When you think about Italy, your mind might jump right to the tourist heavyweights of Venice, Rome, or Florence. But it would be a shame to overlook Naples, the coastal Mediterranean metropolis in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Naples has layers of history just begging to be explored – from underground catacombs to ancient fortresses.
One of the best ways to experience Naples is by sea. This is, after all, the port with the world’s second-highest rate of passenger flow (second only to Hong Kong). When your cruise ship pulls into port, you’ll have a chance to explore this seaside city and all it has to offer. You might only get one day to look around, however, so hit these highlights first!
Continuing on to the rest of Italy? Check out our guide for what to do in Florence!
What to Do
It’s best to get started as early as you can, so grab an espresso, shake out the morning cobwebs, and dive in! Begin in the historic heart of Naples at the Cappella Sansevero. This small Baroque chapel at once exemplifies the twin forces of religion and art that overlay Naples. The chapel was built during the late 16th century to house the tombs of the di Sangro family, and later filled with the finest pieces commissioned from the most famous artists of the 18th century. Inside, marvel at Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Cristo velato (veiled Christ) with its marble veil so convincingly thin and and delicate you might be tempted to try to pull it off the statue. Also worth noting are Francesco Maria Russo’s colourful frescoes, which date back to 1749.
Via Francesco de Sanctis 19, 9:30am-6:30pm Mon & Wed-Sat, 9:30am-2pm Sun, admission €7
Next, make your way up Via del Sole (about a ten-minute walk) to the Naples National Archaeological Museum, an 18th-century institution built next to the ancient Greek city walls (a reminder of when this city was once the Greek Neapolis). One of the world’s finest collections of Greco-Roman artefacts, the museum’s highlights include mosaics and treasures from the doomed cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as colossal marble sculptures and even Egyptian mummies. To walk through the galleries of this museum is to take a stroll through history!
Piazza Museo Nazionale 19, 9am-7:30pm Wed-Mon, admission €8.
If you can squeeze in one more attraction before lunch, the Catacombs of San Gennaro won’t disappoint. This early Christian burial site, adjacent to the church of Madre del Buon Consiglio, is named after Naples’ patron saint, Januarius (Gennaro in Italian). Descend into these ancient catacombs and discover a hushed world of tombs, corridors, frescoes, and mosaics – some dating back as far as the first century. In the basilica minore you’ll find the tomb of San Gennaro himself, who was martyred in the 5th century. The interring of his body in the catacombs led the site to become a popular destination for Christian pilgrims.
Via Capodimonte 13, one-hour tours conducted every hour 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 10am-1pm Sun, admission €8
By now your stomachs are no doubt grumbling, so make your way south along Corso Amedeo di Savoia to get to Pizzeria Starita. You can always expect a good slice – or three – in Naples (it is, after all, the original hometown of pizza), but Starita is the place to go. This Neapolitan institution has been around for over a century, and is beloved by locals and tourist alike. Don’t miss the Montanara pizza, a Margherita pie which is lightly fried and then baked – truly to die for!
Via Materdei, open daily 12pm-3:30pm, 7pm-12am
Feeling a little full after that? Walk off lunch with a stroll south down Via Enrice Pessina, through Piazza Dante, and along Via Toledo until you reach the striking twin towers of Castel Nuovo. Literally ‘new castle’, this stony structure isn’t so novel anymore – it was built in 1279! The royal residence and fortress is the site of many famous historical events and was also a centre of royal patronage of the arts. Inside you’ll find artistic treasures aplenty, including Renaissance frescoes painted by Giotto. Take special note of the triumphal arch at the entrance – it commemorates the victorious entry of Alfonso I of Aragon into Naples in 1443.
Piazza Municipio, 9am-7pm Mon-Sat, admission €6
Now you’ll find yourself in prime position for a number of sites. Stroll past the 17th century Teatro di San Carlo, the city’s grand opera house, to get to Piazza del Plebiscito. This huge public square, located just 400 metres from the waterfront, offers sweeping views from all sides. To the east you’ll see the sprawling façade of the Royal Palace; to the west, the Roman Pantheon-inspired church of San Francesco di Paola rises up magnificently. Any and all of these attractions are well worth a look around. Interesting fact: the piazza gets its name from the plebiscite (referendum) held here in 1860, which brought Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy.
If you can manage to fit one more castle into your day, stroll down to Castel dell’Ovo (just a fifteen-minute walk from the piazza). This oddly named 12th-century edifice – literally, ‘Castle of the Egg’ – gets its name from an old legend holding that the Roman poet Virgil buried on egg on the site where the castle now stands. Virgil warned that if the egg broke, the castle (and Naples) would fall. Whether the legend is true or not, it’s tough to tell, but both the castle and the city are still standing. Walk up the ramparts for a dazzling panorama of Naples and its port.
Borgo Marinaro, 8am-7pm Mon-Sat, 8am-2pm Sun, free admission
Reward yourself at the end of a long day with some typical Neapolitan fare at Antica Capri. Bruschetta, olives, buffalo mozzarella, and the freshest seafood you can get are all here in good measure. If you want to get pizza again, go right ahead – hey, you’re on holiday!
Via Speranzella, 11:30am-3:30pm and 6pm-1am
How to Get to Naples
The cruise port of Naples is one of the busiest in the world, so be prepared for some crowds as your ship arrives! When you pull into port, don’t waste any time getting lost in the hustle and bustle. Book your Naples cruise port transfers with Shuttle Direct and you can rest assured knowing your transport to and from the city centre is all sorted. No need to worry about figuring out public transit schedules in a foreign language – just book the time and place and let your experienced driver do the rest.
About Shuttle Direct:
If you’re travelling in Europe or North Africa, you can count on Shuttle Direct to make your travels a little easier. As the number one provider of transfer services in the region, we know a thing or two about getting people where they need to go. Whether you need service from the airport, cruise port, train station, hotel, or other destination, Shuttle Direct has got the modern-day traveller covered. With a fast and straightforward online booking system, travelling the world has never been easier!