There is a saying in Italian “Quando vieni a Napoli piangi due volte, quando arrivi e quando te ne vai”, “When you come to Naples you cry twice, when you arrive and when you leave”. In fact, the urban legend sees the capital of Campania as a dangerous place and sometimes tourists are warned to keep their bags close. However, after my last visit to this incredibly romantic city, I want to tell you how much you are missing out!
Naples has experienced significant economic growth in the last decades, helped by the construction of the Centro Direzionale business district and an advanced transportation network, which includes the Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome and Milan and an expanded subway network. Its port always had paramount importance for the economy of the city and it is still one of the most important in Europe. Naples’ historic city center is the largest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a wide range of culturally and historically significant sites close by, like the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Naples is also known for its natural beauties such as Posillipo, Phlegraean Fields, Nisida, not to mention the Amalfi coast and Capri just around the corner.
If you are in Naples for a day, there is so much to see and do, but these are my personal favourites:
- A visit to the Veiled Christ in the San Severo Chapel. This stunning statue representing Christ, covered by a thin layered veil after his death, has incredibly been carved from a single piece of marble.
- Explore the nativity markets in Via San Gregorio Armeno. It doesn’t matter that it is August and there are 35° C in the shade, you must venture the typical street and have a look at the artisanal little statues of all the VIPs, look carefully and you will also find Queen Elizabeth II amongst the saints and shepherds!
- Get lost (literally) in Piazza del Plebiscito. When you get to the famous square, reach the central point, close your eyes and try to walk in a straight line. This is a must-do for families and friends wanting to have a good laugh!
- Since you are there, stop at Gran Caffè Gambrinus, where an old fashioned, beautiful machine will make you the most perfumed coffee you can have in Naples. If you like it sweet, ask for “la crema” on top.
- Take the underground. Yes, that’s right! Take the Linea 1 from Toledo to Università and enjoy the artistic mosaics covering the walls. While you are on the escalator, look up to see an explosion of sky-blue tiles.
- Enter the Santa Chiara Monastery. Actually, hold on. Stop at the entrance and enjoy some very talented street artists, and only then, enter the Monastery. The Chiostro and its colours will steal your heart.
Of course Neapolitan cuisine is widely considered a synonymous of pizza, especially the Margherita version which seems to have been created to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. Pizza Margherita is a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours of Italy as seen on the Flag. So, without any doubts, you must try a Pizza either sat on a table (a normal pizza or a fried pizza, pizza fritta if you feel adventurous) or walking down the streets (pizza a fazzoletto, brilliantly folded for your own convenience).
Then, the cherry on top of the cake, walk down Galleria Umberto I, find the smallest pastry shop in there and enjoy a gluttonous moment with a freshly made, delicious, sfogliatella.