“See Naples and Die!” suggests the German philosopher, Goethe, in an attempt to describe the city of Naples- Goethe’s source of enthrallment and inspiration.
Sitting graciously at the Bay of Naples in the Campania region, Naples is noted as one the few constantly inhabited sites in the world, conveying the city’s significance since the 9th century BC up to present. From elegant museums and palaces to the underground antique cities and gazing at its flared volcano are captivating attractions of Naples; offered together with Naples’ exquisite gastronomy and pristine beaches. While there is much to see, to indulge in and to taste in Napoli, here is a list of top 15 must-see attractions in the ancient port of Naples.
At the epicenter of the city stands the grand Franciscan complex of Santa Chiara, encompassing inherited relicts of centuries. The complex conceals an Opera Museum, the magnificent gothic church of Santa Chiara, remnants of a Roman bath and a set of stunning cloisters. Santa Chiara Church, noted as one of Campania’s prominent churches, was founded in the 14th century. The original building of Santa Chiara bore great damages during the world war and was reconstructed in the 20th century.
Today, subdivisions of Santa Chiara Church serve as a monastery and a museum. Behind the church’s building, Byzantine baths of Santa Chiara’s archeological area are the archetypal model of southern roman baths. Delicate baroque-style Majolica cloisters of Santa Chiara, are decorated with astonishing fresco hand-paintings; an impressive example of Neapolitan renaissance art. Along with enchanting architecture and structures, scenes of Neapolitan residents’ lives are painted on the walls of the monastery; illustrating stories of Naples’ past.
A vast rectangular area on Vomero hill is dedicated to the Neapolitan monastery of St. Martin and its adjacent baroque church. With seven centuries of rich history, the Certosa monastery is well-known for its Carthusian-inclined architecture and stunning fresco adornments.
The main body of this colossal structure is complemented by the cloister of prosecutors and the great cloister. A section is devoted to the monastery’s national museum, exhibiting paintings, revealing the historical inhabitants of Napoli. Climb to the belvedere of Certosa and enjoy the thrilling view of volcanic peaks of Vesuvius, the city and azure Bay of Naples.
At a stone-throw distance from the Carthusian monastery, stands proud the Castle of San’Elmo; a 14th-century fortress, a former penitentiary and a dazzling panoramic view of Naples.
Located at Piazza Monteoliveto, the ancient Church of Saint ‘Anna of Lombardi is marked by the neoclassical sculpture in Fontana di Monteoliveto at the square. Beneath the humble façade of the 14th-century church, an amassed trove is disclosed within the stone ramparts; a rich presentation of colorful frescoes, ancient tombs, and monumental structures and statues.
Distinct from traditional Neapolitan churches, St. Anne Church is decorated by Tuscan architect and artist, Giorgio Vasari; alleged as a Florentine symbol in Naples since the renaissance era. Moments away from St. Anna Church, the darkened façade of Gravina Palace catches the eye; an aristocratic building that operates as the architecture sector of Naples’s University today.
Symbolizing the magnificence of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito is lined by churches, fortresses, and palaces. Named after the 17th century Royal Castle of Naples, the massive square has witnessed public celebrations, centenaries, and get-togethers in the past. Naples’ Royal Palace is sited eastwards of the square while holding the Carthusian monastery of Certosa and Castle of San’Elmo on other sides.
San Francesco Basilica, the most prominent edifice in Plecibito Square, highlights an astonishing copy of Rome’s Pantheon; paraphrasing the ancient roots of Napoli and its roman antiquity. Royal Square’s locality is reputed for its flavorsome eateries and authentic cafes, offering the world-famous Neapolitan espresso.
The new castle of Naples dates from the 13th century, posing as a textbook example of renaissance fortresses- infused with roman and gothic Spanish touches. Copula’s interior is painted with pulsating fresco- adorned mostly in gold as an emblem of Castle’s splendor. At the foundation, Nuovo Castle conceals a roman archeological site, presented through the glass floor; while the top floors hold spectacular collections of the renaissance to contemporary canvases by renowned artists.
