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What Naples Is Known for and Famous For

Situated on the western coast of southern Italy, Naples is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Each year, the city draws in more than 3.7 million visitors, but why is that? Have you ever wondered what makes Naples so magnetic?

Naples is most famous for being the birthplace of pizza. Additionally, the city is well-known for its vibrant culture and rich history. Today, millions flock to this picturesque city to catch a glimpse of its beautiful historical sites, grand churches, and quaint winding alleys. 

Rome may be known as the heart of Italy, but the warm and welcoming Naples is certainly its soul. Whether you’re just curious or planning to visit one of Italy’s most famous cities, let’s explore 33 wonderful things that make Naples unique.

Pizza

Pizza as we know it today was invented in Naples in the 18th century. The world’s first pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, is located in Naples. It’s still open to this day, so don’t forget to taste their pizza when visiting!

Back then, pizza was known as a poor man’s dish. People made it with whatever topping was available and designed it to be carried easily so workers could bring it to their job site. 

However, everyone soon fell in love with it when they tasted Margherita Pizza. Invented by Raffaele Esposito in 1889, Margherita Pizza was named after Queen Margharita of Savoy. Topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, the pizza is simple yet incredibly delicious!

Today, there are approximately 15,000 pizza chefs or pizzaiuoli in Naples. With dozens of pizzeria to visit, Naples is a dream come true for foodies and pizza lovers.

Food

Aside from pizza, Naples is home to some of the world’s most delicious dishes. Despite originating from the humble kitchens of poor peasants, Neapolitan cuisine is known to be warm and comforting. And even though they are made using simple ingredients, Neapolitan dishes tend to be rich and full of flavor.

Some of the most popular Neapolitan food include:

  • Ragù. A classic pasta sauce made of tomatoes, ground meat, and sofrito.
  • Sfogliatelle. Sweet, flaky pastries with various fillings, such as candied citron peel and almond paste.
  • Zuppa di Cozze. Fresh mussels simmered with tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, and garlic.
  • Trippa alla Napoletana. Beef tripe stewed with vegetables and herbs.
  • Struffoli. Deep-fried dough balls covered with honey and sprinkles.

Whether you’re a foodie or not, be sure to try some authentic Neapolitan dishes when you’re visiting!

Pompeii

Who doesn’t know about the tragic story of Pompeii? Frozen in time after a deadly volcano eruption in 79 CE, Pompeii is one of Italy’s most famous historical sites.

Take a glance into the lives of Ancient Romans by visiting the preserved ruins of the city. You can go on a journey through time by exploring its remarkable theater, fascinating brothel, and the remains of ancient houses. And with 13 ashen figures trying to escape the volcanic eruption, a walk through the Garden of the Fugitives will haunt and captivate you.

Mount Vesuvius

Of course, one cannot talk about Pompeii without mentioning Mount Vesuvius! After what happened to Pompeii, this volcano has cemented its status as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Europe.

That said, Mount Vesuvius is as beautiful as it is deadly. Today, the volcano is in a phase of active rest and is open for hikes. In fact, it’s one of the top hiking spots in Europe, thanks to the gorgeous panoramic view from its peak.

Nisida

Nisida is a small, picturesque island off the coast of Naples. Since it’s rather close to  Cape Posillipo, the island is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

Even though this volcanic island is the smallest in the Gulf of Naples, it has been one of the top vacation spots since ancient times. You can still see the remains of  Lucius Lucullus’ holiday villa, where Brutus and Cassius plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar. 

Narrow Streets

Despite the rise of modernity, the old city’s layout has remained more or less the same. As a result, Naples is composed of a series of intricate narrow streets and winding alleys filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

There are approximately 100 alleys, known as Vico, tangled between its historic old town and its outskirts. With bustling crowds and colorful laundry waving in the wind, walking alongside one of these historic, narrow streets will give you a sense of nostalgia for the olden days. 

Some streets are particularly popular among tourists and locals alike, namely:

  • Spaccanapoli
  • Vico Fresco a Rua Catalana
  • Vico Scassacocchi
  • Quello di San Gregorio Armeno

Underground Passages 

Beneath the lively streets of Naples lies an intricate web of underground passages and tunnels. Known as Napoli Sotterranea, these underground passages have roots back in the Ancient Greek era. 

Ancient Greeks originally dug the passages to get materials to build Neapolis. Then, they were later used as aqueducts by the Romans. Furthermore, this subterranean network would later be used as a bomb shelter during the Second World War. After an extensive renovation a few decades ago, it has become one of Naples’ top tourist attractions.

