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Naples – or the City of Sun as it has fondly been nicknamed – has been the subject of some bad press in recent years, with many people making it out to be one of the dingiest cities of Europe in the grip of Mafia rule.

In reality, the streets of Naples brim with character and history, giving a more rustic nod to the classical Italy of old. Quaint cobbled streets lead inquisitive visitors to quirky bars and markets, all under the watchful eye of the nearby Mount Vesuvius.

Day one:

Morning:

Take the first morning to find your bearings in a city which can, at times, seem like an endless maze of little side roads. It’s also a good opportunity to soak up the ornate furnishings of the Royal Palace in Piazza del Plebiscito. Originally home to the Bourbon kings in the 18th and 19th centuries, today the magnificent grand staircase takes you to rooms crammed with historic bits and pieces, including papyrus scrolls found in nearby Herculaneum after it was hit by the same eruption that smothered Pompeii. Afterwards, you’ll have your pick of patisserie and coffee shops dotted around the area to give you some much-needed energy for the rest of the day.

Afternoon:

Once you’ve explored the city from above, it’s time to head below ground. Napoli Sotterranea runs tours through a labyrinth of old aqueduct tunnels 40ft below the street level, which were used as handy air-raid shelters during the Second World War. Multilingual staff guide visitors through narrow passageways – some of which are so small they’re only accessible by walking in single file and using candles to light the way. Definitely not one for the claustrophobes. Returning above ground for a short period to travel onto the Fontanelle Cemetery, you will delve straight back underground for a taste of the city’s Cult of the Dead. From the outbreak of cholera in the 17th-century to the mid-19th century, the cemetery was used to discard the bodies of those too poor to afford a proper funeral. Towards the end of the 19th century, the site was popular with people who would ‘adopt’ a random skull and pray for the departed soul.

Evening:

After an afternoon underground, come up for air for an evening of bustling nightlife. First, it’s an idea to line your stomach, and what better dish than an authentic Neapolitan pizza? Often revered as the best pizza in the world, you’ll be spoilt for choice with pizzerias sprinkled throughout the city. The three-floor La Trianonda Ciro still uses the same method to create pizza masterpieces as it did when it opened in 1923. Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente is worth a stop-by, even if just for its brush with stardom – it was renamed after Bill Clinton dropped in for a snack. For drinks, start at Enoteca Belledonne which, for its showpiece, has an extensive list of white and red wines. S’move is the place to head to in the evening to throw some shapes and mingle with the locals.


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48 hours in Naples: Explore the City of Sun
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