Last updated on April 9, 2023 by Wandering our World
Italy has a whole host of exciting, dynamic cities to explore, filled with iconic landmarks, fascinating museums, extraordinary architecture, and world-class restaurants. Naples and Rome are two of the finest examples, but many travelers hesitate between these locations.
No wonder too, as these cities actually offer very different vacations…
Rome, of course, is the Italian capital. It’s one of the most historic cities in the world and was once the heart of the mighty Roman Empire. Now, it’s famed for its legendary landmarks, like the Colosseum and Ancient Forum.
Then, there’s the southern hub of Naples. Birthplace of pizza and home to some of the finest cuisine in all of Italy, Naples draws in foodies from around the world, while also boasting intriguing tourist sites, like the Royal Palace and Ovo Castle.
Travelers from all walks of life can enjoy magical and memorable experiences in both of those cities, but one of them will likely be better-suited for your needs than the other.
And that’s where we can help!
Below, we put Naples and Rome side-by-side, examining how they compare in several key areas, like activities and landmarks, average costs, nightlife, food, family attractions, and more, covering all you need to know to make the right choice on your next Italian getaway.
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Day Trips?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Better For Shopping?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Better For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is The Best Choice?
A Quick Overview: Naples vs Rome
Naples: A Quick Overview
Naples, or Napoli to Italians, is the third-biggest city in Italy, and it’s the largest city in the southern part of the country.
It’s the capital of the Campania region, and it sits on Italy’s south-west coast, looking out onto the Tyrrhenian Sea. Over 900,000 people live here, with more than 3 million in the entire metropolitan area.
People have been living in this part of the world for thousands of years, and the origins of Naples go all the way back to the days of the Ancient Greeks.
Various other people ruled over the city as the centuries passed, as Naples became highly influential for its contributions to the fields of art and cuisine, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The city is still famed for its incredible food to this day, and pizza, as we know it, is widely agreed-upon to have originated in Naples.
Famously, the ‘Margherita’ pizza, which appears on menus around the world, was named in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy after she visited this city. Unsurprisingly, many people visit Naples purely to savor the local pizza and gelato.
Nowadays, Naples is seen by many travelers as a somewhat gritty and raw city. It’s not quite as clean-cut or well-maintained as some of Italy’s other urban hubs, like Milan or Florence.
But it still boasts a uniquely artistic spirit, a passionate population, and some fantastic tourist landmarks, including gorgeous palaces, wonderful galleries, and mesmerizing shopping arcades.
Rome: A Quick Overview
Rome, known as Roma to locals, is the capital city of Italy. It’s part of the Lazio region in the central area of the country.
It’s the biggest city in Italy, as well as one of the most populous cities in all of Europe, with 2.7 million people living in the city itself and around 4.3 million in the full metropolitan area, making it quite a bit bigger and busier than Naples.
This city has a long and storied past, having been the hub of the Ancient Roman Empire for many years.
It was the key city for one of the world’s biggest and most powerful empires, and it played an enormous part in the development of Europe, as well as contributing to Western civilization as we know it.
Because of Rome’s past, a lot of visitors to this city tend to spend much of their time visiting iconic ancient landmarks, like the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, and so on.
Rome also has some of Italy’s best museums and galleries, as well as being situated around Vatican City, home of the Pope and many more museums and beautiful, historic buildings.
History may be one of the big draws of the so-called Eternal City, but Rome also has a modern, dynamic city, with great live entertainment, vibrant shopping districts, a lively nightlife scene, pretty parks, open-air markets, and plenty of opportunities for travelers to have fun in a surprising variety of ways.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Next, let’s focus on one of the most important aspects of these two cities: their activities and attractions.
There are lots of things to do in both Rome and Naples, from days at the museum to tours of fascinating historic sites.
However, there are also a couple of key differences which might push you towards one city over the other….
Naples: The Activities
As a large, historic city, Naples has a plethora of interesting museums to visit, and it’s also an artistic center, with many great galleries.
So, during your visit to this city, you might like to spend some time at places like the National Archaeological Museum, home of Ancient Roman artifacts, or the Museo di Capodimonte, which houses great works by Caravaggio, Raphael, etc.
Naples also has a selection of incredible castles and palaces to visit.
