A lot has happened since Naples was founded as Neapolis, the new city, back in 470BC. The city is no longer new, and that’s what gives Naples its character, as modern life unfolds amidst remnants of the Greeks, Romans, Aragons, Bourbons, Normans, and other peoples who built atop the original city.
The city’s beauty comes from its location overlooking the beautiful Bay of Naples, which made the coastal region a popular vacation destination back in Roman days and of course why we still love cruising here!
The city is also indelibly marked by Vesuvius, the only active volcano in Europe, which both destroyed and preserved the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum when it erupted in 79AD. Spend time in Naples investigating its historic treasures, enjoying its sunny seaside setting, and indulging in the world’s original pizza.
Visit the Volcano
Mt. Vesuvius is still occasionally active and monitored by volcanologists. The mountain dominates the view, it’s no longer smoking, so visit Vesuvius National Park and hike to the summit to peer into the crater and see the steam. Be sure to look out over the plains to the bay for a grand view of Naples and Pompeii.
Walk in an Ancient City
Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 AD buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, covering the first in ash and the second in mud. The burials also preserved the ancient buildings, and the cities feel strangely alive to visitors. The streets have curbs and are lined with buildings that were private homes and businesses, including takeaway restaurants, wine shops, and brothels. Pompeii has the world’s oldest amphitheater and barracks where the gladiators who fought there trained.
Appreciate Ancient Art
While the buildings at Pompeii and Herculaneum stand in their original settings, the artifacts that were uncovered have been mostly removed and are on display at the Naples National Archeological Museum. The palatial museum is filled with sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, and items from the ancient life of everyday Roman citizens. There’s a titillating collection of ancient erotica in the Gabinetto Segreto.
Step into the Homes of Neapolitan Royalty
There are multiple castles and palaces in Naples worthy of a visit. Castel dell’Ovo, the “egg castle,” sits by the seaside, where myth says it guarded a magical egg to keep the city safe. Castel Nuovo isn’t really new any longer, dating back to 1279. It is a picture-perfect castle, with five rounded towers at its corners. The Palazzo Reale dates to the 17th century and has a spectacular staircase and furnishings. Wander past statues in its surrounding park.
Naples built on top of itself over centuries. Take an underground tour to explore how residents used to live, walking through Greek and Roman ruins and past an old Roman market, bakery, and laundry. This isn’t all buried history; underground cisterns that were part of the Romans’ waterworks were later used as a World War II air raid shelter.
Eat Like a Native
Pizza was invented in Naples in 1889, the Pizza Margherita honoring Italy’s Queen consort with a dish built around the colors of the Italian flag. While Neapolitan style pizza has made its way around the world, pizza fritta—fried pizza—is still mostly unique to Naples. When you’re ready for dessert, go for sfogliatella, a flaky pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta. Find a café with a view of the bay, settle back in the sunshine, and savor a glass of limoncello in the Italian sun.
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