Naples, Napoli in Italian, is the third most-populated city in Italy and the biggest city in Southern Italy. Its close proximity to many interesting sites, such as Pompeii and the Bay of Naples, makes it a good base for exploring the area. Naples is a lively and vibrant city, full of wonderful historical and artistic treasures and narrow, winding streets with small shops, making it worth at least a few days visit.
Naples is in the region of Campania in Southern Italy, about 2-hours south of Rome. It sits on the coast on the northern edge of the Bay of Naples, one of the most beautiful bays in Italy. Its harbor is the most important port in Southern Italy. Vibrant, passionate, unique: words which perfectly describe the bay lying in the shadow of Vesuvius. A wonderful climate, a spectacular sea, and magnificent cities constructed centuries ago by the ancient civilisations who passed through the gulf, leaving behind them the traces of their art and architecture. The Bay of Naples, rich in archaeological, artistic, and monumental works, is renowned for the warmth of its inhabitants and their passion for music, dance, and the dramatic arts. From the vibrant and densely populated city of Naples to the elegant Sorrento and the ruins of Pompei, the bay offers a series of unique and unforgettable town and seascapes. Vying with the beauties of the mainland, across the water lie the three small islands of the gulf – Procida, Ischia, and Capri.
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Spaccanapoli, or Via San Biagio, is the main street that divides Naples and is the heart of the historic center. Teeming with people, the street holds many interesting churches, shops, and other buildings. Originally the heart of the Greek and Roman city, the Spaccanapoli district is a string of narrow, winding streets and is mainly a pedestrian zone so its a fun place to wander around.
Naples is a city which exists on two levels, one above, and one beneath the surface. The city lies on partly hydrovolcanic, fine grained tuff, a light rock which is extremely easy to excavate and an important source of building material.
The Greeks were the first to exploit the qualities of tuff in 800 B.C, digging beneath their ancient "Neapolis", in order to construct an aqueduct linked to a series of cisterns via a web of tunnels. The Romans were responsible for the creation of a veritable"underground city", complete with cemeteries and temples
In the centuries which followed, and as the population of Naples grew, an incredible number of wells and cisterns were built beneath the city. Many of Naples' palazzi were erected above these sites, constructed using the deposits of tuff which had been produced during excavation.
The LAES, Libera Associazione Escursionisti Sotterranei organizes visits to underground Naples, which commence beneath the Quartieri Spagnoli, in Vico S.Anna di Palazzo 52.
From here, visitors descend some 40 meters to a large 3200sqm cavern, used during the second world war as bomb shelter, and then on to the ancient aqueduct of Carmignano, walking past the cisterns constructed by the Greeks and through a labyrinth of tunnels once connected to more than 4000 wells. Visitors are led beneath churches and palazzi, to the remains of an ancient Roman theatre, said to have been the favorite playhouse of Nero.
The guides describe how, in the past, every household accessed the water stored in the cisterns by way of domestic wells to which only the "pozzari", or well keepers, had access.
Another underground thoroughfare, only recently reopened to the general public, the Borbonica Sotterranea or the Bourbon Tunnel was initiated in 1853 by Royal Decree. The tunnel was designed to link Piazza Plebescito with the area of Chiaia, thus providing a quick escape route for the members of Bourbon dynasty and rapid point of access for troops arriving to protect the royal residences.
|Piazza del Plebiscito (Picture by RaBoe/Wikipedia)|
- Pompeii and Herculaneum. Although neither are strictly in Naples, both are undoubtedly the foremost visitor attractions in the area and such must be mentioned. Pompei, along with Herculaneum and Stabiae , were partially destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before their accidental rediscovery in 1749. Since then, excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.
- The Duomo is a 13th century Gothic cathedral dedicated to Naple's patron saint, San Gennaro. A huge festival is held when a vial of his blood is taken out of its storage place in hopes that it will liquefy. On one side of the duomo is the 4th century Basilica Santa Restituta (the oldest church in Naples) with columns believed to be from the Temple of Apollo, good ceiling frescoes, and archaeological remains from the Greeks to the middle ages. The 5th century baptistery has good 14th century Byzantine-style mosaics.
- Castel Nuovo. Often called Maschio Angioino, is the main symbol of the architecture of the city. Castel Nuovo has been expanded or renovated several times since it was first begun in 1279.
Under the Aragonese dynasty, begun by Alfonso V in 1442, the fortress was updated to resist the new artillery. A famous triumphal arch, designed by Francesco Laurana, was added to the main gate to celebrate Alfonso's entrance in Naples. The decoration was executed by the sculptors Pere Johan and Guillem Sagrera, called by Alfonso from Catalonia. In a hall of the castle the famous Barons conspiracy against King Ferdinand I, Alfonso's son, occurred. The King had invited the barons for a feast; but, a certain point, he had the garrison close all the hall's doors and all the barons were arrested and later executed. The Barons' Hall was the seat of the Council of the commune of Naples until 2006.
- The National Archaeological Museum of Naples has one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver, and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. Many of the objects come from excavations at Pompeii and other nearby archaeological sites
- Piazza del Plebiscito is the centre of modern Naples. San Francesco di Paola, on the piazza, is a huge domed church. Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace, is across the square . Inside you can visit the restored rooms and royal apartments and visit the roof garden where there are good views of the bay.
|Pompeii, click here for more info|