Sunny, lively, sassy and simply unforgettable. Naples is music, theatre, Vesuvius, coffee, pizza and sea… all those colours, sounds and aromas that capture your attention, win you over and seduce you.
The best way to get to know Naples is to walk around its ancient streets, discovering the hidden wonders of this amazing city:
SpaccaNapoli – This road is called by this name (it literally means Split Naples) as, when seen from the top end, it literally splits the city into two parts. SpaccaNapoli is a long straight road, or several roads about 2 km long and just 6 meters wide. On both sides a tightly-packed labyrinth of narrow, charming alleys spreads out. This is the old, working-class, full-blooded Naples. Walking along the SpaccaNapoli, it is possible to follow an itinerary in one of the most characteristic areas of Naples, that corresponds to the “Decumano inferiore” of the Greek-Roman city, with churches, historical buildings, squares and old tiny craftsmen’s shops and laboratories.
Piazza del Gesù Nuovo– This square is cut in two by SpaccaNapoli, the famous, ancient road in Naples. There are some of the city’s most important monuments here: Palazzo Pignatelli, the Guglia dell'Immacolata (a huge church spire), the Church of Gesù Nuovo, the Monastery of Santa Chiara. This church originated in 1300 and was restored after the Second World War during which it was damaged in air-raid bombing. It was returned to its original Provencal Gothic style. The funeral monument of Robert I of Anjou is to be noted. In the nearby Convent in Piazza del Gesù, there is a wonderful majolica-tiled Cloister to be seen.
Via San Gregorio Armeno– This road is famous worldwide as the "nativity scene road”. In this road, which links the old city centre to the main roads, there are some important monuments such as the San Gregorio Armeno Monastery. This is also the city centre for hundreds of artists’ and commercial businesses: sculptors, silversmiths, gilders, and many craftsmen that make figurines for nativity scenes, and who still use traditional methods.
San Gennaro Cathedral– this was built around the end of the 12th century. The Cathedral of Naples has undergone several restorations over the centuries, partly carried out to repair the damage from earthquakes and partly to increase its artistic beauty. The relics of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples are kept in the cathedral. Here it happens twice a year the Miracle of San Gennaro, when the Martyr's blood (saved into an ampulla) liquefies, announcing that there will be no calamities for Neapolitans.
Piazza del Plebiscito– This recently renovated square is the most magnificent in Naples: it is built in the form of an amphitheater and is surrounded by wonderful monuments such as the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, which is similar to St. Peter’s in Rome, the Royal Palace and the Galleria Umberto I.
Castel Maschio Angiolino– This castle was built towards the end of the 13th century on the instructions of the Anjou family, and became an important cultural center where artists and writers such as Giotto, Petrarca and Boccaccio stayed. The Aragon dynasty expanded the building with two towers and a fantastic Arc de Triomphe. The Cappella Palatina chapel is also worth visiting.
Castel dell'Ovo– A large fortress from the 12th century that is a dominant presence on the Naples seafront. It was a royal residence for many centuries, and played an important strategic role.
The Royal Palace and Gardens – This is a wonderful Renaissance style area, dating back to the 17th century. It was the residence of the Spanish Viceroys. The royal gardens are full of tree-lined avenues, shaded by magnolias and Holm oak trees, with rare plants, statues and “secret gardens”.
Galleria Umberto I– This gallery was built at the end of the nineteenth century. Galleria Umberto is an imposing building with four wings in iron and glass and a wonderful, huge dome in the middle. The style is similar to that of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan.
Quartieri spagnoli– One of the most fascinating places in the city that has to be explored bit by bit in this tight-knit labyrinth of alleyways and streets. When Spanish rule began around 1530, the city underwent a lot of transformations: churches, palaces and roads were built, including the wonderful Via Toledo, which took its name from the viceroy Don Pedro di Toledo. This is the period when the Quartieri Spagnoli sprung up, in an area that is now bordered by Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Toledo and which totals about 800,000 m2.
Underground Naples– This is a "city under the city” that is exceptionally old: archeological digs have found artifacts dating back 5000 years. The Greeks built imposing funeral monuments underneath the city, while the Romans built aqueducts, caverns and tunnels. The public can now visit some parts of these underground areas if accompanied by a guide.
Reggia di Capodimonte– This palace, ordered by Charles of Bourbon and built in 1738, dominates the whole city and has a wonderful view of the Bay of Naples. The building had a dual role, as a museum and as a royal residence, right from the start. The Reggia’s wood, the splendid setting for the sovereigns’ hunts, still has about 4000 varieties of centuries-old trees.
The museums to visit to learn all about this city’s history and culture are:
National Archeological Museum – This is the most important archeological museum in Europe and contains the collection of objects that belonged to the Bourbon family and also a series of bronzes, sculptures and other objects found in the digs at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The famous “Tirannicidi” and all the sculptures on show in the "Galleria dei Grandi Maestri" (Great Masters Gallery) must be seen.
Capodimonte Museum and Gallery - This Museum, opened in 1950, houses works of art ranging from the 13th to the 18th century which belonged to the Farnese family and which were then inherited by the Bourbon family. The "Roman Collection" that includes works of art by Michelangelo, Tiziano, El Greco, Raffaello and Botticelli is an essential part of any visit.
San Martino Museum– This museum is in the wonderful Certosa (Carthusian Monastery) of San Martino, and is dedicated to Neapolitan history and culture. There is a very interesting section on nativity scenes which displays examples from the 18th and 19th centuries. The monumental sized “Cuciniello” nativity scene is well worth a visit.
Royal Palace Museum –This is the Museum of the seventeenth-century Royal Palace where all the furniture, sculptures, porcelain and paintings belonging to the Bourbon dynasty are kept. The “Palace’s Sacred Art” Collection can be seen in the palace chapel.
Finally getting to know Naples also means tasting its wonderful delicacies, being attracted by the strong tastes of the city’s cuisine. The result is a unique type of cooking that continues to be halfway between refined and popular folk style, in which the local produce of this fertile area is prepared using elaborate recipes that often take a long time to prepare.