It is easy to fall in love with Naples for its pizza, for its incessant chaos, for its beautiful views of Vesuvius (if you know how to find them), and for many more things that I will tell you about if you keep reading. Do you feel like taking an excursion to Naples from Rome? The following lines are for you.
1. The best day trip to Naples and Pompeii from Rome
If you decide to leave Rome for a day, that excursion has to be well worth it. And visiting Naples and the incredible Pompeii is a great reason to skip the majestic Eternal City for a day. Maybe it's not your case, but when I'm traveling I like to let myself go, enjoy and not having to worry too much about the logistics of transportation, especially if I'm on a tight schedule —as in this case if we only have one day to do this excursion.
With this all-inclusive excursion to Naples and Pompeii with an English-speaking guide, you will leave early from Rome in a private bus and you will be accompanied at all times by a professional guide who will put everything you see in context (something that I found essential, especially in Pompeii).
The stop in Naples will allow you to get to know the historical center of the city and its most important points without having to spend too much time moving from one place to another. In addition, you will have time to have lunch and taste one of their famous Neapolitan pizzas. What more could you ask for?
About the visit to Pompeii
You will be touring the ruins of Pompeii for about two hours. Although it may seem like a short time now, I assure you that it is a reasonable amount of time to see the essentials of the ruins and understand how people lived in this impressive city that was petrified with the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.
Be prepared to see very well preserved remains of the city, utensils of its citizens, petrified bodies (not as scary as it sounds, I promise), and even the latest archaeological finding of the city (discovered in late 2020): what is supposed to have been once a "fast food" restaurant.
If you prefer to spend a longer time in Pompeii, you can dedicate up to a whole day to this experience or even combine the excursion with an ascent to Vesuvius. If you want to know all the possibilities, I suggest you read this article about how to visit Pompeii from Rome in one day.
2. Other options to go to Naples from Rome
The train is a very comfortable option for a day trip to Naples from Rome. You won't have to worry about finding where to park, unnecessary detours, and stops. The downside compared to other methods of transportation can be the price: the fast train ticket, which will take you to Naples in 1 hour 15 minutes, costs between € 44 and € 60 each way.
There is a slower train, which takes between 2 and 3 hours to get to Naples and costs between € 20 and € 27 each way depending on the class. It can be a good option if you are traveling on a tighter budget, and if you take the train early in the morning you will have plenty of time to explore the city in one day. Check all schedules and prices at the official Trenitalia website.
Going to Naples from Rome by bus
Most buses to Naples from the Italian capital are operated by Flixbus, Baltour, and BusCenter, and a round-trip ticket usually costs around € 20. Buses go direct to Naples, departing from Rome's Autostazione Tiburtina and arriving at Naples' Piazza Garibaldi bus station in about 2.5 hours.
My recommendation is that you buy your bus tickets one week in advance, to make sure you have seats available for the day you want to do the tour and that way you take the hassle out of getting a return ticket as well.
In any case and being very honest with you, I will tell you that you cannot see all of Naples in one day (and even less if we add the waiting times for public transport). The goal of your excursion from Rome will be to enjoy the main landmarks of the city and spend a day in a different way than staying in the Italian capital. This is the itinerary I did on my visit:
3. Start with the best breakfast in Naples
I'm not a big coffee fan, but I have to admit that Neapolitan coffee is something worthy of the most exquisite palates. The first thing I did when I got off the train in Naples was to go to Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a stylish Viennese-style coffee shop, with marble walls, sculptures on the shelves, and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
It's probably familiar to you, as it has become quite a touristy place, but I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to have an espresso and a sfogliatelle for breakfast in one of Oscar Wilde's favorite places in Naples.
4. Stroll through Piazza del Plebiscito
The Piazza del Plebiscito is a huge square, the core of public life of Naples and one of its main points of interest. Its name is due to the plebiscite held during the Italian Unification, thanks to which Naples became part of the Kingdom of Italy and the House of Savoy.
As if its historical importance were not enough, the square has that Italian essence of grandiosity and spectacle, presided over by the immense colonnade of the church of San Francesco di Paola. It is a neoclassical marvel that impresses by day and captivates when it's lit up at night.
5. Discover the Palazzo Reale
The Naples Royal Palace is one of the places that best testifies to the importance of the city during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It served as the residence of the Bourbon dynasty for a century, and later passed into the hands of the Savoy family, hence the size and splendor of this palace.
It evolved as it passed from hand to hand, but its halls still retain the extravagance of the Neapolitan style of the 18th century. Its facade is crowned by eight marble statues of the kings who ruled Naples from the 12th century until the Italian Unification.
However, the impressive part of the Palazzo Reale is inside: you will find a monumental pink and white marble staircase leading up to the Royal Apartments, the Court Theater, the Throne Room, and the Royal Chapel, all of which are decorated with spectacular paintings and tapestries.
The Palazzo Reale is open every day except Wednesdays, from 09:00 to 20:00, and the entrance fee is € 6.
6. Enter the San Carlo Theater
This is a visit you can't prepare for: the majesty of the interior of the Teatro di San Carlo, when you look up and admire the infinity of its six floors and the fresco of the dome, is something that caught me completely off guard.
For this reason, the Teatro di San Carlo is considered one of the most beautiful opera buildings in the world, and it is easy to imagine the hall filled with the aristocrats of the time, debating between glancing at the scene, the spectacular architecture of the opera palace, or a furtive lover on the other side of the stands.
