Must do’s in Naples

Naples is a beautiful city in southern Italy, just about two hours’ drive from Rome. Tourists often are in Naples only to board a ferry boat to Capri, Ischia, Procida or Sorrento, which is a shame, since the city itself has a lot to offer in terms of history, archaeology, architecture, art, food and natural beauties. Its historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site, filled with picturesque little alleys and beautiful churches scattered all around. Last but not least, here you will be able to eat the only original pizza, which everyone tries to imitate but surely doesn’t taste the same anywhere else in the world!

 

Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino)

One of the main architectural landmarks of Naples, Castel Nuovo, mainly known as Maschio Angioino, is a medieval castle first erected in 1279, under the reign of Charles I of Anjou. Thanks to its strategic position, the castle was not only a royal residence, but was later used for military purposes.  During the reign of Robert of Anjou it became a centre of culture and hosted artists such as Giotto, Petrarch and Boccaccio among others. Nowadays, Castel Nuovo houses the Municipal Museum and hosts various cultural events. Not to be missed is the Palatine Chapel, with fragments of frescos by Giotto, representing stories from the Old and New Testament.

MASCHIO ANGIOINO

Address: Via Vittorio Emanuele III (Piazza Municipio)

Contact number: +39 081 795 7722

Entry fee: 6 Euros (adult) – 3 Euros (reduced with Artecard) – Free entry on Sundays

Opening hours: 9am-7pm Mon-Sat, 9:00- 14:00 Sun

How to get there: Funicular (Funicolare centrale): Augusteo stop ; Metro line 1 – Toledo stop; Bus R2 from Piazza Garibaldi: Piazza Municipio stop

Piazza del Plebiscito 

Not far from Castel Nuovo (you can walk from there in less than 10 minutes), Piazza del Plebiscito is Naples’s main square, where you will find the Royal Palace and the Neoclassical Basilica of St. Francis of Paola, which was built on the model of the Pantheon in Rome. According to locals, if you manage to walk straight between the two horse statues from the end of the square with your eyes closed, good luck will be on your side. I have never tried it myself, so I cannot guarantee it works, but I am sure you will love the square regardless! One of the four residences used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Royal Palace houses the Royal Palace Museum, a rich collection of Baroque and Neoclassical furnishings, tapestries, sculptures and paintings. The main staircase is really impressive, and I particularly love the Teatrino di Corte (Royal Theatre) and the Cappella Reale (Royal Chapel), where you will be able to see an 18th-century Neapolitan Nativity Scene.

PIAZZA PLEBISCITO (2)
Piazza del Plebiscito and the Basilica of St. Francis of Paola
Royal Palace (2)
The Royal Palace

Royal Palace (8)

 

Royal Palace (13)

 

Royal Palace (10)

 

Royal Palace opening hours: 9:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00 Mon-Sat; 9:00-14:00 Sat – Ticket price: from 4 Euros

Basilica di San Fracesco di Paola opening hours: 8:30-19:30; free entry

Via Chiaia

If you feel like taking a walk and looking at shops, Via Chiaia is certainly a good choice. I usually start my shopping trip from Piazza Trieste e Trento, near Piazza del Plebiscito, and walk all the way up to the other end of Via Chiaia, going past Piazza dei Martiri, which is always busy at night, and where you will be able to admire the beautiful 16th-century Palazzo Cellamare, located at number 149. If you walk to the end of Via Chiaia, you will reach Riviera di Chiaia, an aristocratic neighbourhood with nice buildings, some restaurants and the Villa Comunale, which is a park built in the 18th century by King Ferdinand the IV. Cross over the park and you will get to Via Caracciolo, Naples’s seafront promenade, which offers beautiful panoramic views.

VIA CHIAIA (2)

VIA CHIAIA - PALAZZO CELLAMARE
Palazzo Cellamare
PIAZZA DEI MARTIRI (1)
Piazza dei Martiri
VIA CARACCIOLO (2)
Via Caracciolo

Castel Dell’Ovo

Built by the Normans in the 12th century, Castel Dell’Ovo is the oldest castle in Naples. Located between the districts of San Ferdinando and Chiaia, on the former island of Megaride, Castel Dell’Ovo offers beautiful views of the Gulf of Naples. According to the legend, the Roman poet Virgil placed a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications, warning that the castle and Naples would fall in case the egg broke. That is where its name, The Castle of the Egg, comes from. Nowadays Castel Dell’Ovo hosts temporary art exhibitions and events like Vitigno Italia, which is a wine trade fair, but what I enjoy the most is to walk through the castle’s passages and take in the beautiful panoramic views from the top. Gorgeous throughout the day, I particularly enjoy going at sunset. Borgo Marinari, where the castle stands, is believed to be the place where the body of the siren Parthenope washed ashore after leaping into the sea and drowning, devastated as she failed to seduce Ulysses with her song. If you feel like having a yummy lunch or dinner after visiting the castle, I strongly recommend Zi Teresa, a beautiful restaurant in one of the most suggestive spots in Naples.

