Naples, Italy travel guide and things to do: Nine must-do highlights

THE ONE VIEW

Hop in a funicular to the hilly, chilled-out Vomero district and head to Castel Sant’elmo, a star-shaped medieval fortress and former prison with a spectacular vantage point. Looking out to sea, there’s plenty vying for your attention: the island-speckled Bay of Naples, the menacing Mount Vesuvius and the colourful, tangled cityscape of Italy’s third largest metropolis. You’ll see Spaccanapoli – a raucous strip that carves like a fault line through the Centro Storico (historic quarter) and translates to mean “Naples Splitter”. See visitnaples.eu/en

THE ONE LUXURY HOTEL

Views of the bay delight guests at the Romeo Hotel, a swanky five-star number in Naples’ evolving port district. Japanese architect Kenzo Tange & Associates has transformed this former shipping company headquarters, with 79 rooms and suites, a wellness spa and vista-rich food and drink venues: a 9th-floor breakfast spot and bistro with a pool, and on the next level up, Il Comandante, a Michelin star restaurant by Neapolitan native Salvatore Bianco. Rooms from €257 ($398). See romeohotel.it/en/naples

THE ONE GALLERY

Joining the secret passageways, catacombs and crypts that spiral beneath Naples’ buzzy streets is the city’s expanding Metro system, which celebrates the three As (art, architecture and archaeology) with contemporary murals, mosaics, sculptures, LED panels and the like. The newest station is the futuristic Duomo, where a street-level steel-and-glass dome peeks above the ruins of an ancient Roman temple. Other eye-catching stops include the kaleidoscopic Universita, and Toledo, where a sci-fi-esque ceiling puts you in a trance on the escalators up to the city’s Spanish Quarter.

THE ONE SECRET GARDEN

Just north of downtown, the Botanical Garden of Naples is a 15-hectare breath of fresh, fragrant air, where Neapolitians amble beside butterflies on avenues lined with palms, ferns, cacti, citrus trees, waterlilies and thousands of other plant species. A research facility for the University of Naples Federico II, the garden was created in the early 1800s when the city was under French rule and has since survived earthquakes and World War II bombing. It’s open to the public on weekdays from 9am-2pm. See http://www.ortobotanico.unina.it

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Sometimes tatty, other times graceful, mostly super-busy, but with tranquil enclaves, Naples’ UNESCO-listed Centro Storico still follows the original street plan of Neapolis – the city founded here by the ancient Greeks around the 6th century BC. Thoroughfares like Spaccanapoli and Via dei Tribunali throb with characterful haunts in which to eat, drink, shop and souvenir hunt. For peace and quiet, duck into the neighbourhood’s palazzi courtyards and art-blessed churches, including the Gothic-style Santa Chiara basilica and monastery and, across the road, the Church of New Jesus, which hides a breathtaking Baroque interior behind its diamond-patterned ashlar facade.

THE ONE PIZZERIA

While you’ll see people everywhere tucking into pizza portafoglio – which literally means “wallet pizza” and is eaten folded and usually on the go – it’s worth taking the time to sit down for a classic, full-size, wood-fired Neapolitan affair. Fans of Eat, Pray, Love flock to de Michele – a pizzeria featured in both Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and the Julia Roberts film – but you’ll find more of a local crowd, especially at weekends, mingling over margherita and marinara pizzas at the branch of Sorbillo’s on the Lungomare, Naples’ seafront promenade. See sorbillo.it

THE ONE MUSEUM

Tourists use Naples as a base to explore nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, but you can peruse incredible discoveries gleaned from that doomed duo at the city’s palatial National Archaeological Museum. Seek out the erotic artefacts and giant mosaics, like the one depicting Alexander the Great’s triumph over Darius III of Persia. Then browse the collection of ancient Egyptian relics, colossal Greek and Roman sculptures and Renaissance pieces sourced from beyond the Campania region – of which Naples is capital. See mannapoli.it

THE ONE COFFEE SPOT

A favourite of Italian presidents, philosophers, politicians, writers and artists – as well as outsiders like Oscar Wilde and Jean-Paul Sartre – the Gran Caffe Gambrinus has been a mainstay by Piazza del Plebicitio, near the ornate San Carlo opera house and elegant Galleria Umberto arcade, since the 19th century. Linger over a pricey cappuccino and watch the world rush by from the outside terrace or admire the fine details of the Art Nouveau decor while having a quick (cheaper) classically punchy Neapolitian espresso at the bar. See grancaffegambrinus.com/en

THE ONE STADIUM

Soak up the passionate match-day atmosphere at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, which was recently renamed after the Argentine who inspired Napoli FC to its first Italian Serie A league title in 1987 (and again in 1990). Tickets can be purchased at box offices in the city, and the stadium, in the western suburb of Fuorigrotta, is a 15-minute train ride from Montesanto station. In the Centro Storico, Bar Nilo attracts Maradona devotees. It’s a veritable shrine to the late Argentine, with an altar (apparently) sporting a piece of his hair. See sscnapoli.it

ONE MORE THING

Naples is an exhilarating port of call on Mediterranean cruises. But it’s easy to spend a week (or more) enjoying the city and surrounds. Go for wine-fuelled lunches in the vineyards on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, wonder at the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, jump on ferries to Capri, Ischia and Procida, and road trip along the vertiginous clifftops to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. See italia.it/en

Steve McKenna was a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.