History 

If you’re a history buff, you’re in for a treat! Founded in the first millennium BCE, Naples is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It has witnessed the rise and fall of various civilizations, horrific warfare, the development of art, and many more.

So, it is no surprise that countless historical sites and heritages are scattered across the city.

One of the most notable sites is the city’s historic center. Complete with ancient churches, winding alleys, and mysterious underground landscapes, it has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Moreover, it still follows the street plan of the ancient Greek city of Neapolis, making it the most unchanged historical center in Europe.

Art

Florence may be known as the Italian capital of arts. However, Naples is also home to a dizzying array of artworks to see.

The Museo Archaeologico Nazionale is particularly well-known for its extensive collection of ancient artworks. Meanwhile, the Museo di Capodimonte is popular for its collection of paintings and sculptures, including Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ.

But if you’re more interested in modern and contemporary art, don’t worry! The city also has an arsenal of modern art museums and galleries, such as the Palazzo Delle Arti Napoli (PAN), the Museo Madre, and the Plart Museum.

Amalfi Coast

Stretching from Salerno to Sorrento, the picturesque Amalfi Coast is unlike anything else in the world. With dazzling azure sea, soaring cliffs, and UNESCO-protected villages, the beauty of the Amalfi Coast attracts millions of people each year.

From popular tourist towns to off-the-beaten-path villages, there are countless beautiful places scattered across the coast, such as:

  • Minori – An enchanting little city with relics of a Roman villa and a rich pasta-making tradition.
  • Amalfi – A stunning port town with historical heritages and gorgeous coastal view.
  • Atrani – A small seaside village with colorful houses, ancient churches, and elegant medieval architecture.
  • Ravello – A romantic summer retreat with dazzling landscapes, elegant hotels, and world-class music festivals.
  • Sorrento – A culturally rich town with the charm of a Renaissance/Baroque Centro Storico, or narrow alleyways.

Aside from the view, the Amalfi Coast has much more to offer you, including exciting concerts, vibrant parades, and captivating art performances.

Castel Sant’Elmo

Standing at the top of the Vomero hill is an impressive medieval fortress named Castel Sant’ Elmo. Built around the 1300s, Castel Sant’Elmo has been a silent witness to countless historical events. 

Even though it survived various sieges in its early days, most of the castle was destroyed by lightning in 1587. Thankfully, an extensive reconstruction effort by architect Domenico Fontana helped restore Castel Sant’Elmo’s glory.

Today, Castel Sant’Elmo is a cultural and historical hub, complete with several permanent art exhibits, a historic center, and a promenade. But the people’s favorite is its piazza d’Armi, which provides the best view of Naples.

Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep), is a majestic Medieval Renaissance fortress in central Naples. Built in 1279, this exquisite castle was once the royal seat of the kings of Naples, Aragon, and Spain until 1815.

However, today the castle has become a museum, a library, and a venue for cultural events. Inside its impenetrable stone walls, you can find frescoes, paintings, and statues by Neapolitan painters from the 17th to early 20th centuries.

Naples Cathedral

Naples Cathedral is one of the most important churches in Naples and all of Southern Italy. This cathedral was built between the 13th and 14th centuries. Its facade is a beautiful mix of Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic architecture, reflecting its rich history.

And if you think the cathedral looks impressive from the outside, wait until you come inside! The church’s interior is decorated with various mosaics, frescoes, and paintings made by the best Italian artists at the time. 

However, the most unusual item the cathedral holds is a vial of the blood of Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), to whom the cathedral is dedicated. 

Piazza del Plebiscito

Piazza del Plebiscito is the grandest and most famous piazza in Naples. It was built in the 19th century to commemorate the unification of Italy. 

Located in the center of Naples, this piazza sits between two impressive buildings, the San Francesco di Paola Basilica and the Royal Palace of Naples hence why it’s also considered the most important public space in Naples.

Thanks to its location and cultural importance, this piazza often hosts various cultural events, such as open-air concerts, art exhibitions, and colorful parades.

Architecture

Like many other cities in Italy, Naples is also famous for its architecture. Thanks to thousands of years of history, Naples is home to an evocative panorama of opulent palaces, grand churches, and gorgeous plazas. 

With so many captivating sites to see, it’s easy to get lost in Naples’ sea of beauties.

Coffee

Affordable, tasty, and excellently crafted, no visit to Naples is complete without enjoying some coffee! The coffee culture in Naples is particularly unique, even compared to other Italian cities. 

Locals typically don’t enjoy their espresso or cappuccino while reading the newspaper in a cafe. Instead, they drink their coffee while standing before hurrying to their next destination. In fact, a typical cafe in Naples has almost no seats and serves coffee at the bar. 