There’s the Spanish-style Royal Palace of Naples, filled with luxurious and elegant décor, as well as the Ovo and Nuovo Castles – Ovo Castle, or Egg Castle, is named after a mythical, magical egg, buried in the foundations, while the Castel Nuovo, or New Castle, was home to various Kings of Naples.
If you’ve had your fill of history, you might like to see a more modern side of Naples.
Simply walking around this raw, energetic city is a great way to experience it, and there are plenty of bars, cafes, and street food vendors ready to share world-class pizza with you.
There are also lots of great places to shop, along with excellent live entertainment and a huge football stadium.
Since Naples is on the coast, it also has one big attraction that Rome does not: beaches!
There are several great beaches in the city, like Gaiola and Bagno Elena, with others, like Miseno and Miliscola, are just a short bus ride away.
These beaches aren’t exactly the prettiest in Italy, but they’re still very pleasant and perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or strolling on the sand.
Rome: The Activities
In Rome, most travelers will spend much of their time sightseeing, and there are many, many sights to see – much more than Naples!
From the decorative Trevi Fountain to the legendary Spanish Steps, Rome is simply filled with historic treasures and unique landmarks, and you can spend a week or even a fortnight here without ever running out of things to do.
The Colosseum is one of the most-visited locations in the city, and with good reason. This ancient gladiatorial arena – which was also used for mock battles and other forms of entertainment – is one of the best-preserved Roman relics, standing proudly for over two millennia.
Other ancient landmarks of Rome include the Pantheon and the Forum, and you can take guided tours of these locations to learn as much about them as possible, or simply wander around by yourself and soak in the stories and memories of those ancient bricks.
History lovers might also like to time their visit for one of Rome’s famous festivals, like Natale di Roma.
Rome is also a cradle of art, culture, and religion. There are many great museums and galleries all over the city, and it’s very easy to visit Vatican City, too, touring the world-famous Sistine Chapel and admiring the extraordinary Vatican Museums and Papal Art Collection.
And, like any other big city, Rome also has great shopping, food, sporting events, and live entertainment.
Overall, there are plenty of fascinating things to do in both of these big cities. Rome is definitely the top pick for culture and history, with so many ancient landmarks and remnants of the past.
But Naples has the benefit of some great beaches and coastal fun to go along with its galleries and landmarks.
Which Is Best For Day Trips?
Clearly, Rome and Naples have plenty of activities and attractions to fill up your days. However, if you’re spending a week or more in either of these cities, you might want to plan a day trip or two in order to see another side of Italy.
Both Rome and Naples have great day trip destinations within easy reach, but one city might be more appealing to your tastes than the other.
Naples is often regarded as one of the best places to base yourself for exploration of South Italy.
It’s perfect for trips to awe-inspiring archaeological sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as exquisite islands like Capri and Ischia, and the beautiful beaches and coastal towns of the Sorrentine Peninsula and Amalfi Coast.
Rome, meanwhile, has a useful central position, ideal for exploring many different parts of Italy.
There are some nice local sites, like historic Tivli and Ostia Antica, as well as charming rural towns and villages, like Orvieto.
You can also take a train to Florence or even visit Naples itself for a day trip, as the train ride between the two cities only takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
However overall, even though Rome has a good location, Naples is probably the better choice for day trips, since it’s so close to several very interesting and scenic locations, from Sorrento to Pompeii.
When you’re doing day trips from Rome, it usually takes a little longer to get to the main touristic centers.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Next, let’s look at nightlife. Many people like to stay out late in order to make the most of every single second of their vacation, and both Rome and Naples can offer plenty of fun ways to spend an evening, with bars, clubs, discos, and more.
Naples is really well-known for its nightlife scene.
Travelers can head to the Piazza Bellini to mingle with locals at a range of trendy bars, while admiring the nearby Greek ruins.
The surrounding streets offer plenty of discos and clubs to dance the night away, while Naples’ Vomero district has trendy wine bars and lounges to relax with a good drink.
In Rome, too, it’s easy to find nightlife hotspots dotted across the city, and the Testaccio and Trastevere tend to get very lively during the summer months and on the weekends, with everything from raucous sports bars to cozy lounges and thumping dance clubs.
San Lorenzo and the Campo De Fiori have even more nightlife entertainment, so we think when it comes to lively nightlife Rome has the edge here.
Which Is Better For Food?
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, food is most probably on your mind.
