<< Miss, come over here! You have to wait another 10 minutes for the train! >>
It’s the conductor of the Cumana station of Naples who invites me to go into the gatehouse. I have no idea why he is calling me, but I run down the stairs, through the underground passage and reach him.
Inside, 5 other people cut a cake and eat it.
<< Eat this homemade Neapolitan pastry. Something to dream of! >>
Thus begins the first day in Naples, the city where I have not set foot for almost 15 years and where, a bit by chance, I have come back to.
Spring is here, the odours of summer at the gates begin to be felt .
That Thursday on the news, forecasts that the first heat wave would arrive the following weekend.
I wonder whether it suits me to wait for this day by the beach in T-shirt with short sleeves. And if Naples cannot fulfill this simple desire
Naples held exactly what I longed for in that afternoon at the turn of spring and summer: near to Rome, it overlooks one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the food is good, it knows how to be simple and sincere but also elegant and sober.
Naples, where I have not been back for many years, has intoxicated me with poetry, throwing in confusion all 5 senses, from taste to hearing. It’s the city of hidden wonders.
At the bar of the historical center, I ask for the Sansevero Chapel, where, among baroque creativity, mystery, and a brilliant and eclectic personality (Raimondo di Sangro), are the most precious sculptures among which a major role is given by the Veiled Christ and the network of the Disillusion statue.
<< Go straight and turn at the second on the right. Once there, ask! >>
Isn’t it wonderful that even in our own home there are still the realities in which we are invited to ask a stranger rather than a smartphone?
I arrive in a nice big square, but the chapel, as opposed to what I believed, was just another alley further up, in an antique historical building that could be one of many, and through that door you enter into a world of alchemy and of sculptural art of exemplary marble.
But Naples has tales to tell underground too, along the Bourbon tunnels passing through the times of World War II. To then emerge at the end of the path, as it happens in Spaccanapoli, into the luminous splendor of a square. Piazza Plebiscito .
It is here that one lives the wonderful South Italy.
A city that I have found “cleaned up”, in respect to 15 years ago, cluttered but with an order of its own, wonderful streets closed to traffic, elegant palaces and Baroque art, great food and the sea.
A city that embodies poetry and lives of cheerful superstition in which legend and history unfold in the dark and picturesque streets of the center .
The veracity of Naples is in the streets, it resides in the people of Naples, a character who, in my imagination, has always been a little light-hearted, fun, smart and generous.
One who knows how to adapt, who finds a way out by striving creatively. As the gentleman who sells figurines painted by his wife of football players in which numbers abounds Maradona.
We sell the best of his collection, he says.
A little farther on, shouts call my attention and, standing on a chair, I see a girl of 17 or 18 years wrapped in a peach-colored dress, with her hair done in ceremony style and shoes with extremely high heels moving in command of a lady, who, in front of her and smoking a cigarette shouts << Like this, come on! Move yourself like this! The hand on the hip! >>
It’s a pre-eighteenth and the 6 photographers around her, students in a photography school not far from San Gregorio Armeno, a crossing of the disturbing as much as suggestive Spaccanapoli where, in the meantime, people crowd to order a fritters in a “cuoppo” (paper cone).
Naples is delight for the eyes, ears and the palate.
The art of pizza here in fact is not a matter not to be taken seriously.
At the pizzeria da Michele, the line is formed as early as 19.
You will be given a number and then wait in religious patience to be called.
<< The pizza must be really good here if people are willing to wait even an hour >>
<< Miss, here they make the best pizza in Naples >> .
“Galeotta” (scoundrel) city that has inebriated me with poetry, making me thirsty for the South, taking me back to my roots that, for some reason, I think I’ve rejected for years. Without really having a real reason.
What to do in Naples in 2 days
I wish two days were enough to have your fill of Naples! You definitely want more of it! But 48 hours can be a sample taste that on departure will leave you still with the languor of wanting to know more of this multifaceted and fascinating city.
