An unconventional guide to Naples: best things to see, do and eat
Naples is a marvellous city, with a very intriguing and unique personality. We had been there last year for five days and decided to return again this year, to experience it better and do the things we hadn’t had the time for last July.
Naples itself is huge and any Neapolitan will (rightly) suggest you to go to the outer areas like Vomero and to visit the islands, but we had only a week and spent most of our time in the historical city centre. We booked a very handy apartment at the beginning of Gradoni di Chiaia, literally five minutes from Piazza del Plebiscito and Via Toledo. To budgetize, we reserved the eating-out for lunch and ate home in the evening. Anyhow, we avoided supermarkets and did all of our shopping in the small neighbourhood stalls, which result extremely affordable and offer quality products, of which I particularly liked Amodio for cheese (while for a list of markets, I found this link very useful). Plus, we had lots of fresh drinks and snacks throughout the day…
The area of the Decumano and Spaccanapoli are the more touristy ones, which also means that many museums and artworks are located down there, while if from Piazza del Plebiscito you go towards the sea, you will be in quieter and more refined areas like Chiaia, Posillipo and Mergellina. With regard to pizza, I think that in Naples it is good practically everywhere. All guides recommend Sorbillo in Via dei Tribunali (Spaccanapoli), but there is always a never-ending queue and I’m not really into queuing for my meal. Anyway, there is another Sorbillo along Via Partenope, next to Castel dell’ Ovo, where not only you won’t queue, but you will also enjoy a sea view.
In summer you can also rent a small wooden boat at the seafront or, if you walk further, a beach sunbed and ombrella (which on average cost 15 euros for a full day, 7 euros after 12 pm – for a list of beaches, refer to this link).
Obviously, in a week we still didn’t manage to do as much as we would have liked. Anyhow, I hope you will enjoy my outsiders tips and picks and look forward to learning about yours too!
EAT & DRINK
L’ Etto – Easy-going, yet stylish restaurant offering a buffet menu by weight (2,50 for 100 gr.). Only female staff, bright and clean furniture and lots of delicious preparations, from grain salads, to meat and fish stews and an incredible variety of vegetables. Great option for omnivore, vegetarian and vegan eaters.
Spazio Nea – Very bright and cosy cafeteria in Piazza Bellini, divided into an exhibition area and the proper café, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Great for coffee and cakes (try the homemade tarts), drinks, snacks and an easy lunch. The offer usually includes a first course of the day, like aubergine parmigiana or pasta, salads, saltimbocca (meatballs in red sauce), a side cooked veg like zucchini scapece and sandwiches. Excellent value for money and super kind staff.
Cavoli Nostri – Lovely vegan restaurant with modern interiors in natural materials like wood, with plants hanging at all corners and a very positive atmosphere. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating and the menu is very very intriguing! From hummus to pasta and plant-based fritters, we personally enjoyed it so much we went twice. Friendly staff and great value for money. Favourite dish: raw zucchini rolls with mopur and a vegan mayo.
CamBIOvita – Eatery and concept store with organic products. Good option for vegetarians (although it is not a vegetarian restaurant). Open for lunch.
Baccalaria – This restaurant wins the title of my Top Choice. Undoubtedly my favourite gourmet experience in Naples. Focused exclusively on cod, baccalà and stockfish, with elegant interiors, attentive service, mouth-watering food and a well-selected wine list, Baccalaria was a wonderful discovery. Highly recommended! (read my review).
Garum – Just in front of the Sant’Anna dei Lombardi church, here you will enjoy a quality meal based on local produce, prepared in a simple and refined way. Must-have: the stuffed mozzarella with friarielli and anchovy served at room temperature. De-li-cious!!!!
Pastamore Chiatamone – Not the place if you are looking for waiters in livery, but THE place to eat the famous dish Polpo alla Luciana. In light blue tones, with objects like nets that recall the sea on the walls, a hidden kitchen I imagine like the one in the scene of I Nuovi Mostri, and a small cove with a photo of Maradona in a golden frame, Chiatamone is a great budget option if you want to have fresh fish and a taste of local cuisine.
Gambrinus & La Caffettiera – Two elegant historical cafes, about 10 minute walk from one another, for a special treat. If you don’t want to sit down, consider stopping for a coffee and a pastry standing at the bar, whatever you will chose you won’t be disappointed.
SEE & DO
Castel dell’ Ovo – The oldest fortification in Naples, located on the island of Megaride, it is a magnificent place to enjoy a walk with a view. All around, lots of boat with locals and kids diving into the water. Magical.
In the centre - Decumano/Spaccanapoli/Via Toledo:
Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano – Located on Via Toledo, this elegant baroque palace hosts a rich collection of paintings of the 17th , 18th and 19th century, out of which stands the Sant’Orsola by Caravaggio (1607), his final painting which would represent a good reason alone for a visit to Naples. Highly recommended.
Pio Monte della Misericordia – Located in Via dei Tribunali, it is a former lay charity institution (which still continues its activity) with a small church hosting the Seven Works of Mercy by Caravaggio (1607).
Sansevero Chapel – Perfect example of baroque extravagance, it is known especially for the statue of the Veiled Christ (1753), by Sammartino. Absolutely worth a visit.
Madre - Contemporary art museum, with works that range from Joseph Bueys to Joseph Kosuth and Cindy Sherman, just to mention a few. Big and on three levels, in addition to the permanent collection, it always hosts temporary exhibitions and we particularly enjoyed Pompei@Madre. Materia Archeologica, in which contemporary works are in dialogue with archaeological material from Pompei.
Churches: This is not a comprehensive list of churches, I’ve only included the ones we visited, all located in the centre and very close one another and reachable on foot.
It’s possible to walk in and out of churches for free (although an offer is always recommended), so just go for it. We re-visited the Duomo, Gesù Nuovo and Santa Chiara, all so close yet so different, and last but not least Sant'Anna dei Lombardi. With regard to the latter, I suggest to pay the ticket that gives you access to the side chapels. You will be able to admire marvellous frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and the incredible sculpture group representing the Lamentation of Christ in glazed earthenware by Guido Mazzoni (1492)
Colonnese Bookshop – Open since 1965, here you will find both old and rare books and new editions and titles. Colonnese is also a small publisher, therefore I suggest looking (and buying) one of their books on different Neapolitan curiosities. For example, I bought I Baccalajuoli after having been at Baccalaria for lunch, but the titles are all very interesting. There is also an important section of books dedicated to Naples and lots of curious objects. Wonderful.
Spaccanapoli simply walking and Piazza Dante – Spaccanapoli is the most crowded area, full of life from morning to evening and with the highest concentration of tourists (thus with more attractions...). Enjoy a walk around the steep streets, nose around the stalls with the statues of famous people, the cribs, and other objects. At the corner of Piazza Dante and along Via Portalba, lots of second hand books and bargains!
Not so far out of the centre:
Capodimonte – Former palace of the Borboni, today it hosts an amazing collection of paintings, some works from the Farnese collection, and modern and contemporary artworks. (and the third Caravaggio in the city: The Flagellation of Christ). Unfortunately, there are serious problems, therefore not all rooms are open and it doesn’t seem possible to know in advance which rooms will or won’t be open. It’s out from the centre, but now the museum has finally activated a shuttle service from Piazza Trieste/Trento, with various stops along the way (for more info, click here).
For more tips, see my previous post on Naples.