While marking the gathering hub of the past Neapolitan artists and luminaries, Il Cestello wears badges of the past grandeurs and intensity; embalmed in its triumphal watchtower and the massacre Hall of Barons. Visit the relics of the Roman architect thumbprints, centuries of artistic touché and remark momentous triumphs here in the New Castle of Napoli.
Sited at the coastline of Lungomare, Castle dell’Ovo is one of the Naple’s oldest castles, dating back to the early 13th century. A roman carving denotes that an egg was buried in the site of the castle’’ foundation- hence its name- and the castle falls once the egg is broken. The historic significance of Egg Castle remarks the place of first Greek settlement on Neapolitan soil nearly 2800 years ago, and the roman defensive stronghold of ancient Neapolitan armies.
Formerly built on Megaride island, Castle dell’Ovo is today on a peninsula by the same name, and lined with authentic restaurants in its vicinity. Behind the earth-color tall barricades of Egg Castle is a museum of ancient vestiges, government chambers and exhibition halls. Terrace view of the castle provides an interesting perspective of Naples city and astonishing sceneries of the cerulean Gulf.
Only meters from Piazza Della Plebiscito excels the Romanesque facade of Napoli’s sumptuous auditorium. Italy’s largest opera house, known as Teatro San Carlo, is a six- stories building in Naple’s historic zone. It was constructed in the 18th century as the first opera theatre in all Europe; witnessing renowned performances by luminaries of music, theatre, and opera.
Teatro San Carlo auditorium’s interior is designed with an elegant stage, ruddy furnishings, and spectacular frescos on the ceiling; beating with the vivacious heart of music, featuring concerts and opera performances, today. Visit the first-rate European opera house and live the musical enchantment of medieval barons for a short while.
The mysterious antediluvian infrastructure of Naples lies tranquil below the crowded surface of the city. Naples’s archeological underground city is connected to the surface with hundred descending stairs; leading to the Greek conduits fostered in 3rd century BC to supple the primordial Neapolis, the ancient city of Naples, with spring waters of Vesuvius.
In addition to the emerald aqueducts are the Greco-Roman theatre Summa Cavea, an ancient roman cistern nicknamed the wondrous pool and at a brief distance, Roman theatre of Emperor Nero. During WWII, the underground city sheltered Neapolitan citizens from vile bombarding. Enthralling antiquity of Sotterranea is accessible only through tour visits.
A combination of mysticism, omens, and folklore, Church of Purgatorio ad Arco was the final religious refuge of the poor. It was built in the 17th century to convey the minimum catholic rites for the dead who belonged to lower classes of society. Anonymous crypts and tombs eroded skeletal remains of meager folks, and gifts and devotional offerings are the iconic displays of the underground church.
A customary ritual begun among church’s believers, giving ascent to Neapolitan Cult of the Dead; Worshiping the spirits of Purgatory and bestowing gifts to the skulls in return for benedictions. Although the cult is discontinued during the last century, this church remains a source of faith and wonder with its confounding medieval architecture, painted murals and masterpieces by renowned artists. A small segment of the church conceals a museum of painting and artifact collections from the 16th century onwards.
Piazza Bellini is the city’s sophisticated, yet hearty, landmark of Napoli; a rallying point for a friendly round of drinks and an affable gap. Identified as the intellectual zone of the city, Bellini square is encircled by universities, cultural education centers, and is the student hub of Naples.
A statue of the Music luminary Vincenzo Bellini overlooks the piazza, and thus, Bellini Square’s name. At the center, excavated walls of the ancient Neapolis date back to the 4th century BC; recalling the livelihood of this square since ancient times. Upbeat bars, authentic restaurants, and welcoming encounters are offered generously around Bellini Square. An evening stroll is occasionally complemented with street artists, flaunting their bewildering talents.
