Are you trying to decide between Naples and Florence for your next Italian city break? Well, the good news is it shouldn’t be too hard a decision! While they both offer plenty of attractions, they have very different vacation vibes, and we’re here to help you see which one is right for you.
With its beautiful skyline and history as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence has been luring art lovers and culture hunters for years. Whereas Naples, with its grittier demeanor and lesser-known attractions, is often unfairly overlooked by tourists.
Well, we don’t want you to miss out on a great city, so we’ve laid out all the charms of Naples for you here, from its surprising array of cultural attractions to its budget-friendly accommodation. And we’ve compared it with Florence at every step so you can be sure which Italian city is right for you.
Table of Contents
Naples Or Florence: Vibes
Naples is known as a brash, loud, chaotic, and sometimes dirty city. However, some say this is part of its charm and that Naples offers a glimpse of real Italian life rather than the sanitized version that other cities display for tourists. Visitors to Naples will find plenty of beauty, art, architecture, and culture hidden amongst the traffic and daily grind.
It’s also larger than Florence and made up of many neighborhoods that will each appeal to a different crowd. Solo travelers and friend groups should head to the historic center and university quarter, where they’ll enjoy the energetic pace and youthful exuberance. Couples can head to the port, where high-end hotel rooms come with beautiful harbor views. Shoppers, art lovers, and cafe hoppers should stay in designer Chiaia or elegant Vomero. And families should opt for Lungomare, where kids can make the most of the beach.
In contrast, Florence is known as a much more refined city. The birthplace of the renaissance, it is the cultural heart of Tuscany and appeals to art and history lovers, opera-goers, and theatre buffs. It’s a smaller city than Naples, perfect for exploring on foot with all its main sights located close to each other. But it can get crowded, especially in peak season and always around the main attractions.
Florence has a reputation for romance thanks to its beautiful terracotta-hued cityscape, the stunning sunset views from the Piazzale Michelangelo, and opportunities to cruise down the Arno River. It will also appeal to friend groups who want a city break with excellent shopping, cafe culture, and a lively bar scene. Families will find plenty of child-friendly hotels, but they might need to break up the cultural sights with more child-focused activities. Try a trip to the antique carousel, or the Boboli Gardens.
Conclusion: Florence is a more romantic, elegant city that can get a little crowded. Naples has a livelier, more youthful energy and its crowds are made up of locals more than tourists.
Naples Or Florence: Food
Italy’s culinary excellence is well known, but people often don’t realize that the food changes widely from region to region. The Tuscany area is known for its agricultural prowess, and its rustic food is characterized by hearty meals made with delicious, simple, ingredients. Some must-try dishes in Florence are bistecca alla Fiorentina, a large T-bone steak flame-grilled to perfection. Tagliatelle with locally grown porcini mushrooms and truffles. Fresh pasta with wild boar. And Ribollita, a traditional bread and bean stew. And everything should be enjoyed alongside the excellent local wine.
In Naples, it is first and foremost about the pizza. The city is very proud of its reputation as the birthplace of pizza, and once you try it, you’ll know why. The dough is expertly made and cooked in a wood-fired oven, the rich sauce contains all local ingredients, the toppings are fresh and simple with just a drizzle of olive oil, and it is delicious.
But if you’re not a pizza lover, not to worry, Naples is also well known for its fresh seafood often tossed with pasta or fried and served in cones from street stalls. And also the pastries, be sure to try the famous sfogliatelle, stuffed flaky pastries that come in several varieties, all of which must be sampled!
Conclusion: Foodies can’t go wrong in either of these cities, but if you love your pizza, it has to be Naples.
Naples Or Florence: Sights and attractions
Florence is an art lovers paradise and houses incredible works by all the renaissance masters, including the statue of Michelangelo’s David and paintings by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Caravaggio. Be warned that these sights do draw large crowds so you need to book tickets ahead of time to secure your entrance!
Architecture lovers and history buffs should visit the city’s centuries-old town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, as well as the tourist favorite Ponte Vecchio bridge. And of course, Piazza del Duomo, where they’ll find the most recognizable landmark of the city, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. And, since Florence was also the birthplace of opera, why not see if you can take in a performance at one of the historic theatres?
As for Naples, its sights are often overlooked in favor of the other, more famous Italian cities and their better-known attractions. But art and history lovers will find a surprising amount to delight them here too, and with fewer crowds than Florence! The veiled marble sculptures in the Cappella Sansevero have to be seen to be believed, and you can view artworks by Caravaggio in no less than three locations across the city. Plus, you can visit a network of intriguing underground tunnels, two palaces, three castles, a cathedral, and an archaeological museum with the best display of Pompeii artifacts in the world!
Conclusion: We can’t pretend that Florence isn’t the bigger draw for art and history lovers, but Naples definitely deserves to be on your radar!
