There are places where you go only once and that’s enough … and then there is Naples (John Turturro)
Naples – known as the sunny city – is a capital full of charm, energy and mystery that proudly preserves its craft, musical, theatrical and gastronomic traditions.
This ancient capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies has got 2700 years of history, starting from the Greek walls and the Roman amphitheater, the noble palaces built when Naples was the center of the world, as well as the modern art subway that according to the “New York Times” is the most beautiful in the world. For this reason, throughout the centuries Naples has been one of the main destination of the European Grand Tour, this is the reason why Goethe said “see Naples and then die”. This quotation means that you can die happily only after enjoying the beauty of Naples. Therefore, Neapolitans people say that they get never surprised walking through the streets of this city and it is therefore evident that it is a very ungrateful task to choose among many beauties that Capital can offer. Nevertheless, considering the fact that most travelers only have few days to enjoy this city, I have prepared an ideal itinerary that takes into account the available time, even though it will still be necessary to run a lot.
Any detours to the discovery of the hidden corners and unusual courtyards are welcome: do not forget to explore and get lost in Naples as much as you can!
FIRST DAY: From the royal palace to the seafront
Metro stops: Toledo / Amedeo square / San Pasquale square / Sannazaro square – Mergellina
Districts: San Ferdinando, Santa Lucia, Chiaja.
We might walk along Toledo street and straight to the Zavallos Stigliano palace, where we can admire Caravaggio ‘s Martirio Sant’Orsola.
Then we keep walking to the Umberto I gallery and the Royal Theatre San Carlo (where you can enjoy any performance but it is still worth visiting the oldest and beautiful modern theater in the world).
In this area we can make other two stops: during the first one you can taste the Neapolitan cookies such as the sfogliatella (riccia or frolla) babà to “Sfogliatella Mary” or Pintauro bakery.
Fancy having a coffee at the “Caffè del Professore” or the Gambrinus? It is an Art Nouveau café with statues and very elegant paintings, as well as works by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Gabriele D’Annunzio.
From the Gambrinus we can perfectly see the artichoke fountain in the center of Trieste and Trento square, as well as the Church of San Ferdinando, where the sovereigns were crowned once, while now it is known as the Church of the artists.
On the right side of the corner, there is the famous Piazza del Plebiscito with the Church of San Francesco di Paola and the royal palace with its statues.
But what I mainly love is the main staircase and the court theater. Really fantastic!
After visiting the royal palace, we can get to the national library to see the New Castle (or Maschio Angioino), from which – before entering the moat and then inside – the triumphal Aragonese arch dominates.
From the aforementioned castle, it is then possible to immediately reach the town hall square, from which – in addition to the town hall and the Church of Saint James – the tourist can see the Neptune fountain recently installed.
Finally, after seeing so many monuments from the inside, it is time to relax on the seafront along Partenope street and Caracciolo street enjoying – if it is a sunny day – one of the most unique walks in the world.
In fact, the waterfront offers a breathtaking view. On one side you can see the Vesuvius and the island of Capri, on the other one, the district of Posillipo which Cn be reached by walking through Santa Lucia, Mergellina and Sannazaro square. On this route you will admire the Giant’s fountain and the marinari village ( also called island of Megaride).
This is the fishing district where Naples was founded in the fifth century. B.C. from the Greeks, you can also appreciate Castel dell’Ovo which was named after a legend: Virgilio hid an egg on which the fate of the city would depend: the one who would find it, would become the master. .
it would be delightful to enjoy seafood or pizza in a typical restaurant overlooking the gulf.
You can also walk around the gardens of the royal villa, where the Anton Dohrn zoological station is located, and then also visit Villa Pignatelli, a neoclassical villa that has been recently restored.
We leave the sea and then discover the most chic district of the city: Chiaia, the Liberty district full of shops and luxury boutiques.
We continue to Martiri square, Filangieri street, Chiaia street with its bridge, Amedeo square, Margherita park up to Vittorio Emanuele avenue. It will be fantastic to look at the Art Nouveau buildings. On this avenue there is also one of the castles of Lamont Young, the brilliant Scottish architect who lived in another castle of the city (villa Ebe!) located on Echia (not far from Castel dell’Ovo).
