Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper. Naples is Italy in the extreme — its best (birthplace of pizza) 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. Walking through its colorful old town is one of the most memorable 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 daycare class on a walk through the traffic. Naples richly rewards those who venture in.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Archaeological Museum One of the world's great museums of ancient art, it boasts supersized statues as well as art and decorations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
▲▲▲ Slice of Neapolitan Life Self-Guided Walk A stroll through 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.
▲▲ Sanità District Gritty neighborhood north of the Archaeological Museum that best displays the wild-and-crazy Neapolitan life in the streets.
▲▲ Capodimonte Museum Pleasantly uncrowded collection of paintings by Renaissance masters, set on a hilltop on the north end of town.
▲▲ San Martino Carthusian Monastery and Museum Sprawling museum complex in a scenically situated former monastery.
▲ Cemetery of the Fountains Quirky cemetery of caves — stacked with human bones and dotted with chapels — cut into the hills at the high end of town.
▲ Church of Gesù Nuovo Unique-on-the-outside, brilliant-on-the-inside church in the Neapolitan Baroque style.
▲ Duomo Naples' historic cathedral, with a breathtaking Neo-Gothic facade and vast interior.
▲ Piazza del Plebiscito Big, ceremonial city square that's home to the Pantheon-inspired Church of San Francesco di Paola.
▲ Galleria Umberto I Victorian iron-and-glass shopping mall.
▲ Galleria Borbonica Vast, fascinating network of caves, aqueducts, and cisterns underneath Naples' Royal Palace.
▲ Napoli Sotterranea Maze-like archaeological site with ruins from Greek and Roman times (only tourable with guide).
Church of Santa Chiara 14th-century Gothic 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 relatively unimpressive interior.
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.