This is probably one of the most challenging and special blogs posts I had to write. Naples is the hometown of my boyfriend and this city means everything to him. Trying to write something that glorifies all the uniqueness of this place and that is approved by him is the mission I am set to accomplish.
Neapolitans are first and foremost from Napoli and only after they are from Italy. They are filled with immense pride and no doubts that they are the lucky ones; surrounded by a beautiful sea, a fearless volcano, 3000 years of history and more traditions that one can count. The personality of my boyfriend makes much more sense once I understood the city where he comes from. Neapolitans will never apologise for their city, their food, traditions or chaos. They carry such a pride and joy about their origins that it feels contagious and once you are open to, and allow it, it will affect you too. Neapolitans have good heart, stand for what they believe in and find incredible strength on their struggles. For those who come to Naples, I don’t think it is a matter of whether they will love or hate it, instead, I think is a matter whether they will understand it’s beauty or not. The city and its people are undeniably connected and they must be seen as one.
Modern tourism is a beauty and a beast, while in one hand helps cities and economies to burst, on the other, it's killing some of its unique and deepest traditions in favour of fancy restaurants, 5-star reviews and following tourists tastes and wishes. Well, one thing is sure, this probably doesn’t happen so often in Naples. The city is raw and true to itself and this is the atmosphere you will encounter.
Walk around in its streets and observe all the particular things that make this city so peculiar; the coffee being carried in baskets to the lady upstairs, the laundry in every street or window in the city, the never-ending stairs on tall buildings, each enclosed as a little community inside, the endless street markets and all the smells of fresh products. Each corner looks like a movie set but it is not, it is real, unique and it is Naples. Don’t let the overwhelming chaos or prejudice make you miss the beauty on the details. Naples may be the perfect pit-stop on your way to the fabulous Amalfi Coast, however, it would be a mistake to take it just as such. Naples has so much to offer.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the whole world. First settled by Greeks and expanded by the Romans, the city literally has layers of history under its soil. Living and accumulating as tall as its buildings go.
Naples can’t be defined as a darling city, it’s sometimes dark and mysterious, tangled in religious symbolism and other myths. Naples has a total of 448 historical churches (over a 1000 in total), making it one of the most Catholic cities in the world in terms of the number of places of worship. The worship places don’t stay just inside the churches but even more evidently are spread throughout the streets. Wondering in the city, it’s impossible not to bump into aediculae. Coming from the Greek and Roman religion, it is a small shrine or temple building that hold small altars or religious statues and images. The worship in Naples is so peculiar that some years ago you could even find the aediculae for Maradona. Their football God is still embedded in the city, through murals and street art.
Another interesting example is that artists also brought worship images to the streets, like Banksy with “Madonna con Pistola” or the famous mural of “San Gennaro” from Jorit Agoch. Perhaps the cult of imaginary is even brought to an extreme in the street of San Gregorio Armeno or la via dei Presepi, where artisan masterpieces and an ode to detail are exhibited alongside the road.
Naples doesn’t miss the mystery and a bit of macabre and enigmatic places. There are the famous Cimitero delle Fontanelle, Catacombs of San Gaudioso or Chapel of Sansevero. There is also in the heart of the historical centre of Naples, the Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio in Arco. The upper church is a true masterpiece of Neapolitan Baroque art, and the lower or the hypogeum church is still the site of the cult of the anime pezzentelle (cult of the souls in purgatory). The church, in fact, is rich in mortuary symbolism that are a signature not only of its artistic heritage but also the faith and popular beliefs in between the living and the dead.
Through the years, coming sometimes from abroad and other times by fellow Italians, Naples “suffered” from a dark reputation and prejudice of being a dangerous and violent city. This may have helped Naples to survive mass tourism and its conventions and allowed certain traditions to be kept intact. Certainly, it is not a reason to not give a chance to visit the city, especially if you love art and history. People, however, tend to forget that Naples is one of the most densely populated cities in all Europe and as any big metropolis suffers from some negative aspects that come with it. Most Neapolitans don’t let Mafia or violence be part of their history or even dictate who they are. As a tourist in Naples, just approach it wisely as you would do in any other big metropolis and everything will be fine.
What to see in Naples
Naples' abundance of cultural assets is extraordinary. The list could be almost never-ending, however, we prepared a good summary of what you can see and explore in the city, divided also per categories.
Churches & Architecture
THE NAPLES DUOMO (CATHEDRAL)
A must see in Naples, includes an underground archaeological area with ancient Greek remains and artefacts from the Middle Ages; the 4th-century Basilica Santa Restituta (the oldest church in Naples); Crypt and treasure of San Gennaro.
Via Duomo, 147, 80138 Napoli
One of the most important castles of Naples, it has seven in total.
Perfect for a coffee or aperitivo
CHIESA E PIAZZA DEL GESÙ
Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, 2, 80134 Napoli
GALLERIA UMBERTO I
Via San Carlo, 15, 80132 Napoli
PALAZZO DELLO SPAGNOLO E PALAZZO SANFELICE
Via Vergini, 19, 80137 Napoli / Via Sanità, 2 e 6, 80137 Napoli
CHIESA E PIAZZA DI SAN DOMENICO MAGGIORE
Enter the church from the back door and go out from Piazza di San Domenico Maggiore, stop for a coffee under the sun.
CERTOSA DI SAN MARTINO
Largo S. Martino, 5, 80129 Napoli
CHIESA DI SANT’ANGELO E PIAZZETTA NILO
Piazzetta Nilo, 80134 Napoli
CHIESA, CHIOSTRO E MONASTERO DI SANTA CHIARA
49/c, Via Santa Chiara, 80134 Napoli
PIAZZA DEL PLEBISCITO
Home to Basilica di San Francesco di Paola and Palazzo Reale di Napoli. From here you can move towards lungomare and appreciate the sea brease and the view of Vesuvius.
