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Shall we start with a cliché? Go on then:see Naples and die. A phrase that is devoted to German writer and poet Goethe. Supposedly he intended to express that you should see the beauty of the city before you die. But reality is much less prosaic: if you are traveling through after visiting Naples, you will end up in a place carrying the name Morte, or 'die'.
However, something can be said for the first meaning, because the town is wonderfully located at the Gulf of Naples, with the Vesuvius volcano on the background and a view on the islands Procida, Ischia and Capri. It also has a beautiful historic center which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The old town is so full of historic churches, palaces and monasteries, it is difficult to determine where to start. Well, let's start with the Duomo, the city's cathedral. Remarkably is that two older churches have been included in this cathedral. You can see them in the left wing. The old baptistery San Giovanni, with beautiful mosaics, dates from the sixth century! Two urns are kept in the cathedral containing - according to tradition - the congealed blood of the patron San Gennaro. Twice a year the blood liquefies again. And that's very fortunate, because otherwise the city would be hit by disaster.
The main square of Naples is the Piazza del Plebiscito. No, that doesn't mean the square of the Plebs, it means the square of the Plebiscite. It was named after the poll of the people of 1860 that united the city to the Kingdom of Italy. It is a beautiful square, with the royal palace on one side and on the other side the church of San Francesco di Paolo. The construction of the Palazzo Reale started in 1600, but the palace was continuously expanded over the years. In the interior you can see a vast collection of antique furniture, paintings and tapestries.
Walk on the west side of Piazza del Plebiscito through the district of Santa Lucia. This popular neighborhood is like many people know Naples from photos: narrow, steep staircase streets, where women hang over the balconies to gossip with each other or to hang the laundry. You can also eat excellent pizza here. Walk upwards through this neighborhood and you have a fantastic view over the Gulf of Naples.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is world famous for its large collection of objects from ancient times. A large part of this museum is dedicated to the finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum, two towns that were buried by lava and ash caused by an eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 BC. Computer animations, photos and films give you an idea of how the destruction took place.On the Piazza Municipio (at the harbor) stands the imposing Castel Nuovo, built in the thirteenth century when Naples became the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. The majority of the current building of grey, volcanic stone dates back to two centuries later however.
The beautiful Teatro San Carlo is definitely worth a visit. The impressive auditorium can seat as many as three thousand people. And it is always fully booked! If you want to attend a show here, you should reserve a ticket well in advance. But just a tour of this opera and theater building is a rewarding experience.
The main attraction near Naples is Pompeii. Because it was buried under a layer of lava for centuries, the city has been well preserved. Walking around through Pompeii gives you a good feel of life during Roman times. Another city that was covered in lava is Herculaneum. It is usually a lot less crowded here than in Pompeii.
You can also visit the cause of the misery in Pompeii and Herculaneum, the volcano Vesuvius. It is an experience to walk on the crater rim. In good weather you'll have a beautiful view too, but often the summit of the volcano is covered in clouds or fog. Please notes that the rates for parking near Mount Vesuvius are high.
Naples is a busy city, and if you would like to escape the crowds, go to one of the offshore islands. When what you seek is rest, do not go to Capri, because this island is particularly busy, especially in the summer. Ischia is less busy and has a beautiful castle perched high on a rock. True tranquility can be found on the smallest island Procida.
Finding accommodation in Naples isn't hard and the prices are also lower than in Rome or Milan. The quality of hotels varies widely, so read the reviews of other travellers on the internet before booking a particular hotel. As an alternative to staying inside the city, you can book a holiday home or hotel room on the coast.
The airport is located seven kilometers northeast of Naples. Naples Airport is easily accessible by rental car. Take the direction 'Tangenziale' towards Capodichino and then the exit ‘Secondigliano/Aeroporto.’