Last updated on April 14, 2023 by Wandering our World
The big cities of Italy rank among Europe’s most-visited locations, and it’s not hard to see why. With their impressive architecture, fascinating touristic landmarks, world-class food, and boutique-lined streets, these cities can appeal to almost any kind of traveler.
Yet, while many visitors to Italy head straight for Rome or Milan, Naples and Florence are two more magical cities to explore. But they’re very different places, with their own distinct vibes and attractions.
Naples is often regarded as a raw and gritty city, boasting a unique kind of beauty and trendy charm among its crumbling architecture and dynamic street life. It’s also famed for its food, being the birthplace of pizza and home of some of Italy’s most delicious treats.
Florence is worlds apart from Naples. Visiting this city almost feels like stepping back in time to the days of the Renaissance, surrounded by extraordinary art, breathtaking piazzas, and awe-inspiring architecture from centuries gone by.
Clearly, Naples and Florence are totally different places, and it can be tricky to choose between them when you’re planning a trip to Italy and want to have the best possible time.
But that’s where we can help!
Below, we’ll be taking a look at how Naples and Florence compare in many different categories, from their attractions and activities to their average costs, nightlife scenes, food and more. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Best For Day Trips?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Has The Best Shopping?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Best 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 Has Better Weather?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview: Naples vs Florence
Naples: A Quick Overview
Naples, also known as Napoli in Italian, is Italy’s third-largest city.
Home to more than 900,000 people, with over 3 million in the full metropolitan area, it’s a very big place, sitting on the country’s south-west coast and gazing out across the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This city has an interesting history and reputation. It’s been around in some form or another since the days of the Ancient Greeks, and Naples developed over the centuries to become a hub of creativity, contributing a lot to the world in the fields of art and cuisine.
For a long time, this city was overlooked or even feared by tourists, with many simply ignoring or overlooking it in favor of trips to more touristic locations, like the nearby Amalfi Coast or the cosmopolitan havens of Milan and Rome.
However, in recent years, more and more travelers have started visiting Naples, and the uniquely chaotic character and charm of this city has entered the spotlight.
It may be a gritty and noisy place, but it’s also exceptionally authentic, offering intriguing landmarks, unbeatable food, and genuine experiences that you may not have in Italy’s more touristy settings.
Florence: A Quick Overview
Florence, or Firenze to Italians, is another large Italian city. It’s situated more than 250 miles northwest from Naples, in the Tuscany region, of which it is the capital.
Around 360,000 people live here, with more than 1.5 million in the metropolitan area, so it’s much smaller than Naples.
Florence is well-known as a Renaissance city. In fact, the Renaissance started here, and Florence was one of the biggest contributors to art and culture, with many of Europe’s greatest artists and creative minds doing some of their best work within the city’s walls.
Fittingly, Florence still houses some of Italy’s most famous artworks and most breathtaking buildings.
It’s a truly beautiful city, quite different to the more modern and rugged nature of Naples, with many sculptures and paintings to admire, as well as the world-famous Florence Cathedral – by far one of the prettiest buildings in the whole country.
Everywhere you look in Florence, you’ll find beauty, with statues, gardens, and decorative buildings around every corner.
It’s also considered a great base for those who plan to explore the region of Tuscany, with vineyards and villages dotted across the surrounding hills.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Next, let’s talk about how you might like to fill your days during a city break in Naples or Florence by focusing on a few of the main attractions, landmarks, and activities that these two locations are best-known for.
Both of these cities have museums galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.
However, with their very different vibes and styles, they can provide totally different experiences for visitors, with Naples being more modern and energetic, while Florence is more arty and romantic.
Naples: The Activities
If you’re heading to Naples, it’s worth spending some time seeing the sights, and the Royal Palace is one of Naples’ most impressive landmarks.
Designed in the Spanish style, this 16th century palace is a joy to admire from outside and even more exhilarating inside, with lavishly-decorated royal rooms and elegant artworks hanging in the halls.