A) if there is extra time, do not forget to visit the Bourbon Tunnel in Domenico Morelli street (otherwise there is also the underground in the old town);
B) The Virgiliano park in Sannazaro square with the tombs of Virgilio and Leopardi which offers you a wonderful view of the city.
SECOND DAY – Historic centre
Metro stops: Borsa square / Dante square / Duomo square
Funicular Toledo street / Montesanto square
Tired so far?
I hope not,
Are you ready for another amazing experience in Naples?
Today we are going to visit Naples old town, the largest UNESCO world heritage area, by leaving Bovio square with its elegant buildings and statues.
Naples is the only city in the world that has got more than 500 churches and most of them are located in this neighborhood: nobles people truly believed they could have gain a place in heaven by funding religious buildings full of works of art.
Among them, I firmly recommend to visit those ones:
1) Saint ‘Anne of Lombards, near the fountain of Monteoliveto, with the chapel of Vasari;
2) The Church of Jesus with the homonymous square and the obelisk of the Immaculate Conception.
3) The Church of Santa Chiara with its famous cloister. A famous Neapolitan song was named after this place, moreover, there are also the tombs of Salvo D’Acquisto, as well as those of the last kings of Naples: Francesco II of Bourbon and Queen Maria Sofia;
4) The convent of San Domenico Mayor, where San Tommaso D’Aquino and Giordano Bruno lived: very interesting exhibitions are often held here;
5) San Paolo Maggiore in San Gaetano square;
6) San Giovanni a Carbonara
7) San Giovanni Maggiore
8) The Cathedral of San Gennaro.
The ancient center of Naples is the core of the city. Here there are columns and crude walls, the statue of the God Nile known as “the body of Naples”: this was the district of Egyptian immigrants. Not to mention the importance of San Gregorio Armeno, the street of cribs and crafts, as well as Via dei tribunali with its historical pizzerias.
You might walk through the arcades of the buildings to spy the hidden corners of the city where you can listen to the music that comes from the street and observe the explosion of colors that each corner of this place can show.
Not to be missed! Go and visit San Severo chapel commissioned by the alchemist Prince Raimondo di Sangro, you will find unreal sculptures and, in particular, the veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, an amazing and realistic sculpture.
Also have a look at the delightful Pio Monte de la Misericordia which is located beside the obelisk of the Cathedral where you will find another Caravaggio’s painting.
In San Gregorio Armeno street there is also another cloister that deserves to be visited.
If there is time left or you have another day available, you could do other million things.
For example, enjoy the sunset in front of the obelisk in San Domenico square, explore Naples in the underground, visit the Girolamini library, the ancient Pharmacy of the Incurable, Venezia palace, the Castel Capuano, the Churches of Santa Catalina in Formiello, Sant’Agostino alla Zecca and San Lorenzo, the museum of mineralogy, that of paleontology with dinosaurs, or walk through Duomo street with its 7 museums the Museum of Modern Art Madre, the civic Filangieri, the museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro (which is worth more than the jewels of Queen of England) the museum of San Severino al Pendino, the complex of Donnaregina, as well as of course the Pio Monte della Misericordia and the Girolamini of which I have already written betraying a certain preference.
THIRD DAY – National Gallery and Posillipo distric
Metro stop: Piazza Cavour / museum / Bus number 140
It is essential to visit the national archaeological museum, the most important Roman site in the world (there is a lot of stuff from Pompeii, Herculaneum and the other villages of the Vesuvio), as well as from the Farnese and the Egyptian collections.
Also have a look at the opposite alley: there is the ancient door of San Gennaro painted by Mattia Preti.
Then we return to Toledo street waiting for the bus that takes us to Posillipo, from which we can enjoy the most beautiful and calm view of Naples with respect to the rest of the city.
Posillipo comes from Greek and means “place that eliminates pain” for its beauty and its peace. Afterwards, We walk from D’Anna palace and book a visit to the archaeological park of Gaiola, the bay of Trentaremi and the fantastic Roman theater suspended on a promontory overlooking the sea.
If the weather is nice, you can go snorkelling or kayaking, exploring the coast to “Marechiaro” or the island of Nisida. This island can also be seen from the Virgiliano park, from which you can also admire the legendary Campi Flegri (Pozzuoli, Baia, Bacoli) and even Capri.
