Naples – The City of Contrasts
One visit to Naples and you are taken in by the city's atmosphere, the mighty Mount Vesuvius, the impressive cultural buildings, the narrow and lively alleys as well as the Gulf of Naples. You will not easily forget this fascinating metropolis.
Geography - Italy's third biggest city
Naples (Italian: Napoli) is the capital of both the province of the same name and the region of Campania and lies at Italy's west coast at the Gulf of Naples, which is 30 kilometres long. The gulf is considered the most beautiful one in the country and accommodates the famous islands of Ischia, Capri, Procida and Sorrento Peninsula. With about one million inhabitants and an area of 117.27 km², Naples is Italy's third biggest city after Rome and Milan. The city is known for Mount Vesuvius, which is 9 kilometres away. This volcano is about 17,000 years old, 1,281 metres high and not quite harmless because of its proximity to the Mediterranean metropolis.
Nature - Green oases in a vibrant city life
The city's two greatest parks are the Parco dei Camaldoli with an area of 137 hectares and the Parco di Campodimonte with about 134 hectares. The latter was build in 1734 and is covered in thick forests, meadows and valleys. It also offers a wonderful view of the Gulf of Naples and the many walking paths. The Palazzo Reale with the Museo di Capodimonte attracts both tourists and Neapolitans. Other retreats are the Parco Virgiliano ("Park of Remembrance") and the Villa Floridiana. The latter was built on the hill Vomero and provides a great view of one of the most beautiful Italian bays. Parco Virgiliano lies at Capo Posilipo, at the outermost point of the city, and was arranged in terraces in 1930. Numerous flowers, trees (olive trees, oaks) and shrubs (myrtle, rosemary) decorate the park, which was the location from which many artists painted one of the best-known panoramic views of Naples.
Culture - The new city
The present-day territory of Naples was settled by the Greeks as early as 700 BC. At that time the settlement was called "Parthenope", was renamed Palaiopolis ("old city") 200 years later and was complemented by a "new city" (Neapolis). Since then Naples has been ruled by the Romans and Byzantines, who left traces in the city. After all, the old town was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site for a reason. One special way of experiencing the city's past is a visit to the underground of Naples. The city below the city is a maze of caves, cisterns and fountains, which is about 80 kilometres long and 40 metres deep. In the course of history, it was used as a retreat, a vault, a cultic site and many other things. The tuff stone caves are also responsible for the city's likeable fairy Monaciello. Naples holds many other historical buildings and cultural monuments besides the underground alleys. The city is full of churches, monasteries, castles and museums, which bear witness to the metropolis' ancient past. Naples Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Gennaro), the monastery church San Gregorio Armeno and the church Santa Chiara are only three of the many significant sacred buildings. The castles Castell d'Ovo, Castell Sant'Elmo and Castell Nuovo as well as the palaces Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Reggia di Campodimonte create an impressive cityscape. Palazzo Reale at the Piazza del Plebiscito is the former palace of the viceroys and contains the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, while Palazzo Reggia di Campodimonte accommodates a worthwhile art gallery with works of Botticelli, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Other interesting museums and locations are the Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli), the arcade Galleria Umberto I and the Catacombs of San Gennaro.
Experience - Fascinating contrasts
Naples is a city of contrasts. It has ostentatious palaces, magnificent castles and elegant sacred buildings on the one hand and narrow, lively and chaotic alleys as well as worn streets on the other. The opinions on the Mediterranean city differ, a fact which the Neapolitans often explain with the expression "You either love Naples or you hate it". But it is exactly that what makes the city so appealing. You have to accept it with all its advantages and disadvantages to experience the magic and fascination which makes the city so special and authentic. Travellers can feel the metropolis' charm on a shopping tour on the Corso Umberto or the Via Roma, on one of the small weekly markets, during a typical Italian lunch with pizza and pasta (both are said to have originated in Naples) or in the district Quartieri Spagnoli. In addition, you can experience the city in all its facets if you visit the bars, restaurants, pizzerias and discos, for example in the districts of Chiaia, Vomero or Centro Storico, and take part in festivities like the Pizza Village or the Notte Bianca.
Activities - Bathing in the Gulf of Naples and hiking at Mount Vesuvius
Due to its geographical position, Naples is excellently suited for going bathing and doing water sports. Surfing, sailing, swimming, boating or diving are possible leisure activities in and on the water. Visitors who have the time should go on a trip to Hercaluneum, Pompeii or the islands of Ischia, Capri or Procida. A worthwhile destination for a hike is the Vesuvius National Park (Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio), in which you can discover the breathtaking beauty of the volcano.
The best time for travelling Naples is spring or autumn when it is pleasantly warm and not hot and stuffy as in summer. Visitors should beware of pickpockets in the city, especially on buses and crowded streets. Thieves do not only get around on foot but also on scooters. Holidaymakers can arrive at the Naples International Airport, which is 7 kilometres away from the city.
Going on holiday in Naples does not only mean going on a city trip but also making a journey into the past. Travellers who want to get to know the mentality and nature of Mediterranean Italy and follow the traces of the ancient Greeks and Romans should not miss out on a trip to Napoli.