Destination Naples, Italy

By Mattie John Bamman
2010


Introducing Naples

There are as many stories about Naples as there are sides to Naples, but there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on: You either love it or hate it. Unlike other Italian cities, Naples does not offer calm cobblestone streets or a leisurely passeggiatta. Its streets are painted with graffiti, and to the untrained eye, there is very little leisure to be had. But although Naples appears dirty and chaotic, luxury is prevalent in some areas. Scratch the surface and you will find spas, designer shopping and fine-dining restaurants with some of the best views in the world...

History of Naples

The Greeks founded Naples in the 6th century BC. The settlement was located in what is today the Centro Storico neighborhood, and it was named Nea-polis, which literally means “new city.” The Romans claimed Neapolis in 326 BC and ruled until 800 AD, when Naples became an independent city. This independence lasted until 1100 AD; it was then briefly controlled by the Lombards before falling under Norman rule.

The Normans began to make Naples a world-renowned cultural center. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II built the first state-run university in Europe, the University of Naples, in 1224. Subsequently, the Angevin dynasty built Sant’Elmo and Castel Nuovo. Artists of all kinds came to Naples during the 13th and 14th centuries, creating an influx of Spanish Gothic and Renaissance-inspired works. Byzantine-influenced art also entered the region when fugitives from Constantinople came to the city. These three styles are still present it the city’s architecture. The city drew musicians, poets, philosophers, writers, and scientists, putting it in high esteem among people such as Handel and Goethe...

Neighborhoods: Centro Storico

This neighborhood retains the classic Neapolitan image more than any other. It is where you’ll find most historical sites and churches. Two parallel streets, Via dei Tribunali and Via S. Biagio dei Librai, comprise the heart of the neighborhood, where the city’s best pizzerias and bars are located. Though streets are narrow (what we might consider alleyways), this doesn’t stop locals from whizzing by on mopeds at breakneck speeds. Bordered by Via Foria to the north, Piazza Garibaldi to the east, Corso Umberto to the south and Via Toledo to the west, the neighborhood makes up the eastern section of Naples. It gets seedier the closer you get to the train station. Even though some of the best restaurants in Naples can be found here, including the world-famous Pizzeria Da Michele, don’t stay around after midnight...

Sightseeing Overview

Naples has an astonishing number of museums and churches. If you have only a day or two, make sure to visit both Pompeii and the National Archeological Museum. The oldest of its kind in Europe, it houses the most impressive artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, greatly complimenting a visit to the ancient cities. Visit Pompeii first, for a complete appreciation of the Archeological Museum.

Naples is famous for its Farnese art collection, begun by Pope Paul III and inherited first by Elisabeth Farnese, then by her son Charles of Bourbon. When Charles of Bourbon inherited it, the collection was scattered across Rome, Pisa and Naples; he brought it to Naples. The bulk of its works, numbering over 200, which include works by Botticelli and Raphael, is divided between the Capodimonte Museum and the National Archeological Museum. The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), located in the sweeping Piazza del Plebiscito, contains the National Library and many important works of art...