Top Things To Do In The Bay of Naples | Spending A Week in Naples

April 15, 2020

If you know me, or you've followed this blog for long enough, then you'll know that Naples has a very special place in my heart. It all started 5 summers ago when a wee naive Emily travelled across to Italy on her own to take part in an archaeological dig on the slopes of Vesuvius. Its something I've said time and time again, but that experience had a huge impact on me, and I've been back every year since to see old friends, make new ones and dig some really cool archaeology.

Its always been a dream of mine to show this special place to my family and play tour guide around some of my favourite sites. So this year, with the thought that life may suddenly get in the way of my summer adventures, and with the prospect of my older sister leaving for Dubai at the end of August, we planned a family trip to my favourite spot.

SO, after a summer digging away at the beautiful Roman city of Aeclanum again (catch up on my summer fun here), my family flew out to meet me at the end of a very exciting and very tiring dig season, to experience Italy for themselves. Faced with just 6 days, and a whole Bay to explore - requests of Vesuvius, Pompeii and beaches - this trip was always going to be full on.

Top Things To Do In The Bay of Naples

As someone who likes to consider themselves an Italian at heart, I took it upon myself to act as a tour guide, navigating the streets of Naples and sharing some of my knowledge about the historic sites I've studied and visited again and again.

Where to stay in the Bay of Naples

Wanting to keep things cheap, cheerful and most importantly fairly central, we stumbling across a gorgeous wee air b'n'b which had enough space to house the six of us. During our (read my) search, our main priority was a balcony, terrace or outdoor area where we could chill in the evenings, a glass of vino in hand, basking in the sounds of the city.

We found this spot right beside the Metro stop for Montesanto, which is a couple of stops on Linea 2 from Garibaldi station, or a 20 minute walk from Via Toledo, down some cute backstreets. The gem of this apartment was a roof terrace, with the most stunning view of Vesuvius. I suppose for views like this, you can't really complain about a hike up 113 steps to your front door.

View of Naples and Vesuvius

The apartment was fairly basic.  I mean, there was only a hot plate instead of a cooker, but when alfresco dining is so cheap and easy, its not as big a deal as you'd imagine. But it was great for a central location, and as a base for all our adventures.

Must See Sites In The Bay of Naples

Day 1

Saturday morning, I rolled off the bus that dropped us at Garibaldi, with teary goodbyes to friends who I grew close to over the dig season. My parents met me at the station, where we dodged the crowds and found our way to the apartment. We decided to take the day fairly slow, and let my family get a feel for the historic streets of the city.

Streets in Naples, the Spanish Quarter

The Spanish Quarter

With its incredible winding uphill streets, balconies with washing hanging out, and €1 aperol spritz, The Spanish Quarter is not to be missed, either in day or at night.

The Historic Quarter

My favourite part of the city, and where a lot of the tourist sites you'll want to hit up are located. The Historic Quarter is filled with streets of authentic Italian craft, oozing with history and heritage.

Streets in Naples, the historic quarter

Pulcinella in Naples

Day 2

We decided to explore a Neapolitan market - something which I'd never done before, and took us out of the centre of the city, to streets which were a little more worn in. Markets are a firm favourite past time of Johnston family holidays, where my dad loves to haggle prices down, and we can find some cheap knock-offs to fill the wardrobe. Many of the stalls at the market were filled with shoes - and had a pair of high tops not already been top of my Christmas list, I'd have been all over those stalls. We split up to explore the rows and rows of stalls selling everything from kitchen utensils to dresses to leather goods.

In the afternoon, we ticked something which has been on my bucket list for years  - The Cimitero Delle Fontanelle. This is an ossuary built into the tufa hillside, filled with bones of plague victims and the poor. Its an eerie but beautiful place to visit, and captivated all our imaginations. Find more about the Cimitero Delle Fontanelle and how to get there. 

The Cimitero Delle Fontanelle

Day 3

Time for a bit of history, and first stop was Herculaneum. I have such a soft spot for Herculaneum, Pompeii's smaller neighbour. Look out for my guide to Herculanum and Pompeii where I'll go into a little more about their history (coming soon). Covered in the AD72 eruption Herculaneum has an incredible level of preservation with wood and two storey buildings conserved within the town. We spent a good few hours, navigating the ancient streets of the city and imagining life before the eruption.

Me in a street of Herculaneum

Colourful shrine in Herculaneum

Parents in doorway in Herculaneum

We had planned to have a jaunt up Vesuvius after our morning at Herculaneum - as one of the bus stops is right at Ercolano Circumvesuviana station - but a late lunch in one of the cafes on the road to Herculaneum, and a drink in another, meant that we unfortunately missed the last bus for the day. So we hopped back on the circumvesuviana into Naples city. While most of the family headed straight back to the apartment, my brother and I decided to walk through some of Naples back streets, have a drink in one of the bars and slowly make our way back home.

