Mini guide to Naples, Italy

Naples is an exhilarating mess of Unesco-listed historic buildings, citrus tree-filled cloisters and electrifying street life. Once the heart of Roman Neapolis, the historic centre is a warren of narrow streets, which open up to an Imperial 18th-century seaside promenade with romantic views of Vesuvius.

With the warm weather and Maggio dei Monumenti cultural festival in full swing, May and June are great months to visit. Alternatively, visit in September or October and catch the infamous pizza-making competition, Pizzafest.

What to see

The oldest and most famous of Naples’ ancient catacombs, the Catacombe di San Gennaro dates from the 2nd century. Decorated with early Christian frescoes, they’re riddled with tombs, corridors and vestibules.

The Mercato di Porta Nolana is a heady street market where bellowing fishmongers and greengrocers jostle with delis, bakeries and contraband cigarette stalls.

The Cappella Sansevero's simple exterior belies the sumptuous sculpture inside. Giuseppe Sanmartino’s exquisite figure of Jesus is covered by a stone veil so realistic, it’s tempting to try and lift it.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale houses one of the world’s finest collections of Greco-Roman artefacts including treasures from Pompeii.

Marking the eastern end of the lungomare (seafront), Castel dell’Ovo is Naples’ oldest castle, dating from the 12th century. To the west, Piazza Vittoria marks the beginning of the Riviera di Chiaia, a long boulevard that offers the best sunset views of Vesuvius.

Where to eat and drink

Da Michele is Naples’ most famous pizzeria. It serves only two types of pizza: margherita with tomato, basil and mozzarella, and marinara with tomatoes, garlic and oregano (that’s right, no seafood). But, boy, are they good.

Everyone from students to professors squeeze around the communal tables of Trattoria Mangia e Bevi. They come for home-cooking at rock-bottom prices. Enjoy the likes of juicy pork sausage and peperoncino-spiced local broccoli.

Almost 150 years old, La Scialuppa is ideal for romantic harbourside dining. Seafood is the star, from the fritto misto (mixed fried seafood) to the wine-infused seafood risotto.

Dora is one of Naples’ finest seafood restaurants. Dive into chargrilled prawns as the owner breaks into song. Reservations are essential.

La Stanza del Gusto has a cheese bar for grazing, and an upstairs dining room serving inventive dishes such as chicken liver flan with strawberry salsa.

Where to sleep

Four rooms with vintage cotto (fired clay) floor tiles and meticulous artisan décor create a stylish scene at b&b Diletto a Napoli. Set in a 15th-century palazzo, the communal lounge comes with a kitchenette and dining table.

Located in a 17th-century building, Belle Arti Resort is a modern boutique hotel with arty, period features. Four of the seven rooms, some almost like suites, have ceiling frescoes and all have marble bathrooms and artfully painted headboards.

On a historic street lined with bookshops, Portalba Relais stays faithful to the literary theme with an impressive library. The rooms are furnished in muted tones and have mosaic showers. Most look out over Piazza Dante, a favourite hub for students and Neapolitan literati.

The Decumani Hotel de Charme is fresh, elegant and in the former palazzo of Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza, the last bishop of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples. Rooms have 19th-centurystyle furniture.

Housed in a 16th-century former monastery, the Hotel San Francesco al Monte is Naples’ most historic hotel. Cells have been converted into cosy rooms, while the cloister houses an open-air bar. There's a swimming pool on the seventh floor.