Caves, bays, inlets, breathtaking views, good food and a wonderful climate. From Naples or Sorrento, from Amalfi or Positano, those looking at the horizon can see a triangle of rocky shapes emerging from the sea in the distance. It is the first meeting with the gems of the Gulf of Naples: Capri, the mundane; Ischia, the island of well-being; and Procida, the conservative.
Capri, Ischia and Procidaleave behind the histrionic Naples, with its hustle and its contradictions, basking in their overwhelming beauty. Scattered on a sea of a saturated blue, they have made an eternal pact with the sun and the mild climate, the lifeblood of the luxuriant nature that adorns them all year round. Yet, the three enchanting islands of the Gulf of Naples present features and characteristics that are anything but homogeneous. Capri with its pointed shapes is an ephemeral elite living room. Large, kaleidoscopic Ischia with luxuriant vegetation and rounded profiles treasures its sulfurous waters. Finally, small, simple, colorful and authentic Procida. Luscious meals, golden and black beaches, wellness treatments, walks and trekking, romantic sunsets: what else do you need?
Ah, Naples is nothing without its islands: Capri, of course, Ischia and even Procida. (Tahar Ben Jelloun)
We like to describe Naples as chaos incarnate. It has a life of its own, that seems to head in every direction at once, but then comes together into a sort of untouchable harmony that energizes your soul. And because I would love to let you know more about the city, we collected together our favorite quotes about Napoli.
In the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, Naples has inspired writers and artists for centuries.
To recognize this unique city, here are the best quotes about Naples:
Rome is stately and impressive, Florence is all beauty and enchantment, Genoa is picturesque, Venice is a dream city, but Naples is simply — fascinating. – Lilian Whiting
Naples is curiously chaotic and, if I’m honest, a bit dilapidated. It certainly has a ‘lived-in’ look. It’s alive, it’s vibrant, it’s a little bit dirty, it’s busy, and I loved it. – Paul Hollywood
I won’t say another word about the beauties of the city and its situation, which have been described and praised often. As they say here, “Vedi Napoli e poi muori! See Naples and die!” One can’t blame the Neapolitan for never wanting to leave his city, nor its poets singing its praises in lofty hyperboles: it would be wonderful even if a few more Vesuviuses were to rise in the neighbourhood. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Here we are at last. The Italian proverb says “See Naples and die” but I say, see Naples and live; for there seems a great deal worth living for. – Arthur John Strutt
Naples is the flower of paradise. The last adventure of my life. – Alexandre Dumas
I have a concept of Naples that is not so much of a city per se but rather an ingredient of the human spirit that I detect in everyone, Neapolitan or not. The idea that ‘Neapolitanism’ and mass ignorance are somehow indissolubly linked is one that I am prepared to fight with all the strength I have. Quite simply, I refuse to believe that the living conditions of a population can only be improved at the cost of annihilating everything human in their way of life. Indeed, there are times when I think that Naples represents the last remaining hope for the human race. – Luciano De Crescenzo
I exist only because inside of me and above all else I am only and above all a Neapolitan. Naples exists inside of me, and always will. Fortunately for me there is this treasure that I have inside of me and, when I need it, then I pull it out. – Sophia Loren
…the city of Naples was like this: wonderful from a distance, but when seen close up, it was fragmentary, indefinable, and coarse… – Franco Di Mare
Naples sitteth by the sea, keystone of an arch of azure, Crowned by consenting nations peerless queen of gayety: She laugheth at the wrath of Ocean, she mocketh the fury of Vesuvius, She spurneth disease, and misery, and famine, that crowd her sunny streets. – Martin Farquhar Tupper
He who doesn’t love Naples, has yet to learn how to love life. – Anonymous
Naples is a paradise: in it every one lives in a sort of intoxicated self-forgetfulness. It is even so with me: I scarcely know myself; I seem to myself quite an altered man. Yesterday I said to myself, “Either you have always been mad, or you are so now.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Are there any other quotes about Naples that you love?
Naples lives on its traditions, legends and popular beliefs. On its stories, which have been told for centuries and which every good Neapolitan truly believes. To feel like citizens of Naples, you cannot do without listening to these evocative stories, the stories that come from our past.
Naturally, Naples offers a lot of interesting places to see and visit, but it is also fun to get away from the usual routes and devote yourself to the most interesting things to do in Naples today. Put yourself in the shoes of the Neapolitans and live in first person the most intriguing Naples attractions and experiences connected to what has always accompanied the spirit of these people: tradition, charming popular beliefs and religious fervor (a religion that includes football, as Naples has had Maradona, the hand of God).
