Naples – a city port along Italy’s west coast, capital of the region of Campania and 3rd largest municipality in the country. This is a droll description that does not conjure up much excitement in the traveler’s heart. But let me assure you, no traveler to Italy should miss this vibrant city, if for no other reason than the food. If you planning a trip or a Mediterranean cruise, ensure this place is on your itinerary.
From here, do the day trips to Pompeii or Herculaneum (or both) to see an authentic Roman settlement in ruin just as it was the day it was engulfed in ash from Mt. Vesuvius’ famous eruption, or satisfy your sense of the beautiful exploring the Amalfi coast. You can actually see the volcano quite clearly from Naples, and also many artifacts from the destroyed cities without leaving Naples itself by visiting its National Archeological Museum. But I would suggest this only as an option should your particular cruise or tour has less than a good full day in the area. Have lots of time? Do all three activities. You won’t be sorry.
And the three foods you should not miss sampling in Naples? They are pizza, gelato and sfogliatelle. Start out the day like the natives with a sfogliatella – a flakey, many layered pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, perhaps the ends dipped in dark chocolate. Yumm! Accompany it with a Neopolitan coffee, an extremely strong sweet brew. Just coffee to begin the day kind of person? You can have this sweet pastry for a dessert at dinner later in the day.
While strolling the old narrow winding streets of Naples ( be sure to bring a guide or map), perhaps shopping for souvenirs at San Gregorio Armeno where craftsmen flog nativity scenes and figurines ( often little to do with the Nativity and more with current celebrities), you might get thirsty for a gelato or ice cream. Naples boasts a myriad of gelato shops and stands where you can choose from a vast array of flavors from chocolate to wine. Gelatos are generally fruit based or cream based, but all are delicious!
For lunch watch for pizza stands or follow your nose, you don’t necessarily have to dine in a restaurant. Naples is known for its pizza, so much so it has been regulated by the government for a decade to keep this dish authentic. Choose from the traditional napoletana marinara, margherita or margherita with buffalo mozzarella. If eating in a restaurant use the provided utensils but by the slice in the street, fold and eat with your hands. Still uncertain? Watch the locals – or to paraphrase a famous saying ” When in Naples, do as the Neapolitans do !”