Museums & Exhibitions
PIO MONTE DELLA MISERICORDIA
Here you can see the fantastic masterpiece of Caravaggio: "The Seven Works of Mercy"
Via dei Tribunali, 253, 80139 Napoli
You can't miss the the Veiled Christ, one of the most famous and impressive works of art in the world.
Via Francesco de Sanctis, 19/21, 80134 Napoli
PALAZZO ZEVALLOS STIGLIANO
Via Toledo, 185, 80132 Napoli
MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE
The city's museum claims the world's finest collection of Pompeiian frescoes and mosaics.
Piazza Museo, 19, 80135 Napoli
MUSEO DI CAPODIMONTE
Via Miano, 2, 80131 Napoli
The Quartieri Spagnoli was created in the 16th century with the aim of accommodating the Spanish military established in the city. Not a very touristic area, here you can discover the most authentic Naples in between the narrow streets and tall palazzi. If you can, try to see the view of Naples from one of their rooftoops.
Right next to Via Toledo, the modern shopping street, it is located the district of Pignasecca, where my boyfriend grew up. Taking a walk in its streets means immersing in the unique and typically Neapolitan atmosphere; there, all kind of street markets, street food and typical food shops can be found.
"From the 17th century, the area was called "Sanità" (health) because it was considered pristine and healthy, also due to miraculous properties attributed to the presence of the tombs of the saints."
“Forty meters below the characteristic and lively streets of the Historic Center of Naples, you find a different world, unexplored, isolated by time, but deeply connected with the world above. From the foundation of Neopolis to the bombs of WWII."
Piazza San Gaetano, 68, Napoli
SAN LORENZO MAGGIORE BASILICA
The church was built in the 13th century, directly on top of a Roman market, here you can start a tour of another part of underground Naples.
Piazza San Gaetano, 316, Napoli
CATACOMBE DI SAN GENNARO
Via Capodimonte, 13, 80100 Napoli
CIMITERO DELLE FONTANELLE
Via Fontanelle, 80, 80136 Napoli
SANTA MARIA DELLE ANIME DEL PURGATORIO AD ARCO
Via dei Tribunali, 39, 80138 Napoli
CATACOMBS OF SAN GAUDIOSO
Piazza Sanità, 14, 80136 Napoli
Walk towards Port'Alba and explore the amazing bookshops and little stands with vintage goods. Affordable prices and little gems can be found here.
Swiss-expat ceramicist Lisa Weber, has Laboratorio di Ceramica right in the center of Naples. It's almost impossible to resist to her beautiful ceramics!
Via Giovanni Paladino 4, Napoli
Kirka de Jorio is an artist from Naples and she has her studio in the central street Via Nilo. There you can see her works and have the chance to talk with the artist. The space is incredibly beautiful and will definitely get you inspired!
Via Nilo 34, Napoli
VIA SAN GREGORIO ARMENO
Discover la via dei Presepi and buy some of the most typical artisan work from Naples.
Parks & Seaside
Via Francesco Caracciolo, Napoli
PANORAMA LUNGOMARE DI NAPOLI
Via Orazio, 137, 80122 Napoli
BOSCO DI CAPODIMONTE
Via Miano, 4, 80145 Napoli
ORTO BOTANICO DI NAPOLI
Via Foria, 223, 80137 Napoli
Nearby Naples (one day tour or more):
Underwater Archaeological Park Of Baia, Pompei, Ercolano or Pestum
Capri, Ischia, Procida
Amalfi Coast or Sorrento Coast
Nearby cities & Attractions
Sant'Agata dei Goti and La Reggia di Caserta
What to eat in Naples
Very good pizza, usually there is a queue, but is very organised and goes by fast.
Via Materdei, 27/28, 80136 Napoli
PIZZERIA DI MATTERO
Good option to try the pizza fritta and takeaway.
Via dei Tribunali, 94, 80138 Napoli
PIZZERIA I DECUMANI
This is first place my boyfriend brought me to eat a pizza, so it will be always special to me.
Via dei Tribunali, 58, 80138 Napoli
PIZZERIA DAL PRESIDENTE
Where I fell in love with pizza. My favourite one is with melanzane and provola.
Via dei Tribunali, 120, 80138 Napoli
Pasta, fish, street food & cheese
Pizza is delicious but be sure not to miss the other Neapolitan delicacies. My favourite are: spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams); ragù (meat and tomato sauce, cooked slowly for many hours); Pasta alla genovese (pasta with ragù and onions); parmigiana di melanzane (layers of eggplant with tomato sauce and cheese); Mozarella (the famous cheese is typical from Campania, Naples region) and Provola (smoked version of Mozarella); Zuppa di Cozze (typical dish with bread, mussels and octopus in a spicy sauce prepared by the fisherman); Zeppole e Panzerotti and Cuoppo fritto di pesce (typical street food in Naples).
WhERE TO STAY in Naples
Would you like to stay in the heart of the centre of the Naples, in the typical neighbourhood of Sanità? ‘Da Nannina’ house is located at the third floor of an 8th century building. Guests enjoy the exclusive use of a 25-sq.m room which includes a balcony where is possible to admire the beautiful and typical view of the Sanità district. Anna and Massimo are the hosts. They are two travellers in their sixties. They have enriched the house with numerous objects and ornaments collected in the many places they have visited in the world throughout the years. The guests will be able to embrace this spirit and they will be supported and informed by the hosts on the best natural, cultural and culinary routes and attractions to visit in Napoli and surroundings.