After all, Italian cuisine is some of the best in the world, and this nation is famous for its pizzas, pastas, flavorful stews, scrumptious pastries, wonderful wines, and refreshing gelato.
But where will you find the tastiest foods to eat – Naples or Rome?
Well, this is one category that has to go to Naples. Neapolitan cuisine is truly iconic. Naples not only invented the pizza, but perfected it, and some of the finest slices in the world can still be found in this magical, culinary city.
There’s even an annual pizza festival in Naples, called Pizzafest, which is definitely worth checking out if you’re in town at the right time.
But Naples’ food scene isn’t solely about pizza. This city also has some of the tastiest pasta dishes – spaghetti is a local favorite – as well as amazing, decadent desserts, from sweet dough balls to tarts and pies that will keep you coming back for more.
The city’s gelato is fabulous, too, and there’s a great mix of street food vendors, casual eateries, and gourmet restaurants to try.
With all of that said, Rome is obviously not a bad place for food. As the Italian capital, it’s got some of the country’s best restaurants, and many leading chefs try to make a name for themselves in Rome.
You can find a great melting pot of dishes here from all over the country, and there are lots of options to suit all tastes and preferences.
Which Has The Best Shopping?
Shopping is one of the best activities to enjoy in Italian cities, and plenty of people head to Italy in the hope of buying some beautiful designer clothing and accessories or grabbing some locally-made products to take back home.
Naples is a terrific place to shop. In fact, it has one of the most breathtaking shopping arcades in the world: the Galleria Umberto I.
There are also many streets dotted around the city that tend to specialize in one particular thing. The Via dei Tribunali is great for crafts, for example, while the Via Chiaia is renowned for its expert tailors.
Rome is also a fantastic place for shopping, complete with its own markets, department stores, and store-lined streets.
The scenic Via del Governo Vecchio is a great place to find charming vintage shops, while the Via dei Coronari has antique dealers, and the Via Cola di Rienzo is where you’ll see plenty of big brands from around the globe.
Overall, it’s very difficult to pick a winner in this category, as both cities have so many stores and quite similar shopping experiences.
However, given Rome’s larger size, you may be able to spend more time shopping in the capital, and it can be lots of fun to roam your way through the winding cobblestone streets, searching for hidden gems and interesting indie boutiques.
Which Is Better For Families?
How about if you’re heading to Italy on a family trip? Which city will suit you best between Naples and Rome?
Well, there’s really no wrong answer, as both of these cities have awesome family attractions, and it’s possible to have a magical and memorable time, no matter which one you visit.
Naples has the big benefit of being by the sea, with lots of beaches only a short walk or drive away.
There are also some local amusement parks, like Vesuviuslandia and Edenlandia, along with water parks in the surrounding area, plus inner-city attractions like the museums and spooky Catacombs of San Gennaro.
Over in Rome, you can also find a long list of family-friendly activities and attractions.
There are several theme parks and water parks in the area, which are ideal to visit during the summer months, and many kids will be in awe at the sight of the Colosseum.
There’s also a wildlife park in Rome, and the city is generally a bit cleaner, less ‘gritty’ than Naples, and more touristy, which may give it the edge for most families.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
For couples, it’s once again a tough choice between Naples and Rome, as both of these cities are romantic and intriguing in their own special ways.
They also both have plenty of great things to do with a special someone, and it’s important to think about your personal preferences and desires when choosing which city to visit.
However Naples has a couple of key advantages over Rome in the form of its beaches and its food.
The beaches in Naples are ideal for couples who love to relax on the sand together or splash around in the sea. Meanwhile, the food is unparalleled here, and even though Rome has amazing food, Naples’ pizza is simply out-of-this-world.
At the same time, Naples’ slightly gritty and dirty side makes it a little less charming and romantic in the eyes of many couples, and you might prefer the distinctive beauty of Rome.
Rome also has lots of cozy spots to relax with your partner, like wine bars and winding, historic streets, along with many historic sites to visit and things to do.
Overall, the right choice will really depend on what you and your partner like the most.
Rome is arguably the most romantic of the two cities, but Naples’ location and unique vibes might make it a better choice for adventurous couples who are looking for something different.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
If you’re planning a backpacking trip to Italy, Rome and Naples both have some pros and cons you’ll want to weigh up, and both of them can work well for backpacking adventures and independent travel.
Naples has the advantage of being a little cheaper than Rome, which should appeal to the backpacking crowd.
