Itinerary: Naples, the Gulf of Naples, Vesuvio, Spaccanapoli, Piazza del Plebiscito, Maschio Angioino
Naples is one of the most enchanting cities in the world with monuments, churches, castles of its exciting history
Naples (pic n°1) is one of the largest cities in Europe and a UNESCO human heritage site. It is the capital city of Campania, a region located south of Italy.
When it comes to history, architecture and traditions, Naples is considered to be one of the most important cities in Italy as it is a very ancient town where many different people and cultures have left their inheritances in the course of time. Roman, Norman, Angevin, Aragones, Spanish and Borbone people have given Naples its current appearance and culture, resulting in a unique mix of architectural and artistic beauties. The city features many attractions in terms of churches, museums, palaces, monuments, castles, fortifications, grottos and some of them you simply cannot miss.
Naples lies in a wonderful location at the foot of the famous volcano Vesuvio (pic n°1), surrounded by gentle hills and bordered by the Gulf of Naples (pic n°1), a few kilometers north of Costiera Amalfitana and about 200 kilometers south of Rome. This location gives the city a temperate climate throughout the year, which could be the reason of its inhabitants' friendliness and down-to-earth lifestyle.
Let's start out on this tour from the historic center of the city, which is composed by a tangled maze of narrow, picturesque and colored streets and alleys. The district called 'Spaccanapoli' (its real name is Decumano Inferiore), is a long street that used to be the main street in Roman times, and which is now one of the most important streets of the city center. The name literally means "Naples breaker", because it seems like it "cuts" the city in two parts.
In the historic center, you can visit the majestic Duomo of Naples: the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption (pic n°3). It was built in the thirteenth century and it also includes the ancient Basilica di Santa Restituta. The main attractions, apart from the overall beauty of this impressive church, are a painting from Perugino, the beautiful Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the colored mosaics in Cappella Minutolo. You really should pay a visit to Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro inside the church. San Gennaro is the patron of the city, and the museum is rich in relics and precious artifacts that are considered as sacred by the local people.
In the same area, you can also visit the Monastery of Santa Chiara, with beautiful Baroque-style interiors, the National Archeological Museum, and Via San Gregorio Armeno, a street which is worldwide famous for the high number of workshops that produce and manufacture statues for the Nativity Scene.
Then, walk down to Piazza di San Domenico Maggiore, a picturesque square that hosts an obelisk and the beautiful thirteenth-century church with the same name. The interiors feature 16 beautiful chapels and many frescoes.
Moving southwest, we suggest you get Via Toledo and access 'Quartieri Spagnoli' (Spanish Quarters), born in the sixteenth century during the Spanish rule. It has always been considered as a disreputable district, yet it encloses some artistic beauties, such as many churches, and it is as well the true essence of the city with small shops, narrow alleys, typical houses (called the 'Bassi'), and clothes hanging to be dried between the buildings over the street.
Not so far from here, you will find Castel Sant'Elmo, a Medieval castle built with tuff in the thirteenth century in a strategic location on the Vomero hill, from where you can enjoy an amazing view. Apart from its imposing architecture, the castle hosts a museum (Museo Napoli Novecento), many temporary exhibitions, events, and shows.
Heading south towards Piazza del Municipio, stop at one of the symbols of Naples: Castel Nuovo (commonly known as Maschio Angioino) (pic n°2). It is an impressive thirteenth-century castle, originally built as the royal residence and fortification. Today, this amazing building is home to the Civic Museum of great interest. When here, you should pay a visit to the finely-decorated Cappella Palatina, the imposing triumphal arch, the walls, the prisons, and some halls, such as Sala dei Baroni and Sala dell'Armeria.
Going south again, pay a visit to Galleria Umberto I, a wonderful gallery with glass ceilings, mosaics on the floors, and some shops and restaurants: here is where the famous shoeshine boys used to work.
From here you will get to the charming Piazza del Plebiscito (pic n°5), the main square of the city. Here, you can visit one of the most prestigious theaters in the world, Teatro di San Carlo, as well as the majestic Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), whose façade and gardens are a must-see. When inside, take a deeper look at the royal residence and some beautiful halls such as Sala del Trono, Sala dei Fiamminghi, and Sala del Seicento Napoletano.
South and south, you will get to the sea. You cannot miss the beautiful Castel Dell'Ovo (pic n°4), located on a small island, called Megaride linked to the mainland. It is the oldest castle in the city (built in 1128) and many legends and traditions are attributed to this impressive building, which benefits from a spectacular position overlooking the Gulf of Naples.