Naples, the capital of Campania, is truly a city of many contradictions, and one most definitely worth visiting and getting to know.
Many things come to mind when one mentions the name Napoli. Laundry hanging from the windows, crumbling walls, garbage strikes, the Camorra…and so on and so forth. There is no denying that the city is dirty and chaotic but if you are ready to go beyond the clichés, you will discover a city full of contradictions with a rich history, beautiful monuments, delicious food and interesting people.
Getting lost in the historic centre is probably the best way to get a feel of the city. Packed with churches, old palazzi, narrow cobbled streets and little piazze, it is a live museum full of beautiful surprises. In the Sansevero Chapel for instance, the Veiled Christ sculpture will take your breath away. Carved in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino, it represents the Christ covered by a thin cloth on his deathbed with all his facial features and crucifixion wounds clearly visible. Meanwhile, just a few streets away, on Via San Gregorio Armeno, the Neapolitan tradition of crafting nativity scene goes on all year round. All along this street, also known as the presepi street, artisan shops vie with each other to offer the cutest figurines, from shepherds and angels to commedia dell’arte characters, politicians and pop stars.
But the city is not only interesting on the surface, forty meters below you will find many catacombs, Greco-Roman excavation sites and hidden places that will take you back in time.
A great number of people who go to Napoli, actually do so in order to explore two of the most fascinating and visited archaeological sites in the world, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, two cities that were buried under more than 60 feet of ash, pumice, and mud on August 24th 79 AD when the nearby Mount Vesuvius errupted.
If Pompeii is without doubt the most famous of the two sites, Herculaneum may be the most interesting one as it is smaller, better preserved and less crowded. Both are very accessible from the city whether you choose to go by car (Motorway A3 Napoli-Salerno) or by train (the Circumvesuviana train Napoli-Sorrento leaves from the Garibaldi train station).
Back in the city, you will not want to miss the National Archaeological Museum which houses one of the world’s most remarkable collections of Roman art, including sculptures, frescoes and mosaics excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Talking about museums, the Capodimonte Museum with its beautiful collection of 14th – 19th century art also deserves a visit.
Another popular attraction popular with tourists is a ferry trip to one of the three islands in the Gulf of Naples: Capri, Ischia and Procida (pictured in lead image). However, no matter how long you are planning to stay in Naples, you should not leave the city without eating at least once a pizza. Napoli is THE birthplace of pizza, and the city takes its signature dish seriously!
With both EasyJet and Air France now offering direct flights from Nice to Napoli, this fascinating city has become a great destination for a weekend break or a longer vacation along the Almafi Coast. So why not give it a try?
Lead image credit: ronnybas / 123RF Stock Photo; all other photographs © Florence Dubosc