A Solo Traveller's Guide to Naples

Solo travellers to buzzy Naples will love the variety of things to do and places to stay
Solo travellers to buzzy Naples will love the variety of things to do and places to stay | © Artur Bogacki / Alamy
Jo Fernandez

Neapolitans are as bold, beautiful and ballsy as their beloved city, and the southern-Italian metropolis – the third-largest in the country – is assured of its allure. It’s the birthplace of pizza. It’s got a magnificent historic Unesco World Heritage site. Ultimately, it has a chaotic, charming heart. Built by the ancient Greeks, Naples prides itself on time-honoured traditions: tiny strip-lit family fish restaurants ringing with the greedy pleasure of the moment; piazzas where love’s young dreams embrace; and the post-dinner passeggiata along the seafront promenade, in the sultry night.

What’s the vibe?

Skinny, scruffy streets strung with washing; street-food stalls peddling crispy arancini – delicious rice balls named after the oranges they resemble; and graffiti – spot the Banksy adorning the side of a church. It’s all yours to inhale in the centro storico, home to some of the finest food and drink in the world, along with some pretty stately sights. Away from the historic centre, you’ll find coastal castles, peaceful parks and memorable museums. The holiday starts here…

Bustling Spaccanapoli is the heart of the historical centre in Naples

A weekend in Naples is enough for pizza at least twice a day in a family-run restaurant or two – and a few shots of limoncello, the classic neon-bright lemon liqueur, after your meal. Bisecting the Old Town is Spaccanapoli street, a stage set of baroque churches, speeding Vespas and minute artisan workshops where it’s Christmas all year round. Stroll the seafront lungomare for grade-A people-spotting, from smoochy lovers to noisy families.

Where to stay in Naples

1. Grand Hotel Parker’s

Hotel, Luxury

Spacious suite at Grand Hotel Parkers Naples, with traditional furniture - a dining table for six, a desk, and sitting area, a statue
Courtesy of Grand Hotel Parker's / Expedia

From the olive-tree-clad terrace of this landmark hotel you can see across the bay to the immortal island of Capri. The hillside setting – on the fancy Corso Vittorio Emanuele that splices through the city – suits the high-end look within this 19th-century property. Expect period features, marble floors and bathrooms, bronze statues and chandeliers.

2. Weekend a Napoli

Bed and Breakfast, Villa

Weekend a Napoli_f314a36b
Courtesy of Weekend a Napoli / Expedia

Here’s a smart B&B in an art nouveau villa, on a tree-lined street a few blocks from Floridiana Park. Rooms look the part, with terracotta tiled floors under Persian rugs, and balconies for negroni-laced moments. Bask in southern-Italian rays as you chat to fellow guests in the garden, and discuss local cuisine in the chef-led cookery class.

3. Tric Trac Hostel

Hostel

Tric Trac Hostel_f8e5adc6
Courtesy of Tric Trac Hostel / Expedia

A 15-minute walk from the Royal Palace of Naples is this fun-filled social spot on the Piazza Santa Maria la Nova. It’s a prime choice for solo travellers, with rooms and dorms that cater for a mixed and female-only clientele, and industrial-funky bunks. Mingle on the sun terrace or over a game of table tennis; or perhaps have a communal strum: there are musical instruments to have fun with.

Eating and drinking in Naples

4. La Terrazza

Hotel Restaurant, Italian

hotel Excelsior_la terraza_b8b599f3
Courtesy of Hotel Excelsior / Expedia

At the rooftop restaurant in Eurostars Hotel Excelsior, the whizzy waiters keep the prosecco and aperitivos coming – but it’s those Vesuvius views that will seduce you and your dinner guests. How does a view of Naples, glittering in the distance, sound as the backdrop for an atmospheric evening out? And that curious egg-shaped edifice on the Lungomare below? It’s the intriguing castle Castel dell’Ovo.

5. Pizzeria Sorbillo

Pizzeria, Italian

Sorbillo Esterina take-away pizzeria famous for fried pizzas on Via dei Tribunali, Naples, Campania, Italy, Europe
© Stuart Black / Alamy

In one of Naples’s historic working-class neighborhoods, Via dei Tribunali is a long street all a-whirr with places to eat, drink and shop. Head straight for Sorbillo, where the menu features 21 pizzas named after the owner’s 21 sons, including classic margheritas with creamy mozzarella and fragrant fresh basil. You’ll find it easily – crowds gather ahead of opening at midday.

6. Mazz

Patisserie, Italian

Atmospheric street in the Historic city centre, Naples, Italy
© Bjanka Kadic / Alamy
Just along from Pizzeria Sorbillo, this family-run bar and pasticceria has satisfied the sweet tooths of Naples since 1935. The rococo – flat almond-packed biscuits in a ring shape – are so popular, the recipes are on the website. Most of the year you can sit in the outside space sipping prosecco or margaritas. Saluti!

What to do in Naples

A foodie foray

Foodies will be spoilt for choice on a trip to Naples

Just being in Naples is like being on a never-ending street-food tour. But a local-led outing will introduce you to generations of bakers and pizzaiolos. On every atmospheric street corner you’ll find classic Neapolitan cakes such as syrupy rum babà, and breakfast staple sfogliatella, a shell-shaped buttery pastry rich with ricotta and citrus fruit. As you follow the guide – and your nose – you’ll also encounter nearby markets selling everything under the sun.

Savour the best Neapolitan street food on an expert-led tour when you book Culture Trip’s ten-day tour of Southern Italy.

Garden heaven

Find a peaceful oasis in the cloisters of Santa Chiara Monastery

Escape the urban chaos for the calm of the cloister garden at the Santa Chiara Monastery. This celestial spot invites you to sit on a bench covered in glazed earthenware tiles. Take in the columns clad in the same way. As you daydream, inhaling smells of roses, orange and lemon trees, you can only envy the 18th-century nuns who lived here in heavenly seclusion.

A subterranean adventure

Delve deep below the surface on a visit to Underground Naples

Naples Underground (Napoli Sotterranea) snakes its way 40m (131ft) below the city centre – it’s a labyrinth of tunnels dug by the ancient Greeks and used by the Romans. Ultimately, the Neapolitans used them as air raid shelters during World War II. This isn’t one for claustrophobics or souls scared of the dark, as some of the tunnels are narrow and one section is lit only by candles.

Stay safe, stay happy

You really are better off walking. Narrow roads – thick with beaten-up cars driven by speed freaks – are all the incentive you need.

Getting around

The Funicolare Centrale is handy for both tourists and locals

Piazza Garibaldi is the main bus and tram hub. Metered official taxis in Naples are white, so go for those; look for the TAXI placards and check for added costs – such as nighttime or public holidays. Don’t dismiss the Funicolare Centrale in Naples as just for tourists – it’s a godsend for locals, too.

Get under the skin of Naples with like-minded travellers on Culture Trip’s 10-day tour of Southern Italy. Soak up the sights and taste the traditions on a small-group tour, with people who are as keen to explore as you are.

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