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  • Overview

    Italy's third-largest city thrives on the chaos that prevails amid its busy streets. This is the place where pizza was allegedly invented, its restaurants continuing to serve some of Italy's finest cuisine.

    Sheltered by the Bay of Naples and dominated by the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, Naples is imbued with the best of nature's bounty. The city juxtaposes superb museums, Renaissance structures and Baroque churches, against crumbling tenement blocks and poor neighbourhoods. Noisy markets sell a collection of items, from high-quality fresh produce to fake designer goods.

    Roads are characteristically hectic with gung-ho moped drivers weaving wildly through the streets and frustrating traffic jams clogging the city's arteries. Despite these less refined elements, Naples is a fascinating destination and a great base from which to explore popular attractions like the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Herculaneum.

    The city's transport hub is located around the immense Piazza Garibaldi, on the east side of Naples. Southwest from here is the Piazza Bovio, and branching to the left of it, the Piazza Municipio and nearby Piazza del Plebiscito. On the watery edges are the Molo Beverollo and the Stazione Marittima, the point of departure for ferries. From the reaches of Spaccanapoli, one can explore the historic part of Naples with its numerous palaces and churches.

    Museo Archeologico Nazionale

    This fascinating, world-class museum houses the Farnese collection of antiquities from Lazio and Campania, as well as the incredible treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Notable among these collections are The Farnese Hercules and The Farnese Bull, the largest known sculpture from antiquity. On the mezzanine level is The Alexander Mosaic and at the furthest end is the Secret Room, showcasing erotic material found in the brothels, bath houses and taverns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The top section of the museum houses the Campanian wall paintings, supported by a range of Campanian artefacts in the form of glass, silver and ceramics.

    Address: Piazza Museo Nazionale 18-19
    Museo Archeologico Nazionale Museo Archeologico Nazionale Jeff Matthews
    Duomo San Gennaro

    The Chapel of San Gennaro is accessed from the south aisle of the Cathedral of Naples. Tradition tells the story of how two phials of San Gennaro's congealed blood liquefied in the bishop's hand after his martyred body was transported to the church. Legend has it that disaster will strike if the blood fails to liquefy on specific festival days - the first Saturday in May, on September 19 and December 16. Known as the Miracle of the Blood, the ceremony takes place during a special Mass in full view of the congregation. The first chapel on the right upon entry holds the famous phials of blood and a silver reliquary containing his skull. Beneath the Duomo are the excavations of well-preserved Greek and Roman roads that stretch beneath the modern city.

    Address: Via del Duomo 147
    San Gennaro San Gennaro Julia Janssen
    Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte

    This museum occupies a restored 18th-century palace perched upon the city's hills. The Farnese and Bourbon rulers amassed impressive collections of Renaissance paintings and Flemish masterpieces. Notable among these are Masaccio's Crucifixion, Filipino Lippi's Annunciation and Saints and Raphael's Leo X, as well as Bellini's Transfiguration, Michelangelo's Three Soldiers and Breughel's The Allegory of the Blind. The palace is an attraction in its own right and the royal apartments are beautifully decorated and preserved with their 18th-century furnishings. Capodimonte is a pleasant neighbourhood in Naples, and the park surrounding the gallery is great for a peaceful stroll after ogling the art and finery of the museum.

    Address: Via Milano 2, Capodimonte Park
    Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte Antonio Manfredonio

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The Mediterranean climate of southern Italy is milder and sunnier than the north, with Naples being characterised by dry, warm summers and wet but mild autumns and winters. The pleasant climate and fertility of the Gulf of Naples made the region famous during Roman times, when emperors such as Claudius and Tiberius holidayed near the city. The average temperature in summer (June to September) is 72°F (22°C), but it can become significantly hotter with frequent highs of 86°F (30°C). July and August are the hottest months of the year and it can become very humid during this period. In winter (December to March), the average temperature is about 48°F (9°C) and it can be rainy. In autumn, it's comfortably warm but also wet, with November the wettest month of the year. Spring is a very pleasant time to visit Naples as it's warm and dry, and sightseers won't suffer the heat of summer. March to May is therefore probably the best time to holiday in Naples, but many visitors choose to come in autumn, despite the rain, and some people enjoy the heat of the summer months.

