In the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the fertile crescent of Campania cradles the Bay of Naples and the larger Gulf of Salerno. Some say this is Italy's most spectacular natural setting. A sunny climate, a wealth of historic sights, and a hospitable populace make the area around Naples a well-touristed domain.
The city's commercial and cultural history has always been strictly connected with the importance of its port. Strategically located, Naples has been coveted ever since it was established as a Greek colony around 600 BC, named Neapolis (New City). Conquered by the Romans in 327 BC, it became a favorite residence of emperors and literary personages, including Virgil and Nero. A Byzantine dukedom in the 7th century and later subject to Norman Sicily, Naples reached the zenith of its medieval prosperity when Charles I of Anjou made it his capital in 1266. Along with his Angevin and Aragonese successors, Charles enlarged the city and embellished it with palaces and churches. The Spanish Habsburgs (1502 - 1704) were followed by the Bourbons, Bonapartes and finally the Savoys, when Campania became part of the unified Italian nation in 1860.
A point of embarkation for emigrants in the past, Naples now has a large traffic of merchandise (petroleum, carbon, cereals) and passengers. In the vast urban area one can distinguish many different neighborhoods: the old center, characterized by buildings closely crowded together, is bordered on the west by the new administrative district and on the east by the business district, into which flows almost all the road and rail traffic. Other neighborhoods, with narrow climbing streets, rise around the base of the San Martino and Capodimonte hills. These neighborhoods have experienced intense development, typically of the simpler kind, in contrast to that of the residential neighborhoods that stretch out comfortably along the Vomero and Posillipo hills.
Compared to other European cities, Naples is a large, chaotic and sometimes overbearing city - but in all these things lies the city's charm. It has its share of petty crime, and derelect areas that visually detract a tourist's point of view. In spite of this, most of Naples' inhabitants know how to enjoy the joys of life. Naples has been compared to Marseilles and referred to as the Bombay of Europe. This reputation should not deter potential travellors from visiting Naples, as it is safer than most large American cities and the chaos has been steadily subsiding over the last few years.