Cross Piazza del Plebiscito with your eyes closed
The purpose of this game is managing to go between the equestrian statues in the center of the square, sculpted by Antonio Canova and depicting Charles III of Bourbon and Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies (the statue of the latter monarch is attributed to Antonio Calì). Rules of the game: close your eyes or wear a blindfold. Procedure: starting from the gate of Palazzo Reale, walk straight for about 170 meters. Do not be surprised if, on opening your eyes, you realize not only that you have not managed to cross the space between the two statues, but that you are somewhere else entirely. According to legend, it is all Queen Margherita’s fault: she is said to have granted a pardon to the prisoners of the Kingdom who passed this test, however, a curse launched by the Queen herself prevented the competitors from being successful. As a matter of fact, the particular conformation of the square, with its surface of not perfectly linear cobblestones, hinders walking in a straight line, making this a very difficult thing to do in Naples with kids, especially during the night.
Leaving a “suspended” coffee
A symbol of Neapolitan generosity, the suspended coffee is a custom born in Naples after the war, when in a period of great crises, the solidarity of the Neapolitans became more intense. Upon entering a bar, people paid for two espressos, one for themselves and one for those who wanted one, but who could not pay for one. A tradition that is still perpetuated and that has given rise to a blueprint of supportive purchases even outside the Neapolitan borders and in other contexts: books, clothing, and food.
What a beautiful thing is a day at the Gaiola
In front of the Posillipo hill, the Gaiola emerges: it is an islet that is part of the protected marine area Parco Sommerso della Gaiola, which can be reached on foot from the Marechiaro village. This Naples attraction is wrapped in an aura of mystery and sinister legends that have developed since Roman times: the Neapolitans suggest that it brings “jella” (bad luck), but they continue to go there assiduously. In fact, the island is enchanting and it is worthwhile forgetting about the rumors and diving into the crystal-clear water, admiring the seabed and the underwater treasures.
Adopt a capuzzella at the Fontanelle Cemetery
This is one of the most typical things to do in Naples: the Fontanelle Cemetery, within a tuff quarry in the Rione Sanità, was the common grave of the plague victims of 1656 and of those who died in the cholera epidemic of 1837. Don Gaetano Barbati placed here the skulls and bones of the victims, who became to the people “pezzentelle”, abandoned souls, stranded between the earth and the afterlife. It is a place of great passion and devotion, where the Neapolitans come to adopt a capuzzella (skull); they give it a name, light a candle, and venerate it in exchange for a favor or a lucky number to play in the lotto. And if the favor is not granted? You change capuzzella!
Pilgrimage to Maradona’s votive shrine
Between 1984 and the early 1990s, at every soccer game played at home, the San Paolo stadium the stands would shake, and a roar welcomed the entry onto the field of Diego Armando Maradona. It is difficult to explain what the Argentine phenomenon meant for the city of Naples and its citizens. The golden boy has enchanted the Neapolitans to the point of being almost sanctified; many were the children born in those years who were baptized as Diego, and the whole city is plastered with posters, murals, and small altars dedicated to him. But the best known niche is that of Piazzetta Nilo, on the façade of the bar named after the square: it holds a precious lock of the champion’s hair, some images, and the advice to stop and have a coffee to be told the anecdote of Maradona’s hair by the bar owner.
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The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated January 6 with a national holiday in Italy, and the tradition of La Befana are a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.
Like children around the world, kids in Italy as well, look forward to the arrival of the red-suited Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve. However, this relatively modern tradition pales in comparison to the anticipation generated by the arrival of an old witch in early January. For Italians, La Festa dell’Epifania on January 6th is as significant a holiday as Christmas Day; especially for Italian children!
According to the Italian legend, La Befana, a witch-like woman riding on a broom, refused to join the Wise Men on their journey to see the baby Jesus. When she regrets her decision, she sets out to bring gifts to the Child but never finds him. Instead, she leaves gifts for other children. Italian children leave out their shoes or put up stockings for the Befana to fill on January 5th, Epiphany Eve.
And the legend continues that every Epiphany Eve, the old, tattered and soot-covered Befana flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children who have been good during the year. For those who have fallen a bit short of model behavior, la Befana will leave lumps of coal. Knowing that all kids can’t be perfect year-round, some shops in Italy sell carbone or black rock candy that actually looks like pieces of coal… so even those not quite perfect can still enjoy a sweet treat.
Unlike Santa Claus, La Befana has been an Italian tradition since the XIII century and comes from Christian legend rather than pop culture.
The arrival of la Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods such as panettone and marks the end of the long and festive holiday season in Italy. In honor of the Three Wise Men, Italians go to church and enjoy spending the day with family.
