Naples is a city to explore by car
It’s not for nothing that the Neapolitans are passionate about their city. Naples is vibrant, beautiful and has an extraordinarily rich history, reflected in its many old buildings and in its museums and art galleries, where old masters rub shoulders with contemporary works.
The castles, palaces and churches that crowd this relatively small area bear witness to Naples’s glory days as the capital of the Kingdom of Naples, presided over by Bourbon monarchs. It’s a hugely enjoyable and rewarding city to explore with cheap car hire, as the roads around here are excellent and there are plenty of places to park in the city itself, with the surrounding area also containing many places of interest.
Naples is especially good for spectacular views, and in fact the Roman elite built their holiday villas here for when they needed to get a break from the demands of running the world’s only superpower of the time. If you make your way up along the picturesque, narrow cobbled lanes of the Old Quarter you’ll get a fabulous view out across the Bay of Naples and beyond to Mt Vesuvius, brooding as ever on the horizon but hopefully not about to erupt again as it did when it buried the city of Pompeii under ash in 79AD.
photo credit: Flickr
The National Archaeological Museum is top of the attractions list for visitors with even a passing interest in ancient history. When in Naples, a nod of acknowledgement to the ancient Romans is in order, for what they did for us in the way of impressive architectural remains and glorious mosaic floors. This famous museum houses one of the very best collections in the world of Greek and Roman artefacts, from sculptures and mosaics to silver, glass and gems. There’s also an important and indeed rather titillating collection of erotica dug out of the ruins of Pompeii.
In the centre of the city is the magnificently flamboyant Royal Palace, on the Piazza del Plebiscito, which has been completely restored to reflect the style and elegance in which the city’s rulers once lived, and there’s also an attractive garden on the roof where you can sip a cool drink whilst enjoying fantastic views across the Bay of Naples.
photo credit: Flickr
Of course, no Italian city would be complete without its cathedral, and Naples is no exception. The 13th century Gothic Duomo here is truly spectacular. Dedicated to San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint, it is central to an annual festival when a phial of his blood is removed from storage for public edification and the hope of a miracle or two.
After touring the city, try taking the car out to places like the Phlegreens Fields to the northwest, a remarkable landscape of lakes and volcanic craters which gave rise to many of the old Roman myths about the Underworld. It’s also scattered with romantic remains of temples and amphitheatres.
Don’t miss Herculaneum and Pompeii either, two major cities that were wiped off the map when Vesuvius erupted, only two and five hours drive respectively from Naples, and the nearby Amalfi coast is also one of the most beautiful parts of the Mediterranean.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.
If you are visiting Naples, you should also take a boat to lovely island of Capri.