All the great powers-from the Greeks and Romans to the British, French and Austrians-have aspired to control it; several of the continent’s more powerful rulers made it their capital. The history of Naples however, dates much further than Greek colonization. Etruscan and Samnites, native-Italic groups were in the area long before and it has been confirmed that the city was inhabited as early as the Stone Age (3500BC).
Today, Naples is one of the most vibrant and exciting city in Italy, it is also the second most populous city, home to 1,206,000. It is the most important port after Genoa and the intellectual and commercial centre of the south. The animated and noisy town, bright with the southern sun, enjoys one of the more wonderful geographical situations in the world, spread out fanwise above its beautiful gulf.
Naples is a unique city for several reasons. Most importantly, it bears traces of more than twenty centuries of continuous habitation by various civilizations. Its remarkably rich past is reflected in its art and architecture, but it is also evident in the very form and structure of the city.
The city once again is flourishing. Under the guidance of mayor Antonio Bassolino, Naples has become a much safer city. A vast urban renovation programme has revitalised and enhanced the beauty of the city centre, buildings have been restored and repainted, and a considerable area of the waterfront, as well as several of the elegant shopping streets further inland, have become pedestrianized.
One of the special things about Naples is that you can walk from the city centre to its garland of hills in just a couple of hours-or even less, if you hop on one of the famous funicolari (cable cars). On the walks that follow you can explore the heart of the city, ascend to the magnificent museums of Capodimonte and San Martino, and wander the lush paths of the Posillipo headland. And there is much more to do as well, for Naples is almost overwhelming in its wealth of art, culture and history.
Like London or New York, Naples has grown haphazardly over the centuries-which means that the modern city centre no longer corresponds to the centre of the Roman and medieval town. This make Naples more difficult to explore than say, Florence or Venice, where many centuries of architectural history are concentrated in a very small space. Obtaining a good map of the city is therefore essential for visitors upon arrival. It is recommended to choose an area and concentrate on that, then move to another. Don’t try to do everything at once, or you will end up seeing nothing at all.
Home to the most important port of all southern Italy, Naples has a great artistic, historical and cultural patrimony visible in numerous sites such as Piazza Municipio, Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), the San Carlo Theatre, Palazzo Reale, Piazza del Plebiscito with its Basilica of San Francesco di Paola.
Within the city of Naples there are over 800 churches and ecclesiastical buildings including the Monastery of Santa Chiara, the Cathedral, the Monastery of S. Gregorio Armeno, the Church of Santa Brigida, the Church of the Spirito Santo, the Church of Monteoliveto, the Spire of the Immacolata, the Church of San Pietro ad Aram, the Church of San Paolo Maggiore, the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore.
Well worth a visit, via San Biagio dei Librai, via San gregorio Armeno, the historic roads with numerous artists studios and craftsmen's workshops, Palazzo Cuomo, Palazzo Gravina, the Museum of Capodimonte, Castel Sant'Elmo, and Castel dell'Ovo.
Travellers should be advised that while Napoli is beautiful, interesting and glorious, the city does have an underside, particularly evident in the Spanish Quarter of the city, which is just off of Via Roma. The maze of streets narrow streets and dense living conditions, offer little light in this area. Travellers who venture off of Via Roma into this area, may as well consider their money and anything of value, lost. Motorcyclists in this area are famous for robbing tourists and numerous contributors to Italy Group Specialists and clietns we have worked with, have made it known that travelling alone of with valuables in this area, has ended with valuables getting stolen in certain areas of Naples. It is best for this reason, if you are traveling to Naples for the first time to get to know the city with a guide.