While it can’t compete with Florence’s Renaissance art collection, Naples also has some excellent art galleries.
The Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, or MADRE, is a beautiful home of contemporary art which blends nicely with Naples’ modern vibes. There’s some amazing street art around the city, too, including Italy’s only known Banksy.
Wandering streets like the Via dei Tribunali – nicknamed Pizza Alley – is a great way to immerse yourself in the distinctive Neapolitan culture.
And, when you’re not visiting landmarks like the Museo di Capodimonte or San Carlo Theater – the oldest opera theater in Europe – it’s easy to simply lose yourself among the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
History buffs can also explore Naples’ Ovo and Nuovo Castles, while sports fans might like to visit the legendary Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where the city’s football team, SSC Napoli, play their games.
Or, if you just want to relax, head to one of Naples’ beaches, like Bagno Elena, to soak up the sun or splash around in the sea.
Florence: The Activities
Visitors to Florence will want to spend some time simply roaming around the city, as there are so many landmarks, incredible buildings, and other unique structures around every corner.
From the famed Florence Cathedral, also known as the Duomo, to the Ponte Vecchio where various jewelers and art sellers offer their wares along the length of this colorful bridge.
Florence is famous for its art, and there are several great galleries to visit, with world-renowned works to admire.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous locations, home to incredible art by the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. The Galleria dell’Accademia is also worth a visit – Michelangel’s David lives here.
While Naples may have its Royal Palace, Florence has a whole collection of gorgeous palaces to explore, from the Palazzo Vecchio – which is also the town hall – to the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Strozzi.
These palaces, and many other buildings around the city, date back several centuries and have many stories to tell.
There are some lovely green spaces around Florence, like Boboli Gardens, where you can relax, and the city is also perfectly-placed for exploration of the wider region of Tuscany. This part of the country is home to many wineries, beautiful rural landscapes, and romantic little villages.
Overall, the activities are quite different in both of these cities. Naples has much more of a modern and metropolitan vibe, with a big focus on shopping, food, and live events, as well as its historic landmarks and museums.
While Florence is much more centered around art, history, and cultural experiences.
Which Is Best For Day Trips?
There’s lots to love about both Naples and Florence, but you might like to leave these cities behind for a day or two and explore some other parts of Italy. There are some terrific day trip opportunities to be enjoyed, no matter which city you choose.
Naples is a great starting point for exploring South Italy. The Amalfi Coast is right next door, along with the coastal beauty of Sorrento and the beaches of the Sorrentine Peninsula.
Some of Italy’s most famous historic sites are also nearby, like Pompeii, and Naples also offers fast and convenient ferry rides over to the islands of Capri and Ischia for fun in the sun.
Situated towards the north of the country, Florence is ideal for exploring Tuscany.
There are some incredibly scenic and romantic towns and villages to find in this part of the country, like Cortona, with its gorgeous churches and stone houses, as well as hilly Montepulciano, medieval Monteriggioni, and colorful Lucca. Pisa is only an hour away from Florence by train too.
Overall, there isn’t a clear winner in this category, as both cities are close to some fabulous places.
The right choice for you will depend on what kinds of experiences you’re looking for; Florence is ideal for rural charms and quiet villages, while Naples is great for beaches and archaeological sites.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If you enjoy staying out late, partying into the night or visiting lively bars to mingle with the locals, you’ll most likely prefer Naples to Florence, as the southern city has a much more active and dynamic nightlife scene.
However there are lots of great clubs and bars to be found around Naples, and the Piazza Bellini is the place to be when the sun goes down – lots of locals gather there after work, along with students and tourists from across the world.
The Vomero neighborhood offers even more clubs and pubs, while Chiaia is one of the trendiest areas to stop off for a fruity cocktail or fine wine.
Over in Florence, there’s a decent nightlife scene, with some fun wine bars and nightclubs in the trendy Oltrarno area or the student-centric Santa Croce neighborhood.
