Naples can be traced back to the 9th Century BC and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, making its name slightly ironic – Naples is taken from Neapolis, a name given to it by the Ancient Greeks, meaning ‘the new city’. Find a place to stay in the UNESCO-listed Centro Storico (historic centre), you’ll be surrounded by nearly 3,000 years of development and history.
As building in the centre of Naples is heavily regulated, you’ll find accommodation in its labyrinth of narrow alleyways, old churches and statues honours its historical surrounds. Book a hotel here if you like independent, quirky hotels and bed and breakfasts – many of which are highly affordable – rather than modern chains.
Above and Below Naples Historic Centre
Naples has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, French, Spanish and Italians, with each group leaving their mark on the city’s architecture and religious structures. The many different styles of church are one of the hallmarks of the neighbourhood. King of these is the 13th-century San Gennaro Cathedral, though the various Gothic and Baroque churches dotting the side streets are also worth a visit.
And when you’ve had your cultural fill at street level, it’s time to go below. Naples stands on top of a huge maze of underground tunnels, which connect a series of caves and chambers. Over the centuries, the caverns have been used as homes for poor families, catacombs for the dead and as bomb shelters during World War II. Guided tours taking 90 minutes leave from the entrance at Piazza San Gaetano.
Christmas Everyday in Naples Historic Centre
As you walk the streets of Naples historic centre, you’ll discover a wide range of shops, many of which shine a spotlight on traditional crafts. Probably the most surprising spot, however, is Via San Gregorio Armeno, where you’ll find a street full of nativity-scene makers.
Though the street is understandably very popular at Christmas, the craftspeople here work on their figurines, cribs and farm animals all year round, trying to outdo each other with their elaborate constructions. Admire their intricate creations, which go far beyond a simple manger, with whole towns and landscapes often constructed in miniature.