Founded in 8th-9th century BC as a Greek colony, Naples is one of the world's oldest cities. It was a foremost city of the Magna Graecia and was a conduit of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples became a major cultural centre of the Roman Republic: Virgil, the prominent Latin poet, was educated here and lived here. It has also been the capital of duchies, the Kingdom of Naples and the Aragonese Empire, and was an important centre during Renaissance humanism. Throughout the Neapolitan War, Naples strongly promoted Italian unification. Today, it is the most densely populated city in Italy and ranks 4th in economic strength after Milan, Rome and Turin.
Naples has always attracted tourists: the mild and lush climate made it the favoured holiday location of Roman Emperors for centuries. Pizza originated in Naples, originally fried then baked in the oven. Neapolitan culture has strongly influenced music with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as contributing to the development of opera and folk tunes. Go and watch an opera in the 18th century Teatro San Carlo, one of the largest opera houses in Italy.
There are so many things to do in Naples. Highlights include: Museo Archaeological Nazionale with its mosaics, frescoes and antique details housed in a 17th century palazzo; The Roman excavations of Napoli Sotterranea and San Lorenzo Maggiore; Museo di Capodimonte which houses the epic art collections of Naples's Bourbon rulers; the magnificent Capella Sansevero; Pompeii, destroyed but preserved by volcanic ash, is a revelation of life in AD79 with public baths, theatres, gardens and courtyards.
Naples is situated on the west coast of Italy by the Gulf of Naples. The city is located halfway between two volcanic areas: Mount Vesuvias and the Phlegraean Fields.
As a microcosm of European history, several civilisations have passed through Naples influencing the art and architecture, most noticeably during the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The cumulative effect is eclectic with everything from the Greco-Roman remains to the swirling stonework of the baroque.
It's easy to get around to see the Naples tourist attractions. Within the city there are trams, buses, metro, funiculars and trolleybuses. As well as extensive regional and national train lines, a high speed train connects the city to Rome in under an hour. The port has several ferries, hydrofoils and catamarans to the islands of Capri, Ischia and Sorrento. Naples International airport is the most important airport in southern Italy.
May of the monuments in May; Naples Film Festival in June; Santa Maria del Carmine Festival on July 16th; Naples Jazz Festival in August; a 10-day Pizza Festival in September; S. Gennaro Festival on September 19th; the Presepi Viventi, a real-life nativity scene in December.