However, the nightlife scene in Florence isn’t as raucous, diverse, or developed as it is in Naples.
Which Is Better For Food?
One of the best things about going to Italy is the food. From the classic pizza and pasta dishes to more unique regional recipes, there are so many tasty treats to find all over this European nation.
But which city has the best food, between Naples and Florence?
Well, once again, it has to be Naples that takes the win in this category. This city is famed all over the world for its cuisine. Pizza was invented here, and Naples’ pizzerias still make some of the finest slices on the planet!
There are also plenty of flavorful pasta dishes to enjoy in Naples, along with tantalizing gelato and super sweet treats.
Even though Naples just about has the edge, Florence isn’t a bad place for food, at all. In fact, it’s the perfect place to sample Tuscan cuisine, which is known for being simple but wholesome and hearty.
Local restaurants serve stews and sauces made from locally-grown ingredients, and visitors also won’t have any problems in finding tasty pizza and pasta here.
Which Has The Best Shopping?
Many people visit Italian cities like Naples and Florence to shop, and you can spend hours in either one of these locations browsing the boutiques or admiring the local produce on display at open-air markets.
But which one is best? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
As the bigger city, Naples has more places to shop than Florence, and it’s great for clothes, accessories, and the latest fashion trends, with plenty of designer stores and big-brand boutiques in places like the Galleria Umberto I and the Via Chiaia.
Meanwhile, Florence also has fancy boutiques along its Via Roma, but it’s arguably better for arts, crafts, and unique souvenirs.
Head to the Via dei Serragli to find some unique, independent shops selling cute crafts, or take a tour of the Sant’Ambrosio Market for regional produce.
Overall, the shopping experience is probably a little more pleasant in Florence, thanks to its aesthetically pleasing architecture and the fact that many of the main shopping areas are quite close to one another, making it really easy to get around from store to store.
Which Is Better For Families?
If you’re heading to Italy with children, there are pros and cons to both Naples and Florence, and it’s important to weigh up the key features and attractions of each city before deciding which one to visit.
In Naples, families can have a lot of fun visiting the city’s main landmarks, like the Royal Palace and various castles, as well as spending time on the beach.
There are also some local water parks and amusement parks, and kids tend to enjoy trips to Pompeii, but the grittier and dirtier side of the city may not appeal to families with little ones.
Florence is much cleaner and prettier, but slightly lacking when it comes to family fun.
There are lots of museums and galleries, which older kids can appreciate, but younger visitors might be a bit bored by the lack of typical attractions. Because of this, families with little ones might like to consider another Italian city, such as Rome.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
For couples, the right city will depend on the personalities of you and your partner, but the vast majority of people looking for romance and beauty will definitely prefer Florence.
It’s a much more beautiful city than Naples, with a far more romantic atmosphere among its winding streets and colorful piazzas.
Couples of any age can make many happy memories in this city while admiring its iconic artworks or exploring the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Meanwhile, Naples is far from a typical honeymoon or romantic destination, but does still have some unique benefits, like its amazing food and the presence of beaches within the city limits.
Unfortunately, the grimier side of Naples makes it feel less pleasant for many couples, and it doesn’t quite have the same “wow factor” that makes Florence such a special and unique destination.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
For backpackers and budget-conscious travelers, it can be quite a tricky choice between Naples and Florence, and both cities have proven to be popular with the backpacking crowd over the years, for different reasons.
Many backpackers love Naples for its low prices compared to other Italian cities, and it’s also an ideal base for visiting locations like Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Amalfi Coast, and so on.
There are lots of cheap hostels in Naples, too, and the rugged and raw feel of this city can appeal to off-the-beaten-path explorers, but the city can feel a little daunting for first-time visitors.
Yet Florence is one of the very best backpacking hotspots in the whole of Italy, with a good selection of safe and affordable hostels, as well as a very friendly and welcoming vibe throughout the city, which isn’t necessarily true of Naples.
