Rick Steves

6 Exciting Things to Do in Naples and Pompeii

With its tangled traffic and little open space, Southern Italy's leading city of Naples may seem more like a urban jungle than a charming destination at first glance. But travel guide Rick Steves encourages travelers to plunge a little deeper, to see the fascinating collection of museums, churches, and eclectic architecture Naples has to offer.

Steves uncovers the city's charm when he roams through its neighborhoods, markets, and beyond in this episode of "Rick Steves Europe." He also ventures outside the city to show us Europe's only active volcano and the town it once buried in ash. Along the way, he guides on what to see and do to get the most authentic glimpse of the Neapolitan love for life, food, and family. Let's recap some of his adventures.

Keep on travelling with tips from Steves' show, which airs Monday through Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m.

1. Walk through Naples' historic neighborhoods

To fully capture the fun-loving and easy-going spirit of the city, Steves suggests strolling through its historic core -- starting from the city's main drag, Spaccanapoli (meaning "Split Naples"). This straight promenade dates from ancient Greek times and provides access to many of Naples' piazzas, chapels, and quarters.

As you walk the city's narrow streets, you'll see Neapolitan life at its most authentic: kids playing soccer in the streets, families on their small apartment balconies, and local shops open for business.

Though the city is generally much safer than it used to be, Steves does caution travelers to be wary of hasty motorists, con artists, and pick pockets. As with any city, it's better to be safe than sorry.

2. Eat pizza in its birthplace

No trip to Naples would be complete without a taste of an authentic piece of pizza; the city is, after all, the birthplace of this favorite snack. And for pizza purists, the Antica Pizzeria da Michele, located on Via Cesare Sersale, is THE place to go. Their menu is simple with just two variations: margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, and a green basil garnish) and marinara (tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic, no cheese). But by the looks of it, it's no wonder it's a pizza lover's favorite...Yum!

3. Climb Mt. Vesuvius

Venturing outside the city center, Steves encourages travelers to check out mainland Europe's only active volcano: Mt. Vesuvius. Getting there is easy with the Bay of Naples' commuter train called the Circumvesuviana. A shuttle van picks up tourists at the Pompeii station and drops them off near the volcano. From there, a half hour hike gets you to the summit, where you'll get amazing views of its surroundings.

4. Roam the ruins of Pompeii

Though Mt. Vesuvius is sleepy right now, its most notable eruption happened in 79 A.D., when the volcano exploded and buried the nearby city of Pompeii and its inhabitants under 30 feet of volcanic ash. Pompeii, which was once a thriving Roman port town, was rediscovered in the 1600s. Today, excavations offer archaeologists and visitors an accurate look at what Roman life was like.

Visitors can walk through the ruins of this well-organized town, including its main square, public bath, homes, and much more.

5. See Pompeian artifacts at the National Archeological Museum

For the best collection of Pompeian art and artifacts recovered from the excavations, you'll want to head back to Naples to the National Archeological Museum. There, the collection ranges from grand bronze sculptures to beautifully detailed mosaics, all of which give a sense of the sophistication and wealth the city and its people possessed.

6. Sample a unique Neapolitan pastry

Wrap up a day of sightseeing with a sweet ending at the elegant Gran Caffé Gambrinus, located on Piazza Trieste e Trento. With its 19th century charm, this elegant coffeehouse is a great spot to try sfogliatella -- a crispy Neapolitan pastry that's filled with sweet ricotta cheese. Enjoy it standing or pay a little extra to sit down and enjoy in true high-society fashion. Just like the intellectuals, movers and shakers did during the café's heyday.

Naples, Italy | Photo: thriol/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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