Naples Travel Guide
Introduction to Naples
Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a city that lives on the edge. In a matter of weeks, the most dangerous volcano in Europe could wake up with frightening energy, and lay waste to it in the same manner that it did to Pompeii, whose ruins lie a mere 20 kilometres from the centre of Naples.
It is these fertile lands however that have given rise to an urban centre that is passionate about food, art, and life. One visit to this Southern Italian city, and you’ll realize that it is well worth the risk to live in this dangerous but beautiful corner of the world.
Cultural Experiences in Naples
With the ruins of Pompeii within a short distance of downtown, the Naples National Archaeological Museum has grown to become one of the most important museums of its kind in Italy, and arguably, Europe.
The artifacts here date from as early as the Greek era, and as recently as Renaissance times. Of all the exhibits here not to miss, be sure to track down the ones containing engraved gems and preserved papyri, the latter of which was one of the only collections surviving in its entirety from Roman times, due to being buried under the protective cover of pyroclastic flows for almost 2,000 years.
Next, head down to the Catacombs of San Gennaro, which stands as one of the best conserved examples of a paleo-Christian burial site in Europe.
In the early days, Christians were oppressed by the Roman ruling class, so everything surrounding the practice of their religion, from chapels to graveyards, needed to be hidden from the public eye.
Despite the gloomy feel of this underground place of rest, some of the passageways have decorative frescoes, and even after the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman/Holy Roman Empire, this place continued to serve as a burial place for those that served as the bishop of Naples.
After dabbling in the macabre elements of this city’s history, indulge in some glamor by checking out the Royal Palace of Naples.
Built for a visit by King Philip III of Spain in the 17th century that never materialized, the lavish residence went on to house members of the House of Bourbon, starting with Charles III of Spain in 1734.
Be on the look out for the statues of the kings, which immortalized in stone the royals that called this place home, and the regal environments located within the palace, which include the main staircase and the throne room.
Other Attractions in Naples
Of all the natural attractions in the Naples area, one cannot simply visit and not see Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.
Situated a mere nine kilometres from the core, and having the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s most active volcanoes, it practically begs you to come closer and experience its potentially deadly power.
While volcanic activity occasionally causes closures, it is possible to take a road up the mountain to a parking lot where a trail will take you the edge of the present crater.
As for Pompeii, you’ll want to dedicate a whole day or longer to explore a town that was largely preserved from erosive influences for almost 2,000 years since it was buried by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Streets, houses, amphitheatres and temples are mostly intact (save for the roofs being blown off by the force of the eruption), and due to the effects of being vaporized by the intense heat, cavities in the ash where bodies had once laid were brought back by being plaster molded by archeologists.
The latter aspect of Pompeii may be unsettling, but it serves to show the impermanence of life and the power of nature.
Those looking to unwind after a long day at Pompeii can do so along Spaccanapoli, a long street that effectively splits the old quarter of Naples in half.
From outstanding shopping in authentic local boutiques, to pizzerias that serve their pies in the way it was originally intended to be had, there are many excellent urban experiences that are just waiting to be had here.
Want to see some of the most unreal underwater environments in the Mediterranean? Strap on a snorkel and head for Parco Sommerso di Gaiola Area Marina Protetta, as this marine protected area contains submerged Roman ruins, as well as volcanic vents and coral reefs teeming with life.
Those unwilling to get into the water can see what lies beneath on glass bottomed boat excursions as well, so don’t let your lack of swimming ability keep you from discovering this local treasure.