Founded in the 9th century BC as Neapolis ("New City") by the Greeks, it is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The UNESCO evaluation committee described Naples' centre as being "of exceptional value", and went on to say that Naples' setting on the Bay of Naples "gives it an outstanding universal value which has had a profound influence". But Italians have known these things for centuries: The view of Naples from the sea is so beautiful that a traditional Italian saying states that once you've seen it, you can die.
Founded as a Greek colony of Cuma and positioned near the geographical center of the Mediterranean basin, it has an unmatched heritage as a place of exchange between cultures. This is reflected in the city's structure and monuments, which are a mixture of Greek, Roman, Norman, Angevin, Swedish, Spanish and French architecture. The Neapolitan language - notoriously unintelligible to many speakers of standard Tuscan Italian - also bears witness to the town's diverse cultural origins, being composed of French, Spanish and Arabic words, inserted into a Greek, Oscan and Latin structure.
As a testimony to its extraordinary history, the Naples region hosts an unparalleled concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Center of Naples itself; the Roman archeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Cumae, Pozzuoli, Oplontis and Stabiae; the Royal Palace of Caserta; the royal site of San Leucio and the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli. It is close to Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the European continent and itself a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Paestum's Greek temples and the Amalfi Coast, also UNESCO's World Heritage sites, are possible day trips, as are the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida in the Bay of Naples.
Naples was the World Capital of Cultures in 2013, since it hosted the Universal Forum of Cultures (UFC) from April 10 to July 21, 2013.
(37 km). A former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. In 1997, the Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described in its nomination as "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space".
(40 km by boat or hydrofoil) A world-famous destination, it is an island on the south side of the Gulf of Naples, which has been a resort since the time of the Roman Republic. Features of the island are the Marina Piccola (the little harbour), the Belvedere of Tragara, which is a high panoramic promenade lined with villas, the limestone crags called sea stacks that project above the sea (the Faraglioni), Anacapri, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), and the ruins of the Imperial Roman villas. Capri is the place where the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus was imprisoned. The circumstance (and the imaginary salvatage of the emperor) has been featured in the movie The last legion, starring Colin Firth along with Sir Ben Kingsley and Aishwarya Rai.
(37 km by boat or hydrofoil) Procida is one of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples, it lies between Cape Miseno and the island of Ischia. Procida was held by Mycene in the period between the 16th and 15th centuries BC. During the 8th century BC the first Greek settlers to this island were immediately replaced by other Greek peoples coming from Cuma. During Roman rule, Procida became a renowned resort for the patrician class of Rome. Nowadays is a renowned balnear locality.
(38 km) San Leucio is a frazione of the comune of Caserta, most notable for a resort developed around an old silk factory, included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list in 1997. In 1750 Charles VII of Naples selected this place for an unusual social and tecnological experiment, a different model of silk production based on technical innovation and alert to the needs of workers. It is considered one of the first examples of socialism, a closed community where life and work were closely connected and planned. Today the San Leucio heritage still survives today in the local silk and textile firms, which work on an international scale to elite foreign clients as the Buckingham Palace, the White House, the Quirinale Palace, the Palazzo Chigi.
(40 km by boat or hydrofoil) is a volcanic island which lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. The main industry is tourism, centering on thermal spas that cater mostly to European (especially German) and Asian tourists eager to enjoy the fruits of the island's natural volcanic activity, its thermal hot springs, and its volcanic mud. For many of the inhabitants on the Italian-speaking island, German and English are second languages. This is because of the large number of German- and English-speaking tourists who visit the island each year.
A popular tourist destination which can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii, as it lies at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The town overlooks the Bay of Naples as the key place of the Sorrentine Peninsula, and many viewpoints allow sight of Naples itself, Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. Sorrento's sea cliffs and luxury hotels have attracted notable people, including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti. Sorrento was the birthplace of the poet Torquato Tasso, author of the Gerusalemme Liberata. The town was quite famously featured in the early-20th-century song "Torna a Surriento" (Come Back to Sorrento) an iconic example of the Neapolitan song.
coast (70 km) is a stretch of coastline in the Province of Salerno in Southern Italy. It is a popular tourist destination for the region and Italy as a whole, attracting thousands of tourists annually. Aside from the chance to visit the renowned towns of Amalfi (one of the four ancient Maritime Republics of Italy), Positano and Ravello (which hosts the Wagner festival); the Amalfi coast offers to trekkers the opportunity of walking on the "Sentiero degli Dei" (The Walk of Gods), a stunning dirt road suspended on the cliffs between the Mediterranean sea and the mountains. The area is also well known for the limoncello, a digestive liquor made out of lemons.
Greek Temples (104 km). Near Salerno, there are three major temples in Doric style, dating from the first half of the 6th century BC. These were dedicated to Hera (only slightly smaller than the Parthenon); and Athena, and are one of the best conserved examples of Doric architecture.
former public hospital/almshouse in Naples, southern Italy
quarter of Naples
church in Naples
public shopping gallery in Naples, southern Italy
ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples, Italy
stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy
Both Naples and the locally-used Italian Napoli are acceptable names for the city, and derivatives of the original Greek name of Neapolis.
The most widely spoken language in Naples is Italian or a mixture of Italian and Napulitano (Neapolitan). Neapolitan is sometimes described as an Italian dialect, but it is officially acknowledged by UNESCO as a distinct language, with well-defined roots and rules, and there is a great heritage of literature (eg. Giambattista Basile's Lo cunto de li cunti, a collection of fairy tales) and songs ('O sole mio and Torna a Surriento are some iconic examples) in Napulitano. Neapolitan is still thriving in Campania and adjacent parts of Lazio, Abruzzo, Basilicata, Molise and Calabria. This said, the official language of Naples (as of all of Italy) is Italian and everyone can speak it when prompted, though often with a strong local accent.
Neapolitan has strong Spanish and French influences originating from periods of Spanish and French rule. Therefore, more Spanish and French words are understood by the locals than in other parts of Italy.
English is the most commonly spoken foreign language, although the average knowledge of English is far from excellent.
There is fast express train service to Rome and points north, as well as points south. Naples is the ultimate terminus for the FR7 line of the Rome commuter rail network, which runs from Roma Termini to Minturno-Scauri, Sessa Aurunca-Rocca or Naples. There are also local Italian Railway trains to Pompeii, but for such short distances, it is easiest to take the Circumvesuviana commuter train.
It's easy to find ferries to places like Sicily.
- Solfatara (12 km). It is a shallow volcanic crater at Pozzuoli, part of the Campi Flegrei volcanic area. It is a dormant volcano, which still emits jets of steam with sulphurous fumes.
- Royal Palace of Caserta (37 km). A former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. In 1997, the Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described in its nomination as "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space".