Welcome to Naples
The legend tells that the origin of Naples is due to the mermaid Parthenope. That’s why this city keeps the features of an hybrid. Naples is characterized by opposites: good and evil, joy and sadness, beauty and decay. This continue struggle between the two spirits of the city is clear at first sight: in this city you can find both historical memories in the National Archaeological Museum and in the Royal Palace and the worst marks of modernity: chaos and traffic. The religious devotion to San Gennaro is mixed up with the pagan soul of the city, symbolized by the Underneath Naples (Napoli Sotterranea), and San Severo Chapel (Cappella Sansevero), between the “capuzzelle” (which are skulls) and the alchemy of Veiled Christ.
You’ll find, moreover, breath-taking glimpses and unique way of life, held up by rules that can be applied only here and nowhere else. Naples is a big, free and open theatre even though it isn’t always funny or beautiful. If you want to discover this city you just need to go around, but if you don’t want to miss the best, start to read the 10 things to do and see in Naples.
Spaccanapoli in Naples
Spaccanapoli is a street that goes through the historical centre of Naples, from Quartier Spagnoli to Forcella. It divides the city in two parts (the name Spaccanapoli means literally “Splitter – Naples”). This street has very ancient origins: it’s one of the three decumani, the nearest to the sea (the “decumani” were three streets that ran through the city, built by the ancient Greeks). Walking through Spaccanapoli you’ll meet the thousand-year history of the city . Here you can find ancient buildings, churches and you can even smell flavors of the typical Neapolitan cuisine. Don’t be astonished by anything: the experience of walking through Spaccanapoli will let you see wonderful churches, the “bassi” (the “bassi” are poor houses with the entrance door at street level), artists, artisans and street vendors. During the last years little hotels and B&Bs began to rise on this street allowing tourists to live the city like the Neapolitans do. Spaccanapoli is a narrow alley where Neapolitans, tourists and motorcycles coexist (not always in a peaceful way). In spite of appearances there’s no place in Naples that can describe you the soul of this city more and better than this one. The essence of Naples here is revealed without tricks. Spaccanapoli isn’t a touristic postcard: Spaccanapoli is Naples.
The Cappella San Severo and the Veiled Christ in Naples
The Veiled Christ is one of the most fascinating and mysterious statues you can see in Naples.
The Cappella San Severo and the Veiled Christ in Naples. The story tells that the marble veil that recovers the statue is a real veil transformed in marble thanks to a special mixture made by the sinister Prince of San Severo, illustrious alchemist. Many experts support the theory that the amazing effect of the statue is due to the talent of the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino, who realized the Veiled Christ. The secret room and some macabre works (both open to the public) contributed to give to the Chapel a mysterious aura. The Chapel deserves a visit not only for the Veiled Christ, but also for other works. This place is a secret jewel hidden among Naples alleys and it’s rich of esoteric and religious signs.
Archeological Museum in Naples
Originally the museum was an horse riding school, then the location of the University. The Archeological Museum was inaugurated in 1816 and nowadays it’s one of the most important museums of the world because of the quality and quantity of works exposed.
The king Ferdinando wanted a place consecrated to the arts and after two centuries his will has been done. The Museum hosts a collection of archeological finds coming from Pompei, a great number of sculptures, artefacts and arts of the Greek – Roman age, the Etruscan and Egyptian collection (the Borgia’s collection) and an interesting antique coin collection (Santangelo’s collection).You can’t miss the secret chamber (“Gabinetto Segreto”) where there’s the collection of erotic frescoes and sculptures.
Plebiscito Square and the Royal Palace of Naples
“Piazza del Plebiscito” is the symbol of Naples. Over the centuries it has been transformed from simple country place into meeting place of Neapolitan people: here were held the medieval tourneys and feasts of the Borbone’s family to avoid conflicts with the people.
Today is the symbol of the new “Neapolitan Renaissance”. It’s free from cars and people use to have long walks in order to admire two jewels: the neoclassical colonnade of the church of San Francesco di Paola and Royal Palace. The latter was built in the late 1500s when the possible visit of King Philip III in Naples created some excitement. The city in fact, had no place to host the most powerful man in the world. After endless thoughts, the viceroy Don Fernando, ordered the construction of a residence for the guest. The Royal Palace was commissioned to Domenico Fontana in 1600, which built it in only two years. Too bad, that the capricious King Philip III changed his mind without warning: he put back his visit to Naples until a later date. You are luckier than the King, and you can visit the Royal House, the Royal Chapel, the gardens and the little court theatre.
