Naples is the third largest city in Italy, as well as the place I call home.
My marvelous city is also a very popular stop for cruise ships, since the most important cruise liners dock at Naples’ port. I experienced Naples as a tourist even if I already know it as my pockets, during my recent Mediterranean cruise with Norwegian Epic from Barcelona to Civitavecchia, and I had a great time telling myths and anecdotes to my fellow cruisers! This practical guide is for those who can only spend one day in Naples, but mind you, there is so much more to see that I’m sure you will fall in love and decide to get back for a longer stay!
The starting point of our day in Naples is the harbor, shown on the map as “Molo Beverello” (it depends on where your ship will dock, you could be much closer to the city than that). Whether you arrive from one of the great cruise ships or not, getting there is particularly easy thanks to the presence of numerous buses, trams and subway stops from Piazza Garibaldi (where Central Station is located). The itinerary is pedestrian and the distances are easily accessible by anyone: it is always nice to enjoy a sunny day in Naples exploring the city.
From the port you will immediately notice the unmistakable shape of the castle Maschio Angioino, the “Castel Nuovo“, which dominates the scenic Piazza Municipio. It was erected between 1279 and 1284 by Charles I of Anjou, and has hosted illustrious personalities such as Giotto, Petrarca and Boccaccio over the years. The Palatine Chapel, which is today the seat of the Civic Museum, still remains intact. The legends say that in the underground prisons of this castle there was a huge crocodile that fed on the prisoners who had earned a death sentence: it is useless to say that it never existed, but the prisoners were still terrified!
Walking along the road around the castle and passing the Town Hall of Naples, you will find the scenic Neptune fountain, recently remodeled and particularly beautiful to see and photograph.
After this short stop, take the promenade along the Maschio Angioino: right next to it you will see the Royal Palace, which from 13 April to 9 July 2017 hosts a beautiful exhibition dedicated to Antonio de Curtis, our Totò, to celebtate the fiftieth anniversary of the disappearance of the greatest Neapolitan actor of all time.
This magnificent palace, designed in 1600 by Domenico Fontana and completed, among others, by Luigi Vanvitelli, was the historic residence of the Spanish viceroes for over one hundred and fifty years. Today is home to the National Library, and you can visit the Royal Apartments, the gardens, which offer wonderful views of Naples, and the magnificent ladder of honor. The ticket, also available online with an easy to use Print @ home, costs € 4 and does not include the show on Totò.
|Image by Teatro San Carlo|
There is nothing in all Europe, I won’t say comparable to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like…, it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul… (Stendhal)
Exactly on the other side of the street from Teatro San Carlo there is the Galleria Umberto I. This covered gallery dates back to the eighteenth century, and in 1896 it was chosen as the seat of the first movie theater in Naples, in which they showed the Lumière brothers movies. For more than 50 years the Umberto I symbol was the “sciuscià“, the shoe-shiners: it was common practice that wealthy men went to polish their shoes right here.
Over the years, the Gallery has never lost the title of Naples’ world center, and has been “modernized” thanks to the arrival of a number of stores that make it particularly appealing to shopping enthusiasts. On the second floor of the main façade there is the coral museum, but as a Neapolitan I recommend staying here for a sweet break. Next to the exit overlooking Via Toledo, you will find a small shop, Sfogliatella Mary, one of the best pastry shops in the city. The sfogliatella is the sweet symbol of Naples together with the babà with rum (which you will find, in many different versions, in this little shop). Whether it is shortcrust pastry (frolla) or crunchy (riccia), it will be served hot, fragrant and irresistible, for less than 2€ each. During my university years, Sfogliatella Mary was a mandatory stop for me and my friends, almost every day!
After our delicious sweet break, we can take the promenade towards Piazza del Plebiscito.
It is the most famous square in Naples, located in the heart of the city. This magnificent square overlooks the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, the Royal Palace, the Palace of the Prefecture and the Salerno Palace. As it is a pedestrian area, it is possible to walk along it as much as you like, taking photos of the statues of the kings of Naples in the eight niches built by Vanvitelli, or the majestic equestrian statues of Charles III and Ferdinand I built by Canova.
In this square there are often musical shows and concerts (including the magnificent Bruce Springsteen concert on May 23, 2013: we were in the rain and it was amazing!) And artistic installations, especially in the festive periods.
From Piazza del Plebiscito you can also take some beautiful photographs of the Gulf of Naples, walk along Via Chiaia… or stop for a coffee. In fact, the espresso coffee here is a real ritual. Hot cup, inebriating aroma, a cookie or some chocolate (dark!), together with a glass of water.
The Gambrinus is a historic café, which opened in 1860. During the Belle Epoque the golden rooms were filled with artists and writers who wanted to attend the Café Chantant in a liberal and modern setting. In what today is a true art gallery, among marbles, carpets, bas-reliefs and paintings, it is often possible to meet politicians or Presidents. However, espresso coffee at Gambrinus might be a bit expensive, since the price is far higher than that of the nearby bars. That’s why I suggest to move over to the next one, a tiny cafe called Bar del Professore. This tiny bar, covered with photographs of celebrities, writers and players who have had coffee here, is less classy than the Gambrinus, but is the Neapolitan response to Starbucks: not only espresso, but so many delicious variations on the theme, with white chocolate, hazelnuts, pistachio and many more (with far better results than the American colossus)!
The last stop of your day in Naples is Via Toledo. One of the main arteries in Naples, famous for shopping, was commissioned by Viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo in 1536. Once pretty busy, today is a pedestrian area that intersects historic buildings, noble palaces, churches, banks and boutiques. The Toledo Metro has been nominated by The Daily Telegraph as the most beautiful in Europe, also confirmed by CNN. This station has won countless awards all over the world and deserves a visit. The theme is the sea, and travelers are greeted with classical music pieces, while lights and mosaics remind the waves of the sea.
From Via Toledo the fastest way to return to the port is to cross the Galleria Umberto I again, or to cut through Via S. Giacomo (not far from the Desigual store), thus arriving directly to Piazza Municipio.
You can find here the latest flight deals for Naples on Skyscanner!
If you are planning a trip to Naples, consider having a romantic dinner at Capo Blu, where tradition meets art. Don’t forget to schedule your trip to Pompeii, too!
Full disclosure: Post written in collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line and Skyscanner. These are brands I personally use and love, yet none of the ideas expressed in this blog post are shared, supported, or endorsed in any manner by them.