On this occasion, the days were one and a half. The kilometers done, about 20, the right amount to dispose of what I was able to introduce into the body without shame.
The B&B booked was located in Chiaia, about 5 minutes walk from the Piazza Amedeo subway and even closer to Cumana , which quickly leads to Piazza Montesanto from where I began the discovery of the historic center.
Cloister of Santa Chiara and Piazza del Gesù Nuovo
The Monastery of Santa Chiara is in Spaccanapoli, the most fascinating road, I think, of the city.
By the will of Robert I of Anjou and his wife Sancia, it was built to pay homage to the repressed desire for monastical life of Sancia.
Bombed in 1943, only in the 50s was it restored and brought back to its antique splendor.
Besides the structure, a nave with 10 chapels on each side, probably of the entire monumental complex, the cloister of the Poor Clares, which dates back to 300, with following modifications up to 700, is what makes this place popular with visitors from around the world thanks to 30,000 polychrome majolica, the so-called riggiole, representing scenes of daily life and they fit perfectly in the bucolic setting of the garden accented with lemon trees, wisteria and vines.
The garden was designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro to be then realised in 1739 by Giuseppe and Donato Massa.
Piazza del Gesù Nuovo
Piazza del Gesù Nuovo is located in a pedestrian area along Spaccanapoli, Decumanus Inferior.
It is one of the most important squares in Naples because it is here that you will find several noble palaces, the Church of Gesu Nuovo and the Monastery of St. Clare. Easily recognisable because in the center stands the obelisk of the Immaculate.
The homonymous church faces the square, the church commissioned by Charles II of Anjou that was once the Palazzo Sanseverino, meeting place of artists and writers at the time of Sanseverino.
The palace then passed later in the hands of the Jesuits was turned into a church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
This square is surrounded by architecture of enormous value and splendor, from the palaces in the late Baroque style, such as Pandola palace and the Palazzo Pignatelli of Monteleone, and of course the church of Gesu Nuovo, excellent example of Neapolitan Baroque, and the Monastery of Santa Chiara, whose church is a sublime example of Gothic style.
Cappella di Sansevero
Among all the pearls in which I came across during the endless walks in Naples, Sansevero Chapel is probably the one that most fascinated me.
A plunge into the Naples of 700 at Via de Sanctis Francesco 19 where the famous Sansevero Chapel that focuses art, sculpture, taste and alchemy, is located.
The chapel was founded as a burial chapel of the da Giovanni Francesco Sangro family.
Successively renewed by Alessandro Sangro, the son, and was decorated by Raimondo di Sangro, an interesting and eclectic character.
The Chapel of San Severo is a noble mausoleum and an initiation temple where you immediately feel the multifaceted personality of its ingenious creator, Raimondo di Sangro, seventh prince of Sansevero .
In fact, here are preserved three peculiar and unique statues, The Veiled Christ, the Disillusion and the Modesty, of which phenomenal achievement has held, for a long time, to believe that in addition to the artist’s skill there have been alchemical interventions (and so the legend persists).
The Naples Cathedral is a stunning example of baroque where inside it are found silver statues, marble and stucco.
Obviously this is where you will find the San Gennaro chapel where the relics of the patron saint of the city are preserved. The Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro is one of the highest artistic expressions of the city in Baroque style that had been built by will of the Neapolitans themselves as a vote to the Saint.
Since 2003 some rooms adjacent to the chapel host the Museum of Treasure of San Gennaro, where you can admire unique treasures .
In 1526, year when Naples was afflicted by the plague and famine over the Franco -Spanish war, a veritable and proper notarial contract was drawn up with the population of Naples, to ask the intercession of San Gennaro, which constitutes the birth certificate of the treasure of San Gennaro.
The Treasure belongs to the people of Naples and is managed by a special deputation.
The museum shows pieces of truly unique and stunning exhibits, it is said that the treasure is richer than that of Queen Elizabeth and the tsars, among which stands out the beautiful necklace and the mitre with which was adorned, in the past, the bust of San Gennaro during processions.
