The first stage is an 81-mile leg that will follow a circuit in downtown Naples.
''It would be a dream to take the pink jersey in the first stage,'' Cavendish said. ''It's just incredible to ride the Giro. It's one of maybe two races I insist on doing each year. I also have a place in Italy, so it's kind of like my home tour.''
Cavendish has won 10 stages in the Giro and worn the leader's pink jersey twice, including when his former team Columbia won the opening team time trial in 2009. But taking the lead with an individual win would be different.
The last time the Giro opened with a regular-length sprint stage came 10 years ago, when Alessandro Petacchi edged out Mario Cipollini in Lecce. The last time there was a sprint in Naples was when Cipollini won before 200,000 fans in 1996.
Other contenders include Matthew Goss of Australia, John Degenkolb of Germany and Italian trio Daniele Bennati, Manuel Belletti and Sacha Modolo.
''Straight out the door and we're into a 130-kilometer road race,'' Goss said. ''Sometimes it's nice to have a prologue, because you get yourself in the rhythm, you get your body used to racing that intensely. Saturday is going to be a straight into it. But I look forward to it. You get a good opportunity to take the jersey.''
Cavendish is also aiming for the red-points jersey.
''My goal is to win at least a stage,'' Cavendish said. ''Hopefully a jersey comes from that. The riders who go in to hunt for jerseys are more the attacking riders like (Peter) Sagan. For me, I have to rely on winning stages to get jerseys.''
However, Sagan isn't riding the Giro.
The Naples course features two mild climbs in the Posillipo neighborhood and several loops down the finishing straight alongside the bay.
''It's quite straight forward and it's going to be a sprint,'' Cavendish said. ''Of course, there are a lot of corners and cobblestones that can make it a little more challenging. But I think it should be OK.''
Traffic will be banned in the car-clogged Naples city center, with the only exception for wedding brides.
The second stage Sunday is a team time trial on the nearby island of Ischia.
The race ends May 26 in Brescia.