Naples was for many years regarded as the capital city of Italy and the center of development for arts, music, history and architecture. Today it's just as well known for its Mafia presence and its long-running garbage-collection strikes. But the deep Italian culture endures and it's evident everywhere: in the charming old buildings, the museums and the historical sites--as well as in the world-class thin-crust pizza.
Before there was Naples there was Pompeii. And there is still Pompeii, since the ancient city was remarkably well preserved by the Mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed it. You can see how the ancient Italians lived on a daylong visit to the ruins of the city. Or you can go to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which houses many of the most remarkable finds from Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum. There is a replica of Pompeii, along with artifacts that include phallic sculptures and pornographic paintings. (Consequently, the museum does not admit children under 11 years old.)
The Underground City is another fascinating destination. Take a tour of winding passageways beneath the city and the ruins buried there, including old buildings, cisterns and caverns. For a livelier time, check out Spaccanapoli, one of the most vivacious areas of Naples. Here you'll discover traditional and delicious pizzerias, as well as the old apartments and churches that give the neighborhood its authentic personality.
Legend has it that pizza originated in Naples. It's certainly one reason tourists put the place on their itinerary. In fact, a fair number come only for the distinctive thin-crust pies. In old times pizza was known as the food of the common people and, in the past, visitors would go to the city's poorer areas just to have a taste. Today, however, pizza establishments abound in the city. Among the most popular is L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Sersale, which has been around since 1870. Pizza lovers rave about its unique crust. Others prefer Pizzeria la Notizia in Vomero.
A great place to explore many authentic Neapolitan foods is the Centro Storico, Naples' historical center. Locals love the area's street food, including pizza fritta and crochette di palate. An authentic Neapolitan breakfast is not complete without the traditional sfogliatelle, a flaky filled pastry. Attanasio on Via Vico Ferrovia is known to serve the most heavenly version.
Toledo is Naples' prime shopping street--and where you'll find the magnificent shopping arcade Galleria Umberto. This site has been standing since the late 19th century and is a great place to shop for leather goods, antiques, ceramic figurines and other handcrafted pieces for your home. Some of the smaller shops in Naples close in the early afternoon, only to reopen at around 5 p.m. Many shops don't open on Sundays and Monday mornings but most Thursdays late-night shopping is common.