It’s also easier to get around in Florence, making it more appealing for many solo travelers.
Which Is Cheaper?
Naturally, the cost of your Italian getaway will mostly depend on where you stay and how much you spend on food and activities. However, when we look at average prices for both of these destinations, we can see that one is most certainly cheaper than the other.
And it’s Naples that claims the crown for being the most affordable of these two destinations. Accommodation is generally a lot cheaper here, and you should also find local tours and activities to be a little cheaper, too.
With that said, food prices can be a little high in Naples, especially if you choose to dine at some of the best-known and top-rated restaurants, so budget-conscious travelers will still need to be careful and plan their days with care.
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: Hotel Ungherese is a lovely boutique hotel decorated beautifully and with a gorgeous garden and terrace to enjoy your Italian breakfast in the morning.
It’s just a few minutes bus ride from the historic center too, so you’ll be getting a good location alongside a great price. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: Set in a 15th-century building in the heart of the city’s historic center, Hotel Bernini Palace is stylish and luxurious at every turn. Grab a cocktail from the lounge bar and take it up to the terrace for panormaic views of this ancient city.
Staying at this five-star hotel feels like a once in a lifetime experience, and luckily it’s still affordable for most. See photos and rates here!
Which Is Easier To Get To?
In terms of accessibility, both Naples and Florence have their own international airports, and European travelers won’t have any problem getting to either location.
However, if you’re coming from outside of Europe, you might find that Naples is an easier city to reach.
Naples Airport is conveniently located near the city center, and it’s got lots of direct connections with major cities and nations all over the world, including the US and parts of the Middle East, which is handy for travelers flying from Australia or Asia.
In contrast, Florence Airport only has direct flights to Central and Western Europe, and some of those flights only operate on a seasonal basis, so you may find it easier to fly into another city, like Rome, and then take a train or rental car to Florence.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
We’ve seen how to get to these cities, and now let’s discuss how to get around them, once you’ve arrived.
Given the big difference in size between Naples and Florence, it’s worth noting, right away, that you’ll probably have an easier time navigating Florence purely on foot and won’t necessarily need to use public transport at all, which isn’t really the case in Naples.
A lot of landmarks and attractions are also clustered together in Naples, but the city is vast and has many interesting neighborhoods worth visiting, as well as beaches dotted along the shore. Because of this, you’ll probably spend more time on buses and metros to get from place to place.
Luckily, the public transport in Naples is pretty good, with plenty of buses and metro lines with English-language ticket machines. However, since Florence is smaller, simpler, and more tourist-oriented, it’s definitely an easier city to explore.
Which Has The Best Weather?
Since Naples and Florence are situated quite far from each other, these cities have slightly different weather conditions, and this is something to keep in mind when thinking about which time of year you want to visit.
As the more southern city, Naples generally has warmer weather. Summer days can get pretty hot in Florence, too, but Naples has more consistently high temperatures throughout the year, even in spring and fall.
Over in Florence, summers are nice and toasty, but temperatures start to drop as winter approaches, so this city – along with the rest of Tuscany – is best-visited during the warmer times of year.
Naples vs Florence: Which Is The Better Choice?
Apart from both being big Italian cities with some great food and museums, Naples and Florence don’t have a lot in common. And they’ve got very different atmosphere and auras.
Consequently, each one appeals to different types of people, and it’s impossible to say that one is definitively better than the other.
For the majority of travelers, Florence will probably be the better place to visit. It’s more touristic, with lots of interesting things to do in a smaller and more accessible area, and it’s a truly unique place.
It’s full of art, architecture, and culture that most cities can only dream of, which is why this city consistently ranks among the best places to visit in all of Italy.
However, Naples is emerging as a great vacation destination in its own right, and it has a lot of advantages, such as its cheaper prices, sunny coastal location, and truly magical food.
For foodies, budget-conscious travelers, or those simply looking for something a little different to the rest, Naples is absolutely worth considering.