Today, leave the waterfront behind and delve into the captivating historic heart of the city to continue your three days in Naples. Thick with storied palaces, churches, and museums, the city's old town is best explored on foot...wander the warren of narrow lanes and tiny squares, admire the picturesquely aging Baroque facades, and be surprised and delighted at the hidden piazzas and courtyards.
To visit Naples' historic center in one day, we suggest following this route:
First stop: Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore
The monumental church complex of San Domenico Maggiore is an ideal jumping-off point to begin your exploration of the historic center of Naples, thanks to its location right in the heart of the district. This church was founded in 1283 and is home to a pipe organ from 1640 that is still in working condition. It is uniquely placed so that the apse rather than the main facade overlooks Piazza San Domenico Maggiore.
While you're here, stop for a treat at Pasticceria da Scaturchio, considered one of the best in the city for a traditional sfogliatella or babà al rhum.
Second stop: Cristo Velato (The Veiled Christ)
This masterpiece of 18th-century sculpture is located in the Sansevero Chapel not far from Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. We recommend avoiding the most crowded midday hours or booking your ticket in advance via the official Cappella di Sansevero website.
Visiting the Cristo Velato:
Hours: Daily from 9:00AM to 7:00PM. Saturday from 9:00AM to 8:30PM (from May to November, 2019). Closed Tuesdays.
Ticket prices: €8
Visiting the Veiled Christ
Third stop: Via Tribunali
Continue your walking tour of the historic center during your short break in Naples by strolling down the striking Via dei Tribunali, one of the main thoroughfares in Naples lined with shops, pizzerias, and trattorias. This vibrant stretch of road crowded with street vendors and Neapolitans truly captures the feisty spirit of the city. This is also an ideal spot to sample traditional Neapolitan dishes, including the city's tempting array of street foods like "la pizza al portafoglio" or "il “cuoppo”", a paper cone of fried seafood.
A number of the most famous pizzerias in the historic center are located along Via dei Tribunal, incuding Da Sorbillo, Da Matteo, Al Presidente, Dalla Figlia del Presidente....we don't recommend one above another because the traditional pizza is excellent at all of them. A bit farther up towards Forcella, you can stop at Da Michele, perhaps the most famous of Naples' pizzerias. Keep in mind that there is always a bit of a line, and you will need to go inside to leave your name on the waiting list to be called when your table is ready.
An Unusual Stop
While exploring along Via dei Tribunali, be sure to stop at the Church of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, known for centuries as home of the cult of “anime pezzentelle”, a popular devotional practice in the city in which skulls of unidentified deceased are believed to represent souls in Purgatory. One of the most famous is Lucia, a skull with a bridal veil that is considered the guardian angel of young brides by Neapolitans. In the underground burial grounds at the Complesso del Purgatorio ad Arco, which we suggest you visit while in Naples for three days, you can take in the ossuary at the heart of this folkloristic cult of the "anime pezzentelle".
Fourth stop: the nativity scene artisans of San Gregorio Armeno
Crossing Via Tribunali at a right angle, Via San Gregorio Armeno is a must-see when in Naples for a short break. This short and narrow lane is home to the famed nativity scene artisans of Via San Gregorio Armeno. The workshops are functioning and open to business all year round, and spill over into neighboring lanes. The area is very crowded during the Christmas holidays, of course, and on December weekends it can be a challenge to walk in the crush of shoppers.
If you have time and aren't too footsore, before browsing the workshops on Via San Gregorio Armeno, take a look at the city's Duomo, the Cathedral of San Gennaro. Admire the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, a symbol of the city's most beloved religious traditions.
Visit San Gregorio Armeno
Fifth stop: Spaccanapoli
Your walking itinerary through the historic city of Naples now takes you to perhaps the most emblematic stretch of road in the city: the"decumano inferiore", best known as Spaccanapoli. This bustling, narrow road shoots straight through the city's heart and is about a kilometer long. Dividing the downtown in two halves, Spaccanapoli is home to some of the most important historic monuments and palaces in the city, including Palazzo Carafa, the Dio Nilo statue, the Church of Gesù Nuovo, and the spectacular Basilica of Santa Chiara, consecrated in 1340. Be sure to take in the famous majolica cloister at Santa Chiara, the crown jewel of the complex. The cloister is open daily from 9:30AM to 5:30PM (Sunday from 10AM to 2:30PM) and tickets cost EUR 6.
Sixth stop: Piazza Dante
End your walk through the historic center with a stop in Piazza Dante, one of the most important squares in the city. Browse the historic stands of booksellers at Port'Alba, the artisan musical instrument workshops along Via San Sebastiano, and the ruins of the ancient Greek city walls in Piazza Bellini, a bustling square lined with trendy bars perfect for an aperitivo. You can even stop here for dinner: located directly on Piazza Dante, Il Leon d'Oro offers traditional Neapolitan dishes and a surprising array of appetizers and small bites. For a more modern take on Neapolitan classics, dine at "Stanza del Gusto" on nearby Via Costantinopoli.
If you are keen to explore an additional neighborhood in the city, take the underground metro (line 1, Dante stop to Vanvitelli) to hilltop Vomero for dinner in one of the many popular restaurants in this vibrant district known for its nightlife.