Cheap flights to Naples
The Circumvesuviana train takes you easily from Naples’ Garibaldi station to Ercolano Scavi. From there a taxi will take you as high up Mount Vesuvius as you fancy - it depends how much hiking you want to do! Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, smothering the town of Pompeii.
It’s a pretty small hike really, usually about half an hour. Underfoot is ash and pumice so you’ll need a tough camping mat for the night. The days are quite crowded so you’ll need some patience to settle in and wait for everyone to go home and leave the volcano all to you.
Level of Difficulty: Hard (if you're going to bivvy - Easy if you just want a day trip outing).
What to pack: Warm clothes (check the weather forecast!), hiking shoes, woolly hat, headtorch, raingear, sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag.
Best time to go: spring.
Naples is loud and brash, but one thing it isn’t is boring. Great food, world famous archaeological sites, and arguably Italy’s most picturesque coastline ensure that there is never a dull moment in this busy town. Pizza, ice cream, noisy vespas and towering volcanoes spring to mind when you mention Naples. And while this city doesn’t boast the elegance of rival destinations like Venice or Rome, it more than makes up for it in the culture stakes. Rome may have the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but Naples has Pompeii and Herculaneum; two Roman towns preserved forever by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD.
As you’d imagine, Naples’ museums are also fit to burst under the weight of antiquities on offer from these two marvellous archaeological gems. Oh, and the city’s old town is also a World Heritage Site, so be sure to give it a wonder. But with its mix of Arab, Spanish, French and Norman influences, it’s Naples’ cuisine that sets it head and shoulders of the competition. This is the home of pizza after all.
Escape the crowds and noise of the Centro Antico and explore the city's cool and cavernous churches: the Duomo honours Napoli's patron saint San Gennaro while Gesù Nuovo is a favourite for those seeking medical cures from Saint Giuseppe Moscati.
The annual Maggio dei Monumenti (May Of Monuments) cultural extravaganza offers free entry to museums and local events. This year is dedicated to a regal innovator Carlo di Borbone (1734-1759), with concerts and parades evoking the 1700s.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is a former palace housing ancient antiquities, and it's slowly undergoing change. As ever, the infamous Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Cabinet) pieces from Pompeii and Herculaneum elicit titters and blushes. A new collection opened last November as part of ongoing restoration initiatives in one of its grand courtyards. Under a contemporary glass pavilion the new 'Beni Culturali invisibili' (Invisible Cultural Heritage) exhibition reveals exquisite Roman statuary from the Bay of Naples, brought to light after years of neglect in dusty corners of the museum.
The life and achievements of Napoli's 18th century Bourbon King Charles is being celebrated this springtime. Among his creations was the Versailles-aping Reggia di Caserta; take the half-hour train journey to this lavish palace and magnificent gardens.
Running up to Christmas, many throng the narrow centro antico lane Via San Gregorio Armeno to view Neapolitan nativity scenes ("presepi"). Shops are filled with traditional figurines of a certain stable scene alongside contemporary celebs set in quirky tableaux. Head to the Pietrasanta church on Via Tribunali to see the most exquisite nativity creations.
Naples' city beaches are hardly idyllic - along the lungomare at Mappatella between the concrete blocks is a patch of grey sand. Instead, head along Via Posillipo to Bagno Elena for a swim, a sun lounger and a granita (a semi-frozen drink).
An off-season day trip to the Golfo di Napoli's most coveted island of Capri provides the chance to sample chic shopping lanes, hidden bays and limestone cliffs without the crowds. Take the ferry (80 mins) from Calata Porta di Massa or the faster hydrofoil (50 mins) from nearby Molo Beverello.
Escape the Christmas shopping crowds by taking to the sea to visit the nearby island of Procida, with its pastel-hued fishing harbours, volcanic crater bays and market gardens. Take a ferry or hydrofoil from the ports of Naples or Pozzuoli.