The Italian city of Naples is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular ports. Its position means it is in easy reach of some of the area’s biggest attractions and therefore there is plenty to do when your ship docks in this historic harbour.
So, if you are planning a Mediterranean cruise this summer, here are five adventures you can enjoy from Naples – whether that’s as part of an organised excursion or under your own guidance.
History fans will be aware of Naples’s proximity to the Pompeii excavations and this is certainly something worth seeing. A short ride on the Circumvesuviana train from the city will take you directly outside the gates of this fabled town. The site itself is quite expansive and you could easily spend the whole day there and still struggle to see everything.
However, most of the impressive sites can be explored within a few hours, including the amphitheatre, basilica and thermal baths. As well as the buildings themselves (which range from houses and shops to gladiatorial training facilities and political forums), there are displays showing unearthed artefacts and the heart-breaking casts of bodies buried by the ash of Vesuvius.
Speaking of Vesuvius, it is possible to climb to the top of this fiery brute and walk along the edge of the caldera (the collapsed crater). One of three active volcanoes in Italy and the only one on mainland Europe, this mountainous structure sure is a sight to behold. It’s reached via the same Circumvesuviana train used to get to Pompeii but also requires a bus journey from either Pompeii Scavi or Erculano station.
The bus drops you off 250 metres from the top and, from there, a rocky trail leads you up and around the outside of the crater. Although there is no bubbling lava to see, you can look forward to great views over the bay of Naples and the chance to peer into the mouth of the beast.
The Amalfi Coast
The towns and villages along the Amalfi Coast have been portrayed on postcards and Pinterest boards for many years now and this part of the country is one of Italy’s biggest tourist spots. If you’re not brave enough to rent a car or moped (the roads are unfathomably windy and narrow) and you haven’t booked an excursion, the best way to get there is by once again hopping on the Circumvesuviana train.
The end of the line is Sorrento which, whilst not strictly being on the Amalfi Coast, is a picture-perfect town to wander through. From here, you can hop on one of the local buses and take the twisting journey to Positano or Amalfi – where beautiful beaches, charming shopping streets and colourful houses perched on the side of cliffs await.
An Island Escape
If you haven’t had your fill of travelling by sea, you can disembark your ship in Naples and immediately board another one towards one of the islands in the bay. Fast ferries and hydrofoils depart regularly and transfer times are no longer than 45 minutes.
The most popular island paradise is Capri, but there are other great options as well. The volcanic island of Ischia will soothe you with its thermal waters, whilst Procida is dotted with quaint harbours and beautiful walks through nature. An island escape is definitely a great option if you want to take it easy during your stop in Naples.
Many people come to Naples to explore the surrounding area and see some of the things listed above. However, it’s important not to forget what a fantastically interesting city it is. With a good metro system and parts which are easily walkable, the capital of Campania can be enjoyed at a slow pace – although don’t expect the locals to join you at this speed. Vespers rush down narrow streets; Neapolitans stride determinedly along the paths; and cars, buses and trams all jostle for position on the roads. But this all adds to the city’s charm.
The most interesting and accessible areas are the harbour and the Centro Antico. The former is home to the dramatic Castel Nuovo, showcasing a mixture of French and Spanish architecture from throughout the middle ages, and the latter is where you will find the famous ‘Christmas Alley’ and the lively Via dei Tribunali. If you do get the time, though, head up to the neighbourhood of Vomero, where everything is more relaxed.