Naples is one of Europe’s largest and oldest cities. It’s a chaotic, surprising and intense place stuffed with character; modern life and history clash on every street. More so than any spot in Italy, your mantra whilst there will be eat, pray, pizza (and football), sleep, repeat. With sunny islands, ancient history, beaches and a volcano, there’s enough here to fill an entire summer break—especially as you’re likely to lose track of time while wandering through ramshackle alleyways stuffed with the world’s best pizza.
Best things to do in Naples
What is it? You know about Pompeii already, of course, but it’s genuinely overwhelming in real life. Its perfectly preserved streets manage to remain eerie despite rivalling the footfall of Oxford Circus on a Saturday. Why go? Always good to have a reminder that humans are ultimately at the mercy of Mother Nature. Few things say carpe diem like the plaster cast of a corpse who was looting a jewellery shop.
What is it? Pompeii may have got all the glory but nearby settlement Herculaneum also got completely engulfed by lava, and revealed even better-preserved scenes of everyday Roman life. A row of 12 boathouses, for instance, which were excavated in the 1990s, turned out to be the final hiding place of more than 300 people. Why go? Though still popular with visitors, you get a bit of personal space at Herculaneum. All the better for getting to grips with the astonishingly old suburbia you’re exploring.
Pay respects to the pizza gods at Sorbillo
What is it? One of the few things that all Neapolitans can agree on is that they make the best pizza. You can get the signature chewy, crispy dough all over town but you have to start somewhere, and that should probably be La Pizzeria Sorbillo. Why go? Gino Sorbillo’s dad was one of 21 siblings, all of whom were pizzaiolo. His dough is totally trad but – very unusually for Italy – he messes with convention on the toppings.
Drink like the locals in Piazza Bellini
What is it? Like a meeting post for the young and thirsty of Naples, this bar-lined square bubbles over with students, locals and tourists come aperitivo time (and beyond). There are also some ancient ruins left casually unprotected in its centre. Why go? The walls at Intra Moenia are covered with rows and rows of vintage postcards and curios. Buy one to send home then claim a table outside to sit back and sip while the crowds gather.
Drink coffee in Mexico
What is it? Popular with everyone from local workmen to holidaying hipsters, Caffè Mexico in Piazza Dante is the best coffee bar in town. Stop in for an espresso, which in Naples generally comes sweetened unless you demand otherwise. Why go? Its sunny yellow awning and bright orange espresso machine will perk you up as much as the caffeine does.
Go mad for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (MADRE)
What is it? A world-class museum of modern art that’s named after the gothic fourteenth-century church that sits within its walls. Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina’s beautiful main building holds site-specific works by Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and many other superstars of the visual arts. Why go? You might, at some point, want to gaze appreciatively at something that’s not older than Italy itself.
Feast on fish at Mimì alla Ferrovia
What is it? It’s not just pizza that Neapolitans nail. This seaside city is awash with fantastic seafood, and Mimì alla Ferrovia is a great place to eat a load of it. As well as traditional food done right this local favourite also boasts excellent house wine and staff who could moonlight as Naples tour guides. Why go? One of the restaurant’s many famous customers was legendary tenor (and food enthusiast), Luciano Pavarotti.
Go deeper underground at the Fontanelle cemetery
What is it? Beneath the heat and bustle of Naples’ streets is an old quarry that became a burial site in the seventeenth century when a plague took out 250,000 of the city’s residents. Though the Fontanelle cemetery’s piles of bones are undeniably unnerving, the local tradition of caring for a lost soul’s skull lends the place a very spiritual feel. Why go? Watch for the odd Italian nonna on her way to tend to her designated skeleton in the hope of releasing its soul to heaven in return for a wish.
Get a breath of sea air on the Lungomare
What is it? A 2.5km strip of pedestrianised road that runs along the seafront, providing the perfect stress-free route for a stroll. Stop for lemon granita at the beach kiosks, claim a rock to sunbathe on or stop for a sundowner. Why go? The views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and Naples itself are spectacular. Add in a colourful sunset and it could be a Studio Ghibli set.
Experience Catholic grandeur at Gesù Nuovo
What is it? Over in the west of the city a spacious piazza is home to the almost brutalist-looking facade of a church called Gesù Nuovo. Its ridiculously opulent interiors will have you wondering whether it wasn’t only Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s hair that was Jesus-esque. Why go? Learn more about Dr Giuseppe Moscati, who dedicated his career in the early nineteenth-century to healing the poor. Thanks to a miracle or two he was made a saint in 1987.
Watch a match at the San Paolo Stadium
What is it? The only belief system to rival that of the church in this town is football, and its much-loved poster boy is Diego Armando Maradona. Go to San Paolo Stadium to watch SSC Napoli and you’ll likely be rewarded with a world-class match; they play in Italy’s top league, Serie A. Why go? When surrounded by 60,000 fans all chanting for a common goal you’re guaranteed goosebumps. Remember to make the pilgrimage to Bar Nilo afterwards to visit the reliquary containing a strand of Maradona’s hair.