CASTEL DELL'OVO
Castel Dell’Ovo

CASTEL DELL'OVO (13)

CASTEL DELL'OVO (15)

CASTEL DELL'OVO (4)

CASTEL DELL'OVO (1)

BORGO MARINARI - ZI TERESA (1)Castel Dell’Ovo: Via Eldorado, 3 (13 minutes’ walk from Piazza del Plebiscito; 20 minutes’ walk from Riviera di Chiaia; 20 minutes’ walk from Castel Nuovo)

For the official website click here

Ristorante Zi Teresa: Via Borgo Marinari, 1 

For the official website click here

Chiesa del Gesu’ Nuovo

This beautiful 16th-century church was built in the area of Palazzo Sanseverino, in Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, and it is the final resting place of Saint Giuseppe Moscati, a doctor who took care of Naples’s poor. In the church, apart from its beautiful frescoes, naves and marble walls, you will be able to see the saint’s rooms, with a recreation of his study, including the armchair in which he died. The baroque interiors are a sight to see, and are definitely in contrast with the simple façade formed by diamond shaped stones. In the middle of the square in which the church is located, you can see the obelisk of the Immaculate Conception, around which locals gather every year on the 8th of December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when firefighters lay a wreath on the head of Our Lady.

CHIESA DEL GESù NUOVO (1)
Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo

CHIESA DEL GESù NUOVO (2)

CHIESA DEL GESù NUOVO (3)

CHIESA DEL GESù NUOVO (7)

Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo opening times: 7:00-13:00 / 16:00-20:00

For the official website (only in Italian) click here

Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara

Only a few minutes’ walk from the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, the monastic complex of Santa Chiara includes a mighty gothic basilica, a beautiful cloister, and an interesting archaeological museum. Although the basilica looks very simple in architecture, it is still stunning and worth visiting. The cloister is beautifully decorated with 17th-century majolica tiles and frescoes depicting Franciscan tales. Ceramic-tiled octagonal columns and benches decorate the cloister’s central garden. The museum includes information on the history of the monastic complex, baroque Nativity scenes, ruins of a 1st-century spa complex and other archaeological findings.

SANTA CHIARA (2)
The Basilica of Saint Chiara seen from Piazza del Gesù Nuovo

SANTA CHIARA (16)

SANTA CHIARA (19)

SANTA CHIARA (5)
The cloister

SANTA CHIARA (7)

SANTA CHIARA (8)

Address: Via Santa Chiara 49/c

For updated opening hours and info click here

Veiled Christ – Cappella Sansevero

If you love art and sculptures, you should not miss the impressive marble statue of the Veiled Christ, one of the most famous works of art in the world, placed in the middle of the Sansevero Chapel, which is a 15 minutes’ walk from the Santa Chiara Monastic Complex. The Veiled Christ was sculpted by Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753 in such a unique and perfect way, that you can actually see signs of the pain Christ had to go through during His crucifixion through the veil, both on His body and face. Unfortunately taking pictures of the statue is not allowed, but you can watch a video here.

Address: Museo Cappella Sansevero – Via Francesco De Sanctis, 19/21

For updated opening hours, tickets and directions click here

Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno – Spaccanapoli

One of my favourite churches in Naples, San Gregorio Armeno is one of its most important Baroque complexes, which dates back to the 16th century. The church is richly decorated, and has a single nave and five side arcades. Inside the church, you will be able to see the Holy Staircase, which the nuns were obliged to ascend on their knees every Friday in March until the beginning of the 19th century. The relics and dried blood of Saint Patricia, one of Naples’s patron saints, are kept in the church, as well as the relics of Saint Gregory, bishop of Armenia. Saint Patricia’s blood is said to liquefy every Tuesday. The entrance to the cloister is on Vico Giuseppe Maffei, which is on your left as you leave the church. The main staircase is really nice, and leads to a peaceful place which features a beautiful Baroque fountain, the convent’s old bakery and a medieval chapel. From the cloister you can access the nuns’ choir stall, from which you will be able to see the church nave and altar. The complex is located in the famous Spaccanapoli area, which is the street dedicated to the Neapolitan Nativity tradition famous all over the world. The picturesque street is filled with shops where artisans create, exhibit and sell handmade miniature figures that are part of the Nativity scene, including houses and mechanical items such as windmills, waterfalls and fountains. The place can be visited all year round, and it is definitely more crowded if you go during the Christmas period.

VIA SAN GREGORIO ARMENO (4)
Via San Gregorio Armeno

VIA SAN GREGORIO ARMENO (3)

VIA SAN GREGORIO ARMENO (5)

SANTA PATRIZIA (4)
San Gregorio Armeno

SANTA PATRIZIA (3)

SAN GREGORIO ARMENO CHIOSTRO (5)
The monastery

SAN GREGORIO ARMENO CHIOSTRO (3)

Address: Via San Gregorio Armeno 1

Opening Hours: Church: Weekdays 9:00- 12:00 – Public Holidays 9:00-13:00; Cloister: 9:30-12:00 – Free Admission – Please note that the complex is open all day on the feast of Saint Patricia (25 August)

Duomo

Seat of the Archbishop of Naples, this beautiful cathedral dates back to the 14th century and is home to the crypt and chapel of Naples’s patron saint Saint Gennaro. This is where the miracle of Saint Gennaro takes place twice a year, with the liquefaction of his blood. The cathedral has a neo-Gothic façade which was added only in the 19th century, whereas the interiors feature late-Mannerist art and Baroque elements. Also of interest is the 4th-century Basilica of Santa Restituta, from where you can access the oldest baptistry of its kind in Western Europe, the Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte.

