Bella Napoli! It may be grimy and crowded, but the city pulses with a romantic love for life that goes back through thousands of years of history. Read more about the city and its history on its Wikipedia entry. Here are some of the major sights:
The "Historic Center" between Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Plebiscito is the old walled city of Naples, dating back to the Greek days of Neapolis ("new city") thousands of years ago. Here are some of the best sights in this area; the Centro Storico tour gives some ideas about how to connect an itinerary (also see this Frommer's walking tour map):
- ***Naples Archaeological Museum - home to all the best artifacts and treasures of Pompei and Herculaneum; don't miss the Gabinetto Secreto (secret room) of ancient erotic art (make a reservation to see it when you enter the museum). 9-7:30 every day but Tuesday, €6.50, free with Artecard.
- **Naples Underground - a fun 1.5 hour tour through the old Greek and Roman city and aqueducts buried under the modern city; also includes some WWII history as this area was used as a bomb shelter. Tours in English leave M-F 12, 2, and 4 (and 9 PM on Thurs), Sat/Sun 10, 12, 2, 4, and 6; see New York Times article. (Note: the nearby San Lorenzo Maggiore also has underground ruins of the old Roman market, but they are much less extensive and there is typically no guide.)
- **Limonè limoncello factory next door is a nice thing to do while you wait for (or after you're done with) an Underground Tour. They will demonstrate how it's made, give you a taste, and show you the "time machine" wall of the Greek temple of Castor & Pollux--which is now the San Paolo Maggiore church (081-299-429). Don't miss their granita, made with fresh lemon juice--the best in town!
- If you're thirsty for even more underground, nearby San Lorenzo Maggiore also has excavations underneath revealing a Roman market (see Stars and Stripes article), €5, M-Sat 9:30-5:30, Sun 9:30-1:30, 081-211-0860.
- **Sansevero Chapel - a wild assortment of amazing statues including the famous "Veiled Christ" populates this tiny chapel just off Spaccanapoli. M and W-Sat 10-5:40, Sun 10-1:10. €6, €5 with Artecard.
- **Spaccanapoli "Gold Alley" and San Gregorio Armeno "Christmas Alley" (see the Mercati section of the Shopping page)
- ***Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (Condurro) - Via Cesare Sersale 3 (Centro Storico), www.damichele.net, 081-553-9204, 10AM-11PM, closed most Sun and 8/5-8/26, made famous in the book Eat Pray Love (and the Julia Roberts movie based on the book), this place is the "In-n-Out" of pizzerie: it only offers a limited menu (margherita and marinara) and it has a cult following. Grab a number inside (or come early to avoid a wait) and enjoy the fun.
- Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo - Via dei Tribunali 32, www.sorbillo.it, 081-446-643, M-Sat 12-4, 7-1am, great pizza, on everyone's "top 10 pizzas in Naples" list, don't be deceived by other pizzerie with similar names down the street
- Di Matteo - one of the classic centro storico pizzerie; also has a busy business in take-away food (don't miss the fried zucchini flowes if they're in season!). Via dei Tribunali 94, 081-455-262.
- Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente - when Bill Clinton was in town for the G8 Summit in 2004, he stopped at Da Matteo for some pizza; shortly afterwards, the pizzaiolo, Ernesto Cacialli, decided to open up his own shop just down the street, which is another of the "short list" for best pizza in Naples. Via Tribunali 120, 081-210-903, closed Sun.
- Gelateria della Scimmia and Gelateria Polo Nord are detailed on the Gelato page...also note granita at Limonè, listed above
- Other pizzerie and restaurants are on the Restaurant page and Pizza Page
- Various good pastry shops, coffee shops, etc. are also described on the To Eat page.
- Random Churches - the Centro Storico seems to have at least two churches per block. This is because they were more like residences/businesses than parish churches; just as today we might have several banks on one block, in the old days it was common to build multple churches near each other. Among the most interesting are the following:
- Duomo - Naples' main cathedral, home to the relics of San Gennaro (see Stars & Stripes article about the "Museo del Tesoro"), also has a paleochristian church/Roman ruins you can tour for a €3 (M-Sat 9-12, 4:30-7 and Sun 9-12).
- Gesù Nuovo - armadillo-fronted home of the Jesuits, there are markings on each pyramid that have recently been decoded as aramaic code for notes that makes a gregorian chant! UMUC explanation.
- Santa Chiara - rebuilt after WWII but with various medieval pieces inside, you can also tour their cloister/Roman ruins for €5 M-Sat 9:30-5:30, Sun 10-2:30.