Naples Or Florence: Surrounding Area
Most visitors to Naples came for the twin draws of Mount Vesuvius and the world-famous archaeological site Pompeii, the city famously destroyed and yet preserved by the volcanic eruption of 79AD. Make sure to take time to visit Herculaneum, the equally well preserved but less well known, and often far less crowded town also destroyed in the eruption.
From Naples, you can also explore the stunning Amalfi Coast. Or, why not hop on a ferry from Naples port and explore one of the nearby islands, such as volcanic Ischia (50mins), with its natural hot springs. Or celebrity favorite Capri (45mins) with its jaw-dropping scenery and designer shopping opportunities.
Florence has excellent transport links to other cities such as medieval Siena (1.5 hours), foodie paradise Bologna (40mins), or romantic Venice (2hours). But we believe the best area to explore from Florence is the beautiful Tuscan countryside. So why not join an organized tour or, better yet, hire a car, and head out into the rolling hills, winding roads, and sprawling vineyards that have featured in many a Hollywood movie.
Conclusion: Wine lovers should head for Florence’s Tuscan hills while history hunters need to go to Naples and Pompeii.
Naples Or Florence: Nightlife
Naples with its gritty reputation and urban allure, really comes to life after dark. The city’s youthful energy attracts a bohemian crowd to its eclectic range of venues and bars. Head to one of the city’s many piazza’s at aperitivo time for a drink and something to eat as you watch as the streets slowly fill with the cool, casual Neapolitan crowd.
Then head to the tiny atmospheric bars of the historical center, go for cheap beers and budget band nights around the university area, visit Chiaia to bar hop through high-class cocktail lounges or hilltop Vomero for drinks with a nighttime view of the city. Search out a centri sociali – community-run social clubs – for an authentic slice of Neapolitan nightlife. And finish up at a late-night jazz club, afro beats bar, or underground trance club. You’ll find all these and more in Naples.
Florence doesn’t offer quite such a trendy or varied nightlife scene, but don’t be fooled by its cultured demeanor. Florence does know how to have a good time, and it gets surprisingly lively after dark. If you want casual after-dinner drinks overlooking the river, a pre-opera cocktail at a piazza, a fun night out dancing with friends, or a quality club night, you can find it in this city.
In the historic center and across the river in Oltrarno, you’ll find more bars than you’ll know what to do with and an excellent aperitivo scene. In summer, be sure to hunt out the bars with roof terraces for that all-important sunset view. And make sure to check out Santa Croce, the unofficial hub of the city’s nightlife, where you’ll find all the international students living their best semester abroad lives, and all the city’s best late-night clubs.
Conclusion: Both of these cities know how to have a good time. Naples definitely parties a little harder, but Florence offers a more laid-back kind of fun.
Naples Or Florence: Budget and Accommodation
As is generally the case, the more popular a destination, the more the prices go up. So you’ll find both these locations offer cheaper vacations than the more visited cities of Rome and Venice. But Florence, as the more popular choice, will cost you more than Naples.
A one-week holiday for a couple in Florence will cost an average of $1900 compared to $1650 in Naples. However, if you want to do either city on a lower budget, you can get by on around $40 per day in Naples and $50 in Florence. Look for budget accommodation in hostels with shared dorms, opt for somewhere that offers complimentary breakfast, and head for free walking tours and sights rather than paid attractions. Also, go for drinks away from the tourist strips in smaller, local-friendly bars and choose takeaways and street food instead of restaurants.
You’ll find no shortage of accommodation in either city since each offers over 3000 choices on booking.com. However, you’ll find budget options more widely available in Naples, where a weekend hostel bed in the summer can cost $15 compared with twice that in Florence. But, if you’re looking for a high-end stay, you’ll find many more four and five-star options in Florence than Naples, which is lacking in the luxury choices.
Conclusion: Budget-conscious travelers should head for Naples, while anyone wanting a little luxury should look at Florence.
Naples Or Florence: Conclusion
So, as you can see, these two Italian cities offer very different vacation experiences. While both cities offer a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, beautiful surroundings, excellent food, lively entertainment, and opportunities for romance, there are clear differences that should help you decide which one is right for you.
Art lovers should undoubtedly head to Florence for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the collection of work by the renaissance masters. Florence is also the right choice for opera lovers, anyone wanting a romantic Italian break in an undeniably beautiful city. And it’s the best choice for those wishing to explore the Tuscan countryside and tour the famous wineries.
On the other hand, anyone wanting to visit a lesser-known Italian city, one that offers a more rugged view of Italian life, should head for Naples. Those who are budget conscious, looking for the liveliest nightlife, wanting to visit Pompeii, Capri, or the Amalfi Coast, or those who just love pizza, well, they have to visit Naples!