Visit Naples | Complete Travel Guide 2023
by Giuseppe Morvillo
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by Giuseppe Morvillo
Complete Guide to Naples in 2023
If you’re planning on visiting the city of Naples but not quite sure what to visit, we have created for you the perfect list of the top 10 attractions you simply must visit to truly experience Naples. This regional capital of Campania and the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan, there are a number or amazing thing to experience and many many streets to explore.
The city has lived countless different eras, with different populations that have left their mark both in the architecture, art, culture and traditions of the Neapolitans. Together let’s discover these top 10 top things to do in Naples, so you do not risk miss any of the beautiful and unforgettable Napoli sights!
- Naples | The Old Town
- Naples | Church of St. Clare and Cloister of the Clarisse
- Naples | Naples Underground
- Naples | The Archaeological Museum
- Naples | Royal Palace and National Museum of Capodimonte
- Naples | Chapel of Sansevero
- Naples | Museum of the Treasury of San Gennaro and Duomo of Naples
- Naples | Maschio Angioino
- Naples | Castel Dell’Ovo
- Naples | Teatro di San Carlo
The Old Town
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, the Historical Centre is based on the same urban foundations as Greek architecture, with a road set on three broad parallel roads, intersecting at a right angle from a number of smaller and narrower streets. The main roads of the historic centre of Neapolis, the New Town, are Via Dei Tribunali and Via San Biagio Dei Librai, or as called by the locals, ‘Spaccanapoli’, precisely because of the way in which it splits the city in two.
Located in the heart of Naples, here you can admire all of the beauty of the area, the markets, the historical references at every corner, the vibrant colours and the aromas that light up your senses. If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Naples, our best advise is to look for something based in the historical centre, this way you can enjoy all of the activities and local atmosphere of the city of Naples.
Church of St. Clare and Cloister of the Clarisse
At the beginning of our Spaccanapoli, mentioned above, is the church and the monastery of St.Clare. This building has had several changes over the centuries, from the Gothic century of 1310 to Baroque of the XVIII century. As well as in 1943 because of World War II as it was destroyed and rebuilt in 1953. The façade and the interior is very simple and is designed in Gothic style, formed by one central nave and ten chapels either side. The marble floor, with the seventh chapel, is the only thing left to be saved from the bombardment of ‘43, with baroque details and the Angioino crest in the centre. The monastery of St. Clare has four cloisters, the majolica one which is also called the cloister of the Clarisse, is the jewel in the crown of this monumental complex.
Always of Gothic origin, it was then restructured in Baroque style by Antonio Vaccaro in 1742. The cloister has 72 octagonal pillars, interspersed with benches, and the whole structure is covered with handmade painted majolica created by Neapolitan tilers. The cloister is formed by two paths that intertwine with gardens, a perfect refuge to get away from the chaos of Spaccanapoli! This entire location is immersed in an aura of tranquility and is rich in green colours, along with the seafront of Mergellina, it is probably one of the most romantic spots and a place you simply must visit in Naples.
Naples is famous not only for the magnificent seaside, its own volcano, ancient Greek and later Roman old town, but also for the underground. Due to the incredible civil engineering work, the underground of Naples is a very unique place to visit if you are in the city. In the III century B.C. the Greeks began digging the underground to derive the turf necessary to build walls and temples, and creating burial spaces underground. The Romans then continued to dig and enlarge this great underground network to create the first aqueduct. The tunnels are wide but the and passageways are very narrow, when created were made just for the sole purpose for man to walk along.
So for those who are claustrophobic this path can be quite discouraging and we wouldn’t advise for you to do this. The underground was abandoned about the XVI century, when the population increased dramatically before one’s eyes and the nobleman Carmignano built a new aqueduct. They were used once again when the disastrous bombings of World War II were taking place. The sound of the siren sent dozens of people to the depths of Naples to seek shelter and safety. There are still objects, decorations and graffiti to be seen that testify to the tragic days spent in the shelters.
The Archeological Museum
The MANN is one of the most important museums in the city of Naples, with an archaeological patrimony so large that it is considered one of the most important museums in Italy, and in the world, for the vast patrimony of the Roman age. The Palace of the Real Museum is the building which houses the Archaeological Museum and is one of the most imposing palaces in the city.
The objects and works of art displayed inside the museum are from private collections donated and acquired over time, in fact within the latter there are three main sections:
- The Farnese collection, works from Rome and its surroundings
- The Pompeiana collection, therefore with origins of Pompeii and other Vesuvian cities
- The Egyptian collection, second in importance to that of Turin
Other Museums in Naples of great importance are:
- MADRE (Museum of Contemporary Art)
- MUSA (University Museum of Sciences and Arts)
Royal Palace and National Museum of Capodimonte
Located in Piazza del Plebiscito, the Royal Palace was the home, for more than 150 years, of the Spanish Viceroy and following the unification of Italy was sold to Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy and since then it has mainly been used as a Museum attraction. The monumental complex is so large that you could spend more than half a day inside the building to admire all that it offers. It displays of the best collections of Italian art, including works of art Farnese, Borgia and Bourbonica.