- Purgatorio ed Arco - a spooky church with skull imagery; you can tour its "hypogeum" crypt with shrine to "Saint Lucy" for €2 on Saturdays 10-1; church is open M-Sat 10-1, Via Annunziata
- Santissima Annuziata e la Ruota degli Esposti - this tiny church, found in between Piazza Garibaldi and the Duomo, has an interesting ruota (wheel) which once provided an anonymous way for mothers to give their babies up for adoption. M-Sat 9-7, free, 081-289-032.
- Monte di Pietà - on Saturdays 9-7 or Sunday 9-2 you can tour this cool chapel along Spaccanapoli (Via San Biagio dei Librai 114) now owned by a Bank.
- Pio Monte della Misericordia - this tiny church hosts Caravaggio's "Seven Acts of Mercy." Every day but W 9-2, Via dei Tribunali 253, €5, €4 with Artecard, 081-446-944.
- See Jeff Matthews' Naples Encyclopedia downtown tour for more information than you would ever want to know about the churches and palaces in the Centro Storico.
Via Toledo/Quartiere Spagnoli/Piazza del Plebiscito
On the western edge of the Centro Storico (these districts were just outside of the old city walls), there are also neat sights here:
- Via Toledo - a major shopping street; see the Shopping page for more on shopping. Also home to the main branches of Gelateria della Scimmia and Fantasia Gelateria (see the Gelato page for more), as well as a few famous coffee shops (including storied Gambrinus; see To Eat for more). To the west of via Toledo is the Quartiere Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter), a historically poveryt-stricken district with tiny blocks of tiny apartments, originally home to the Spanish soldiers' barracks (hence the name).
- Piazza del Plebiscito - at the end of Via Toledo, this large piazza is home to many outdoor concerts. (Its name, sometimes misspelled as "plebescito"--including on this site, as well as by The Guardian--refers to the "plebiscite" or vote to join the new nation of Italy in 1860...although some Naples fanatics claim that the vote was rigged!) Its colonnades sprawl out from San Francesco di Paola church (although it is beautifully modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, the inside is not terribly interesting). On the other side is the Royal Palace, former home to the King of the Two Sicilies. Inside is a grand marble staircase and an underwhelming set of rooms with paintings, open every day but W 9-8, €4, free with ArteCard, 081-400-547.
- Galleria Umberto - a beautiful 19th century gallery, perhaps one of the world's first shopping malls, found at the end of via Toledo near Piazza del Plebiscito
- San Carlo Opera House - next to the Royal Palace, across from the Galleria Umberto, is the oldest opera house in Europe. You can tour the opera house (€5, Th-M 9-5:30), , but the best way to see it is for a show. See the Event page for information on upcoming shows, and the San Carlo Opera page for information on getting tickets.
- Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) - it is a testament to how old Naples is that the "New Castle" was built in the 13th century (although it was altered in the 15th century). Highlights include the vaulted ceilings in the Baron's Hall (now the Naples City Council Chambers), Roman bones in the Armory Room, and good views from the ramparts. There are also some paintings and a cool bronze door with a cannonball in it in the Naples Civic Museum, housed within tihe castle. The whole thing is a bit disorganized and underwhelming compared to the magnificient exterior, but still worth a visit. M-Sat 9-7 (last entry 6), free tours of the Torre del Beverello start every hour from 9:30 to 4:30, €5, €2.50 with Artecard, 081-420-1241. It is also near Piazza Municipo, the terminus of the Alibus and near Naples' main ferry terminals (see Transportation page for more).
- ***Trattoria Nennella - southwest of Piazza Carità, this very traditional trattoria is a tourist destination in its own right—you're likely to encounter saucy waiters, people singing in Neapolitan, and/or general chaos, but the food is great (and cheap!), put a few euro for "i ragazzi" when you leave for a hearty goodbye, Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo 103, 081-414-338, closed Sun, http://digilander.libero.it/trattorianennella/nennella.htm
- Caffè Mexico - traditional Neapolitan coffee shop, has an outpost on via Toledo
Gracefully extending along the water from Piazza del Plebiscito to the cliffs of Posillipo are these neighborhoods. Santa Lucia, a small neighborhood in the shadow of the Castel dell'Ovo, is known for its eponomous song, and blends into the high-class shopping district of Riviera Chiaia. Continuing along the water is the similarly hip Mergellina, which is just downhill from Piedigrotta.
- Castel dell'Ovo - the "Egg Castle" is so-called because of the legend that poet Virgil planted a magic egg in its foundations; supposedly, if the egg cracks, Naples will crumble. The castle's island was the site of one of the earliest local Greek settlements before they moved on to found the "new city"--Neapolis, or Naples. The castle itself dates mostly from the 12th century and is open M-Sat 9-6, Sun 10-2, free, 081-240-0055, email@example.com. Also check out the Borgo Marinari (Fishing Village) nearby, full of restaurants, cafes, and fishing boats.
