Sandwiched between a sleeping volcano and the steaming Campi Flegrei, Naples is a rumbling mass of contradictions.
Extremes are something Naples does impressively well. Grimy streets hit palm-fringed boulevards, crumbling façades hide baroque ballrooms and cultish shrines flank cutting-edge clubs. One minute you’re in dusty Tangiers, the next you’re thinking of Paris.
Stepping onto Piazza Garibaldi from Stazione Centrale, your impression will probably be of the former. Wild traffic, shabby street stalls and smooth-talking African salesmen make for an intense introduction. To the south and southwest, the Mercato quarter is a high-octane spectacle of rough-and-ready markets, multiculturalism and poverty.
A few blocks west of Piazza Garibaldi begins the centro storico (historic centre). Dense, dark and intoxicating, its ancient Greek streets teem with tourists, scooters, shrines and secret hidden treasures.
At its western edge, shop-heavy Via Toledo stretches from Piazza Trieste e Trento in the south to Parco di Capodimonte in the north; its chic southern end is a favourite haunt for sfogliatella-munching shopaholics. Immediately to the west lie the mean, washing-strung streets of the Quartieri Spagnoli.
South of Via Toledo, regal Santa Lucia boasts the mighty Piazza del Plebiscito, Palazzo Reale and world opera great Teatro San Carlo. Close at hand, Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) looms over Piazza del Municipio like a giant toy castle.
Looking down on it all is middle-class Vomero, a leafy concoction of gorgeous Liberty villas, soulless apartment blocks and the hulking Castel Sant’Elmo.
West of Piazza del Plebiscito, upmarket Chiaia is Naples’ heart of cool, its sleek shops and bars stretching west towards the bobbing-boat port of Mergellina. From here, posh Posillipo climbs the promontory separating the Bay of Naples from the Bay of Pozzuoli. Beyond it lies the Campi Flegrei, a volcanic sprawl of classical ruins, sulphurous steam and sexy summertime beach clubs.
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Best places to stay in Naples
How to eat like a local on Italy's Amalfi Coast
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Naples destination guides
Italian food in Italy: not your mamma's meatballs
Listen closely when your jet touches down in Italy, and you may hear the rumble of some 500 stomachs getting prepared for a proper feast. Italian is arguably the most popular cuisine worldwide, and with good reason: Italy has a population of just 60.
Capri Day Trip from Rome
Visit the chic island of Capri on a day trip from Rome, led by an expert local guide! After traveling from Rome to Naples, cross over to the gorgeous island to see its highlights. Hop aboard a boat to the Blue Grotto if you wish, and enjoy a relaxing lunch in the hilltop village of Anacapri.
Naples and Pompeii Day Trip from Rome
Combine a trip to Naples with a tour of Pompeii’s ruins on a full-day excursion from Rome! From the comfort of your coach, see the sights of Naples, admiring the Royal Palace, Castel dell’Ovo, Piazza del Plebiscito and more. Hear tales of Bourbon kings who once ruled the city, and then travel inland to visit Pompeii.
Italy's top attractions: taking the 'trap' out of tourist trap
Across the globe, lucky souls are packing for Italy to explore the famed marvels of ancient Rome, find romance along Venice's teal-blue canals – and well-meaning friends are still trying to talk them out of it. 'You're going where? When? But it's a tourist trap!' they gasp.