Naples –its name comes from the Greek “neapolis” or new city—is located in the region of Campania in southern Italy, about two hours south of Rome, on the northern edge of the beautiful Bay of Naples. Views of the majestic, 7,000-foot-high Vesuvius volcano greet passengers as their ship arrives in Naples, southern Italy’s most important port.
Vesuvius destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D., and day trips to these famous archaeological sites, that open a window to life in ancient Roman times, are very popular shore excursion offerings during stops at Naples. Other day trip excursions easily arranged onboard ships are drives along the lovely Amalfi Coast including picturesque Positano, and tours to the isles of Capri and Ischia as well as to the seaside city of Sorrento with its cameo-making factories and other charms.
Cruise passengers who opt for staying in Naples itself, have piazzas and pizzas to look forward to during typical city tours. An impressive city, Naples’ main sights include the imposing, medieval Maschio Angioino Castle dating from the 13th century, the classy Mergellina district along the coast, the old Santa Lucia district – the oldest part of Naples – and Posillipo Hill. Views from the top of the hill, as well as from other points of the city, include the sights of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples.
At the Piazza Plebiscito –one of several beautiful piazzas in the city – visitors can admire the elegant Royal Palace, the San Francesco di Paola church (which is inspired in the Pantheon in Rome) and the Neo-classical San Carlo Opera House, which pre-dates the more famous La Scala in Milan.
Across from the San Carlo Opera House is the Galleria, a shopping center in Neo-Classical style with lovely mosaics themed to the zodiac that also pre-dates a similar one in Milan. The Galleria is an excellent place to purchase fashions and fine leather goods Italy is known for.
Other souvenirs to be on the lookout for are local crafts including nativity scenes –craftsmen on Via Gregorio Armeno, in the heart of the old city, have been creating the nativity scenes called “presepio” in Italian, and selling them for centuries. Their workshops line the narrow pedestrian street and also offer, in addition to the nativity scenes, terra cotta items, carvings, decorated plates and other works of art.
Another popular stop on city tours, whether organized or by independents, is at the Naples Archaeological Museum, at Piazza Museo 19, in the historic Spaccanapoli district, with a large collection of art, sculpture, mosaics and artifacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other ancient Roman sites.
Another Naples sightseeing “must” for art lovers, in this case when it comes to churches, is the Cappella Sansevero (Via San de Sanctis 19) where among other treasures visitors find the Veiled Christ marble sculpture. Carved in 1783 by Giuseppe Sanmartino, the figure of Christ depicted appears to be covered by a thin veil. The features of Christ are visible under the delicate “fabric” of marble as are the crucifixion wounds.
Many city tours sold onboard ships make a stop at a typical Naples restaurant for lunch, perhaps Toto Sapore (All Flavor), to see how Naples’ gift to the world: the delicious, iconic Neapolitan pizza (what locals like to call “a real pizza,”) is made. An expert pizza-maker demonstrates the process –the traditional pizza margherita is prepared with flour without yeast, tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil and basil – to honor the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green. The pie is then baked in a firewood oven at 400 degrees –a thin-crusted delight that tour participants get to feast on, of course.
Other local flavors not to be missed include pasta and seafood –perhaps spaghetti in a variety of sauces with clams and mussels – and traditional Neapolitan desserts including “spumoni,” “biscotti,” “pastiera” cake and “sfogliatelle,” a delicate, flaky pastry made with ricotta cheese and orange and lemon zest.
Cruise lines that visit Naples include Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Seabourn.
IF YOU GO – For additional information on Naples, visit www.italia.it.