The only way to visit the Teatro di San Carlo inside is by attending a show or participating in one of the guided tours offered by the building's own organization. The tour lasts about an hour, and I recommend you do it even if you then have a little less free time at the end of the itinerary.
7. Enjoy an authentic Neapolitan pizza
I'm pretty sure that if you go to take the train back to Rome and tell the ticket collector that you haven't eaten a pizza on your visit, he tears up your ticket and sends you to one of his relatives' restaurants.
No, seriously, I don't think you need to be convinced that Neapolitan pizza is the true original, and it's revered across the world. One of the most recommended restaurants in the city is Gino Sorbillo's pizzeria, but the lines are usually huge. Gorizia 1916 is another of the best-named places in town, a bit more expensive but also more elegant, being in the posh area of Naples. Finally, the option that many locals will recommend: L'antica Pizzeria da Michele Forcella.
8. Visit the Umberto I Gallery
The Galleria Umberto I is the typical Italian shopping arcade, where you will find cafes and stores to take a break from the excursion. For me, just the cool air that passes through inside and the zodiacal decoration of the floor tiles, coupled with the feeling of space that opens up under the ceilings of the building, make the gallery worth a stop.
If you have been to Milan, the Galleria Umberto I will remind you a lot of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, as it was a direct inspiration in the construction of this Neapolitan building.
In case you opted for a different breakfast to start the day, you can find some delicious sfogliatellas and other sweets in the gallery. By then, you will have realized that pastries and sweets are one of Naples' passions.
9. Cross Via Toledo
Via Toledo is one of the few straight streets you will find in Naples. When you get there, you'll realize that you've been wandering along snake-shaped roads all day. As such, Via Toledo is the city's shopping street, with buildings of very different styles and stores of all kinds.
Alex's Traveller Tip
The Toledo Metro station is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful stations I have ever seen in my life. I'd better not give you a description and let you discover it on your own!
10. Immerse yourself in the Historic Center of Naples
The heart of the city of Naples is made for getting lost. Walking through its streets you will find a church on practically every corner, and you can enjoy watching life go by: street musicians, artists' studios, old men watching soccer on TV in a bar, and stores of all kinds that are hard to describe.
The streets are narrow and offer little privacy to its inhabitants. It is enough to look up to see typical pictures of an Italian family happening in front of you, through the windows of their houses. If you want to soak up the essence of Naples, this is the area where you can feel the most genuine atmosphere of the city.
Something that will interest you if you like the ancient world is that you can see part of the roadway of the Greco-Roman city of Neapolis. Spaccanapoli, which could be translated as "Naples Cutter", is a succession of streets that literally splits the city in two: Via Della Anticaglia (Upper Decumanus), Via Dei Tribunali (Decumanus Major), and the street that starts as Via Benedetto Croce and becomes Via San Biagio Dei Librai (Lower Decumanus).
11. Contemplate the Cathedral of Naples
Of the nearly five hundred churches in Naples, none can match the city's Cathedral: the Duomo di San Gennaro or Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta, as it is known to the locals.
Although it is not as impressive as the Cathedral of Florence or Milan, the one in Naples is a jumble of gothic and baroque styles with an impressive interior decorated with frescoes evoking the image of Paradise.
12. The best sunset, from Castel Sant'Elmo
The perfect plan to end the day is to take the funicular to Castel Sant'Elmo, a 13th-century fortress with a particular star shape, on top of the hill of Vomero. There you will meet locals and tourists who have discovered this secret: not in vain, from this top, you can enjoy the best 360º views of the city, Vesuvius, and the Gulf of Naples.
A perfect way to end your trip to Naples before heading back to Rome.
13. Move comfortably around Naples
The best way to get to know Naples is walking: only this way you can find the most authentic streets and feel the essence of the city. However, on a day trip you will probably be a bit short on time, so to move from one place to another in Naples I recommend you to take the subway.
The Naples Metro has two lines, 1 and 6 (it is a mystery what happened to all the others), and covers almost the entire metropolitan extension of the city.
In case you have chosen to go to Naples by car, be careful as there are several areas of historical importance where parking will be expensive or forbidden, with fines of up to € 90. These zones are called ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone) and the best way to avoid them is to park on the outskirts of the city or check a map of these zones before parking your vehicle.
14. Tips and tricks for your trip to Naples from Rome
Beware of pickpockets
Naples is a city with a somewhat tarnished reputation for not being entirely tourist-friendly. Don't worry too much, as long as you are especially wary of pickpockets and avoid leaving the more central areas you will have no problem.
Wear comfortable shoes
Since you will be walking all day on this excursion, remember to be well prepared: you will be grateful to carry sports shoes, a backpack with water, a power bank to charge your cell phone and something warm for the night, in case you are traveling in summer. In winter, the best idea is to wear layers to be more or less warm as the day goes by.
Go prepared with cash
Some stores and restaurants only accept cash, so carry some loose change just in case (my recommendation: take just enough).
If you don't speak Italian, don't worry
If you don't speak Italian, you won't have any problems in Rome as they will more or less be able to understand you in English or Spanish. But for traveling to Naples, I recommend you to have some translation app installed on your cell phone as it can make your life easier on some occasions.
15. Other excursions that may be of interest to you
If you already know Naples or you are not too interested in visiting this city, maybe Florence is a better option for you. Before going from Rome, I recommend you to read more about how to prepare for this experience here: Florence Day Trips from Rome. One of the (so many) good things about Rome is its location on the map: besides being in the center of the Italian peninsula, it has a lot of emblematic places to visit in its surroundings. If you feel like discovering them, here's a list of what for me are best places to visit near Rome.