FOURTH DAY. – Vomero district and Capodimonte palace
Metro: Vanvitelli square
Funicular: from Chiaia / from Toledo street / from Montesanto district
We go up to the hilly district of Vomero, where we can walk along Scarlatti street and Floridiana Park, but above all, it is necessary to visit the area of San Martin with the Elmo castle and the beautiful San Martino Charterhouse.
From here you can take the tube but you can also go down the stairs of the “Pedamentina of San Martin” and get to know another hidden corner of Naples with houses that resemble the countryside. In just 10 minutes you can get to Vittorio Emanuele avenue and then anywhere in town centre.
Let’s reach the heart of Naples by crossing the Spanish quarters in order to arrive to one of the parades of the tourist bus that leads to the palace of Capodimonte. The parades are set in front of the Teatro San Carlo, Piazza Municipio and Piazza Cavour, however, you can take the bus to Piazza Dante
The palace of Capodimonte is fantastic both for the forest and its furnishings, but also for the collection of art at its disposal.
Together with the archaeological museum, that of Capodimonte is one of the most important museums in the world especially for the Farnese collection, the precious ceramics and the beautiful monumental nativity scenes. You can see the Pompeian style rooms, mosaics taken from the excavations of Herculaneum, the Chinese rooms that were in the palace of Portici and some relevant paintings by Caravaggio, Mattia Preti, Luca Giordano and many others.
Optional: still in Capodimonte, it also is possible to visit the catacombs of San Gennaro. Access is near the “Piccola San Pietro”. It’s worth it.
FIFTH / – Sanità District
Do you have another day available and you are not tired of Naples yet?
From the archaeological museum (Cavour square) or even from Capodimonte you can easily get to a very popular but rich in history district: Sanità!
In this neighborhood, perhaps it is advisable to be accompanied by a guide that can explain all the mysteries of this incredible place such as: The Spanish palace, the palace of Ferdinando Sanfelice, the Fontanelle cemetery.
Here, the skulls of the seventeenth century have been preserved, they were collected by Neapolitans and were supposed to protect people. You can also visit the catacombs of San Gaudioso with the Church of Santa Maria alla Sanità.
I forgot … I said before that Naples is traveled by the most beautiful subway in the world. Quite right?
Here, the most beautiful stops in my opinion are the following ones:
• Toledo stop;
• University / Piazza Borsa or Bovio stop
• The central station stop.
• Salvator Rosa stop
In all metro stops you can enjoy various works of art, as well as even observe the Greek walls or what remains of Roman embarkation.
what is the best place to stay in Naples?
I do not recommend a specific accommodation: If you want a quiet neighborhood, well connected to public transportation and where you can go out in the night looking for places, my advice is to look for accommodation in the neighborhoods of Chiaja, Vomero or to the side of Via Toledo.
WHAT TO EAT IN NAPLES?
It is easy to say that in a few days you will get fat for sure. Naples is the capital of street food (pizzette, calzone, grown pasta, rustic, fritturine), but also pizza and seafood. Among the typical products there are the scialatielli with seafood, but also the tomato sauce, the Genoese and rice sartù. Obviously there is coffee, limoncello, sfogliatella, babà, pastiera at Easter and at Christmas struffoli, susamielli and rococo.
WHERE TO EAT IN NAPLES?
Among the pizzerias, the most fashionable ones are: the Notizia, Sorbillo, Concettina ai tre Santi, Michele, Gaetano Genovesi, Di Napoli. Get ready for a long wait! However, if you want to try the sauce, my advice is to go to one of the university’s Tandem restaurants: they serve it with pasta in a bowl, with meatballs and traces. As for the Genoese, on the other hand, I point out two small places in the Vomero district: Sartù and the Kitchen of Elvira.
WHERE GOING OUT IN NAPLES?
Young people must go to the Chiaia district in the area of Piazza dei Martiri and Piazza San Pasquale, where there are many small cafè, in particular in Vico Belle Donne and in the adjacent streets. You can also go to the old center and, in particular, to Piazza del Gesù or Piazza Bellini, but it is a more alternative and economic area. Vomero, on the other hand, is more devoted to indoor venues and pubs. Here the nightlife is concentrated essentially between Piazza Vanvitelli and Via Scarlatti.
