It’s that time of year when my Australian friends start packing their bags enmasse to escape our winter and head straight into summer in Europe (after a short 24 hour plane ride). One of my friends and her boyfriend are doing just that and heading off to Italy and Greece. I love to hear about people’s travel plans and so when my friend told me they were planning to stay only one night in Naples before heading to the Almafi Coast, I was aghast. Her boyfriend was quoted as saying ‘you wouldn’t want to stay more than one night in Naples, not really much to see‘. Having spent a week in Naples last September, I pretty much jumped up and down saying ‘oh yes there is, there is sooooo much to see and do, you really must stay longer‘. So I convinced my friend and she in turn convinced her boyfriend and they are now staying a respectable three nights.
Having this conversation and describing my favourite things about Naples, I decided to write this post for my friend and anyone else thinking of going past Naples and heading straight to the Amalfi Coast (as I did many years ago). So here’s a few reasons to stay more than one night in Naples and why I’d go back in a heartbeat.
One: Street art and religion. The two don’t often go together, but in Naples there is oodles of both – on the streets and in the churches. From British street artist Banksy’s only known surviving work in Italy – a Naples mural entitled ‘Madonna with a pistol’ – to the incredible work of 17th century painter Caravaggio which can be found in a few churches in Naples. I had the pleasure of visiting Pio Monte della Misericordia, which houses Caravaggio’s The Seven Acts of Mercy. I pretty much had a private viewing as there were no queues and I was one of a handful of people in the church. If you love art, Naples is heaven. Many of it can be seen in situ, like the incredible sculpture work seen at the Altar in the Duomo or the Gesu Nuovo Church which has a fabulous geometric exterior and incredibly grand interiors (see photos below).
Two: Incredible churches and architectural landmarks. The historic centre of Naples is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and there are so many beautiful churches and monuments to see. One of my highlights was the St. Chiara, a religious complex which includes the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery, tombs, and an archaeological museum. It has the most incredible frescos I’ve ever seen.
Three: Food and markets. I love Italy for its food. Tomatoes have never tasted as good as the ones I’ve had in Italy (maybe being on holiday adds a special flavour). I had the most amazing Caprese salad in Naples, with too die for mozzarella di bufala – one of my all time faves. And of course you can’t go past the traditional Neapolitan pizza. Being on the Bay of Naples, there is also plenty of seafood. A memorable lunch was at a restaurant looking over the Bay to Mount Vesuvius – not only for its food, its view but also its friendly staff. The markets are fantastic – so much going on, so much to see and so much beautiful food.
Four: the authenticity of Naples life and the people. It is said that in Naples people still live life the way they have done for centuries and that it is still an authentic Italian city. Life is lived on the street and you see people going about their day, stopping for coffee, a drink at a bar, chatting and just being together. They are some of the most genuine, friendly and lovely people I’ve met on my travels.
Five: the architecture – amazing colours, texture, from the grand to the simple – Naples has all of it. Need I say more?
Six: Proximity. While I’m hoping to convince you to stay longer in Naples and really soak it up, it does have some incredibly beautiful places nearby that you can do in a day trip. Isole de Procida (pictured below) is a short half hour to 45 minute ferry ride and of course Capri is not much further.
I spent a week in Naples in September 2016 doing a fabulous photography workshop with super talented photographer Carla Coulson, who I will be forever grateful to for sharing her Naples and introducing me to this wonderful, vibrant city. Carla’s book ‘Naples: A way of Love‘, is a must read for lovers of Italy and Naples.