Visit Naples in two days – Day 1

This is an excerpt from the book “Naples, Capri, Ischia and Pompeii‘.

Maschio Angioino – Photo © metallo
Maschio Angioino – Photo © metallo

NAPLES. Founded by the Greeks and later a Roman colony, Naples lies in one of the most splendid natural settings in the world. During the two days of our stay, we will relieve our visits to the works of art and monuments of Naples with tours to its immensely charming and incomparably beautiful surroundings.

We will start our tour from Piazza Municipio, with its splendid view of the harbour on the one side, and of the massive Fort of Sant’Elmo and Certosa di San Martino on the other.

Looking towards the city, we have before us the neo-classical Town Hall, whose one side is part of the church of S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli (1540) which contains handsome tombs and memorials.

Continuing in the direction of the harbor, we have, to the right, the impressive Castel Nuovo (also called Maschio Angioino) with its massive round towers, built in 1282 and rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century under Alphonse I of Aragon who added the sumptuous Triumphal Arch (1467), designed by Laurana, through which we enter. In the courtyard is the Palatine Chapel, which has a fine Renaissance portal with a Virgin by Laurana, and contains the stately Sala dei Baroni (Hall of Barons).

From here, passing the neo-classical Teatro S. Carlo, we reach the semicircular Piazza del Plebiscito, with the church of S. Francesco all Paola (1846) modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, and the majestic Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), built with the impressive Castel dell’Ovo (1138) on the left, to enjoy the spectacular view, of the harbor, the city, Mt. Vesuvius, and the islands of Procida and Ischia.

Mergellina Octopus on sale – Photo © giovamar.wordpress.com
Mergellina Octopus on sale – Photo © giovamar.wordpress.com

Continuing along the magnificent Via Caracciolo, we reach the Vergellina, an enchanting inlet with fishing boats yachts at the foot of the hill of Posillipo. Climbing up through a series of winding panoramic streets, among which Via Tasso and Via Aniello Falcone, we reach National Museum of Ceramics (Museo d’Arte Duca di Martina), with a rich collection of porcelain, glassware, and silver (31 rooms).

Crossing the park and the Piazza Vanvitelli, we come to the Castel Sant’Elmo, next to which, on a magnificent natural terrace, stands the Certosa di San Martino, a medieval monastery, enlarged during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the finest example of Neapolitan with the impressive Castel dell’Ovo (1138) on the left, to enjoy the spectacular view, of the harbour, the city, Mt. Vesuvius, and the islands of Procida and Ischia.

Continuing along the magnificent Via Caracciolo, we reach the Mergellina, an enchanting inlet with fishing boats yachts at the foot of the hill of Posillipo. Climbing up through a series of winding panoramic streets, among which Via Tasso and Via Aniello Falcone, we reach National Museum of Ceramics (Museo d’Arte Duca di Martina), with a rich collection of porcelain, glassware, and silver (31 rooms).

Crossing the park and the Piazza Vanvitelli, we come to the Castel Sant’Elmo, next to which, on a magnificent natural terrace, stands the Certosa di San Martino, a medieval monastery, enlarged during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the finest example of Neapolitan Baroque, with a magnificent 17th century cloister and an important museum of eapolitan history, costumes, and works of art.

We leave San Martino on the opposite side, and going down Via Angelini, Via Bonito, Viale Michelangelo and Via S. Rosa, we come to the Museo Nazionale, where we shall linger long amongst the statues, mosaics, bronzes, furnishings, and pottery of what is considered one of the most important archaeological museums in the world. We are now in the picturesque quarter, known as Spaccanapoli, and leave the Museum by Via E. Pessina which leads to the semicircular Piazza Dante, with the Foro Carolino (1757) designed by Vanvitelli.

Through the Baroque Port’Alba, we come to the Gothic church of S. Pietro a Maiella, in the street of the same name. A little further on, to the left, in Via dei Tribunali, we see the 15th century Cappella Powano and the Baroque church of S.Maria Maggiore.

From here, we walk down to a charming square where we find the Gothic apse of San Domenico Maggiore (1289-1324), one of the most important churches in Naples, whose facade gives on to an inner courtyard; in its 27 chapels are preserved outstanding works of art by Caravaggio and Luca Giordano, an Annunciation by Titian, 14th century frescoes, and, on the ceiling of the sacristy frescoes by Solimena. From Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, in which stands a curious Baroque memorial and which is surrounded by Renaissance and Baroque holdings, we follow Via B. Croce to the church of S. Chiara.

Chiostri di Santa Chiara – Photo © Matthias Kabel
Chiostri di Santa Chiara – Photo © Matthias Kabel

Originally built in Provencal Gothic style, rendered Baroque in the 18th century, but recently restored to its former Gothic state, it is considered the most important church in Naples from a historical point of view. It contains splendid 14th century tombs In Tuscan artists. The Choir of the Poor. Clares contains an impressive cycle of 14° century frescoes. The Cloister of the Franciscans is similarly interesting, and en-chanting indeed is the majolica-lined Cloister of the nuns, enclosing a rustic garden laid out in the 18° century by D.A. Vaccaro.

Immediately to the right of S.Chiara, is the Piazza Oberdan (or Piazza del Gesu), in which stands the Guglia della Concezione (a Baroque spire) and the Church of Gesu with a rusticated facade of the 16° century and, in the interior, frescoes by Solimena, Giordano, and Stanzione. Through the picturesque Calata Trinita Maggiore, and Via Monteoliveto where, on the left, we pass the Renaissance Palazzo Gravina, we come to the church of Monteoliveto (or Sant’Anna dei Lombardi), a veritable museum of Renaissance sculpture.

Among the works to be noted arc a Pieta by Guido Mazzoni, a Creche by Rossellino, an Annunciation by Benedetto da Maiano, and, in the sacristy, a handsome fresco of the school of Piero della Francesca, 16° century inlaid woodwork, and frescoes by Vasari. Returning to Via Monteoliveto, we come to the church of S. Maria La Nova, richly adorned with painting and sculpture.

We now go down the spacious Via Medina which, unfortunately, is marred by a hideous skyscraper built after the War.

To the left, stands the church of SS. Giuseppe e Cristoforo, further on, to the right, the 17th century church of S. Giorgio (lei Genovest, and then S. Maria Incoronam, a church whose original Gothic structure is partly visible along the side; inside, frescoes by 14th century Neapolitan masters.

On the other side of the street is the church of the Pieta dei Turchini, with paintings of the 17th century Neapolitan school. Continuing along Via Medina with its beautiful buildings, we return to Piazza Municipio. We have not yet indicated where to cat lunch, but we suggest a restaurant near the Piazza del Municipio, to avoid any waste of time.

Having had our lunch, we presume it to be well into the afternoon. If we have not lingered too long, there is still time for a marvelous excursion to CUMA and the Phlegraean Fields. Taking the Via Domiziana, after Mergellina, we reach the ruins of ancient Cumac, with the Arco Felice (Arch of the Sibyl), near Lake Avernus, which the ancients considered the gateway to hell.

We return by the coastal road along the stupendous Bay of Pozzuoli, passing through Baia, Cap, Miseno, and Pozzuoli, from where we see the tiny island of Nisida, to the delightful promontory of Marechiaro.

The evening may be spent in any one of these fascinating places.

The itinerary continues on day 2.

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