Naples is a must if you're looking for amazing food and incredible pastries, jaw dropping art that will leave you dazzled, and if you want to experience a culture of passion and music!
To enjoy Naples to its fullest you have to take it as it is, jump in and enjoy! There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world and once you let yourself fall in love you'll keep returning to Naples again and again and again.
Start with a day trip to Naples. If you're in Rome, then a one hour train ride will get you to Naples, and most other major Italian cities have easy and rapid access train rides to Naples. Or if you're on a cruise or driving through Naples to reach another destination, make a point of dedicating a day to Naples. If you're coming from a city other than Rome you may want to stay overnight.
If you decide to stay the night in Naples I highly recommend a charming bed and breakfast in Piazza Dante: B&B Piazza Dante. Owners Simona and Marco are delightful, the rooms are spacious and charming and the breakfasts are abundant and delicious. They only have three rooms so if you're planning on an overnight stay plan well in advance!
This delicious, freshly baked casatiello...a meal in itself...is one of the many delicious breakfast treats Simona picks up every morning for her guests!
From Piazza Dante you can easily walk to the Scaturchio Pasticceria, our first stop today, in about 10 minutes.
Exit the metro and facing the piazza, cross the piazza to the other side and turn left (east). At this corner of Piazza Dante turn right onto Via Porta d'Alba and walk along 140 meters until you reach Via S. Sebastiano. Turn right and walk 220 meters to Via Benedetto Croce. Turn left here and walk 170 meters until you reach Scaturchio in Piazza Domenico Maggiore.
One Day Itinerary in Naples, Coming From Rome
Grab a morning train and plan on arriving in Naples no later than 9 or 10 am. Make sure you book a Frecciarossa train (high speed) that gets you to the Napoli Centrale station (in Piazza Garibaldi) in an hour and ten minutes, nonstop. Depending on how far in advance you book, the round trip ticket price will vary but you shouldn't pay any more than €70 round trip. For an additional €20 you can purchase a first class ticket: nicer, more spacious seating, plug outlets at each seat, plus an onboard snack. Book online for a ticketless reservation. If you won't have a cell phone with you then print your ticket.
There are many trains to Naples and the regional trains are much slower and make many stops along the way: avoid these trains. Again, make sure you get a train to the Napoli Centrale station.
Once you get to the Napoli Centrale station walk straight ahead towards the exit. As soon as you're outside you'll see a taxi stand to your left. Grab a taxi and ask the driver to take you to the Scaturchio Pasticceria, at Piazza Domenico Maggiore, 19. Make sure the driver turns on the meter. Often they don't, or they'll ask if you want to pay a fixed price (usually around €10). Say no: the fare to Scaturchio should be about €6. No tip necessary.
I love Piazza San Domenico Maggiore: it's bristling with activity and the buildings are awash with the rich colors that distinguish Naples from other cities!
Start the day with a luscious pastry from Scaturchio, right there on the square.
Try Naples's signature pastry, the sfogliatella riccia, a shell-shaped flaky layered pastry resembling stacked leaves (foglie) filled with sweet, fresh ricotta. A second, much simpler type of sfogliatella, the sfogliatella frolla, is made instead with shortbread crust and doesn't have the characteristic layers of the sfogliatella riccia.
Naples is also famous for its babà (a yeast cake drowned in a rum syrup), pastiera napoletana and struffoli (tiny deep-fried dough balls, rolled in honey and covered with sprinkles, typical in the Christmas season).
Scaturchio is one of Naples's best known pasticceria and has 6 or 7 pastry shops in the city. It's wonderful but there are many pasticcerie in Naples; everyone has their favorite, so if you feel like something sweet throughout the day grab another pastry!
Once you've had your pastry and coffee head towards the San Severo Chapel Museum to see the Veiled Christ sculpture (Cristo Velato).
With your back to Scaturchio head straight ahead across the piazza to the right hand (northwest) corner where you'll find Vico San Domenico Maggiore. Turn left, then almost immediately turn right onto Via de Sanctis Francesco. At your first left take Via Raimondo de Sangro di Sansevero and just a few meters ahead at #19/21 you'll find the Museo Cappella Sansevero.
The Cristo Velato, sculpted in 1753 by the relatively unknown sculptor Giuseppe San Martino, is the most outstanding among dozens of other amazing works of art located in the Cappella San Severo. Entrance tickets: €7. You can also book a guided tour here.
Next you'll want to head over to the Monastery of Santa Chiara to visit its gorgeous 14th century cortile (courtyard), museum and church.
Exit San Severo and retrace your steps back to the Scaturchio pasticceria. With your back to Scaturchio turn left (you will be on Via Benedetto Croce) and walk 260 meters. Then turn left at Piazza del Gesù Nuovo. The Chiostro di Santa Chiara and church are right there: Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, 18.
Piazza del Gesù, and the portion of Via Benedetto Croce that leads to the piazza, is the beginning portion of the long narrow street known as Spaccanapoli (Naples splitter) that divides the historic center of Naples in two. This stretch of street is notable for the amazing view looking off in either direction. Heading east the street changes name to Via S. Biagio Librai, then crosses Via del Duomo and heads out towards the end of the historic center of Naples. Make sure you catch the view as you walk along Via Benedetto Croce towards the Chiostro di Santa Chiara.
The 14th century chiostro is replete with spectacular bright yellow hand-painted, floral-patterned tiles, columns and ceramic benches making it an enthralling and joyous place to visit.
The center of the chiostro is filled with orange-laden trees and well-kept vegetable patches maintained by the Franciscan friars.
