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Naples History

Dating back some 4,000 years, Naples is one of the oldest cities in the world. Greek settlers established an early colony here about 2,000 BC, and by the 6th century BC they had erected the ancient city of Neapolis. The distinct Neapolitan culture was born then and survived even after the Romans conquered the area.

After Roman times, Naples was ruled by a succession of Goths, Byzantines, Lombards and Normans. In the 12th century it became part of the Kingdom of Sicily and in 1266, the capital was moved from Palermo to Naples. The ruler at the time was Charles of Anjou, who refashioned Castel Nuovo as his residence. Many churches were built in the Gothic style, including the cathedral of Naples.

Conflicts between Angevins, Aragonese and others saw Naples change hands several times, but under the latter the city turned into a centre of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century. In the 16th century, Naples came under the control of the Spanish Empire and the city grew to become one of the largest in Europe with a population of 300,000 at its peak. Many prestigious artists were nurtured here including Carvaggio and Bernini.

There were briefly successful efforts in the 17th and 18th centuries to establish a Neapolitan republic, until Napoleon conquered the city in 1805. After his defeat, it again became a capital of the united Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and finally joined the newly unified Italy in 1861. The region’s strong identity made it one of the most difficult to assimilate into the new state.

While in the 18th century Naples was a prime destination for Grand Tour travellers, the city struggled to regain its allure in the 19th and 20th centuries. Naples has often been troubled, ridden with crime, poverty and corruption. The region was famously in the grip of the mafia for many years, though there are signs that things are changing. In spite of the economic crisis that struck Italy from 2007-2011, the city has combated its reputation and is now making strides in recovering its eminence as a cultural centre.

Did you know?
• After conquest by the Romans, the Neapolitan region became a holiday resort thanks to its glorious climate.
• The great Roman poet, Virgil, is buried in a mighty tomb in the Piedigrotta district.
• In 1943, Naples became the first Italian city to rise up against Nazi occupation. The Allied forces already found it free when they arrived in the city following the invasion of Sicily.

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Romeo Hotel

Eschewing the Baroque extravagance of other luxury hotels, the Romeo Hotel is a temple of modernist design. The striking steel-and-glass exterior encases soothing minimalist interiors of marble, wood, stone and steel. The rooftop restaurant and pool include one of Naples' few sushi bars and there's a seriously sexy modern spa.

Port Alba Relais

A haven for book-lovers, Port Alba Relais houses a wonderful library with sections dedicated to the city's art, music and history alongside a book swapping section. Rooms with wooden beams are dedicated to literary genres and furnished with bedding and accessories from Mario Bottiglieri. It has a super central location and some rooms overlook buzzing Piazza Dante.

Chiaja Hotel de Charme

Situated on Naples' premier shopping street, Chiaja Hotel de Charme is housed in a former residence of a marquis. The owners have recreated a period feel with restored architectural details such as marble fireplaces and grand staircases alongside decorative touches like the gilt-framed portraits and antique furnishings.

Grand Hotel Oriente

A few minutes from Toledo metro station, the Grand Hotel Oriente is within easy walking distance of both the historic centre and the seafront. Sleeping quarters are clean and bright with large comfortable beds and immaculate bathrooms. Ask for a room with a private terrace to soak up the sounds of the city.

Grand Hotel Parkers

One of the finest hotels in Naples, the Grand Hotel Parkers has 71 luxuriously appointed rooms along with a spa, a beauty salon, restaurant and the exclusive atmosphere of an historical palace. It is decorated with belle époque-style frescoes and paintings, and Armani-clad guests lounge in the foyer in gilt Louis XVI chairs or on the stunning sea-view terrace.

Grand Hotel Vesuvio

The grand dame on the seafront, this 5-star deluxe hotel is renowned for hosting millionaires and screen legends. Appropriately, its refined public spaces drip with twinkling chandeliers and are furnished with period antiques, and it has a cabin cruiser service which lets guests island hop in style. The Caruso Roof Garden restaurant is gorgeous too.