It’s also got a nice selection of hostels and is well-situated near iconic backpacking destinations, like Pompeii.
The raw and artistic nature of this city also gives it a lot of appeal to those with an adventurous spirit.
Over in Rome, you might have to pay a little more for your accommodation and food, but there are still multiple hostels to choose from around the city center.
Plus, Rome is a little more cosmopolitan and touristic than Naples, so you may find it easier to meet and interact with other travelers, as well as finding English-speaking people to guide you around.
Overall, neither city is really better than the other.
Those with strict budgets should probably head to Naples, but those who are looking to really embrace Italy’s ancient past and rich culture might find more to do in Rome.
Which Is Cheaper?
Well, the total cost of your trip will, of course, depend on where you stay and what you choose to do. However, on average, Naples is cheaper than Rome, with more affordable accommodation and lower food costs, too.
Even tours and entertainment tend to be cheaper in Naples, as the city is less touristy overall, so it’s much easier to plan a budget-friendly vacation in the southern city compared to the capital.
However, if you book ahead and choose your accommodation with care, you can still arrange a pretty affordable visit to Rome.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Set in a wonderful location within walking distance of many attractions, Relais Della Porta is a great accommodation with classy furnishing and great service. It’s surprisingly affordable for a four-star hotel too. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Situated right on the sea, staying at the five-star Grand Hotel Vesuvio will bring you gorgeous views across the Gulf of Naples towards Capri and Mount Vesuvius. From the swimming pools (plural!) through to the service, it’s easy to see why this is regarded as one of Italy’s best hotels. See photos and rates!
Budget: Residenza Maritti Decò Style is a gorgeous three-star guest house set in the heart of Rome. Not only is the location perfect, but so is the roof terrace with exceptional city views. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Located in one of Rome’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, Hotel Eden – Dorchester Collection is a five-star hotel that oozes luxury. It’ll come as no surprise then that their in-house restaurant is Michelin starred. See photos and rates!
Which Is Easier To Get To?
If you’re traveling to either Rome or Naples, you’ll most likely fly into one of the airports surrounding these cities.
Naples has a large international airport very close to the city center, while Rome has two main airports – Leonardo da Vinci in Fiumicino, which is about half an hour from central Rome, and Ciampino, which is located on the southeast outskirts of the city.
Naples Airport has many direct flights around Europe, as well as one direct flight to the US (via New York) and some connections with North Africa and the Middle East, making it fairly easy to access for most travelers.
However, Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is even easier to access, with many more direct flights to the US, Canada, South America, and even Australia.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
As well as planning how you’re going to get to your destination, you’ll also need to consider how you’re going to get around.
And, since both Naples and Rome are very large cities, it’s important for travelers to familiarize themselves with the local public transport systems.
One of the great things about Naples is that many of its main sights are clustered together in the historic center, which is highly walkable.
However, you might need to ride a bus or taxi to visit local beaches and other areas. Taxis are easy to access, but expensive, while the city also has strong bus, tram, and metro routes to take you around quite comfortably and conveniently.
Rome also has a lot of its key attractions within walking distance of one another, but since it’s such a big city, you might need to hop on the local metro or buses.
Traffic is pretty bad in Rome, so it’s usually best to take the metro, which can take you almost anywhere you need to go without any issues.
Since Naples is smaller and has most attractions close by, it’s slightly easier to get around, and you may not need to rely on public transport as much there as you would in Rome, which can help you save some money.
Naples vs Rome: Which Is The Better Choice?
So, which city is best overall? Well, even though Rome and Naples have some similarities, they’re surprisingly different places.
Rome is the king of culture and history, with an almost never-ending list of landmarks to see, while Naples offers unbeatable food and a uniquely raw and energetic vibe, quite unlike most other cities of Italy.
But when all is said and done, Rome has to be the winner in our comparison. It simply has so much more to see and do than Naples, with its romantic vibe appealing to couples and its many attractions making it a prime destination for family vacations.
It combines all the best bits of Italy in one place, and also happens to be easier to access, especially for those outside of Europe.
With that said, Naples still deserves consideration if you’re planning a trip to Italy. It’s a really charming place, and authentic Neapolitan pizza is something that everyone should taste at least once in their lives!
It’s also a nice starting point for exploring southern Italy, with the picturesque Amalfi Coast right around the corner.