Italy is one of the most family-friendly countries in the world. From the historic highlights of Rome to the dreamy canals of Venice, children are welcomed with open arms. Your kids will be fussed over as grownups squeeze their cheeks and encourage them to “Mangia, Mangia”.
Naples, the largest city in Southern Italy, has managed to sneak under the tourist radar. This may soon change, thanks to United Airline’s new daily nonstop from Newark to Naples. Until the inaugural flight began on May 22, 2019, the only way to get to Naples from the US was via cumbersome connecting flights. The new nonstop departs Newark in the early evening and arrives in Naples the next morning, so with any luck the kids will sleep most of the way.
Naples is big, bold and chaotic, but its maze of narrow streets and residential neighborhoods ooze authentic old-world charm and small-town friendliness.
If you crave a tonic from the city’s urban pace, stroll over to the port and catch a ferry to one of the beautiful islands in the Bay of Naples for a seaside day trip with plenty of la dolce vita. Read on for our top picks of the best family activities in Naples.
1/8 Naples Underground Tour
Courtesy of Naples Underground
Glimpse what lies under the surface when you book the Naples Underground tour. You’ll descend below street level for a 2-hour guided tour, given in English several times daily. See the remains of a Roman theater, ancient burial sites and the Greco-Roman aqueduct that supplied the city with water for centuries.
2/8 Museum and Real Bosco of Capodimonte
This spectacular palace houses a significant collection of paintings by Old Masters. For families, it’s the surrounding park that’s a magnet. Enjoy some fresh air in the former royal hunting preserve that is now one of Italy’s most spectacular gardens. There’s plenty of room for kids to romp among the green grass, exotic botanical species and shady trees.
3/8 Take a Walk
Alex Broadstock for United
To really soak in the city’s sassy energy and local color, get out and walk. The Lungomare is a centrally located seaside promenade with harbor views and fresh breezes. You’ll join neighborhood families as they take their evening stroll.
San Martino is a residential neighborhood and an excellent place for an afternoon walk. If the kids are tired, ride the funicular up to this hilly zone. It’s an inexpensive mode of transportation offering great views.
4/8 Shop for Authentic Souvenirs
Alex Broadstock for United
The stalls that line Via San Gregorio Armeno are a great place to purchase souvenirs. The specialty sold here is the holiday nativity scene known as il presepe. These decorative manger scenes are very popular in Neapolitan homes, just as Christmas trees are in America. Some are elaborate and hand-carved, others quirky and inexpensive.
Another traditional souvenir is the corno, a bright red chili pepper. Like a rabbit’s foot, it is said to bring good luck to who ever is gifted one.
5/8 Visit a Food Market
For families who live to eat, Naples is a dream. The volcanic soil is a springboard for a bounty of fresh produce sold at traditional open-air markets around town. Look for sweet peas in spring, melons in summer and luscious figs in fall. La Pignasecca is a characteristic market with a rainbow assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. Watching the locals haggle to get the best price is good fun.
6/8 The Archaeological Museum of Naples
This extensive survey of ancient art is top-notch. Kids should enjoy the colorful and intricate mosaics of animals and geometric patterns excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The vast collection is housed in a grand 16th century palazzo with a breezy interior courtyard.
7/8 Culinary Naples
Alex Broadstock for United
A kid-perfect trifecta of pizza, pastries and gelato should entice even the pickiest eater. The Margherita pizza was invented at Pizzeria Brandi in 1889 and the recipe remains unaltered. The simple dough is topped with mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and few basil leaves.
Naples is revered throughout Italy for it’s delectable pastries. Don’t leave town without sampling la sfogliatella, a flaky shell-shaped treat filled with rich ricotta cheese.
Gelato, Italy’s most beloved dessert, is the perfect creamy elixir after a busy day of sightseeing.
8/8 Day Trips
Located in the shadow of active volcano Mount Vesuvius with the sparkling Bay of Naples at its doorstep, the city is an excellent base for a variety of day trips.
The island of Ischia is a 45-minute journey via hydrofoil, so the ride there is part of the fun. Once you arrive, head to one of the many beach clubs and rent umbrellas and comfy beach chairs for a day of swimming in the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
Join movie stars and paparazzi on the glamorous island of Capri. The high-speed ferry whisks passengers there in an hour. Ride the chairlift to Monte Solaro, the highest and most panoramic point on the island. See the famous Blue Grotto, explore picturesque piazzas and enjoy a refreshing swim. Catch the ferry to Naples after a day of sightseeing you’ll be back in time for dinner.
Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was buried under ash by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The ash preserved much of the city, presenting an incredible picture of a moment frozen in time. This world-class archaeological site takes around 30 minutes to reach from Naples via the Circumvesuviana railway. With several million visitors annually, Pompeii is both crowded and sprawling. English speaking guides are available for hire at the ticket booth. There’s very little shade so bring a hat and sunscreen.
By Allison Tibaldi