Naples, the Italian Port City
Naples is more and more becoming a hip travel destination for the young and the young at heart. Combining a rich history with a happening, super-cool fashion, cultural, and party scene, Neapolis (the original name of the city) is truly the “new city,” offering an experience of complete newness to everyone who goes to visit. No place in the world is quite like it. From beaches to churches, from pizzerias to gallerias, from nightclubs to catacombs, Naples has something for everybody.
The Old New City
One of the most underrated gems of the Naples experience involves its underground crypts, catacombs, and caves. Of all the old Renaissance Italian cities, Naples contains one of the most comprehensive sets of underground tunnels still existant today. Many of these, like the crypts beneath the San Lorenzo Maggiore medieval church or beneath the Duomo di Napoli, contain former Roman ruins. These tunnels have been used throughout history as shelter, both during the tumultuous Medici era of warring Italian states and most recently, during the bombings of World War II. Some catacombs, like the Grotta di Seiano, were artificially hewn out of the earth by the ancient Greeks and are over 2000 years old.
The Teatro San Carlo, an opera house dating from the 18th century, hearkens back to when Naples was considered the musical capital of Europe. Classical and opera performances still take place in this grand hall, all columned box seats and frescoed ceilings. Sitting in the rows, you can feel as though you’re being taken back to the late 1700s and early 1800s when soaring, single-pointed music flourished throughout Europe.
Finally, the churches and museums in Naples are not to be missed. In comparison with other Italian churches, sites like the Sansevero Chapel and the New Jesuite Church have an interesting, unique sort of edge. Sansvero contains marble sculptures of holy figures, while the New Jesuite Church in the Piazza del Gesu is known for its complex baroque spires. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale, one of the most popular museums in the city, fits well with all the underground catacombs and crypts. It contains objects and paintings from Herculaneum, Pompeii, and other Roman excavation sites around Napoli.
The New New City
Beaches! As a port city, Naples is famous for its seafood, and famous for its beaches. The Campi Flegrei along the coast is home to a fascinating mixture of hot springs, Roman ruins, and beautiful coastline, where people from all over the world sunbathe, swim, and take in the intensely beautiful experience that is Napoli.
Pizza! There’s Italian pizza, and then there’s Naples pizza. Naples is considered the birthplace of pizza – almost a sacred landmark for any young person who’s ever lived on pizza in college! You can visit the Pizzeria Brandi near Plebescito Square, where you can find on display the First Pizza Stone Ever and a brief history. The pizza here is, naturally amazing, and people flock here from all over the city (and country, and world) to taste it. Also try the pizzerias lining the Via dei Tribunali for the authentic Napoli pizza experience.
Nightlife! If it’s bar-hopping and clubbing you’re looking for, be sure to check out the Chiaia neighborhood to the west of the classical neighborhood around the Piazza di Plebescito. Young men and women from all over are lending vitality and excitement to the city, and world-class DJs perform in clubs all over the city. The largest congregation of clubs is around the Piazza Santa Maria la Nova, Piazza Bellini, and the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, just blocks from the ocean.
Of course, you can’t forget Mt. Vesuvius. The iconic mountain of Italy resides just south the city, along with the ruins of Pompeii, and is open to climb and explore. From the mountainside, the view of the city in all its glorious contradictory beauty is a sight to behold.