Piazza del Plebiscito compliments of Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito

The city of Naples dominates a huge, curving bay, overlooked by brooding Vesuvius, and gazing across the Mediterranean towards the hazy outlines of Capri and Ischia. Pompeii, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, lies on the edge of the city; the excavations of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the same cataclysmic eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, lie close by. Just along the coast is the lusciously beautiful resort town of Sorrento, and the stunning Amalfi Drive, one of the Med’s most beautiful coast roads, connecting romantic spots like Ravello and Positano.

What to see and do

Pompeii compliments of De Agostini Picture Library
Out of town, Pompeii has to be the first priority

Most cruise ship visitors overlook Naples itself, but if you have time, a stroll from the Stazione Maritima, where the cruise ships dock, reveals narrow alleys strung with washing lines, and broad boulevards lined with 18th-century mansions. Visit the National Archaeological Museum on Piazza Museo as an extension of your visit to Pompeii: many of the best artefacts are housed here.

Out of town, Pompeii has to be the first priority. A thriving Roman town until it was enveloped by ash from Vesuvius in AD 79, its perfectly preserved remains were discovered by accident in 1599. The town is one of Italy’s most-visited sites today. All cruise lines offer tours here, and some include Herculaneum as well. A different twist on Pompeii is to take a tour that goes up Vesuvius first. There’s a zig-zag, 20-minute climb up a busy path to the summit, but the views are spectacular, both down into the rocky crater and across the bay and city spread out below.

Capri makes a great day visit, either as part of a tour or on your own, taking the hydrofoil from the port. Be sure to allow enough time to get back – the early evening hydrofoils are often packed. A little hillside town, Capri is packed with expensive bars, chichi restaurants and designer shops. Take a boat from the harbour to the Blue Grotto, a famous submerged-sunlight-lit sea cave, or visit the beautiful Villa San Michele.

Elegant Sorrento on the Amalfi coast is another gem, its narrow streets packed with shops and restaurants. A wonderful place for browsing and people-watching.

Naples alley compliments of Fototeca ENIT

Where to eat and drink

Da Michele in Naples (damichele.net) claims to be the original home of pizza, and locals queue for melt-in-the-mouth margaritas and marinaras – no deep crust or pineapple toppings here! (although note that it’s closed for three weeks in August). Unexpectedly, the pizzas at the touristy cafeteria outside Pompeii are also quite spectacular.

In Sorrento, try Gelateria Bougainvillea (bougainvillea.it), which has 70 flavours of ice cream as well as a cocktail lounge. In Capri the main square, La Piazzetta, is surrounded with bars: dress chic, sit outside and sip limoncello to blend in with the locals.

Where to stay

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria at Sorrento (exvitt.it/sorrento-hotel.html) is one of the most famous hotels in the region, set in truly gorgeous gardens. For cheaper and boutique options, check out Italy Traveller (italytraveller.com) which has a wide range for you to select from.

Fact File
Population 989,000
Language Italian
Climate Hot all summer, often humid and sometimes thundery.
Currency Euro
Time Zone GMT+1
Dialling Codes +39
Useful Websites www.inaples.it/eng/home.asp