The two most famous ruins of Roman settlements have to be Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pompeii was preserved in ash by a Vesuvian eruption in 79 AD, leaving behind networks of cobbled streets, half-formed temples, residences, a forum, and even petrified human remains. Herculaneum is a smaller settlement of block houses, villas, and social gathering places also covered by the eruption of 79 AD. Accessed from the modern town of Ercolano that has been built around it, this ruin has seen deterioration since being unearthed, but still has plenty for travelers to see in a half-day trip. Despite the majority of their artifacts having been placed in the Naples Archaeological Museum, there is still so much at both of these sites that still inform us of a society two thousand years old.
As far as the historic center of Naples (Centro Storico) is concerned, as long as you heed our warnings about it not being as well-kept as may be the case with other major European cities, you'll actually enjoy much of what there is to offer. There are a handful of central plazas that are quite popular with tourists and prove to be hubs of social activity for the locals. The Piazza del Plebescito is the most grandiose of the squares, with the Church of San Francesco di Paola (reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome) and the stately Royal Palace lining its fringes. The Piazza San Domenico Maggiore is more homely, and is known for the 500-year-old obelisk at its center and the two churches that face it. There are a number of pedestrian streets in the area, including the central Spaccanapoli, a narrow, east-west thoroughfare that has served the city for many centuries. A last highlight of the old town is Napoli Sotterranea, an underground network of caverns that were originally built by Greek settlers and later used as air raid shelters during WWII.
If you're looking for a more clean, modern part of the city, you can head to the shore (the coastal neighborhood of Chiaia is known for the Castel dell'Ovo) or head up the hill to Vomero. A more affluent part of the city, Vomero is known for its handful of shopping streets, pizzerias, and views over the city and the bay from landmarks like Castel Sant'Elmo and Certosa di San Martino, the first of which is an accessible fortress and the second of which is a large, ancient monastery.
If castles are your thing, Castello Aragonese on the nearby island of Ischia is quite possibly the coolest in the region due the fact that it perches on an island unto itself. The Amalfi Coast to the south is also quite an adventure, although you'll find it to be far overpriced and over-touristed if you plan on actually doing more than marvel at the views from the coastal road at the ocean far below.
If you're intrigued by any of the activities mentioned herein, take a look at our individual culture listings. We also have travel videos and a willing and engaged community to get you going on your next big trip.Vomero-Much nicer area on a hill, at the top is Castel Sant'Elmo and Certosa di San Martino (great views). A lot of pedestrian shopping streets and local flair. other must-see sights- Castel dell'Ovo, Castello Aragonese on Ischia, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Herculaneum