purgatorio ad Arco, the center of the ancient Neapolitan Cult of the Dead. Here, you’ll find crypts, skeletons, and an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures.
You’ll also find wonderful nightlife in Naples. The Miami Barroom is a Neapolitan take on the classic Miami Beach night club. Archeobar is known for its chic atmosphere and live music. Ristretto Italian Street Coffee is the place to stop if you need a late-night pick-me-up.
Naples Restaurants and Shopping
Food and wine are a highlight of any visit to Naples. After all, this is the birthplace of pizza. The city is also right on the coast, so the seafood is fantastic. It’s heaven for gelato lovers, and nirvana for coffee drinkers.
For a slice of true Neapolitan pizza, the locals say Pizzeria da Gaetano is the place to go. Pies here are made in the traditional style, as regulated by the Neapolitan law that lays claim to a specific style of pizza as its own. Sample a slice, and you’ll know why it’s illegal to make it any other way.
At Pastisserie S. Capparelli, lighter-than-air babas are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of traditional Italian pastries so good that you’ll want to ship them home.
You might not think of Naples as the land of sushi. But the exclusive Jorudan Sushi prepares sushi and sashimi in the traditional Japanese style. It’s fresh, light, and delicious. They have such confidence in their sushi that they offer a citywide delivery service.
Shopping in Naples is pure pleasure, and you’re bound to find plenty you’ll want to take home with you.
At Chiaia Fruit and Vegetable Market, 60 vendors sell their wares in the open air. Fresh local vegetables, just-caught fish, and a colorful array of fruit overflow the stalls here. What’s more, it’s a great place to experience the culture and mingle with locals.
Naples Antiques Market, also known as the Fiera Antiquaria Napoletana, boasts an amazing assortment of relics, from the priceless to the commonplace. It’s the ideal shop where you can pick up a souvenir that you’ll want to display in your home.
La Scarabattola produces handmade figurines of Neapolitan folk heroes, devils, and wise men. Among their avid admirers have been members of the Spanish royal family. If you’re looking for a unique memento of your journey, look no further.