Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ten Overlooked Sights of Naples

Here are my top ten sights of Naples.  I call them overlooked because they seldom make it into the travel guides and tend to have fewer tourists, but these gems also won't disappoint.  They leave visitors dreaming of mythical lands and legendary heroes.  

10)  Pizzofalcone -- Mythically said to be where the Siren, Parthenope, was born, the rock is located right beside the Military Academy.  Walking around this area feels like a seedy adventure.  The streets behind Piazza del Plebiscito become small and you must ask the locals directions at every block.  Once you reach the rock itself, there's a fine view of Naples.

9)  Entrance to Hades -- Meet Carlo Santillo who will guide you with candles and oil lamps through a Roman military tunnel.  He'll also show you the River Styx and the cave where the Sybil uttered her oracles.

8)  Temple of Apollo Celebrations -- Come before sundown at the summer or winter solstice as well as the vernal and spring equinoxes and a group of nature-minded Italians will be holding a ceremony to bring together all religions and all cultures.  They beat drums and give offerings to nature.  The event is free and hosted by Centro Nuova Era.

7)  The Papyrus Scrolls at the National Library -- Come nose-to-nose with 2,000 year old papyrus scrolls written in Greek and found during the 18th century at the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum.  If you make an appointment, the librarians take you through the backdoors of one of the most prominent and oldest libraries in Europe until you reach this secluded exhibition.

6)  The Macabre Dominicans -- Part of the Naples parallel city, the San Guadioso catacombs hide underneath the Santa Maria della Sanita Church.  Tours show you the tomb of the African San Guadioso, a stunning fresco of Saint Catherine, and the artwork of Dominicans who painted their wealthy patrons using skulls and skeletons.

Burial Niches

5)  Santa Chiara Cloister -- Search for an assassination mystery.  Somewhere on the grounds, Queen Joanna I's remains were dumped.  Still today no marker bears witness to where the excommunicated Queen rests.  Some say they are located up a flight of stairs behind an always locked door.  The Cloister itself is decorated with breathtaking Spanish tiles.

The hallway beyond which Queen Joanna's bones might lie

4)  Purgatory -- The Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco Church has an underground more macabre than the Dominicans.  Since the 17th and 18th centuries, innumerable bones of the deceased have been left unburied here.  In particular, people leave flowers and cards alongside the bones of Santa Lucia, a girl stricken by tubercolosis a few days before she was to wed a Marquis.

Underground Chapel

3)  Santuaria Sacra -- Religious shops along the two famed streets of Decumano Maggiore and Via Tribunali sell items necessary for the more than 200 churches located in downtown Naples.  Priest garbs, Eucharist holders, and knick-knacks are everywhere.  One of the most charming are the silver body parts.  Buy one of these and head down to Gesu Nuovo Church where you can leave your healed or in-need-of-healing body part in the side chapel of San Giuseppe Moscati, a physician saint.

2)  University of Naples Museums -- Winding up a labrynth of stairs, passing students and faculty, several science museums display dinosaur fossils, insects, and artifacts from Troy.

1)  Riccardo Dalisi's Workshops -- Architect, tinsmith artist, and maker of the Alessi version of the Napoletana, walking along Rua Catalana you can enjoy Dalisi's art between buildings and on street corners.  Two workshops are also open, inspired by Dalisi's works.

Inside a Dalisi inspired workshop

Buon Divertimento!


Gil said...

I never realized that there were so many underground places, I know that we visited a one of them. Looking forward to trying one or two of the places you just posted.

Joshua said...

Only ten?

Barbara said...

Thanks, Gil. And Joshua -- well, it is The Espresso Break, so ten should be 'in the time it takes to drink an espresso'. :)

Katrina said...

Fantastic, thank you!

Barbara said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Katrina. Thanks for reading!


Tour Italy Now said...

Glad to know this. Thanks for sharing. I will include some of these in the must visit places I promoted with my friends whom I am assisting in their Italy vacations adventure. Ciao!

Orjen said...

Hello. This is a wonderful website, I've just come across it.

I am visiting Naples in June and I have been hearing that it is quite dangerous and there are shootouts in the streets in broad daylight. We will be staying in what I've been told is the worst part of the city - Piazza Garibaldi.

Should I be afraid?

Barbara said...

No, you shouldn't be afraid, Orjen. Where did you hear that there are shoot-outs in the street? When you live in Europe or Asia you also hear there are shoot-outs in the streets.... but in America, so many people are scared to go there. (It's true.)

Naples is a big city, so be prudent just like you would be prudent in New York City. But Piazza Gharibaldi was recently re-done, so it's one of the nicest places in the city to be. The train station was completely revamped and now has an underground mall and a large bookstore. Plus, you are in the heart of the wonderful Chinese and African markets and can get to the best sights from there.

Have fun!

Orjen said...

Thank you so much, your reply was very assuring, I was on the verge of changing my stay to Sorrento but now I think I'll just go ahead and stay in Naples.

All the best,

Barbara said...

You're welcome. It would be a shame to miss seeing the oldest city in the Western world just because of stereotypes. Enjoy!

villaggi campania said...

Great post!

Medifast Side Effects said...

We have just started our next holiday planning and we are going, wait for it, Naples, can't wait. Tickets are booked and that is it at this point.
I have printed off your post to show the hubby and see what he thinks, we love going off the beaten track and seeing what others don't.
Thanks so much!

Orjen said...

Hey, Barbara! So our trip to Naples came and went and I wanted to drop by and thank you for the pointers - we used a LOT of info from your blog. Awful hotel and area aside, I must say that Naples and its surroundings are the most beautiful places I would've ever imagined seeing. Naples has ugly parts and beautiful parts but I must say that it is all worthwhile.

Barbara said...

Hi Orjen! Glad you enjoyed your trip! Stay tune for my book "The Espresso Break" due out on January 1, 2012. Inside, I list where to stay and places to avoid. There is only one really safe and comfortable place to stay in Naples and those are the very nice hotels along the Via Parthenope. Other than that, I recommend renting a car and going to an agriturismo. All the best and thanks for writing in!