Brace yourself for an alarmingly well-stocked list of things to do in Naples. This is no ordinary city break. Volcanoes, dark tourism and a rather elaborate clutch of Metro stations await you. Then there’s the Naples castle collection – a weekend of historic joy in themselves and, of course, an overwhelming choice of pizza restaurants. A lost city, a street that just won’t stop celebrating Christmas and an underground network of secret tunnels only add to the itinerary. Which leaves very little space for museums, galleries and catacombs. You’re going to need a bigger break…
Visit a volcano
Few thrills can match a quick trot along the crater of a volcano. In Naples, that volcano also happens to be active. Away from the adrenaline rush of the crater walk, the Vesuvius National Park is a surprisingly calm and biodiverse spot – even if one of the hikes is called ‘The Valley of Hell’. Foreboding omens aside, getting out of the city puts you among ancient lava flows, pine-scented forests and around 1,000 hectares of wilderness.
Eat plenty of pizza
Yes, there are plenty of things to do in Naples, and we’ll get to those in a moment. But we can’t have you flitting between Naples restaurants and missing out on the best pizza in Naples. You’re in the very city that came up with the dough-stretching, marinara-slathered, mozzarella-covered wonders we know and love. So it would be almost rude not to indulge. As you can imagine, the best pizza title is hotly contested, so we recommend sampling at least a few of the city’s award-winning pies. Start at a place called 50 Kalò and keep going until you’ve crowned your own winner.
Orbzii tip: For a slice of the action where, allegedly, the Margherita Pizza was first created, pop in to Pizzeria Brandi on Salita S. Anna di Palazzo. There’s even a plaque to mark the very auspicious occasion.
See the 7 castles
The fact that Naples has attracted the snappy moniker of ‘the city of the seven castles’ deserves a deeper dig. Spoiler alert, there are seven castles in Naples for you to find. Dotted around the city, there are grand turreted affairs, modest ruins and, well, one that really should up its castle game if it wants a place on any traveller’s Insta feed. Not all come with intriguing historical romps to unravel – so if you’re short on time, devote your Naples castle musing moments to Maschio Angioino. A beast of a building overlooking the Piazza Municipio that will inspire more than a few medieval fantasies.
Delve into dark tourism
If skulls and skeletons leave you squeamish, do feel free to skip this one. Naples is a city where you can wander into catacombs, visit caves filled with human skulls and take a deep dive into the Neapolitan Cult of the Dead. Far from being as sinister as it sounds, it’s an intriguing, and occasionally artistic approach to celebrating the life of the dearly departed. As is often the case, noblemen and the elite get the best send offs. Start your dark tourism stint off with the Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus and San Gennaro and, if you have the stomach for it, drop in to the MUSA Anatomy Museum. Fair warning, their Kilner jar specimens aren’t for the feint-hearted.
Take the metro
We’d never normally tell our travel-savvy readers to take advantage of the city’s public transport. But in Naples, we’re making an exception for one very good reason. The Toledo metro station happens to be one of the most beautiful underground stations you’re ever likely to see. We’ll not say too much here, for fear of spoiling the surprise, but mosaics, a few carefully placed LEDs and artworks have done wonders. Be sure to explore – and visit some of the other stations for more eye-popping art.
On one particular Naples street, Christmas is in full swing year round. Far from being a convoluted, tinsel twinkling, tree decorating and wine mulling gig to extract Euros from tourist wallets, it’s an insight into the festive season in Naples. Via San Gregorio Armeno is lined with small shops selling nativity scenes or ‘Presepio’. So far, so pedestrian. Except, it really is EVERY shop – and not all the scenes are what they seem. Figurines of Italian footballers and celebrities crop up in the unlikeliest of places – and who wouldn’t want a small, but anatomically accurate, figurine of a politician among their nativity scene? Drop in for a very different Christmas collectible to pop on the mantelpiece.
Take the secret escape route
When you ponder what might appear on a list of things to do in Naples, scurrying along a royal escape route probably doesn’t feature. But it should. For so many reasons. We’ll start with the vast and impressive size of the thing. Carving this whopper out of volcanic rock in the 1800s can’t have been easy. Unfortunately, King Ferdinand II died before the tunnel workers completed the job. His tunnel did shelter 10,000 people during bomb raids in WWII though, so not all was lost. Today, tours take you along the tunnels, where time has largely stood still. The vintage cars, gas masks and beds from the shelters are still here. You can also explore the huge aqueducts under the city by raft, if you’re game.
Go island hopping
Rather than gaze wistfully out to the islands in the bay of Naples, hop on a boat and experience their famously rugged beauty for yourself. Capri and Ischia attract most of the headlines, though Procida’s the smaller – and closest of the three. Bizarrely, for an island near Naples, it’s also the one most overlooked by island hoppers. Not you though. You’ll be there for the pastel hued houses, harbourside lunches and shabby chic stylings. There’s not a huge amount to do – unless you count mooching among Italian island realness. If you do? There’s a rather bountiful supply. By all means look in on Capri and Ischia – just expect a far more touristy vibe.
Find the Banksy
If you’re an urban art lover, pop this straight to the top of your things to do in Naples list. Among the works by Blu, Ska and Cyop & Kaf, there’s a Banksy. And, it’s not just any Banksy. The only officially recognised piece by the artist in Italy, it’s worth tracking down. The piece shows Madonna with a halo above her head that contains a pistol. One of two Banksy pieces in the city, but the other had long since been tagged and ruined by other graffiti artists, Madonna is now safely under glass – but still visible to passersby. Skip along to the Piazza dei Girolamini for a closer look. And, keep your eyes peeled for the many other murals and street art scenes across the city.
Visit a lost city
We don’t need to point you towards Pompeii, it’s most likely top of your Naples itinerary. But there is a lost city you might want to take a peek at. Found on the sea bed in the bay of Naples, Baiae suffered much the same fate as Pompeii, except the tragedy was hidden underwater. Archaeologists are still figuring out just what went on within the extravagant city walls, but there are boat trips you can take out to the site. Either take a seat in a glass bottomed boat, or for a little extra, get someone else in the water for you. Some tours send a plucky diver to the depths and feed back video footage via a camera to the surface. A very civilised way to experience a mysterious underwater city. They often lay on a lovely lunch too.