Underground Naples and Bourbon Gallery
For a long time the area underneath Naples has been a tuff reserve, the stones extracted in this enormous cave were used to build the city. Therefore below the street level there is plenty of tunnels and caves. “Napoli Sotterranea” (Underground Naples) tells us about a parallel life of the city that takes place under our feet. People used this underground city in many different ways, for example as an air-raid shelter during the second world war, water source, landfill, and place where criminals used to hide themselves.
In the last decades it has been started a restoration work of Napoli Sotterranea that today you can visit on two main paths: Via dei Tribunali leads to the classic route through the Greek-Roman aqueduct, air-raid shelters, the War Museum, gardens and underground the Seismic Station “Arianna”. It’s particular, instead, the visit that starts nearby Roman Theater of Nero: the access is from a private home where a moving bed shows you a trapdoor!
Always dug underground but for different reasons is the Bourbon Gallery, built in 1853 by Ferdinand II of Bourbon. It had many goals: an underground viaduct to join the Royal Palace with Piazza Vittoria, a quick access to the Royal Palace by the troops and an escape to the sea for Neapolitan kings. The Gallery has played over time, the role of anti-aircraft shelter and legal deposit: along the way, then, there are wells, tanks, cavities, the remains of everyday life during the war, huge fragments of statues and old vehicles from the 50 , 60’s and ’70.
Capodimonte Museum in Naples
In 1738 Charles of Bourbon decided to transform his hunting lodge located in the wood of “Capo di monte” in a Royal Palace – Museum in order to host the Farnese Collection received from his mother. In fact, even today, walking through the big halls of the building, it seems that the Bourbon family went out of the house just before our entrance.
The museum has three floors: at the first floor you can find the historical apartment and the rich Farnese collection with works by Tiziano, Masaccio, Botticelli, Rafaello, Guido Reni, Brueghel the Elder, Andrea del Sarto and many others. On the second floor there is a gallery with works from 200 to 700: Ribera, Goya, Pinturicchio, Vasari, Mattia Preti, Ribera and the extraordinary “Flagellation of Christ” by Caravaggio. On the third floor there’s the collection of the XIX century and contemporary art with works by internationally famous artists: Andy Warhol, Mimmo Jodice, Alberto Burri, Mario Merz, Joseph Kosuth, Enzo Cucchi, Michelangelo Pistoletto. There are also the collections of everyday objects used in the Bourbon Palace. If you feel still strong, at the exit there’s a beautiful park with a magnificent Belvedere over the city, not surprisingly called by the Neapolitans “the view of Naples.”
The artistic subway of Naples
It could be strange that in a city rich of history as Naples, some subway stations are in the list of things to see. When you visit one of the station of the Line 1 and 6 , you’ll understand why. A real contemporary art museum.
The route can start from the new Garibaldi station linked to the Naples Central Station. Here, the French town planner Perrault has designed a station with escalators suspended with predominant glass and steel. You can reach the University station , where the Egyptian architect Rashid was inspired by digital languages with an extraordinary sculpture called “synapses”. There is the Town Hall and then Toledo, considered the most beautiful railway station in Europe. With the work Relative light of Robert Wilson it’s illuminated by extraordinary light on the color of the blue. Don’t miss Dante, Museo, Materdei and the others. More than 200 works by contemporary artists to be admired with a metro ticket. A single route in the world, not to be missed.
The Cathedral and Treasure of San Gennaro
In via Duomo there’s the façade of the neapolitan Cathedral, place dedicated mainly to the cult of San Gennaro. Rich of powerful neapolitan families chapels, the Cathedral is adorned by Luca Giordano paintings representing the Apostles, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
The Cathedral is first of all the place where there is the Chapel and the Treasure of San Gennaro. This should let you understand how strong is the connection between Naples and San Gennaro. It’s an innate and shared feeling, which over the centuries has passed through prohibitions and restrictions, getting its strength from time to time. San Gennaro is considered by the Church a “B Series” saint, but it’s not for Neapolitans. The Chapel and the treasure are the most immediate and important evidence of this love for “Yellow Face”, the name used by Neapolitans to call the Saint. The Chapel has a gate of Cosimo Fanzago, Domenichino’s frescoes and works by Ribera. The Treasure of San Gennaro has finally found a place in a location next to the Cathedral and collects relics and precious objects, which have become oracles of faith. The Treasure includes also statues, chandeliers and several silver objects, that devotees have jealously protected during the numerous raids of the city. This is a proof of how Neapolitans consider San Gennaro a comforting presence, like it was a dear neighbor. A neighbor to visit in times of need, but also when you just want to have a little chat.