The 13 best things to do in Naples

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

Visit Pompeii

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.

Explore Herculaneum

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. .

Naples food & drink guide: 10 things to try

The home of every Italian dish you know and love, Naples offers everything from classic pizza and pasta to fresh seafood and powerful volcanic wines

Although you probably already know that humanity’s finest pizza and pasta graces the whole nation of Italy, the culinary history of Naples is notorious, and older than Rome itself. The traditional food in this region is characterised by the simple ingredients of the poorer classes, executed with great skill and a sense of perfection.

Neapolitan street food offers everything from fried morsels of fish, to fried pizza, cheese-filled pastries and even pork offal for the bravest foodies. Restaurant creations of meatballs doused in ragù may be served alongside pasta, cheeses, vegetables and sweets. Naples is a place to forget your waistline and enjoy every culinary masterpiece you find. We suggest you take on the flavours of the city with full force, so eat like a local by following these tips.

Pizza Napoletana

Need we say more? Naples is the motherland of pizza as we know it. Pizza slathered with tomato sauce, cheese and basil existed here as early as the 18th century, but later named Pizza Margherita after the queen of Italy in 1889. The texture should be chewy, the cheese is always mozzarella, and the basil is fresh. Most importantly, look out for a slightly charred crust, the signature of a stone oven.

Where to try: Almost every slice in Naples will leave you in pizza euphoria, but for some of the best of the best, head to Di Matteo (Via dei Tribunali, 94) where you’ll find fried variations, too.

Ragù

Better than the stuff in tightly sealed glass jars in aisle at the grocery store, and probably better than your grandmother’s, Neapolitan ragù pairs with pasta to make the perfect marriage. Chefs start with good, volcanically enriched tomatoes and add meat to create a robust flavour unique to Naples. The sauce is traditionally mixed with pasta of the ziti variety. Just so you know, the town of Gragnano in the Municipality of Naples produces some of the finest grades of pasta in the world.

Where to try: Tandem (Via Paladino Giovanni 51) is a favourite among locals and serves generous helpings of their slow-cooked speciality ragù.

Polpette

Ragù cheats on its partner, pasta, with these tender meatballs that come in twos or threes. Polpette showered in spoonfuls of ragù make a filling, protein-packed meal for any hungry traveller. Throw vegetarianism out the window, forget the noodle bits, and munch on this treasured, spherical meat.

Where to try: Try Neapolitan meatballs encased in sandwich bread at O’Cuzzetiello Panineria Take Away (Via Rimini 51) or find the dish at various restaurants throughout the city.

Impepata di Cozze

It goes without saying that you simply can’t visit Naples without trying the fresh seafood brought in daily. Aside from delicious fish and squid dishes, make room for Impepata di Cozze; a simple bowl of mussels prepared with tomatoes, peppers, and white wine. Chunks of bread soak up the juices at the end.

Where to try: Trattoria Da Patrizia (Via Luculliana, 24) is by the harbour and serves a range of seafood dishes.

Cuoppo

Fried foods of all varieties in a convenient handheld cone. The brown paper cups contain fried eggplant and zucchini nestled with items like battered fish and shrimp, golden brown mozzarella bites, and potato croquettes. It may be hard to discern what some of the fried lumps are just by looking at them, but don’t worry; you can’t go wrong with deep-fried Italian food.

Where to try: Il Cuoppo (Via San Biagio Dei Librai 23), the brainchild of brothers Giorgio and Andrea Sangiovanni, hands cones of cuoppo stamped with their blue logo to sidewalk strollers every day of the week.

Panino Napoletano

Many compare the panino or panini to its other toasted sandwich cousins, but these Italian sandwiches find a special place in the hearts of those who purchase them in Naples. Panino Napolitano looks like a cross between a sticky iced bun and a calzone. Thick bits of pancetta and molten provolone ooze out the sides of this dense street food, making it a holy trinity of meat, cheese, and bread.

Where to try: Try Panino Napoletano at any of the dozens of kiosks and stands that sell the sandwich to take-away.

Sfogliatella

This shell-shaped pastry shows off its paper-thin folds in glass cases at bakeries across the city. Created by monks and first sold commercially by Neapolitan pastry chef Pasquale Pintauro in 1818, these light bites still thrive on the market today. Sfogliatella are baked until the ridges bloom and separate, cooled and filled with ricotta or almond paste, and finally dusted with powdered sugar.

Where to try: Pick up some from Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio (Vico Ferrovia 1/2/3/4).

Babà Rum

Babà of the rum variety are found in patisseries throughout the city and resemble glistening, spongy mushrooms. These tiny cakes are often garnished with whipped cream and berries. To eat appropriately, take an espresso in one hand and a babà in the other; alternate between bites of the confection and sips of coffee.

Where to try: It’s everywhere. Pop into glamour Pasticceria Capparelli (Via dei Tribunali, 327)

Limoncello

A speciality of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi coast, this neon-yellow liqueur is typically made using grappa infused with the zest of local Sorrento lemons and sweetened with sugar. There are endless homemade varieties, often created in bars and restaurants, and a chilled ceramic cup of Limoncello is the perfect summertime digestivo.

Where to try: The expert liqueur producers at Limoné (Piazza San Gaetano 72) will gladly give you tasters, and this is the place to go if you’re looking to bring some bottles home. If you’re only in the mood for a sip, try any restaurant in the city.

Lacryma Christi

This celebrated wine is produced on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and archaeologists have declared it the nearest equivalent to the wine consumed in Ancient Rome. It’s available in white, rosé, and red varieties – so there should be one for every occasion! Lacryma Christi has been immortalised in books by authors like Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, so relax with a glass and taste a piece of history.

Where to try: Pop into Enoteca Belledonne (Vico Belledonne a Chiaia 18) or book a wine tour at one of the vineyards on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius outside the city.

MOKA POT PREPARATION GUIDE

Background

A tiny, Italian-made, eight-sided wonder, the Moka pot has been with us through our fair share of postage-stamp-sized kitchens and far-flung journeys. It’s experiencing a resurgence lately, which is no doubt due to its ability to produce a viscous, appropriately dense espresso with no electricity or fancy equipment. We’re also charmed by the little gurgle it makes as it works its magic on the stovetop.

Step 1

Grind about 20-22 grams of coffee, about as finely as you would for each shot of espresso.

Step 2

Fill the bottom half of your Moka pot with water.

Step 3

Fill the pot’s filter basket with the ground coffee, and give it a shake (don’t press) to settle the grounds evenly. Now place it into the bottom compartment.

Step 4

Screw on the Moka pot’s spouted top.

Step 5

Place the pot on a stove set to medium heat.

Step 6

When the water in the bottom chamber approaches a boil, the pressure will push a stream of coffee slowly and methodically through the upper chamber. If it explodes upward, your water’s too hot, if it burbles lethargically, turn up your flame. You know it’s done when you hear a hissing, bubbling sound.

Step 7

Enjoy.