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you must try this unique coffee drinking experience!

Castel dell’Ovo

Standing on the islet of Megaride is an imposing fortress named Castel dell’Ovo. Having been erected in the 7th century BCE, the Castel dell’Ovo is the oldest castle in Naples. It’s believed that the castle was built on the location where the dead body of the mermaid Parthenope landed.

This fortified castle has served many different purposes in its lifetime. First, it was a Roman holiday villa, a monastery, a royal residence, and even a prison! But today, it usually hosts various cultural events and temporary art exhibitions. 

Fun fact: the name of the castle means the Egg Castle. According to legend, Virgil hid a magical egg in the castle’s foundations. It’s said that if the egg broke, a terrible catastrophe would befall Naples!

Torre del Greco

Torre del Greco is a commune on the outskirts of Naples. It used to be a small but blossoming Greek village in ancient times. Unfortunately, Mount Vesuvius’ volcanic negatively affected the population number.

The commune has been a major producer of coral jewelry since the 17th century. Hence why people from Torre del Greco are sometimes called Corallini.

Today, Torre del Greco is a tourism and recreation hub famous for its beautiful sceneries.

 

Real Bosco di Capodimonte

The Real Bosco di Capodimonte is the biggest public park in Naples. Beyond its stunning esplanades and beautiful trails, the “Real” part of this park’s name is what makes it truly special. 

Reggia di Capodimonte is one of the two royal palaces in Naples, located in the southern tip of the park. This highly decorated palace has a wonderful view overlooking the city of Naples. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was used as the summer residence and hunting lodge of the Bourbon kings. Then in 1920, the Italian State acquired the palace and transformed it into one of the largest museums in the country. 

In Reggia di Capodimonte, visitors are free to roam its exquisite gardens and enjoy various magnificent sculptures and paintings.

Catacombe di San Gennaro

The catacombs of San Gennaro are considered to be the most haunting and mysterious area in Naples. Located beneath the city, this subterranean cemetery is believed to have been constructed in the 2nd century CE.

As its name suggests, the catacomb is the resting place of San Gennaro. That’s why it’s also considered a holy pilgrimage site and one of the most sacred sites in Naples. Aside from San Gennaro, it’s also the final resting place for thousands of people from all social classes.

Napoli Sotterranea Guided Authorized Tour

As mentioned before, Napoli Sotterranea is a web of underground passages beneath the city of Naples. 

If you wish to peek at Naples’ “underworld,” you’re in luck! Napoli Sotterranea was renovated a few decades ago, so most areas are accessible and well-lit. You can also book a Napoli Sotterranea Guided Authorized Tour when you’re in town!

This tour will take you through three fascinating areas, the Ancient Greek-Roman Aqueduct, the Roman Theater, and the Summa Cavea.

Galleria Borbonica

Aside from the classic Napoli Sotterranea route, you can take several other tour routes to enjoy Naples’ underground city. One of them is the Galleria Borbonica.

Also known as the Bourbon Tunnel, Galleria Borbonica is an unfinished underground passage commissioned by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century. It was supposed to be used as an escape route that linked the Royal Palace of Naples to military barracks.

Even though the construction was never completed, this tunnel served as an air-raid shelter in WWII. You can even see the remaining debris and relics of the period, giving the route an enchanting yet sorrowful atmosphere.

The Hidden City of Napoli Sotterranea

Lastly, you can take a journey back in time by visiting the hidden underground city in Naples, La Neapolis Sotterrata. This ancient underground city was founded by Greek settlers in 470 BCE. 

La Neapolis Sotterranea consists of a labyrinth of passageways, abandoned markets, ancient temple ruins, and superimposed layers of settlements from the Greek-Roman period to modern times.

Duca di Martina National Ceramic Museum at Villa Floridiana

Did you know that Naples has a museum dedicated to ceramics? That’s right; the Duca di Martina National Ceramic Museum is located in the stunning Villa Floridiana. 

It’s home to a remarkable ceramics, furniture, and decorative arts collection. It currently has more than 6,000 items, some of which came from the Chinese Ming and Qing dynasties and the Japanese Edo era.

Museo Cappella Sansevero

Museo Cappella Sansevero is a little baroque chapel located in the heart of Naples. Despite being nowhere as big as the Naples cathedral, it’s still considered one of the crown jewels of the world’s artistic heritage.

Due to its unassuming entrance, this chapel is perhaps one of the most underrated cultural sites in Naples. However, once you step inside, you’ll immediately be entranced by its beauty and mystery. 