Spaccanapoli and San Gregorio Armeno
Spaccanapoli, of which real name is San Biagio dei Librai, splits the entire city from north to south through the entire historical center, representing probably one of the most intriguing and typical places of Naples.
A crossing that although small is definitely characteristical, is San Gregorio Armeno, perhaps better known as the street of the cribs that are exhibited there 12 months a year.
The crib tradition of the street is ancient, in fact, in the classical era, the temple to Ceres was found here, where citizens as a sign of devotion and vote, donated terracotta statues that were produced in the local workshops, the crib arrived much later.
Today, however, San Gregorio Armeno is known as the street in which workshops are produced figurines and cribs, some funny ones where politicians and current or contemporary characters are represented in ironic ways.
Although throughout the year you can enjoy this original place, the real and proper exhibitions start in November to end in the occasion of Epiphany.
Arisen in the sixteenth century to house the Spanish military garrisons, these neighborhoods have always represented the ill-reputed area, where crime and prostitution reigned, it has long been a neighborhood with problems that has not gained it popularity.
The truth is that perhaps, with Spaccanapoli, it is here that I had the pleasure of walking through the lively streets where scooters flashed about and fruit and vegetable shops, enjoying the Naples I expected and wished to live, the ancient settlement of Neapolis, rather than its elegant and aristocratic side not far away. A place that speaks forcefully of Naples and that narrates the contradictions of the capital of Campania from which to approach with curiosity rather than with fear.
I did not imagine, before getting there, that of Naples I would also have probed the ground underneath. I never thought to enter the subterranean darkness when outside the sun warms and dazzles.
But Naples have life even underground, or at least tells of a life underground.
In fact going through the Bourbon Gallery, commissioned by Ferdinando II of Bourbon of the architect Enrico Alvino to connect Largo della Reggia, today Piazza Plebiscito, Piazza della Vittoria, I discovered a new and different side of the city that until then had enraptured me, leaving me incapacitated to react to so much chaotic beauty.
The reason for this project was military, Ferdinand II wanted to build an escape route for the royal family, in the event of riots, that would link the palace with the barracks in Chiaia.
Never really finished, the tunnel had an important role during World War II, the environments designed for the escape of the Royal Family became an air raid shelter being equipped with nursing corners, bathrooms, rooms with camp beds and kitchen utensils .
Later it became a court storehouse in which were accumulated confiscated motorbikes and cars, and unfortunately, it was also used as an illegal dump. In the ’80s it became a parking lot until it was decided to bring it back to light and to tell of a different and new Naples. Definitely dark and, at times, claustrophobic but evocative and interesting.
Piazza Del Plebiscito – Palazzo Reale – Castel Nuovo
Piazza Plebiscito, once Largo di Palazzo, is the most famous square in Naples and the one representing the city as could the colosseum of Rome.
The name dates back to the Plebiscite of October 21, 1860, the day on which the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was united to Piedmont of the Savoy.
It was once used as a place where events and popular celebrations were held, events that still recur such as the New Year, concerts and manifestations, the Piedigrotta festival and, obviously, a place of meeting and celebration for sporting events of the heart team. Napoli.
The square is surrounded by four imponent and important buildings: the Royal Palace, the Salerno Palace, the Church of San Francesco di Paola and the Palazzo della Foresteria. The Royal Palace that overlooks the square was one of the royal houses of the Bourbons, the others, just as well-known are, the royal palace of Capodimonte, the palace of Caserta and the Royal Palace of Portici. Following the unification of Italy it became the Neapolitan residence of the House of Savoy sovereigns.
Via Caracciolo waterfront
The promenade of Via Caracciolo is one of the most beautiful walks of Naples, it is a journey that begins at the Beverello pier and ends at Mergellina, with the background of Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri.
It is enough to stroll around to bump into Castel del Ovo, continuing to Victoria Square and the public garden where you can find historical monuments such as the Pompeian house, the Harmonic case in glass and cast iron, the temple of Torquato Tasso and the Temple of Virgil, you can then carry on to the Rotonda Diaz and, if you are here on a Sunday, make a visit to the fish market near the pier.