The cloister's four walls are covered with 17th century frescoes. Entrance fee: €6, €4.5 students and seniors over 65.
The adjacent Santa Chiara Church, completed in the mid-1300's, is also a must see. Don't miss the spectacular nativity scene in the church.
Bear in mind that the church, like most churches in Italy, is closed over the lunch period from 13:00 to 16:30 so plan to be there before the midday closure.
If you want to have an amazing casereccio (down home Neapolitan food) lunch featuring local dishes then plan on having lunch at one of my favorite spots: the Antica Trattoria da Carmine, Via Tribunali 330. The ebullient hospitality of husband and wife owners Edoardo and Adele, and Adele's brother Maurizio is a pleasure. Nothing fancy here; Da Carmine is a simple trattoria filled almost exclusively with Italian clientele, enjoying great food.
Closed Mondays, and Sunday and Tuesday evenings. This extremely affordable place is always packed, often with a waiting list to get in at peak hours. Da Carmine doesn't take reservations but if you call a day or two in advance you should be able to.
What To Eat
Try local dishes and ask the proprietors for the best dishes of the day. You can't go wrong with the traditional dishes that are so typical in Naples: pasta with potatoes, rigatoni with Genovese sauce, delicious lasagna with fresh ricotta, and scialatielli (a short, thick fettuccine-like pasta) with sausages and friarielli (a dark green leafy vegetable local to the area).
Da Carmine has wonderful meat dishes and fabulous light-as-a-feather fried seasonal fish: anchovies, calamari and capitoni, when available. If you happen to be in Naples over the Christmas holiday season capitone fritto, one of my favorite dishes, (deep-fried wild eel) is a must try!
If you'd prefer pizza or fried foods here are a few nearby great pizzerie and friggitorie you could try:
- Pizzeria (& Friggitoria) di Matteo, Via Tribunali, 94
- I Decumani, Via Tribunali, 58/61.
- Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, Via Tribunali, 32
- L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale, ⅓
- Antica Friggitoria Spaccanapoli, Via Benedetto Croce, 42
Via San Gregorio Armeno, right around the corner from the Da Carmine Trattoria, is famous worldwide for its nativity scene workshops. Exit the restaurant, turn right, then make your first right onto Piazza San Gaetano which leads immediately onto Via S. Gregorio Armeno.
Italians, and especially Neapolitans, compose entire villages featuring daily life to build around their nativity scenes: everything from market vendors to bread bakers, butchers, artisans, people eating, at work or engaged in crafts and leisure activities. The better artisans first craft everything from clay, which is then intricately hand-painted. Clay figurines are dressed in elaborate hand-crafted clothing. Two of my favorites workshops are Fratelli Capuano, Via S. Gregorio Armeno, 28, and Bottega Michele Buonncontro, Via S. Gregorio Armeno, 1. Stroll the entire street; there are dozens of shops worth exploring.
Head back up to the top of Via S. Gregorio Armeno, and turn right on Via Tribunali. Walk along and enjoy all the different shops, eateries and bars. Street food is everywhere and delicious: pastries, pizza, incredible fried foods in the friggitorie.
Music is an integral part of Neapolitan life: you'll often run into street musicians as you stroll along, or in restaurants.
When you get to Via del Duomo, cross the street and just a bit further along on the right hand side of Via Tribunali is the Pio Monte della Misericordia church where you'll find a spectacular Caravaggio painting.
There are only three Caravaggio paintings in Naples, all in distinctly different parts of the city. The Seven Works of Mercy, celebrating human mercy and kindness, was painted in 1607 for the high altar of the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia and is a must see if you love Caravaggio. The church is located on Via dei Tribunali, 253. Full price entrance tickets are €7, family price €14, students €5. The church is closed Wednesdays.There are twelve other wonderful paintings by Italian artists in the church.
After you leave the church head back along Via Tribunali to Via del Duomo. Cross the street and turn right where you'll find a taxi stand to get a taxi back to the station. If you feel like taking some delicious, freshly out-of-the-oven sfogliatelle back with you then ask the taxi driver to take you to the Pasticceria Figli Attanasio (renowned to be the best in Naples) on Vico Ferrovia, ⅔, just a few minutes walk to the station. Sometimes the lines here can be very long (weekends and holidays) so allow yourself at least an hour to pick up some sfogliatelle for the road.
As you exit the Pasticceria Attanasio turn right on Vico Ferrovia, take an immediate right onto Via Milano, and then left onto Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi. Continue straight: Piazza Garibaldi leads directly to the Napoli Centrale train station for your return trip back to Rome.
Getting around Naples
Walking is the best way to get around and experience Neapolitan life, its colors, people, food and music.
Naples has a metro system that can get you around quite well although it doesn't cover the core part of the historic center. If you prefer taking the metro to get to the historic center for our daylong itinerary it's quite simple to connect to the metro within the train station. Take line #1 four stops to Piazza Dante (this is also the stop for B&B Piazza Dante).
Line #1 is known as the Art Stations line, featuring around 200 works of contemporary art in roughly a dozen of the stations along the line including Piazza Dante.
The Metro runs all day from about 6am to 11pm and a single ticket costs €1.
When you don't feel like walking or have a distance to cover then taxis are a reasonably inexpensive alternative.
Driving is hectic and unpredictable but if you're feeling extremely adventurous you can always rent a motor scooter and travel like the locals!
If you don't want to venture out on your own then try a guided walking tour of Naples. Are you mostly interested in food? A Walking & Sightseeing Tour with Pastries Tastings might be more up your alley. Another option is a Naples by Night: Food and Wine Walking Tour with Local Guide.
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