Thursday, 11 April 2013

Naples Travel Guide

It’s a given you love Italy. The food, the wine, the people – not to mention the culture, history, and art – make it one of the most desirable vacation spots in the world. And although Northerners scoff there is nothing south of Rome, in all the ways we love Italy the southern capital of Naplesholds its own and then some.
Bella Napoli may seem a more apt sentiment for an era long since passed, but the aging beauty hasn’t completely succumbed to the ravages of history, politics, and crime. Less than two hours from Rome, this port city founded by the Greeks (Neapolis) and expanded by the Romans will be unlike any other Italian city you have visited thus far. Here, life takes place at full throttle. Mini-operettas take place on every street corner, while flashing Vespas scoot across pedestrian piazzas. Small, narrow streets hung thick with laundry are covered in exhaust pouring from a passing bus. You may wonder how clothes in Naples ever come clean.
An aperitivo taken at Café Gambrinus, the city’s oldest and most elegant café will almost certainly restore your faith. Set on the corner of the Piazza del Plebiscito, the café is in a fine position for the leisurely pursuit of people watching, or for those with an agenda, it is an excellent starting point for exploring the city. But fair warning, drinks on the terrace will cost you!

Where to Stay in Naples

Naples is a big and sprawling city, and there are plenty of areas of the city that have hotels and hostels – but it’s also a city that can be a shock to the senses, so unless you’re really familiar with Naples and know how to get around I’d suggest sticking to the historic center for your accommodation options.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll notice that many of the cheaper places to stay are located right around the square in front of the main train station. It’s true that this area is convenient if you’ve got an early train to your next destination the next morning, but I’d still advise against staying around the station if you can avoid it. The true historic center has enough hotels and hostels that are reasonably-priced to make it a better choice for most travelers, in my opinion.

What To Do In Naples

From volcanoes to pizza, Naples truly offers a little something for everyone. The historic center can be crowded and chaotic, but the local color is what you came for. Soak it all in with a stroll down Spaccanapoli (literally ‘split Naples’ because it cuts the city in half). In the end, you might be surprised at just how tourist friendly Naples can be.
  • National Archaeological Museum of Naples – Inside you’ll find one of the most remarkable collections of ancient exhibits in the world. In addition to the coveted Farnese collection, the museum boasts objects taken from nearbyPompeii and Herculaneum. There is even a secret room (although well marked) which holds a collection of erotic artifacts that, depending on your modesty level, will either thrill you or make you blush – or perhaps a bit of both!
  • Church of San Francesco di Paola – Often compared to Rome’s Pantheon, the Church of San Francesco di Paola (pictured at the right) is fronted by a portico resting on six columns and two Ionic pillars.
  • Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) – The Museum of the Historical Apartments on the first floor is an ‘open house’ for those who desire to know how the rich and royal Bourbon rulers furnished their homes during the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
  • San Carlo Theater – The oldest working theater in Europe, the beautiful San Carlo Theater is also Italy’s largest. Guided tours are available for those who can’t snag an opera ticket, but still want to oggle the opulently gilded interior.
  • Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground) – Discover a hidden world of caverns and tunnels burrowed under the city with the Associazione Napoli Sotterranea. But bring a jacket; it can get cold down there!
  • Il Duomo (The Cathedral) – Dedicated to Our Lady of Assumption, the Cathedral of Naples resides on an area of the Greek-Roman city that was occupied by the basilicas of Saint Restituta and Saint Stefania. Although originally built in the Gothic style, much of it has been lost to reconstruction and renovation. Inside the cathedral are two vials of Saint Gennaro’s blood (Naples Patron Saint). Twice a year they miraculously liquefy to the great relief of the citizens who believe failing to do so is a sign the city is in grave danger.
  • Castles – Naples hosts 3 castles worth a look. The 12th century Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle), dominates the Neapolitan seafront from its island position (that’s the Castel dell’Ovo in the background of the picture to the right). Castel Nuovo (New Castle) overlooking the port, was built by Charles I of Anjou towards the end of the 13th century. Castel Sant’Elmo, standing high over the city, offers panoramic views from its ramparts and forts to the bay below.
  • Cappella Sansevero – This intimate family chapel houses one of the most famous statues in the world, Christ Veiled Under a Shroud (or Veiled Christ). It is an intense life-like carving that will force you to take a closer look. Did the frozen form of Christ just take a breath?

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