I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Rome—and will always go out of my way to defend it against its many detractors. The “Eternal City” will eternally be a travel favorite of mine!
On the other hand, I’ve also come to love an Italian city that’s even more maligned than its capital: Naples, the misunderstood hub of Italy’s south, which many travelers use as little more than a base for excursions to the Amalfi Coast.
My comparison of Rome vs Naples isn’t to encourage you to skip one and visit the other, however. Instead, I aim to inspire you to see both, if you can manage to make time for doing so within your Italy itinerary.
Why So Many Travelers Skip Naples (But Visit Rome)
One of the main differences between Rome and Naples is their reputations. While not everyone loves Rome, as I mentioned earlier in this post, its merit as a tourist destination is difficult to deny, if only because of how ubiquitous it is in the global conversation about travel. Naples, on the other hand, tends to be known as a dirty mafia den, assuming it’s known at all—for many travelers, it’s an afterthought.
Another way this manifests itself is in how many international events come to Rome, but not to Naples. If you visit a site like hellotickets.com and search for concerts, for example, you’re much likelier to see artists you know perform in Rome than you are in Naples. However, I urge you not to let this dissuade you from heading south. You can consider Rome to be your trip’s main course—Naples is dessert, baby!
Ways to Compare Rome With Naples
Cityscape and attractions
Rome has a more iconic cityscape than Naples, with landmarks like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain recognizable even to travelers who know relatively little about Italy. Indeed, while Italian travelers may know Naples attractions like the Centro Storico and Fontanelle Cemetery well, it takes even seasoned foreigners quite a while to get a lay of the land.
This is another area where, at least on the surface, there is no competition between Naples and Rome. Rome, after all, is not only the original of classics like carbonara and tiramisù, but as the capital of Italy has food from virtually all over the country represented. Naples, however, has one thing that Rome doesn’t: The best pizza in Italy, and arguably the world.
Rome, like many famous world capitals, is a city built atop Seven Hills; in addition to this, its main geographical feature is the Tiber River, which more or less bisects it. The natural skyline of Naples, on the other hand, is dominated by Mt. Vesuvius, which is particularly impressive when viewed from the north, rising not only above the city itself, but above the Gulf of Naples.
One thing that may surprise you, if you’re considering Naples or Rome, is that Naples has far many day trips on offer. From Rome, the only interesting one is Tivoli Gardens (which, to be frank, is really not in good shape). From Naples, on the other hand, you can visit ruins in Pompeii and Ercolano; you can see the Amalfi Coast on a day trip, or make a multi-day excursion out of it, with visits to the islands of Capri and Ischia added on.
Travelers who know nothing about the attractions or cuisine on offer in Naples probably associate the city with crime, namely organized crime. In reality, however, la famiglia has much deeper ties to the island of Sicily, which is hours away from Naples. For the average foreign visitor, Naples and Rome are both relatively safe. The greatest hazard you face is often crossing the road without getting hit by a motorcycle!
How Many Days Do You Need in Rome? What About Naples?
On the surface, you might think you need more days in Rome than you need in Naples. Rome is a great deal more famous than Naples, after all, and has more attractions that are better known. On the other hand, since there are more day trips and excursions on offer if you head south to Naples, my experience has been that you will usually end up spending longer in the Naples area overall than you will the Rome one.
Whether you’re in Rome or Naples, I generally recommend spending no less than 2-3 days in any Italian city. In Naples, however, because of the factors I mentioned above, you might spend 4-5 nights or even longer. Well, again, at least in the vicinity. Many travelers will split this, with 2-3 days in Naples proper, as well as 1-2 night stays on the Amalfi Coast, and potentially also on the islands of Ischia and Capri.
Other FAQ About Visiting Naples and Rome
Is it worth going to Naples from Rome?
Thanks to high-speed trains that take just over an hour each way, it is perfectly possible to travel to Naples for a day from Rome. However, since most travelers who head to the Naples area are ultimately bound for outlying destinations like Pompeii, the Isle of Capri and the Amalfi Coast, it doesn’t end up making sense to come down simply for the day.
Is Amalfi a day trip from Rome?
It’s technically possible to do the Amalfi Coast on a day trip from Rome, although it will be a very long day indeed. Indeed, due to the logistical complications such a trip entails, it makes sense for travelers who wish to take one to book some kind of organized tour.
Is it cheaper to fly into Naples or Rome?
Typically, international flights arriving in Rome will be cheaper than those arriving in Naples, simply because Rome gets so many more flights each day. However, I encourage you to search for both cities, as you never know when an unexpected promotional fare will pop up.
The Bottom Line
I’m not comparing Rome vs Naples with the intent that you will skip one in favor of the other. Rather, I aim to open your mind: Namely to the idea that the much-maligned city of Naples actually makes a great companion to nearby Rome, if not an outright replacement for it during your trip to Italy. Naples is quite a bit less touristic than Rome, to say nothing of the fact that it offers more (and better) day trips, and has much tastier pizza. To me, it’s just as essential to understanding Italy as Rome is, and indeed as much as Florence, Milan and Venice are. Need personalized help putting together an Italy itinerary? Consider hiring me to help.