Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper. Naples is Italy in the extreme — its best (birthplace of pizza and Sophia Loren) and its worst (home of the Camorra, Naples' "family" of organized crime). The city has a brash and vibrant street life — "Italy in your face" in ways both good and bad. Even though it's Italy's grittiest, most polluted, and most crime-ridden city, walking through its colorful old town is one of my favorite experiences anywhere in Europe. Naples surprises the observant traveler with its impressive knack for living, eating, and raising children with good humor and decency. Overcome your fear of being run down or ripped off long enough to talk with people. Enjoy a few smiles and jokes with the man running the neighborhood tripe shop, or the woman taking her day-care class on a walk through the traffic. Naples richly rewards those who venture in.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Archaeological Museum Best possible peek at the art and decorations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
▲▲▲ Slice of Neapolitan Life Self-Guided Walk A stroll though the city's core to take in its vibrant street life, leading from the Archaeological Museum through the heart of town and back to Centrale Station (outlined in my guidebooks).
▲▲ Cappella Sansevero Small chapel that's a Baroque explosion mourning the body of Christ, and personal chapel of eccentric 18th-century Freemason Raimondo de Sangro.
▲▲ Capodimonte Museum Pleasantly uncrowded collection of paintings by Renaissance masters, set on a hilltop on the north end of town.
▲ Church of Gesù Nuovo Unique-on-the-outside, brilliant-on-the-inside church in the Neopolitan Baroque style.
▲ Duomo Naples' historic cathedral, with a breathtaking Neo-Gothic facade and vast interior.
▲ Napoli Sotterranea Maze-like archaeological site with ruins from Greek and Roman times (only tourable with guide).
▲ San Martino Carthusian Monastery and Museum Sprawling museum complex in a scenically situated former monastery.
Church of Santa Chiara 14th-century church dating back to the city's time under French royal rule.
Pio Monte della Misericordia Small church near the Duomo displaying one of Caravaggio's best works.
Royal Palace Huge, lavish palace with grand, albeit not-quite-fascinating rooms and furnishings.
Porta Nolana Open-Air Fish Market Squirty, stinky, boisterous, and photo-op-filled fish market.
Lungomare Passeggiata Locals' evening people-watching stroll along the inviting Lungomare promenade.
MADRE Contemporary-art museum with some big-name works.
Castel Sant'Elmo 16th-century Spanish-built fortress housing a decent modern-art museum and offering great views of the city and its bay.