DUOMO (2)
Duomo

DUOMO (3)

DUOMO (8)

DUOMO (10)
The Basilica of Santa Restituta

DUOMO (17)

Address: Via Duomo 149

For opening hours click here

For the official website of the museum The Treasure of San Gennaro click here

Posillipo – Palazzo Donn’Anna

Posillipo is an exclusive residential area located on the northern side of the Gulf of Naples. It can be easily reached within ten minutes by car/ taxi if you are in Riviera di Chiaia, and within less than twenty minutes if you are in the area around Piazza del Plebiscito. The villas scattered along the coast are all beautiful, but my favourite building is without a doubt the stunning Palazzo Donn’Anna, a historic residence first erected in the early 15th century, which was later inherited by Anna Carafa, duchess of Stigliano and wife of Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, viceroy of Naples under King Philip the IV of Spain. Unfortunately Palazzo Donn’Anna is not open to the public, but it is worth even just seeing it from the outside and enjoying the breathtaking views of the Gulf of Naples and the Vesuvius. If you do go to Posillipo, make sure you dine at Pizzeria Reginella, about fifteen minutes’ walk from Palazzo Donn’Anna. The restaurant / pizzeria offers beautiful views over the Gulf of Naples, super yummy pizza and fresh seafood.

PALAZZO DONN'ANNA (2)
Palazzo Donn’Anna
POSILLIPO (6)
Mount Vesuvius seen from Posillipo

POSILLIPO (4)

Pizzeria Reginella (5)
Pizzeria Reginella

Pizzeria Reginella (4)

Pizzeria Reginella (3)
View of the Gulf of Naples from Pizzeria Reginella

Addresses:

Palazzo Donn’Anna: Largo Donn’Anna

Pizzeria Reginella: Via Posillipo 45A

For the official website click here

Eating in Naples

One thing you should not miss in Naples is the food! Pizza is of course the number one thing you should try when in the city, but the Neapolitan cuisine has a lot more to offer. In regards to pizza, you really cannot go wrong wherever you eat it, but I would suggest you try it at Pizzeria Brandi, the restaurant where Pietro Calicchio created the famous pizza Margherita for Queen Margherita in 1889. Located in a little alley off Via Chiaia, a few minutes’ walk from Piazza del Plebiscito, Pizzera Brandi is always super busy, so expect to be waiting at least 30 – 45 minutes, but you can just drop in, reserve a table, go for a walk and then come back later. If you are a coffee lover, and I am talking about Italian espresso, I would suggest you stop by Il Vero Bar del Professore, famous for making lots of different versions of espresso, or try the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a beautiful historic cafè where you can also taste various Neapolitan cakes. Dating back to 1860, the cafè is a perfect blend of Neoclassical architecture and Liberty style. Since it is always busy, it is advisable to stop by and reserve a table, then walk around and go back, or you can also get your cakes/ pastries and drink your coffee at the bar counter. Among the desserts and pastries you should try, I think you should not miss the famous sfogliatella, the babà , the Neapolitan zeppola, and the Neapolitan struffoli. Everything at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus is of the highest quality, but my favourite sfogliatella remains the one you can buy at La Sfogliatella Mary, a small booth located in the Galleria Umberto I, a beautiful glass-roofed arcade right across the Teatro San Carlo (San Carlo Opera House), and also accessible from Via Roma (also known as Via Toledo), one of the longest shopping streets in Naples. La Sfogliatella Mary sells also other Neapolitan delicatessen, and I am sure you would want to go back once you have tried one! Make sure your sfogliatella is warm but not too hot, as otherwise it will just give you a bad stomach ache.

GALLERIA UMBERTO I (1)
Galleria Umberto I
SFOGLIATELLA
Yummy sfogliatella
La sfogliatella di Mary
Sfogliatella and struffoli

 

Addresses:

Pizzeria Brandi: Salita S. Anna di Palazzo, 1/2 

For the official website click here

Il Vero Bar del Professore: Piazza Trieste e Trento 46

For the official website (only in Italian) click here

Gran Caffè Gambrinus: Via Chiaia 1/ 2 (Piazza Trieste e Trento)

For the official website click here

La Sfogliatella Mary: Galleria Umberto I, 66 (easily accessible from Via Toledo)

Galleria Umberto I: Via San Carlo 15

TEATRO SAN CARLO (1)
Last but not least, the beautiful San Carlo Opera House

I hope you will get to visit beautiful Naples one day… In the meantime, I wish you a great week and a merry Christmas shopping!!! 

Maria xxx

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