This chapel holds some of the world’s best masterpieces, such as the famous veiled Christ and the eerie yet impressive Anatomical Machines. Due to its amazing collection, many have touted the Sansevero Chapel as one of the most remarkable monuments humanity has ever built.

Edenlandia

Edenlandia is proof that Naples has something for everyone, even children and those who are kids at heart! 

Edenlandia is the first children’s theme park in Italy. And even now, it’s still the biggest amusement park in Naples and one of the most popular ones in Italy. The park was built in 1965 and took some inspiration from Disneyland Orlando, which was built ten years earlier. 

It once underwent bankruptcy and closure in 2013. Thankfully, the magic returned and the park reopened in 2018 after a huge renovation.

Città della Scienza

The Città della Scienza, also known as the Science Center, is the first Italian interactive science museum for the public. The idea for the museum first appeared in 1987. Then, the plan was realized in 1996 by the foundation, Fondazione IDIS.

This kid-friendly museum was built upon 15,000 square meters (3.71 acres) of a restored steel plant. As a wonderful place for learning and experimentation, the Città della Scienza attracts approximately 350,000 visitors a year.

Naples National Archaeological Museum

Naples National Archaeological Museum is one of the world’s largest archeological museums. It’s also one of the oldest and most important museums due to the richness and uniqueness of its collection. 

The museum was born thanks to the Bourbon royalty’s interest in art and culture. Some of the first items in its collection were artifacts unearthed from the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Today, it houses an impressive array of Greek, Roman, and Renaissance historical heritages.

Royal Palace of Naples

Discover the lavish lifestyles of Italian royalties in the olden days by walking through the Royal Palace of Naples!

The Palazzo Reale, or the Royal Palace of Naples, is one of four royal residences in Naples used by the Bourbon Kings. However, although the Bourbons used it as their residence, they did not build the palace. Instead, the palace construction was ordered in 1600 by the Spanish viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro.

Its many chambers, especially the impressive throne room, are highly embellished with intricate furniture, colored marbles, and incredible artwork. This lavish palace has also been greatly restored, thus preserving its majestic atmosphere.

San Carlo Theater

One cannot talk about Italy without mentioning its great opera houses! One of Italy’s oldest and most glamorous opera houses is located in Naples, namely the San Carlo Theater.

Also known as Teatro di San Carlo, it’s considered to be the world’s oldest continuously running public opera venue. The Bourbon King Charles III of Naples commissioned the theater and opened it to the public in 1737. Adorned with fabulous frescoes and exquisite gold decoration, this sumptuous opera house is truly fit for royalty!

Phlegraean Fields

Did you know Naples is home to the largest volcanic area in Europe? No, it’s not Vesuvius; it’s the Phlegraean Fields. This area is nicknamed I Campi Flegrei, which means “The Burning Fields,” a fitting moniker for the site. 

The area is well-known for its volcanic activity since ancient times. It’s home to 24 craters and volcanic edifices that have been active for the past 40,000 years. The Phlegraean Fields also hold several important archaeological sites, thermal springs, beaches, coastal lakes, and beautiful nature reserves.

Natural Beauty

Visiting Naples typically means walking through a city with a rich history and culture. However, the city’s natural beauty is not something you can easily dismiss either. This Mediterranean city also offers spectacular views and exciting outdoor adventures for outdoor lovers. 

Don’t forget to marvel at the beauty of the stunning Amalfi Coast. While you’re at it, why not take day excursions to the small islands nearby? Ischia is particularly famous for its verdant mountain slopes. Or you can visit Palmarola’s lush nature reserve.

Lastly, who can forget Mount Vesuvius? This infamous volcano may have destroyed Pompeii thousands of years ago, but today it’s home to a breathtaking national park, perfect for a day hike!

Posillipo

Posillipo is one of the most popular districts in Naples. With an alluring mix of old grandeur and prestige, this neighborhood is a favorite among the Neapolitan elites. 

Posillipo is also a top tourist destination, with picturesque historic villas and fairytale-like sceneries. Furthermore, Posillipo is also home to some interesting sites to visit, such as:

  • The Imperial Villa of Pausilypon
  • The Virgilian Park
  • The tomb of Virgil
  • The Baia delle Rocce Verdi
  • Scoglione of Marechiaro

Final Thoughts

Naples is an amazing city filled with so many wonders and surprises. Between its amazing restaurants and gorgeous historical sites, there will be no dull moment when you’re in Naples! It’s not hard to see why so many people are head over heels in love with this city.

If you ever find yourself in this captivating city, be sure to enjoy la dolce vita and make some wonderful memories!

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