Rome vs Naples: Which to Visit on Your Next Trip to Italy

With just a week or so of vacation time to visit Italy, it can be tough to decide where exactly to go! Two of our favorite cities year-round are Rome and Naples, but it’s even hard to just pick one. If you only have a week to ten days in Italy, you won’t want to pack too much into your trip, better to relax and fully take in a bit of La Dolce Vita. Both these cities are amazing for their food and history. We’ve put together this little guide to help you decide Rome vs Naples, which one is right for you?

Let’s start by just taking a little look at each city.

overview of rome
Rome vs Naples – both considered among Italy’s most incredible destinations. Photo credit: Caleb Miller

Rome

Rome is Italy’s capital and a must-see at some point in your life. However, is it the best option for you this time around? 

You could spend years in Rome and not see it all. Filled with museums, churches, and parks. Plus even just the streets act as an open-air museum to explore. You’ll find your days plenty full of things to see and do without even leaving the city.

The beautiful thing about Rome is every neighborhood has its very own personality. Whether you are looking to be immersed in an ancient world, gaze at renaissance beauty, indulge in some high-end shopping, relax with a peaceful glass of wine, or join in to make new friends and experience nightlife, you’ll find it all!

Being the capital, it is a busy city. Businessmen and women, and politicians rush down the streets  – well, Italian rush, so they always have a minute to stop for a cafe. In the popular center streets, visitors stop to gaze which can cause a bit of traffic. 

But while there is a bit of bustle, you’ll always be able to hop off the main road and find a quiet corner – especially if you head towards one of Rome’s beautiful parks. You’ll also notice it’s a visitor-friendly city with a bit of an international feel.

What we mean by this is that – Romans are warm people, and they know the city is popular with foreigners. Many will do their best with English signs, and at least give a hand with directions. Areas in the center are designed for foot traffic, so you’ll always be able to find your way.

Colosseum in Rome
From the Colosseum to the Vatican, Rome has some of the most famous sites in the world. Photo credit: David Libeert

What Will You See?

While Florence is synonymous with the Renaissance, Rome is most known for its ancient history. But that isn’t all there is to see. While towards the Colosseum and Roman Forum you’ll find much of this ancient world, towards the Vatican, and hidden in many museums the Renaissance and Baroque periods peek out. 

Not Really Into History?

That’s ok! Visitors still fall in love with Rome for the lifestyle, the food, and the evenings in piazzas.

Rome’s food is highlighted by great pasta dishes: Carbonara, Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe. But the cuisine is more than this, you can taste excellent street food and rich secondi made from the famous quinto quarto – offal. 

When it comes to nightlife, Rome has many different clubs from your classic dance ones, to hip hop focused to even piano and jazz ones. But on a fresh evening, you can even step into the piazza, and enjoy a drink with new international friends surrounded by the beautiful Eternal City.

Close up of a plate of frutti di mare, a spaghetti dish with clams and seafood, a Giacomo's in Boston
Rome just might be the best Italian city to explore the world of Italian pasta. Photo credit: brando

Naples

When someone mentions taking a trip to Italy, Naples probably isn’t the first place you think of, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

Naples is a beautiful, yet at times chaotic city. A port city that has been formed by many different cultures coming together. From before the Romans, through the Empire, through French and Spanish rule, until being brought under the Italian Kingdom. Naples has taken a little pinch of every culture to have passed through their history, creating a beautiful and unique city life. 

Right in the center you’ll come across mixed architecture from all eras, and be able to visit museums that hold treasures from the ancient, medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods. When the busy historic center seems a little stuffy, take a turn and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the open sea.

This contrast between the winding streets of Napoli, filled with lively local scenes, and the mouthwatering smell of street food, found alongside the open lungomare with fresh, peaceful sea air is why so many fall in love. 

The beauty of visiting Napoli is that your journey can take you beyond the city, even with a short trip. You can easily plan a day in Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and many other close-by Islands.

overview shot of Naples port
Naples’ port has played a crucial role throughout history. Photo credit: Bea

But What’s Napoli Really Like?

We often hear people hesitant about Napoli, but truthfully there’s nothing to worry about. Naples is a safe city, but of course, its character isn’t for everyone. Napoli can be a bit raw, it moves to its own beat, one that differs from many other Italian cities. Yet Neapolitans are a warm people, who love welcoming visitors, and sharing what makes their city incredible. 

However, truth be told, if small alleyways and busy streets of moped traffic and yelling neighbors tend to stress you out, then Naples might not be the city for you. 

Visiting Napoli is an adventure, and the city is always ready to keep you on your toes.

Don’t Forget the Food!

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to visit Napoli, but the local cuisine is a real winner. True Neapolitan pizza is a crowd-pleaser, and here you don’t even have to book a restaurant to enjoy it. Try a pizza al portafoglio to go and indulge in the beloved local street food. Then top it off with a sweet like a steaming sfogliatella or rum-soaked babà.

Naples is the capital for delicious street food, but even if you sit down you’ll find delicious dishes based on both fresh seafood and local produce. 

sfogliatella
Sfogliatella alone is a good enough reason to visit Naples. Photo credit: Alpha

Rome Vs. Naples: Which is Better for Couples 

When thinking about the cities on their own, rather than the surrounding area, couples might find Rome more romantic. With the cobblestoned alleys, quiet and intimate wine bars, and peaceful corners, there’s just more space to enjoy each other’s company. 

Whereas Napoli might be a bit more lively, while beautiful, it won’t give you the quiet moments together you might be hoping for.

That being said, the nearby Amalfi Coast is a favorite for couples, which is easily reached from Naples. You could consider a few days in Napoli, then continue your trip to relax on the Amalfi Coast for your remaining days.

Rome Vs. Naples: Which is Better for Solo Travelers

Deciding which city to visit as a solo traveler is really up to every individual visitor. 

If you have an itch for adventure and love to take on things on your own, Napoli might be the option for you. It’s a step out of the usual route around Italy and gives you the challenge of navigating and practicing a bit more Italian on your own. 

If you are a first-time solo traveler and want to ease your way into it, Rome is a great option. Rome has quite an active international community, making it easy for you to connect with others in your native language if you feel nervous using Italian. The city also lets you take it easy, or be as active as you like.

female standing on narrow street of old city
Both Rome and Naples are great options for solo travelers. Photo credit: ArtHouse Studio

Rome Vs. Naples: Which is Better for Families

When it comes to planning the family trip, it all depends on every family. Both Rome and Naples have extraordinary events and activities for kids. You’ll always find a new adventure to entertain the little ones.

Both cities offer excellent cuisine that the whole family will fall in love with. They also both offer walking areas, plus transportation for when it becomes a little too much for the little legs of the family.

If you take the family to Naples, mark off a day to take them to Pompeii. In a large open archaeological park, they will be able to run around and love exploring all the hidden stories of the ancient city.

And if you go to Rome? Join us for a Rome Street Food & Pizza Making Tour, a fun-filled morning of interactive experiences and delicious local treats that will captivate kids and adults alike.