Naples, city, capital of Naples provincia, Campania regione, southern Italy. It lies on the west coast of the Italian peninsula, 120 miles (190 km) southeast of Rome. On its celebrated bay—flanked to the west by the smaller Gulf of Pozzuoli and to the southeast by the more extended indentation of the Gulf of Salerno—the city is situated between two areas of volcanic activity: Mount Vesuvius to the east and the Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean Fields) to the northwest. The most recent eruption of Vesuvius occurred in 1944. In 1980 an earthquake damaged Naples and its outlying towns, and since then Pozzuoli to the west has been seriously afflicted by bradyseism (a phenomenon involving a fall or rise of land).
Naples is located near the midpoint of the arc of hills that, commencing in the north at the promontory of Posillipo and terminating in the south with the Sorrentine peninsula, form the central focus of the Bay of Naples. To the south of the bay’s entrance to the Tyrrhenian Sea, the island of Capri forms a partial breakwater, visible from the city in clear weather and at times of impending storm but increasingly screened by polluted air from the industrial zone developed, since World War II, between central Naples and the Vesuvian slopes. Pollution also afflicts the waters of the port, obliging the more scrupulous practitioners of the immemorial Neapolitan fishing industry to withdraw ever farther from their native shore.
While the importance of Naples as the principal port of southern Italy is at last in decline, the city remains the centre of the nation’s meridional commerce and culture, beset by inveterate difficulties, and distinguished by an adroit and original spirit that retains many suggestions of the classical past and of assimilated historical experience. Of all the cities of southern Italy with Greek origins, Naples presents the most striking example of a lively continuity. It is also perhaps the last great metropolis of western Europe whose monuments, albeit often in decay, may still be seen in their popular context, without distractions of tourism or self-conscious commercialism.
Since World War II, during which Naples suffered severe bombardment, modernization has increasingly altered the city’s setting and character; and a measure of long-deferred but often speculative prosperity is reflected in new suburbs now proliferating in once-rural surroundings. However, Naples remains arcane and compelling, a city whose richness requires from the visitor time, accessibility, and some knowledge of the Neapolitan past. Its historic centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. Pop. (2022 est.) 914,758; metropolitan area, 3,054,956.
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