WHERE TO GO SHOPPING IN NAPLES?
The most chic shops are certainly in Chiaia and, in particular, in Via Filangieri, Via dei Mille and Piazza dei Martiri, Via Scarlatti, Via Toledo and Corso Umberto are also excellent alternatives for wild shopping.
WHEN TO GO TO NAPLES?
It is easy: During the Christmas holidays it is nice to visit the most beautiful nativity scenes and San Gregorio Armeno, while in spring and summer as well as in October and November you can enjoy the usually splendid weather. Nevertheless, in the opinion of the writer, the best month is May whith the so-called Monuments Months when all cultural attractions in Naples are open and free for public.
WHAT TO VISIT IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF NAPLES?
You are spoiled for choice: Pompeii and Ecolano, the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida, the Sorrento peninsula and the Amalfi coast, Pozzuoli, Cuma, Baia and Bacoli, but also Caserta.
SOME CURIOSITIES ABOUT NAPLES
Neapolitans people do not feel Italian, but only Neapolitans and are very proud of it. In the streets we often see the flags of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, or the symbols that made Naples one of the most illustrious Capitals of history. Here, even during the Roman Empire, Greek was always spoken, enjoying autonomy due to a very important cultural pole. Then the city’s history is very linked to the French and the Spanish history. Its inhabitants are called Partenopei, as sons of Partenope, the siren who tried to conquer Ulysses and, because of her failure, decided to commit suicide in the most beautiful place in the world. Naples is the city of music and thousands of songs. Certainly you will know some of them, even if you do not know that they are Neapolitan (‘O my sun, funiculì, funiculà, Monasterio de Santa Clara, You want to do the American, etc). Naples, moreover, is the capital of the theater: many performances are often set up in Neapolitan language with comedies of famous authors such as Scarpetta or Eduardo De Filippo. The most beautiful theaters are Bellini, San Carlo and Sannazaro. It is very important to know that the patron saint, San Gennaro, is also called the yellow face because of a statue in the Cathedral: the Saint makes us wait a long time before his blood melts, thus Neapolitans get angry and interpret that as a sign of bad luck for the city. We must then dealing with the mask of Pulcinella, a character wearing a white suit and a black mask full of qualities that makes him noble. Then there is the mystery of the so-called munaciello, a ghost boy who likes to scare people, but usually leaves some money in people’s closets. Not to mention the cult for the dead that Neapolitans have: at the Fontanelle cemetery, in particular, there are the skulls of the dead of the seventeenth century, they were believed to have thaumaturgical powers.
ANY SOUVENIR FROM NAPLES?
Silly question. Paintings, handicrafts, pastors of the crib, a statue of Pulcinella, liqueurs and sweets will not be missing from the list. Nevertheless, in my opinion, a lucky present is the lucky red croissant. This one must have three characteristics: it must be red, it must be earthenware and must must be given as a gift. Also you could give a tie by Marinella, a gadget that all the most important people in the world are used to wear (Bush, Blair, Putin, Gordon Brown, Clinton, Berlusconi, etc.).
IS NAPLES DANGEROUS?
Watch out, it is not like it seems to be! Official ranking of the Ministry of the Interior in the hand, Naples is much less “dangerous” than Rome, Milan, Turin or Florence also as regards the thefts. When you go to Rome or Florence, do you wonder if they are dangerous? NO, you don’t! That’s the same in Naples. Thus, enjoy the city and do not bother anymore!
IS NAPLES CHEAP?
Naples is much cheaper than Rome, Florence, Venecia or Milan. Many monuments are free or have a ticket whose cost is reasonable. Going out for a pizza is also very cheap (but not at the restaurant!)
HOW MANY DAYS IN NAPLES?
It really is a big city full of beauties: if you want, you can stay just for a weekend and take a quick walk. However, to enjoy what Naples has to give you, I would recommend at least 3 days. If you have a week available it’s even better. Naples is suitable to young people, adventurers, but also couples and families, which means it is suitable to everyone!
Come and paint to town red!