Sister in a bar in Herculaneum

Day 4

A beach day was beckoning us, after working up a sweat exploring for the past few days. So we hoped on the metro out to Torregaveta, which is a bit out of the bay of Naples itself. The train ride was a bit longer, but we passed some beautiful beaches which just got us more excited for our day. The beach we settled on was small, and pretty quiet, and we easily found a spot to lay our towels and settle for the day. We weren't allowed to swim too far out / past flags, but it was good to have a wee bob around - although the water wasn't the cleanest water I've swam in. There was also a long pier which we all had walks across to look at the views, and during the day a wedding party came to have their photos here!

Beach in the Bay of Naples

Beaches in the Bay of Naples

Me standing on a pier in Torregavata

Day 5

Back to exploring some of my favourite sites, and today we took the Circumvesuviana to Vesuvius and Pompeii. Again, we jumped off at Ercolano Scavi, where we joined a bus trip up Vesuvius. The bus takes you right up to the car park, so you don't have to do the hard work yourself, and you're given 90 minutes to walk up the crater itself, have a nosey, then head back down. It's more than enough time to walk up, with plenty of stops to take in the view, rest and drink lots of water. There are incredible views, when you're right at the top, staring down into the crater, or looking out over the bay of Naples.

The Crater of Vesuvius

View from Vesuvius

We then stopped by another cafe for a spot of lunch, before heading back along the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii. I've written before about how much I love Pompeii, it's absolutely stunning - this year was my third visit to the site and I loved watching my family's faces, especially as we walked into the forum and they saw Vesuvius in the background. Wandering around the old streets of the city will never fail to amaze me - I love being able to study the architecture, art and remains of everyday life. I'll always love visiting the Amphitheatre, the brothels and the Villa of Mysteries. Here's 10 tips for visiting Pompeii that you should keep in mind! 

The forum of Pompeii

Columns in Pompeii

Remains in Pompeii

While I will never tire of exploring the bay of Naples, and spending time at Pompeii - I would recommend separating the activities of Vesuvius and Pompeii for two separate days. You can easily spend a whole day exploring Pompeii, and after exerting so much energy getting to the top of Vesuvius, wandering around Pompeii, with very little shade and the sun beating down, does tire you out fast.

Day 6

Sister sitting on a circumvesuviana train

For our final full day of our holidays, we decided to relax. This time we went on a hunt for another beach which had been recommended by friends beside Pausilypon (which The Apolline Project have just had their first year of excavations at!). We were trying to locate isola di gaiola, which looks to be a stunning spot, where you can swim to islands, but got a little lost on the way. Instead we rested on a spot which turned out to be just round the corner from the islands, but was absolutely stunning. The area is protected, so there were fish swimming round you in the clear water. And right in front of you as you swim is the ever present Vesuvius. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to spend our last day in Naples.

Isola di Gaiola

Isola di Gaiola

The next day we spent packing up, tidying up the apartment, and heading off to the airport for our morning flights. This holiday was so special - the Bay of Naples is one of my all time favourite places  and it would be an absolute dream to live there - so to be able to show my family around the places that mean so much to me, was something that I'll never forget. I hope I've shown them what a beautiful and interesting place Naples is.

While there, we of course sampled lots of tasty Italian dishes, and I'll start working on a blog post summing up our food journey for the week too. WOW I've promised a lot of extra posts today- so, again, keep your eyes open for posts on Herculaneum & Pompeii, Getting around Naples, a Food Diary and the Cimitero Delle Fontanelle. As well as this, I've already got some posts in the works about some of the places I visited with my dig friends this year, including an incredible festival in Molise and the ancient town of Saepinum.

If you're dreaming of visiting Italy, have a look at some of my other posts about the country -

Let me know if you've visited Naples before, or if you have plans to visit yourself!


You Might Also Like


  1. I went to Naples for the day many years ago when we were staying in Sorrento for a week (so we did Vesuvius and Pompeii too). I remember wishing we had longer to explore though, and your post brought back a welcome dose of nostalgia - we need to go back again when the travel bans are lifted! X

  2. Beautiful photos, what a pretty place! I can’t wait until we can all travel like this again 😍

    Anika |

  3. Beautiful pictures! I definitely want to visit Naples one day.

  4. Naples is definitely on my travel bucket list. Your photos are gorgeous :)

    Megan | The ABC Mom

  5. Oh wow, looks stunning! I've never been to Italy before but Naples is on my list for when this is all over!x

  6. I'd love to see Pompeii! This sounds like such an amazing trip - gorgeous photos!


  7. I enjoyed your pictures. This is something my daughter and I plan to do one day.

  8. This was a fun post. I haven't ever been to Naples.

  9. Italy is in my bucket list! Love to see this post!

    Jil |

  10. Brilliant post! Naples does look like an interesting place to visit. However, I recently apply for Dubai Visa and am planning to visit Dubai with my family. But, I might take some time off in the winters and visit Naples.