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Discovering the Attractions of Naples
It's a wild city, even Italians warned me... But if that scares you away from Naples, you'll be missing out on a unique experience.
Although it doesn't have many imposing attractions, Napoli is worth exploring. Still: the island of Capri is the "gem".
Naples is beautiful, but shady and indeed dangerous - I'll be honest with you and that's no offence to the friendly locals. At times it did give me the creeps, but only stirred my curiosity more.
The city had a terrible transportation system with buses being late or not circulating and merely getting across the street will be a real art!
Naples has a unique vibe and a strong old feel. But, in order to find the best attractions of Naples, you will have to dig. And this page will help you with just that!
Colourful neighbourhoods uphill, but dangerous slumish streets lead up there...
I was looking for the main attractions and created myself a list with them. Unfortunately the metro was undergoing construction-reconstruction work, so I couldn't use it to ease my wandering around.
Didn't see much of it except this strange-looking metro station (closed).
I visited as man top attractions within Naples as I could and I relied on my own two feet and sometimes on the tram.
City sight just in front of Castel Nuovo
So, what does Naples have? What to see and how?
If you'd like to dig really deep, then there would be a lot to see - mostly castles and religious attractions. Of course, I'm only counting what's within Naples' city limits.
Decoration near the Palazzo della Borsa
The major attractions of Naples include: Castel Nuovo, Castel Sant'Elmo, Castel dell'Ovo, Piazza del Plebiscito, the Spanish Quarters (poor area, beware of the mafia operating there - really, not joking!), the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), Naples' underground (caves, catacombs, tunnels under the city) - don't miss the San Gennaro Catacombs and the Bourbon Tunnel, then visit Il Metro dell'Arte (the art-filled Naples metro system), the Dome of Naples, Capella Sansevero, Spaccanapoli Street, Galleria Umberto I, Porta Capuana, Teatro Augusteo, Fontana delll'Immacolatella and the Complesso Museale di Santa Chiara.
Although most won't be able to see them all, I just had to mention them.
My reviews will highlight a select few that you shouldn't leave out.
I only had a few days at my disposal, because I was concentrating mainly on visting Capri, but I've managed to visit a decent number of attractions in Naples.
Namely, the most important attractions I've seen were the: Castel Nuovo, Castel dell'Ovo, Piazza del Plebiscito, Palazzo Reale the Spanish Quarters, Teatro Augusteo and Galleria Umberto I.
I'll go into those and others - here are the top attractions to see in Naples:
Galleria Umberto I
The Galleria Umberto I or simply, Galleria Umberto is an old shopping gallery in central Naples.
It was built between 1887-1891, designed by Emanuele Roco, who borrowed architectural elements from the Galleria Vittoro Emanuele II (finalized in 1877) in Milano.
The huge gallery... I think King Umberto I liked it too
It was named after Italy's king at that time - Umberto I.
If you've seen the Galleria Vittoro Emanuele II, then you will see it's closely similar.
Never leave this attraction out, when in Naples.
Stylish ground under the cupola
Piazza del Plebiscito
The word "plebiscite" (English) literally means "election".
At the plebiscite of October 2, 1860, Naples unified with the Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy. Therefore the name.
Piazza del Plebiscito
The round-shaped building in the other side is the Church of San Francesco di Paola, whose colonnades stretch out on the two sides.
Facing the Church of San Francesco di Paola is the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace). Which is next on this list...
Church of San Francesco di Paola
Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace)
The Royal Palace of Naples was built in the 17th century and was the residence of various royal families... The interiors are beautiful with decorations from various historic periods being all present.
Unfortunately, part of this building was damaged by fire in 1837. And, part of it was bombed and occupied by armed forces during World War II.
The Royal Palace
If you're not from Europe - let's say you're from the US and want to see a "real castle", then head straight to the Castel Nuovo in Naples...
It has that characteristic castle shape and it has 5 cylindrical turrets. In order to get in, you'll have to cross a moat bridge!
Actually, the rear part has no moat, because that part of the land is at lower level, near the port.
Castel Nuovo - the "New Castle"
The Castel Nuovo, an icon of Naples, is a medieval castle at the Piazza Municipio.
It was built in 1282 and is in remarkable good condition even today. Stunning!
It is impressive that the fortress was completed in about 3 years (1279-1282). The work was directed by French architects.
Looking up at the entrance gate, just after crossing the moat
In 1347, the Castell Nuovo was occupied by the Hungarians lead by Luis I of Hungary and had to be heavily restored after having been seriously damaged in the fighting.
Following the restoration, it was attacked again and besieged again by the Hungarian king.
Damaged ancient door...
Throughout the centuries, several other sieges by various forces were conducted, but the fortress has managed to resist due to multiple upgrades to it.
The castle itself is interesting, but I didn't find anything extraordinary exposed in it.
Entry cost 5 EUR.
Ancient door depicting battle scenes
Its name means "Egg Castle" or "Castle of the Egg" in Italian.
Its name comes from the legend of a Roman poet and sorcerer, Virgil, who used to put intact "magical eggs" into the foundations of fortifications to see whether they'd support the forts.
Had his egg been broken, the castle would have been destroyed and Naples too, in a series of catastrophic events.
The first fortification at this spot was built in 6 BC and various others followed. Many were destroyed or altered.
The Castell dell'Ovo is Naples' oldest castle. It was already standing in the 12th century, but its current look dates from the 15th century Aragonese (Spanish) domination.
There's a long walk out to Castel dell'Ovo and I couldn't see a single foreign visitor having ventured out here
Walking across the Spanish Quarters
One of Naples' nicest neighbourhoods is the Spanish Quarter (or Spanish Quarters). It stands out with many different buildings, which by design did remind me of what I saw in Spain.
For example, one can observe the tall narrow windows, which are wide-spread on the Iberian Peninsula.
The Spanish Quarters had been built in the 1500's in order to house Spanish Garrisons - of course, for maintaining control over the oppressed Naples.
Unemployment is high and the influence of the Camorra is strong.
I wouldn't advise a naive foreign solo traveler to wander in "hoping for the best". Muggings, violent attacks are very frequent in Naples anyway. Let alone, this area.
About 14,000 people live in the Spanish Quarters, whose layout is a network of 18 streets x 12 streets.
I've only been at the base of the district.
This is essentially a slum district of Naples. Not much "nice things" to see deep in there, nor is it safe, but I guess I underlined it several times...
From the distance, it looks nice the way the buildings "climb" the hills.
A theatre established in 1929 found on the Piazza Duca D'Aosta.
To find it, you have to walk deeper inland from the Castel Nuovo.
The area around it was very busy: lots of bars, restaurants occupying the pavements. A lot of "buzz" around. Apparently, this area attracts locals and definitely it's not just because of the theatre.
The massive Castel Sant'Elmo is another medieval fortress. It overlooks the city of Naples from a tall hilltop.
In 1275 there was already a smaller fortified structure at the top. That was not the Castel Sant'Elmo. Several others were built at that site, some demolished entirely, others rebuilt.
Castel Sant'Elmo has reached its current look in 1538, being the result of several centuries of fort constructions and alterations.
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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