    Naples International Airport
    Location: The airport is located five miles (8km) north of the city centre.
    Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
    Transfer Between Terminals: The terminals are within walking distance of each other; however, Terminal 1 is for scheduled airlines and Terminal 2 is generally used for charter flights.
    Getting to the city: There is regular bus service from the airport to the central station of Naples, Stazione Centrale, with the journey taking 15 to 20 minutes. Taxis and rental cars are also available.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies at Naples International Airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Locauto, Maggiore and SicilybyCar. Representatives of each operator have desks in the Arrivals Hall.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available from the stand in front of the arrivals concourse. The journey to the city centre takes around 30 minutes and fixed rates are in use for the main destinations nearby.
    Facilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, currency exchange, postal service, lost property, left luggage facilities, meeting rooms, VIP lounges, a medical centre, information desks, shopping, restaurants and cafes.
    Parking Both short-term and long-term parking is available.
    Website: www.gesac.it

    Naples has a public transport network consisting of buses, trolleys and a subway, which is a bit complicated to use but preferable to taking on the city's notorious traffic jams in a hired car or taxi. Tickets for all forms of transport are uniform, and can be obtained at stations and news kiosks. The city's ANM buses are fairly frequent, most departing from the Piazza Garibaldi. The 'Metropolitana' metro line serves downtown (where most sights are located) and is generally the most useful for sightseeing. Funicular railways run up the Vomero from stations at Piazza Montesanto, Amadeo and Augusto. There are taxi ranks in most piazzas, but using a taxi can prove expensive because of traffic congestion. It is possible, and pleasurable, to walk around the historic centre of Naples where many of the main attractions are located, but some of the worthwhile sights, like the Fontanelle Cemetery, take tourists into potentially dangerous areas where it may not be a good idea to walk alone. Travellers should ensure they have a detailed map to help them navigate the streets of Naples, and ask at their hotel for advice on which areas should be avoided.

    To holiday in Naples is to visit the real Italy, without the frills, where grime and dirt somehow add to the flavour of a city bubbling with life and colourful characters like the lava below its surface on the convergence of seismic faults.

    Most travel to Naples in order to visit the nearby and well-preserved ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which stands sentinel over the city. Pompeii is one of Italy's most famous and popular attractions and the haunting ruined city justifies a trip to the region in itself. Sightseers keen to explore southern Italy also tend to use Naples as a base for expeditions along the scenic Amalfi coast. However, the city does have its own treasures: the Cappella Sansevero chapel, in the historic centre of Naples was built in the late 1500s and contains some masterpieces of Italian sculpture. The Cathedral of Naples, completed in the 14th-century, is a magnificent Gothic structure containing many valuable artefacts and art works. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples is a world-class museum, containing many of the artefacts and remains from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The San Gennaro Catacombs are fascinating and spooky, full of mosaics and frescoes, and the burial site of many notable Naples figures including San Gennaro himself.

    High summer means sweltering heat and crowds and is not the recommended time to travel to Naples, especially for sightseeing. Spring and autumn (April to June and September/October) are more pleasant seasons to pick for a Naples holiday, when the weather is warm and sunny and the archaeological attractions can be seen in relative peace and quiet.

    Pompeii

    In the year 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the Roman city of Pompeii in volcanic lava and ash. The most evocative testimony to its victims is the 'frozen people', calcified remains whose anguished contortions and facial expressions reveal the horror of their untimely deaths. Pompeii is one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions, seeing nearly 2.5 million visitors every year. It's one of the most intriguing sites of the ancient world and a full day of walking barely covers the many sites of interest. Pompeii is truly an unmissable attraction, along with the four associated sites of Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabia and Boscoreale.

    Transport: SITA bus to Piazza Esedra in Pompeii; or Circumvesuviana train line from Central Station to Pompeii Scavi station
    Pompeii Ruins Pompeii Ruins Paul Kelley
    Paestum

    Paestum was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th Century BC, later falling under Roman rule. The well-preserved Greek temples are arguably the best of their kind in the world, easily rivalling those of Sicily and Athens. These remarkable structures comprise the Basilica; the Temple of Poseidon; and the Temple of Ceres. A guide to the excavations and Archaeological Museum can be bought at any of the roadside shops. Heading north along Via Sacra will take one to the Roman Forum, gymnasium and amphitheatre. Finally, Paestum's Museum contains a fascinating collection of pottery and paintings found in the tombs of the area.

    Address: Campania region, southern Italy
    Paestum Paestum Peter Schule
    Sassi de Matera

    The unbelievable cave-dwellings of Matera were dug into the tuff rock of the region, the 'houses' often little more than caverns. They remain testament to a troglodyte population believed to be the first human settlement in Italy. Some of the streets of present-day Matera double as rooftops to the underground dwellings, and beneath the surface, a network of labyrinths and caverns once traversed by the prehistoric civilisation can still be observed. As has been noted, the inhabitants of Matera's Sassi are the only people who can claim to live in the same houses as their ancestors did 9,000 years ago. It's fun to hire bikes and ride to the caverns further afield.

    Sassi de Matera Sassi de Matera Loloieg
    Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra)

    An emblematic tourist attraction, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) is reason enough for any visitor to Naples to make the short trip across to the island of Capri. A world-famous sea cave, the Blue Grotto is perpetually filled with brilliant sapphire light, caused by sunlight entering through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater from beneath. The cave also contains a smaller opening right at the level of the waterline, through which bright sunshine pours and tourists are admitted by rowboat. Gaze in wonder at the spectral water, more light-filled than the air and watch dipped hands glow an eerie silver-blue.

    Blue Grotto Blue Grotto Glen Scarborough
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    Companies flying to Naples