Catacombs of Naples are entitled in the rectitude of San Gennaro, Naples patron saint. A place of miracle and benedictions, this sacred site of San Gennaro’s crypt and the two basilicas of San Agrippina and San Gennaro. The basilicas’ interior is ornamented with humble essence; a combination of few early Christian emblems, fascinating mosaics and an appeasing aria of faith.
At its basement, an ancient Christian cemetery brings overwhelming sentiments upon visit; concealing more than 3000 thousand ancient vacated graves, belonging to the Paleo-Christian epoch, and Neapolitan bishops. On your visit to the archaic under-world, walk a few paces to Statua Toto – a silhouette of the grand Italian comic- and enjoy the mural art often found in the neighboring streets.
While Pizza may be anticipated as a quick snack in most countries, in Napoli pizza rises beyond its delicious culinary aspect. A Neapolitan Imperial chef prepared the first Pizza as patriotic food and was named Margarita, in the honor of the Austrian queen; representing three colors of the Italian flag.
Established in 1830, it is believed that Port’Alba is the first pizzeria in the world; claiming to bake the best pizzas in their authentic wood fire ovens constructed with the lava rocks of Mt. Vesuvius. Treat yourself to a delicious evening in the historic pizzeria of Naples, and taste Naples’ authentic and exotic flavors of buffalo mozzarella, native golden wheat crust, and over-night cooked pasta sauces.
Port’Alba Pizzeria is located at the historic center of the city, surrounded in cobbled-stone roads and medieval buildings; a sensational scenery for a pleasant evening walk.
At the northwest of Naples’ Bay, Parco Sommerso di Gaiola is one of Naples’ admired attractions. This park is founded on a half-submerged Roman archeological site. Ancient roman remnants are scattered at the shore while most of the relicts lay at the bottom of Gaiola’s protected marine; Gaiola Park provides scuba diving and snorkeling for the close encounter with the antique remains, alongside stupendous marine life.
Remains of villas of Pausilypon constructed in the 1st century were the past residence of Pollione the Roman Knight, and later king Augustus. Take a ride on a glass-floored boat to glance at the inundated antiquity and the island’s 19th-century villas; whispered as a cursed island among locals. For tranquil leisure, café’s and restaurants cater to authentic cuisine and refreshments to swimmers, sunbathers and ethnicity enthusiasts.
Located in the Spanish district, an enormous modern-era masterpiece is displayed in Toledo Metro Station of Naples. Besides being an important transport junction, thousands of tourists visit Toledo for its jaw-dropping beauty. At the entrance, an ordinary passage slants to a world of water and light themed mosaics, reflecting a deep indigo ambient.
The Spanish artist Oscar Blanca designed Toledo metro; although executed with the hands of artists from around the world. Discover the most beautiful metro station in Europe and Italy, and visit the authentic Spanish quarters of Naples; known for lip-smacking street food stalls and the ethnicity highlights of Quartieri Spagnoli; interlined laundry ropes hung between the tight alleys and district’s particularly strong dialect.
A narrow street, marked by its famed figurines, ends to the church of San Gregorio. The rococo church was founded on a temple dedicated to the goddess Ceres, in the 8th century, to honor the remains of San Gregorio, the Armenian bishop; four additional chapels and the entrance were added to the original church in the 16th century.
The handmade figurines are the devotee’s ceremonial offerings, portraying religious figures of Christmas, hence the nickname, Christmas Alley. Across various timelines, several outstanding artists have contributed their craft in the form of stunning artworks, paintings, and decorations. Depicted stories of San Gregorio by Luca Giordano and cupola’s astonishing paintings by Teodoro D’Errico are artistic characteristics of this church. Saunter alongside the charming alley and shop for hand-crafted souvenirs from old-fashioned shops.
Naples, the city of antiquated art and faith, has an eye for leisure; offering the pristine beaches for time-off the hustle and bustle of the third-largest Italian city. Nights of this city pulsate with lively nightlife, with sensational bars and music clubs. Take a short trip outside the city to visit the volcanic figurines of Pompeii, hike up to roman remains in Mt. Vesuvius, and relish the astonishing landscape.