Pizza, Pastries, Coffee, Art
Many people skip Naples, rushing right past it after visiting the historic sites of Rome and on the way to the panoramic Amalfi Coast, but Naples is worth a stop.
Naples is a city of contrasts. Striking beauty and raucous friendliness combined with traffic and noise and a fair bit of chaos.
Don’t Miss Sights
Start with a walk along the Spaccanapoli – meaning split Naples – in the historic center of town.
Take in the altars in every niche (don’t miss one to soccer legend Maradonna – with a vial of tears of neapolitans at the bar Nilo), dodge the scooters, and admire the Presepe (Nativity scene) shops.
Dating back to the fourth century, the Duomo di Napoli houses the relics of Patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro. On three feast days throughout the year ampules of the saints blood are displayed and with fervent prayer the blood is hoped to liquify.
Around the corner in the sixteenth century church of Pio Monte della Misericordia is one of the most the most beautiful and moving works of Baroque master, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Seven Acts of Mercy.
Piazza del Plebiscito is one of the largest piazzas in Naples, grand and sweeping in scale and style. The Royal Palace of Naples is located along one edge. Once the home the Bourbon kings during the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and heavily bombed in World War II, it is now a museum. Inside you will find the restored royal apartments where kings lived until 1837. There are paintings, sculptures, statues, furniture and tapestries to view along with an incredible view on the Bay of Naples.
The National Archaeological Museum, the most important Italian archaeological museum, is filled with Greek, Egyptian and Roman antiquities. The Farnese Collection includes some of the most important examples of classical marbles.
Climb the hill to reach Capodimonte, the hilltop Bourbon palace built by the Baroque Italian architect, Ferdinando Sanfelice for King Charles in 1742. It was originally a hunting grounds but today, the gardens cover 130 hectares and feature over 400 varieties of trees. Ou will probably have the entire museum to yourself to take in the wide range of works from Papal collections of the Farnese and Borgia families, to early first century works. There are unmissable works by Titian and Caravaggio housed here.
The oldest standing fortification on Naples, the Castel Uovo is located on a promontory that is filled with cafes and restaurants. Named for a legend about the poet Virgil, who was said to place a magical egg to support the foundations, it has served as a strategic site ranging from ancient Roman villa to a Norman castle built in the twelfth century. After a visit to the ever changing exhibition space, sit at one of the many cafes and watch the boats come and go with the mighty Vesuvius in the background.
Take a morning stroll along the Lungomare Chiaia, make sure you do not miss the small fish market. You will not find fresher fish anywhere, the customers bags are jumping and octopus are escaping their tubs.
Pizza and Pastries
In Naples in 1830, the world’s first pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, was opened. In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited the City of Naples and in the Queens honor, a pizzaiolo named Raffaele Esposito created three pizzas, the favorite of the queen was the one evoking the colors of the Italian flag — green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). This classic combination is still known as a Pizza Margherita and you can try it at the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba even today.
Make sure to look for the the sign with the distinctive Pucinella holding a pie to be sure you are eating a certified true Neapolitan pizza (Vera Pizza Napoletana)
Pastries and Coffee and nightlife
Sfogliatelle is a shell shaped, many layered pastry, filled with orange scented ricotta is perfect for breakfast or a mid afternoon snack. In the dramatic glass ceilinged Galleria Umberto I is a small kiosk where Sfogliatelle are always fresh and warm from the oven.
Coffee in naples is small and strong and always served with a small glass of water (which you drink before your coffee, to clear your palate) Two Tour Italy Now favorites are Cafe Mexico for a stand at the bar short and sweet experience and the elegant and historic Cafe Gambrius for a more leisurely break.
After dinner visit the chic and lively Chiaia neighborhood. In and and around the charming Vicolletto Belladonna you will find a lively mix of teenagers lounging on scooters and the beautiful people having cocktails.
Yours in sharing Italy!