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Along the volcanic coast of Campania, barely hidden behind the sleeping giant of Vesuvius, lies one of the oldest cities in the world. In its rich 2,800-year history, Naples has developed from an ancient Greek cultural centre to a modern Mediterranean metropolis – while gifting the world pizza along the way! The city’s colourful past, under the aegis of various rulers and combined with its resilient rebuilding efforts following World War II, means it can amaze even the most seasoned traveller. As far as variety in architecture, cuisine and nightlife goes, the city could scarcely serve a wider spectrum.
From the hustle and bustle of the street markets to the tranquillity of one of the city's 448 historic churches – and everything in between – Naples provides an unforgettable backdrop to a truly unique city break experience. Stroll along its sprawling boulevards and be impressed by a multitude of monuments and statues; then rest tired feet while sipping on a short but oh-so-strong espresso.
City breaks in Naples: all you need to know
City breaks in Naples: cuisine
The culinary choices in Naples are nothing if not varied. While exploring the city’s piazzas and remarkable 19th-century indoor shopping galleries, it’s a must to make regular stops at its trattorias and tavola caldas – or snack bars, to you and I. Bar L.U.I.S.E., for example, is hailed for its freshly fried titbits, which include truly irresistible fried pasta cakes, and frittatas. Of course, no visit to Naples is complete without sampling an original pizza Marinara, or a locally invented Margherita in Antica Pizzeria Brandi, just off Via Chiaia.
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City breaks in Naples: history
A must-see while visiting Naples is the highly acclaimed National Archaeological Museum, where artefacts from Herculaneum and Pompeii are the most notable pieces on show. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD has helped preserve even the most brittle of pieces, including remarkable mosaics dating back to 100BC. An interesting look underneath modern Naples can be found through the excavations below the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore. The original Roman city is on show, including the area believed to be the ancient Roman forum. The accompanying museum, meanwhile, boasts beautifully frescoed ceilings.
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City breaks in Naples: events
As seasons change, so do the city’s cultural offerings. During the Maggio dei Monumenti festival, the city’s secrets are opened to the curious; a carnival spirit is tangible everywhere you go. Festivals with religious roots are common, like the thrice-yearly ritual involving the liquefaction of the blood of San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint. In contrast to such grisly traditions, summer beach parties are somewhat more modern – and raucous. Here, you can sample anything from chilled-out vibes to Ibiza-style raves hosted by world-class DJs.
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City breaks in Naples: landmarks
One of the main Neapolitan landmarks is the Piazza del Plebiscito, an open-air arena in a 25,000-square-metre backdrop for internationally acclaimed events such as large-scale art installations and concerts. It hosts the royal residence Palazzo Reale, from which it is traditional to close your eyes and try to walk between the two bronze horse statues of Charles III of Spain, and Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. Try for yourself to see why it is so much harder than it sounds!
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City breaks in Naples: nightlife
After horsing around in this sometimes overwhelmingly hectic environment, it’s time to tend to la dolce vita. Try sipping local wines in one of the relaxing wine bars in the San Lorenzo district, or putting your feet up in jazz clubs like Around Midnight or Bluestone, both of which offer live performances from local talents. For a livelier evening out, taste one or two colourful cocktails in S’move, located in the stylish seafront locale of Chiaia. The larger-than-life lava lamps give this hotspot something of a paradisiacal vibe.
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Image 2 © Ell Brown
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