Naples On the Road

Naples, Italy
Napoli is the most important urban center in the South of Italy, resting beneath the famous Mount Vesuvius on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Napoli's location makes it the perfect starting point to get to the rest of the Gulf of Naples such as Pompei, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.

But despite its reputation, Napoli is worth more than just a stopover. It is as rich in history, art and culture as any of Italy's tamer tourist-attracting cities and it has an energy and a vitality all its own.

Imagine the monumentality of Rome and the romance of Paris, punctuated by enormous, stark castles, add the informality of a beach town and some Mediterranean vitality—and you're beginning to get an idea of the feel of the city. Due to its proximity to such important historical sites as Pompei and Herculaneum, Napoli is home to the largest archeological museum in Europe, with collections from Egypt to Greece and Rome—the monumental sculpture halls will make your jaw drop and if you can repress the giggles, don't miss the ((Secret Rooms)). Also worth a visit is the Museo di Capodimonte, a wonderful museum ranging from the Old Masters to modern artists is a little outside the hubbub of downtown Napoli, in a picturesque park above the city. Don't miss star-shaped Castel Sant'Elmo, at the peak of an even higher mountain from which you get a 360 degree view of the whole of Napoli, as well as the Bay. On the other side of the city is ever-present Mount Vesuvius, its own views well worth the effort it takes to get to the top. The historic center of Napoli, close to the water, is filled with beautiful old churches, grandiose palazzi, and enormous castles.

Napoli is rightly famous for its food—the pizza margherita was born here, and the Neapolitans still do it well. You can eat very well in Napoli without spending too much money. Make sure you try a gelato or a caffe freddoto cool off in the summer! If you are the shopping type, Via Toledo, the main thoroughfare offers plenty of fun shops to spend an afternoon window shopping and people watching.

Outside Napoli, the rest of the attractions are all done in easy day trips. World-famous Pompei, preserved through the centuries when Mount Vesuvius erupted and lava covered this bustling outpost of the Roman empire, is only 30 minute train ride outside the city, and Herculaneum is even closer. The unique islands in the Bay of Naples, Capri and Ischia being the most famous, offer spectactular views of natural caves and grottoes right out of a fairy tale. You can reach any of the islands from a ferry that leaves often every day. The Amalfi Coast offers its own incredible landscapes, with small picturesque villages like Positano and Amalfi perched on the edge of high cliffs rushing down to the sea. It is very easy to take a bus or rent a car to get to these spectacular locations.