Naples has a famously scenic setting on the Bay of Naples in the southern region of Campania. The third-largest city in Italy, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited municipalities in the world. Once gritty, chaotic and crime-ridden, it was shunned by a majority of tourists, who chose to head directly to the Amalfi Coast (35 miles to the southeast) and the isle of Capri. But recently, Naples has undergone a revitalization, as lawmakers have come to grips with some of the city’s persistent problems. Many avenues are now reserved for pedestrians, streets are kept reasonably clean and crime rates are down. Today the city is lively and full of character, with bustling cafés and restaurants, plus notable museums and archaeological sites. Naples is also renowned as the birthplace of pizza.
The National Archeology Museum
Few museums have Greco-Roman antiquities to rival those of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (Piazza Museo 19). Among them is the astonishing “Farnese Bull,” carved from one massive block of marble and the largest single sculpture recovered from antiquity. And don’t miss the celebrated “Alexander Mosaic,” originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. It shows a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia; the minute detail is extraordinary.
World-Renowned Pizza, Espresso and Pastries
The classic Neapolitan pizza must be made in accordance with strict rules established by a professional association. Pizzeria Brandi (Salita Sant’Anna di Palazzo 1-2) is the home of the classic Margherita pizza, first made for the Italian queen of the same name. In addition to pizza, the Neapolitans also invented espresso. Try one at Gran Caffè Gambrinus (Via Chiaia 1-2), founded in 1860 and the most beloved coffeehouse in the city. And the best place for sfogliatelle, the city’s favorite multilayered pastry, is Sfogliatella Mary (Galleria Principe Umberto 66).
A Lovely Baroque Museum
The Museo Cappella Sansevero (Via Francesco de Sanctis 19-21) in the Spaccanapoli area took its current Baroque form under the direction of the seventh Sansevero prince, Raimondo di Sangro, in the mid-1700s. The prince commissioned several works by sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino, but his masterpiece is the “Veiled Christ.” Although hewn from a single block of marble, the shroud covering the body of Jesus appears to be of gossamer lightness and transparency. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.