Take the funicular to Castel Sant’Elmo
What is it? Though you’re not likely to need the metro during your visit, it’s worth seeking out the funicular lines that shunt residents up to the hilly suburbs. Their colourful carriages are used by 10 million passengers per year. Why go? For the panoramic views from the top. Take the line from Montesanto to Morghen then walk to the medieval Castel Sant’Elmo. The tangle of Naples city centre’s buildings is framed by the sea on one side and Vesuvius on the other.
Take a boat to Procida
What is it? Of the Bay of Naples’ three islands, it’s Capri that is most ridiculously beautiful, but that also means it’s constantly smothered in tourists. Ischia offers thermal spas, but it is Procida’s charming colourful houses and cobbled streets that make it the off-the-radar offshore choice. Why go?Procida seems to want to keep its secret to itself, although it’s popular with napoletani looking for a summer escape from the steaming, chaotic city. .
A few thousand years ago (475 BC), according to a neoclassical tradition, the city of Naples was founded in the winter solstice. Today, therefore, it is the birthday of Partenope: it is 2495 years old.
The legendary siren Parthenope, fallen victim of the cunning of Ulysses, left angry the fearsome rock of the sirens to reach the islet of Megaride, where today stands the Castel dell’Ovo.
Drive the road of 1,000 bends, from Sorrento to Amalfi is one of the most magnificent coastal drives in the world.
Facing north over the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is situated towards the end of the mountainous Sorrentine peninsula, over the hills from the famous resorts of the Amalfi Coast. In mythology, this area is often identified as the land of the sirens, beautiful maidens of the sea whose song lured mariners to their doom. Sorrento is built on a historic site settled from prehistoric times onwards; there was a Greek town here, and then the Roman town of Sorrentum. A few relics of these times can be seen in the town museum. This was an obvious site to build a settlement; surrounded by low cliffs on one side and ravines on the other, it had a natural ring of defences, as well as access by sea and a fertile hinterland. Nowadays parts of the ravine are filled in – a bridge and town gate were demolished to make way for the modern town’s heart, Piazza Tasso. But even without these physical defences, Sorrento has managed to keep its historic town centre reasonably intact. Although many properties are now converted to tourist businesses, the mellow old buildings still help create the delightful authentic atmosphere which gives Sorrento a big advantage over modern beach resorts.
Sorrento and its sister towns, Sant’Agnello, Piano di Sorrento and Meta di Sorrento now spread all the way along the large plateau that was once primarily agricultural. The towns are all separated from the sea by low cliffs, and there are hardly any beaches – one of the most important things to realise for travellers planning a summer holiday. Sea access is mostly from wooden boardwalks built out over the water, although there are a few scraps of sandy beach along the coast, and enterprising visitors can find attractive coves and pebble beaches around the peninsula.
Positano is a stage set of a town, its cluster of cubed, multi-hued buildings tumbling down the mountainside and closing around the grey shingle beach around which life revolves in the summer months. Once one of Italy’s most exclusive resorts, it has been thoroughly discovered by mass-tourism, but if you stay overnight, or come out of season, it’s still possible to get an elusive whiff of la dolce vita.
Insider’s tip: The only level street is the beachside walk. Anywhere else you need to go means negotiating lots of steep steps, so comfortable shoes are a must. Also, to get the best of the astonishing views, start in Positano and drive the cornice from west to east.
Ravello, set like an eagle’s nest above the dizzying landscape of Italy’s Amalfi coast, is the most peaceful and charming resort on the Neapolitan Riviera. Early summer is the best time to explore its largely traffic-free lanes or to wander among the terraces and pergolas of its elegant gardens, from where there are vertigo-inducing glimpses of the Mediterranean miles below.
Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy and Tennessee Williams all holidayed here, and the place still has an air of restrained glamour (though neighbouring Amalfi has more in the way of beach and nightlife).
The busiest town on the Costiera, famous for paper-making and lemons, Amalfi was once a glorious Maritime Republic. Although unbearably crowded in high season it is a very pretty little resort wedged between the sea and the mountains and fringed by lemon terraces. At its heart is Piazza del Duomo, an open-air salon crowded with café tables and tourists and dominated by the striped façade of the Norman-Arab style cathedral a top a flight of steep steps.
Since the 13th century, Amalfi has been known for its papermaking. It’s natural setting, wedged into a deep gorge rich with gushing streams that opens into the sea, provided the perfect conditions for the craft to flourish. In the late 18th century, there were 16 paper mills in the area; today there are just two. The small but fascinating Museo della Carta (housed in a 15th-century mill) documents the history of paper-making in Amalfi.
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