48 Hours in Naples

Travel Features Naples
48 Hours in Naples

Chaotic, lively, and dotted with hidden surprises, Naples is unlike any other place in Italy. The city of about a million people is full of attractions worth the trip for their artistic and historical value, but every street is an adventure in itself: an ancient church, a mouth-watering pastry shop, or a beautiful staircase with a canopy of laundry might be hiding around every corner. One of the oldest cities in the world, the colony that is now Naples was established by Greek settlers around 4,000 years ago. Follow in the footsteps of Greeks and Italians past and present as you navigate through the winding cobblestone streets of this striking Southern Italian city.

Day 1

10:00 a.m. | Pratica il tuo Italiano

Knowing a couple words of Italian is essential in Naples. From the basic greeting “Ciao” to the phrases needed to order food (which you’ll hopefully be doing a lot of) to deciphering the menus and transportation options, an Italian class can help you fully take advantage of your time in Italy. Italian language schools around the city offer beginner classes for various lengths of time. Classes feel more like a fun game than the dysfunctional middle school language classes you might remember, and teachers are experienced, patient, and friendly, and they might give you insider tips on the best places to see and eat. Check out NaCLIPs, where you can take a two hour intro class for 40 euros (or, if you’ll take the class with others, 30 euros per person). 

12:00 p.m. | Treat your taste buds

The perfect way to practice your new Italian skills is by ordering some of Naples’ famous food, and there’s no better place to get a pizza than in the city where it was born. Check out Sorbillo or L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele for an absolutely delectable lunch. Bellini or the Michelin-starred Pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi are also great options. Keep in mind that there may be long lines to dine in, and there’s always the alternative of getting take out and eating in a nearby piazza. Once you’ve eaten to your heart’s content, refresh your palate with granite, a combination of crushed ice and lemon juice, from a street vendor.

2:00 p.m. | Visit Capello Sansevero

The marble artwork in this chapel is a must-see for art lovers but will amaze even those who aren’t connoisseurs. On an unassuming street corner, Capello Sansevero’s highlight is the Veiled Christ, a stunning life-size marble sculpture of Christ shrouded with a veil that seems transparent but is actually carved from the same block of marble as the body. The veil is so perfectly crafted that people long believed that it was created by alchemy. Tickets sell out fast and in advance, so make sure to buy them as soon as possible through the museum’s website

4:00 p.m. | Take in the view from Castel Sant’Elmo

Time to stretch your legs! Walk up through the staircases and winding cobblestone streets of Napoli to Castel Sant’Elmo, a hexagonal fortress perched atop the Vomero neighborhood. Your ticket, which you should buy in advance here, gets you access to the castle as well as the museum. The view from the castle is one of the best in Naples, and if you can spend the sunset there, the view over the Gulf of Naples is unforgettable.

7:00 p.m. | Dance the Tarantella

The best way to learn about traditional Neapolitan dance is to do it yourself. Grab some castanets and learn the patterns of shuffles, steps, and turns typical of tarantelle. It is a great beginner-friendly dance form that will make you laugh and elevate your endorphins. Classes can be found online or even by asking language teachers, tour guides, or performers on the street.

8:30 p.m. | Buon appetito, once again

Time for dinner! For some more Italian food, try one of the city’s other fantastic restaurants, keeping in mind that the lines will probably be even longer. If you’ve had enough cheese and bread for the day, there are plenty of other options. Consider trying food from restaurants run by members of the various immigrant communities of Naples, such as the hole-in-the-wall Darshan Asian Kitchen, which serves delicious and shockingly cheap Sri Lankan food. Dinner in Naples can’t be complete without some sweetness to round it out. For the perfect gelato, check out Mennella, or snag a pastry from any of the numerous pasticcerias lining the streets.

10:30 p.m. | Nightlife on the Streets of Naples

Unlike many cities where the best parts of nightlife are in bars and clubs, Neapolitan people take their drinks out onto the streets. Grab a cocktail from Libreria Berisio, a beautiful bar lined with bookshelves, before heading out to join the crowds on Piazza Bellini or stroll around the city with friends or family.

Day 2

9:00 a.m. | Fuel yourself for an exciting day ahead

A classic Neapolitan must-try, sfogliatelle are shell-shaped layered puff pastries filled with a sweet ricotta. Try one warm with a dusting of powdered sugar for breakfast at Sfogliatelle Calde Attanasio, and if you like it, take a few to go for your journey ahead.

10:00 a.m. | Step out of Naples

Although the city proper of Naples is chock full of many more things to do when you have the time, from the Archaeological Museum to the underground tunnels of the Sotterranea, you’d be remiss if you didn’t travel to the gems easily accessible from Naples. Below are two potential options to choose from.

Option 1: Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

Rent a car or take the bus or train for a day trip to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. Explore the preserved buildings and mosaics of Pompeii, and get ready for a lot of walking because it’s as big as a city. Hiring a guide is recommended to fully absorb the history behind this magnificent ancient city. Once you’ve been transported back in time to Pompeii pre-burial, travel to the source of its destruction. Ask for directions for a bus to Mt. Vesuvius, and enjoy the view as it carries you up the mountain to a point where you can descend and climb up another 15-45 minutes, depending on pace, to an incredible viewpoint.

Option 2: Island Life (for a day)

From Naples, take the ferry to either Procida or Ischia, two gorgeous islands with heaping bougainvillea and turquoise water in the Gulf of Naples. Spend time lying on the beach, swimming in the clear water, exploring the streets lined with rainbow-colored houses, or going for a boat ride. Make sure to check the ferry schedule to get back to Naples before the last boat leaves—unless you fall in love with the island and want to stay another day or two. I wouldn’t blame you!

Whether you only have two days in Naples or over a week, there is a bounty of things to do, from nature to culture to food to history. Enjoy getting lost wandering through the cobblestone streets until the next time you return.

Trisha Mukherjee is a writer and audio journalist based in NYC. Her work focuses on human rights, women, immigration, the environment, travel, and adventure around the world. She is a producer at iHeartMedia and an AIR New Voices Fellow. Find more of her work at trishawrites.com.

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