Unusual things to do in Naples, an alternative city guide

written by Siobhan Lawless

updated 3.12.2021

Looking for unusual things to do in Naples? You’ll find museums of curiosities. There's a serene coast. Ancient aqueducts lie beneath streets. And there's more to eat than pizza. Take a look at our alternative guide to Naples. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy.

1. Explore the Pharmacy of the Incurables

The Pharmacy of the Incurables is one of the world's oldest pharmacies. It's set in the grounds of a working hospital, dates back to 1700 and is part of Santa Chiara degli Incurabili convent. It was originally established by Maria Lorenzo Longo, a Catalan noble woman dedicated to helping Naples' needy.

The pharmacy's divided in two. The laboratory traces the history of Naples’ art and alchemy and Museo delle Arti Sanitare documents the city's medical discoveries. Be prepared for the latter, it's home to some fearsome looking surgical instruments.

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2. A Dolls Hospital tour is one of the odd things to do in Naples

Visit Ospedale delle Bambole in Spaccanapoli, where the historic dolls' hospital has been at home for more than 100 years.

The hospital opened in 1895 and was founded by set designer, Luigi Grassi. Today it's run by his great-granddaughter and 'patients' now come from all over the world.

Infirm toys are given beds. They also have nurses and prescriptions, and treatments are carried out in the laboratory. You'll either like the nostalgia or find it a little creepy. But there’s only one way to find out.

Intriguing Spaccanapoli is in Naples atmospheric old town. If you want to immerse a little, book Casa Hostenso at the heart of the district.

Doll hospital

Tinziana checking on her patients at the doll hospital © Siobhan Lawless

3. Take a water bike tour of the Bay of Naples

Burn off Naples' famous lunches. Go on Luigi’s Water Bike Tour? Cycle into the Bay of Naples, then explore hidden grottos, find secret beaches and discover the city's most exclusive coast.

Luigi's fun and knowledgeable and the tour's packed with history as well as local anecdotes. If you worked up an appetite, book a street food tour of Naples with local guides.

Water bike tour Naples

A water bike tour is one of the best things to do in Naples © Siobhan Lawless

4. Have a drink at an off-the-radar bar

Dip into Libreria Berisio for a drink in the exalted company of literary greats like Dante and Giovanni Boccaccio. First opened in 1956 in Naples' old town, and still there to this day, the bar mixes excellent cocktails and attracts a lively crowd.

Swing by Otto Jazz Club on a Saturday night. Sample the 200 strong cocktail menu and soak up jazz, blues and Neapolitan folk music. Or try Bourbon Street where Naples meets New Orleans from Thursday to Sunday. Go for the live jazz, friendly staff and extensive drinks menu.

Stay in the buzzing and historic heart of Naples at charming BB Casamatta in the centre of the old town.

libreria Beriso

Libreria Beriiso attracts smart locals and savvy visitors © Siobhan Lawless

5. Taste traditional Ragu in Naples

Had enough pizza? Head to Tandem in centro storico. And try authentic ragu. Neapolitan Ragu's slow cooked for 6 to 8 hours so it's melt in the mouth. And Tandem serves Naples' finest. But remember to book ahead, it's always busy.

If you're not tired of pizza, you're in the right place. Learn how to make real Neapolitan pizza in the heart of the city where it was first invented.

Tandem Ragu

Trying Tandem Ragu is one of the things to do in Naples © Siobhan Lawless

6. Have dinner at a traditional Neapolitan Trattoria

Find traditional and truly Neapolitan Trattoria Da Nennella in the Spanish Quarter. The queues outside will be long, but service inside is fast. Local performers regularly drop in to entertain diners. And you have to try pasta e patate con la provola, it's the trattoria's signature dish.

When in Naples, there's nothing like waking up to sea views. Arrange yours in advance, book Don Raffaele Resort in the Port of Naples.

7. Take a walk under Naples

Exploring Napoli Sotterranea is one of the entirely unique things to do in Naples. Underground Naples is 40m below street level and the tour takes two-hours.

In that time you will travel through labyrinthine Greek aqueducts and pagan burial chambers. You'll see remnants of Nero’s lost theatre and peer into WWII air raid shelters. Just remember, part of the tour's by candlelight and passages are narrow, so it's not for the claustrophobic.

Understandably, this is a very popular experience. So to avoid queues, think about booking your Underground Naples entrance tickets in advance.


Military vehicles in the basements of Naples Italy © FPWing/Shutterstock

8. Join the hunt for Naples' best pizza

Sorbillo and Da Michele make Naples' 'best pizza'. But are they alone? Locals say not, and advise visitors to avoid two hour queues and stroll down Via dei Tribunali to Pomod’oro Pizzeria instead. The pizza's very authentic, and the atmosphere's like a family home.

Pomodoro pizza inside

Pomod’ore Pizzeria's cosy family kitchen © Siobhan Lawless

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places to see and things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from The Rough Guide to Italy and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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Siobhan Lawless

written by Siobhan Lawless

updated 3.12.2021

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