- Villa Communale - A long public park that fronts the neighborhood; both the park and the lungomare (sidewalk along the water) are a great place for a passagiata (walk). Also hosts Naples' Antique Fair on some weekends.
- Acquario - Naples' aquarium, in the middle of Villa Communale.
- Tombe dei Poeti/Crypta Napoletana - The tombs of poets Virgil and Leopardi are in this tiny park, along with the entrance to the Crypta Napoletana which connected Piedigrotta ("the foot of the tunnel") to Fuorigrotta ("the outside of the tunnel"). Just behind the Mergellina Metro station. Summer 9-6, winter 9-4, 081-669-390.
Up the hill from downtown Naples is the sprawling but stately neighborhood of Vomero, accessible by funiculars
. To the east of Vomero are Capodimonte, a neighborhood that used to be the royal hunting grounds, and Sanità, a working-class neighborhood known for its catacombs.
- Castel Sant'Elmo - another of Naples' iconic castles has a splendid view from its lofty perch at the top of Vomero, every day but Tues 9-6:30, last entry 5:30, €3, 081-229-4401.
- Certosa San Martimo - next to Castel Sant'Elmo, this fascinating former monastery features a ridiculously nice chapel (don't miss the inlaid wood in one of the back rooms), a cloister featuring marble skulls, and a cool museum full of royal excess (including the largest nativity scene you've ever seen and a sumptuous royal barge). Open every day but W, 8:30-7:30, €6, half off with ArteCard.
- Villa Floridiana - Vomero's relaxing, beautiful public park, including a villa built by one of hte Bourbon kings. Villa/Musuem open every day but T, 8:30-1:30, €2.50, Via Cimarosa 77, 081-578-8418.
- Capodimonte Museum & Park - Set in an old royal hunting lodge, this sprawling park lies between Vomero and Capodichino. The Capodimonte museum has an overwhelming collection of art, especially paintings, including some excellent Caravaggios, every day but W 8:30-7:30, €9 with audioguide, €8 after 2:00.
- Catacombs - Three interesting crypts can be found in these hilltop neighborhoods:
- San Gennaro - under/next to the Basilica del Buon Consiglio (a scale replica of St. Peter's in Rome), which is at the Capodimonte exit off the Tangenziale. Larger than the claustrophobic Roman catacombs, these feature a peochristian burial shrine/basilica along with frescos and other spooky stuff. Guided tours (in Italian) T-Sat at 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, and 3, and on Sun 9, 10, 11, and 12, €5, Via Capodimonte 13, 081-741-1071.
- San Gaudioso - found under the church of Santa Maria della Sanità. Guided tours (in Italian) every day at 9:30, 10:15, 11, 11:45, and 12:30, €5, Piazza Sanità 14, 081-544-1305, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- San Severo - (still closed??) free, 9:30-12:30, Piazzetta San Severo a Capodimonte, 081-544-1305.
- Where to Eat - Gelaterie (such as Otranto), Restaurants (such as Pizzeria La Notizia, which the NY Times justifiably raves about)
Posillipo is a beautiful, cliffside neighborhood where the rich and famous (including the Italian President) live. Fuorigrotta, literally "outside the cave", was at the western end of the Crypta Napolitana that starts in Piedigrotta, and is a vibrant, young neighborhood. Bagnoli and Agnano are working-class neighborhoods near JFC.
- Parco Virgiliano - a wonderful public park with nearly 360 degree views of the Gulf of Naples and Pozzuoli. A good spot for picnics or kids (playground equipment). There is also a semi-private tennis/track club on the premesis. 40.800014,14.181319.
- Grotta di Seiano e Pausilypon - halfway up the switchbacks from Bagnoli to Posillipo is the entrance to a mile-long Roman tunnel called the Grotta di Seiano (Seiano's Cave). At the end are ruins of a Roman seaside villa/theater called Pausilypon ("where bad thoughts die"). Free guided tours M-Sat 9:30, 10:30 and 11:15, 081-230-1030. See great photos on the Napoli Unplugged blog.
- Stadio San Paolo (Saint Paul Soccer Stadium) - in Fuorigrotta, near the Campi Flegrei metro stop, is where S.S.C. Napoli plays their home games. Truly an experience.
- Città della Scienza - Science Museum on the way to Nisida, T-Sat 9-5, Sun 10-7, €7, Via Coroglio 104, 081-372-3728
- Terme di Agnano - the spas of Agnano have been famous for hundreds of years.
- Ippodromo di Agnano - scene of modern-day chariot racing.
- Mostra d'Oltremare/Edenlandia - Mostra d'Oltremare is a sprawling park which hosts a number of fairs, concerts, and events throughout the year. Nearby is Edenlandia, a children's amusement park.