More Than Just Pizza: What is Naples, Italy Known For?

In the heart of southern Italy lies a vibrant metropolis that’s a melting pot of ancient history, rich culture, and culinary delights. That city? Naples, Italy.

Many people might already know that this city is coined as the birthplace of pizza, but what else is Naples, Italy known for?

Let’s find out.

A culinary odyssey

Naples’ most mouthwatering offering is its cuisine. Throughout the streets of the historical center (centro storico) and the Spanish quarters (Quartieri Spagnoli), there are rustic trattorias and the aroma of freshly baked pizza wafting through the air. Neapolitan pizza is often credited as one of the earliest forms of pizza, and there’s no better place to indulge in it than in its city of origin. From the classic Margherita with fresh tomato sauce, molten mozzarella, and basil, to the decadent pizza fritta, a deep-fried delight oozing with cheese and fillings.


Insider’s Tip: When travelers visit Italy, they often seek out traditional Italian pizza. However, this doesn’t solely refer to Neapolitan pizza; it encompasses a variety of regional styles found throughout the country.

pizza from naples
Pizza from Naples is of course the city’s claim to culinary fame, but there really is so much more to try.

The culinary prowess certainly doesn’t stop at pizza—seafood in Naples is also incredible. Seafood lovers can enjoy dishes such as spaghetti alle vongole, brimming with juicy clams and garlic-infused sauce, or fritto misto di mare, a crispy medley of fried seafood. For dessert, you can’t miss the iconic sfogliatelle, a crunchy pastry filled with sweet ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar.

Insider’s Tip: Do yourself a favor and try both kinds of sfogliatelle: the ricca (fried) and frolla (baked) ones! At Cuori di Sfogliatella, you can find modern takes on these pastries with a variety of fillings—both savory and sweet!

Crisply, sweet, and filled with any number of tasty fillings, these lovely pastries are just perfection. Photo credit: LexnGer

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii

A visit to Naples wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to Mount Vesuvius and the ancient city of Pompeii. Standing guard over the bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius is a reminder of nature’s power. Its infamous eruption in 79 AD buried the nearby city of Pompeii under a blanket of ash and pumice, preserving it in time for future generations to discover.

Walking through the streets of Pompeii is like stepping back in time. From the grandeur of the amphitheater to the mystique of the ancient forum, every corner tells a story of daily life in a bustling Roman city. The haunting plaster casts of the volcano’s victims serve as a reminder of the city’s tragic fate, frozen in their final moments for eternity.

Walking along the streets of Pompeii and taking in its remarkable history is really an unforgettable experience. Photo credit: Nick Hubbard

Historical sites and architecture

Throughout the labyrinthine streets of Naples, historical sites and architectural marvels speak to the city’s illustrious past. Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace of Naples), with its opulent interiors and sweeping staircases, offers a glimpse into the lives of the city’s former rulers. Nearby, Castel Nuovo attests to the city’s medieval heritage.

Insider’s Tip: By venturing a little out of the city center, you can reach Castel Sant’Elmo, from which you can enjoy sweeping views over the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. There are some bars nearby where you can rest with a coffee or spritz after the journey and still take in the panorama!

Found among the shops on busy streets or hidden in the vicoletti (small side streets), Naples’ churches are a testament to the city’s deep religious devotion and artistic history. The Naples Cathedral, with its intricate frescoes and ornate chapels, is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, while the Church of Santa Chiara captivates with its serene cloisters and vibrant majolica tiles.

The church of Santa Chiara is well worth a visit. One of Naple’s most important sites, it includes the church, a monastery, tombs and an archeological museum. Photo credit: CpaKmoi

Music and performing arts

In Naples, music is more than just a form of entertainment—it’s a way of life. From stirring opera to lively Neapolitan folk music, the city’s musical heritage is as diverse as it is enchanting. The Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest opera theater in the world, has been mesmerizing audiences for centuries with its moving performances and opulent décor.

Further showcasing Naples’ musical talent are the street musicians found on almost every corner. Whether it’s the soulful notes of a saxophone or the rhythmic beats of a tambourine, music is woven into the very fabric of Naples’ streets, infusing them with an undeniable sense of magic.

Music lovers should definitely check out a performance in this beautiful and historic theater. Photo credit: Pask00 

Street life and atmosphere

As the sun sets over the Bay of Naples, piazzas buzz as locals and visitors alike gather to socialize and savor the simple pleasures of life. Outdoor terraces fill with people enjoying an aperitivo and the sound of them clinking their glasses of Aperol spritz.

In Naples, the streets are not just thoroughfares; they’re stages where the city’s vibrant culture unfolds in a symphony of sights, sounds, and flavors. In the Spanish Quarters, street performers captivate passersby with their energetic performances, adding to the area’s lively atmosphere. While walking along the lungomare (seaside), the laughter of families and the pouring of prosecco can be heard at waterfront cafes. In the city’s historic center, proud and jovial restaurateurs entice passersby to sit down and indulge in the best of the local cuisine. By the time you’ve given the waiter your order, you’ve made a new friend.

Whether you’re sharing a laugh with a street vendor or striking up a conversation with a stranger, there’s an unmistakable warmth and hospitality that defines the spirit of Naples.

A small street in Naples, Italy, at night filled with people dining or strolling. String lights connected between balconies give it a charming nighttime feeling
Quartieri Spagnoli in Naples is the perfect place to people watch while taking in some local treats. Photo credit: Yahya Momtaz

Soccer obsession

To talk about Naples is to talk about soccer. SSC Napoli, the city’s beloved football club, inspires a devotion among its supporters that borders on the religious. Since the team won the nation’s championship in 2023, the city has been draped in a sea of light blue, with banners and flags hanging from balconies and street poles citywide.

Matches at Diego Armando Maradona stadium are more than just sporting events—they’re epic battles that unite the city. The sense of camaraderie and passion creates an electric atmosphere that must be experienced to be believed. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, a visit to Naples during football season is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Insider’s Tip: Between espressos and pasta, find the Diego Maradona mural in the Quartieri Spagnoli. It showcases the city’s deep-seated adoration for the soccer hero. To Neapolitans, he was a symbol of hope and defiance for a city that had long been marginalized and misunderstood.

Naples street art with Diego Maradona, an Argentine footballer who played with the club from 1984 to 1992.
The city is obsessed with S.S.C. Napoli, Naples’ football club. If you manage to catch a game, be prepare for an intense experience.

Headed to Naples and looking for the best way to see the city? Don’t miss our Ultimate Naples Food Tour. Joining our Naples food tour, you’ll have the chance to dine at top-notch restaurants in Naples and meet the skilled food artisans who make these places come to life. Get to know some of the best family-run establishments in the city and learn their history through our expert guides.

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About the author

Melissa, an Australian living in Napoli, Italy, revels in discovering the city's endless hidden treasures and is forever on the hunt for the best pizza margherita (aren't they all?!). Despite years passing, her passion for Italian life remains strong; she adores exploring cities and little-known villages alike, ensuring she savors every local dish along the way.

More by Melissa Gurgone

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