You have not convinced me. I will not go to Naples because it is dangerous!
You’re right, my friend. It’s very dangerous.
Because, as the old and wise saying goes: See Naples. And then die (old said about the city that means: Naples is so beautiful that when you see it, then you can die in peace).
Naples is for connoisseurs, lovers of beauty, for those who want to be fascinated by the past and let themselves be carried away by the present.
If you believe that Naples is more dangerous than many other Italian cities, I can only say that you’re wrong, but to connoisseurs, the judgement.
But remember that UNESCO has defined Naples in this way
If I were you I would think a second time before you discard it!
Reaching the islands from Naples
Where to stay in Naples
The choice of B & B to stay in has been selected by me, I have chosen to stay in Chiaia but the areas considered are this and the historic center. Particularly in the old town structures it is well to remember that the buildings are not always brand new and can be a bit noisy, but it has the advantage to be in the throbbing heart of Naples. The site used for booking as always, is HotelsCombined, offering competitive and discounted prices compared to other booking sites.
Le 4 Stagioni B&B -Historic Center
Double room from €50
Located on Via Toledo B & B it offers free Wi-Fi and brightly colored rooms with flat-screen TVs and air conditioning. Some rooms include a balcony. Italian breakfast with croissants and pastries. Comfortable and in the heart of Naples at affordable rates. Book now
La tela Bianca B&B – Historic Center
Double room from €53
La Tela Bianca offers free Wi-Fi and modern sound-proofed rooms with balconies, and handmade ornaments. The rooms are equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV and a private bathroom with shower. Breakfast is a buffet in the Italian style and includes hot drinks and croissants. Book now
Damè B&B – Chiaia (my choice)
Double room starting from €70
Delightful B&B in the heart of Chiaia not far from the metro and the Cumana. The rooms are fully renovated and well furnished. Valentina, the owner, is very kind and always present. WI-FI internet access and complimentary breakfast.
Ideal for those who want to stay in Chiaia and discover the nightlife of small bars in the posh area of the city. Book now
EXTRA DAYS IN NAPLES? DO NOT MISS THESE PLACES!
OHHH YES! You really should plan more time in this incredible city! If you do, then here are some tour and activities options I highly recommend!
Option A – Costiera Amalfitana tour, one day. Exploring the famous and dramatic Amalfi Coast and visit its charming surroundings. A coastline of indescribable beauty, this region of Italy features Ravello with its elegant buildings, and pastel-colored Positano, one of the most beautiful villages in the world.
Don’t miss to taste the world famous Limoncello (and take some back home!). This is the right place where to get it!
Tours starting from €75 per person. Book now and plan your trip!
Option B – Pompeii half day tour from Naples or Sorrento. A touch of history in one of the most incredible places hosted in Southern Italy! Ever since the ancient Greeks settled the area in the 8th century B.C. the region around Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples attracted wealthy vacationers who came for the sun and the stunning scenery. By the turn of the first century A.D. the town of Pompeii, located about 5 miles from Mount Vesuvius, was a flourishing resort for Rome’s most distinguished citizens. Elegant houses and elaborate villas lined the paved streets. Tourists, townspeople, and slaves bustled in and out of small factories and artisan shops, taverns and cafés, and brothels and bathhouses. People gathered in the 20,000-seat arena and lounged in the open-air squares and marketplaces. The tour will take you to the most interesting places, such as the Forum, the thermal baths, the luxurious House of the Vettii, and the Lupanar, or famous brothel. Book now your tour. This is a historical place you should not miss!
I love Naples so much, because is different from the classic and, maybe, predictable, style of the Italian Art’s Cities.
In here won’t be hard to be surprised at every corner, a pity missing this Gem of Southern Italy!
I travel independently taking mainly public transport. A world trip began in 2011 is not yet finished, my mission is to explore the world and write about it. Travel consultant Galapagos, Argentina, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Namibia.