Many travelers have stayed away from Naples (Napoli), Italy in recent years. Tour companies have bypassed this cultural center from ancient Greek and Roman heritage, owing to reports of crime, and hectic daily Neapolitan life. But, we decided to make this interesting and cultural city a centerpiece of our recent travels in Italy.
It is true that life and traffic in Naples can be frenetic and tricky to navigate. However, the historic center of the ancient Kingdom of Naples is truly a gem not to be overlooked. Exploring the narrow streets on foot can be an enchanting experience. The medieval cathedrals and churches are excellent locations to explore some of Italy’s greatest artistic wonders.
Sitting in the shadows of Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted in 79 AD, burying Pompeii in a virtual time capsule under 6 feet of ash, Naples carries on its daily life complacent about the prospects of another eruption at some unknown future point in time. We encountered a number of older and younger travelers, enjoying the unique charms of the city, not the least of which is the local Neapolitan cuisine. A seaside kingdom, Naples is famous for its abundant seafood, and the cuisine reflects this heritage with some of the best Italian fare in southern Italy.
Naples can be an excellent base for exploring surrounding areas of interest, including Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, and others. For the more adventurous, join a tour of the crater of the active volcano Vesuvius. Within the city limits, exploring the historic city center can afford days of exciting finds. The National Archeology museum not only contains the ancient Roman treasures of Pompeii, but also other rare antiquities from the Greek and Roman periods, and far-flung civilizations including ancient Egypt. Also native to Naples are the many street vendors and shopfronts which produce fine hand-made Nativity scenes.
As far as lodging, there are a wide range of hotels and hostels that can be booked at any time of the year. We like to experience the local hospitality and chose a moderately priced bed and breakfast bordering on the historic center, named Il Giardino Segreto (The Secret Garden). With tongue in cheek, this B&B’s website advertises to stay in Naples, and “don’t die.” While somwhat humorous, the owners are beckoning for travelers around the globe to visit their fascinating city, and actually find that it is pleasant and safe to stay. In fact, entering at Via Foria 216, one would never recognize that a private bed and breakfast exists behing the iron gates, bordering apartment buildings and storefronts. Entering behind the gate (which is accessible 24 hours), one enters into a serene refuge with large and surprisingly quiet guestrooms. To the rear, a private door enters onto the Secret Garden, which is a hidden botanical paradise with tropical flora and palm trees found elsewhere in places like Florida or Mexico. The bed and breakfast’s owners are at your service, and will offer advice, touring recommendations (and maps), and an excellent Italian breakfast.
Along Via Foria, which borders the north end of the central historic district, it is safe to stroll day or night. And there are several fine sidewalk dining options offering local fare. One notable option is the Sailor’s Daughter, which for half the price of a high-end tourist restaurant, will serve up a feast of local pasta and seafood favorites. Don’t forget to end the evening with a glass of the local favorite, Limoncello, a lemon-based liquor, made from native lemons the size of grapefruits.
Our advice to anyone who is planning a trip to Southern Italy, is to not bypass the cultural gem of Naple (Napoli). You can book a variety of excellent hostels, hotels, and B&B’s by clicking here: Naples Hotels and Hostels
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