The artworks date from the XIV and XV centuries to the most modern of the tenth century, such as the painting of the Vesuvius erupting by artist Andy Warhol. Another precious area of the palace are the Royal apartments. The interior design depicts the vicissitudes of the personalities who lived there, obviously in the style in which they were made. The furniture is in Rococo and Baroque style. Outside the Palace are the ancient gardens of the Viceregal Palace and the Hanging Gardens, the flowerbeds have a random pattern and there are both local and exotic flowers displayed. Every year the National Museum of Capodimonte hosts different exhibitions where works of important artists are available to be seen by the public.
Chapel of Sansevero
One of the must see sites in Naples is for sure the Chapel of Sansevero, also known as the Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, one of the most important Museums in Naples. It is located nearby Piazza di San Domenico Maggiore and is connected to the Sansevero Palace, which allowed in the past, members of the family to access it privately. The main attraction now is the deconsecrated church where the veiled Christ is displayed, carved in 1753, it is considered one of the greatest sculptural masterpieces in the world!
Made by the great master Giuseppe Sanmartino, he was able to reproduce a life-size body of Christ, managing to transmit all the suffering felt by him, and leaving him to glimpse from the marble veil. The realisation of the veil is so realistic that a legend has been created on it, according to some, the alchemist Raimondo di Sangro, would teach Sanmartino how to transform the fabrics into marble crystals. Absolutely a must to visit if you are here in Naples, even for one day.
Museum of the Treasury of San Gennaro and Duomo of Naples
Saint Gennaro is known as the protector and the most beloved saint for Neapolitans. The exposition of the Jewels of the saint and the visit of the three sacristies of the Treasury Chapel began in 2003. One of the most important pieces of the collection is surely the “Mitra”, the episcopal headgear of San Gennaro made by Orefice Matteo Treglia. An object of great value as there are several precious stones embedded in it. The bones of San Gennaro are kept in the Duomo of Naples, together with two ancient ampoules in which his blood is contained, is was collected immediately after his martyrdom.
These ampoules are exposed to the public of the faithful three times a year, the first Saturday in May, 19 September and 16 December, on these dates the “miracle” occurs, the blood coagulated miraculously liquefies. The Duomo is, of course, one of the largest and most important churches in the Neapolitan city. The church is in fact a combination of various artistic styles, ranging from the gothic of 300 ‘ to the neogothic of 800’. The plant is a Latin cross and inside, in addition to the remains of the patron saint, there are also those of the various kings of Naples, as Charles I of Anjou.
The Maschio Angioino, also called Castel Nuovo, is a medieval and Renaissance castle. One of the many symbols of the city, it dominates Piazza Municipio, and hosts inside on the first and second floor the Civil Museum. It was built on the instruction of Charles I of Anjou in 1266, the year in which Naples became the capital of the rein.
A few steps from the port of Naples, between 1279 and 1282 this fortified Palace was erected in total Gothic style by French architects whose design was irregular quadrilateral, four imposing towers of defence with ditch protection. The successors of Carlo favoured instead work of extension of the structure and of embellishment. So it is where various artists have exhibited their work, like for example Giotto and his pupils, and their styles used over the years.
An historical site in Naples, is for sure Castel Dell’Ovo. The oldest castle in the city of Naples rises on the islet of Tuff of Megaride. The place where the city of Parthènope was founded for the first time in the VII century B.C. Its name is given by an ancient legend, according to which the great poet Virgilio hid in the foundations of the building an egg that kept all the structure standing. During the centuries the castle has had several uses and several inhabitants.
In the V century B.C. was exiled the last Roman emperor of the West, who transformed it into a convent, it was the palace for Frederick II, seat of the royal Treasury and also a state prison. Today, exhibitions, demonstrations and conventions are held in the large halls of the castle and this is one of many places of interest in Naples, Italy.
Teatro di San Carlo
The Teatro San Carlo is one of the oldest and largest opera houses in Europe. It was built at the request of King Charles of Bourbon in 1737 and after only eight months the building was successfully completed, with a capacity of 1379 people, 184 stages plus a real one, which is connected with the Royal Palace giving the possibility for the king to enter the theatre without having to go outside. The San Carlo theatre was the place of representation of the works of the greatest authors, such as Rossini, Verdi and Donizetti. The decorations of the room are the richest and luxurious colours of red and gold, the details of the ornaments in pure neoclassical style and the various representations of all the great ancient artists.
The Teatro San Carlo was the model on which all the other great European theatres were built. “The eyes are dazzled, the soul kidnapped…”, these are the words of Stendhal in describing it, so do not miss the opportunity to visit this magnificent theatre, one of the top attractions in Naples, Italy. These are just some of the many incredible things that you can visit whilst in the city of Naples, but every alley of this city has something fascinating, a story to tell – statues, representations, churches and places of worship, even a work of the world famous engraved Banksy. Naples is an amazing city to discover, you cannot leave without taking a stroll in the heart of the city.