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Naples Coat of Arms

Sep 2017

neapolis Latin lit. new city.

Population - 975,260.

Naples Coat of Arms

'What you going to Naples for? It's a right dump!'

Well, here's for why! It looks not a little unlike this although that's admittedly from up a height but more on that in a minute.

Naples - From up a Height Naples - Via Toledo Naples - Chiesa di Santa Maria di Portosalvo

Down at street level, it's every bit as chaotic and shabby as imagined yet beguiles in a way that's unlike any other bit of Italy that you've been to before.

At least it does if you're not in a hurry. Because of the tooting traffic, taxis can be taxing and you might as well throw your  Green Cross Code™s in the bin.

'In Milan, traffic lights are instructions; in Rome, they are suggestions; in Naples, they are Christmas decorations.'

Not these ones' words, those of then Defence Minister, Antonio Martino and nearly one million[1] Neapolitans still share that view, definitely.

[1] Three times that in the surrounding metropolitan area, they say.

 
Aeroporto Internazionale di Napoli (Capodichino)

It's an international airport that serves Naples alright and it's just 4 miles north of the centre. The rollercoaster taxi ride might not drop you exactly where you want to be but it's as good a 'Welcome to Naples' as you'll get.

A now-familiar friend the Centro Storico, or the historic centre if you'd rather, is one giant  UNESCO World Heritage Site and they don't hand them awards out willy-nilly.

Three parallel streets run east-west for around a mile and bear no resemblance to what your map might suggest. Each just a vehicle's width, there's surely some respite from the traffic in here, right?

Naples - Via dei Tribunali Naples - Via dei Tribunali

Hardly. There's a reek of diesel and roll-ups from the delivery vans and smoking grandmas on Vespas and they're not shy of a toot, neither.

Napoli's knick-knacks sit side by side with the workaday and glimpses of the dark, airless kitchens of those that have to live here hardly suggest a heritage to be celebrated.

Naples - Chiesa dei Girolamini Naples - Obelisco - Guglia di San Domenico

For that, just nip round the next corner where there's likely to be some of this going on. Or this.

 
Madre Museo d’arte contemporanea (Via Luigi Settembrini, 79)

At the top of the Centro Storico, the mandatory modern art offering that's free on a Monday.

Naples - Madre Museo d’arte contemporanea

Highlights include a courtyard with a caffè where you can ponder just what exactly is being 'juxtaposed' here?

It's also in and around here that you'll find Pulcinella and yes, he of Punch & Judy fame.

Naples - Vico Fico al Purgatorio

You can rub his, now shiny, conk for luck and they say he represents the true character of Naples. A self-pitying clown who is also cunning and clever although that stereotype could be based on more recent events.

Overlooked as the capital of the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861, Naples would later be Italy's most bombed city during World War II. Post-match analysis by the Allies in 1945 amounted to a 'best of luck with that' and the city was largely left to its own devices, a large number of which were still yet to go off.

Rejected and isolated twice in less than a century, they're the real reasons why Napoli thinks the rest of you can toot right off, probably.

 
Napoli Sotterranea (Piazza San Gaetano, 68)

Or Naples underground if you'd rather. Beneath your feet is a 50-mile network of tunnels that go back to the Ancient Greeks.

Napoli Sotterranea

The same underfloor heating system that supplies Vesuvius has kept these in use for centuries, their last act of usefulness being one big bomb shelter during World War II.

Tours are of the guided variety and an advisory is issued to persons of a certain girth. Just don't go on a day when it's raining since half of the tourists in Naples will have the same idea.

Heading south to the sea and a shortcut through the Galleria Umberto I[1], an ornate, marbled arcade that was once home to late 19th-century musical types.

Naples - Galleria Umberto I Naples - Teatro San Carlo

They'd have had one eye on the big room over the road, the Teatro San Carlo, one of the oldest and grandest opera houses in the world, apparently.

You're not allowed in, even for a quick peek, which is a bit unfair since this pair once sat through all of  Così fan tutte even though there's still no idea of what it was about.

[1] The blue and red sign through the arch actually reads 'Investigazioni Private Intercontinental'. Napoligazioni is currently being pitched to BBC4 in the hope of them ditching the, quite frankly, dreadful  Inspector Montalbano.

The Teatro is attached to the Royal Palace once providing quick and easy access to the king and his kin for a night at the opera. Given there's now no king living in, the palace is currently home to the National Library and a museum.

Naples - Palazzo Reale Naples - Palazzo Reale INT

You'll have to pay for those but you can wander the courtyard for free and even cop a peep at the interior.

Rumours of piles of rubbish in Naples have largely been exaggerated. That particular problem seems to have been  seen to as recently as 2010 although the Camorra[1] are said, allegedly, to still be involved.

Naples - Palazzo Reale Gardens

Looks like Antonio  Soprano couldn't get the bin lorries round the back of the Royal Palace Gardens, which is one of the few places seen that could do with a sweep.

[1] Only the local Mafia and it's said 'allegedly'[2].
[2] Just in case that isn't clear, it's definitely said 'allegedly'.

Statues guard the western entrance to the palace and this one is the current favourite, the old king Joachim-Napoléon Murat and yes, that Napoleon.

Naples - Palazzo Reale Entrance Naples - Palazzo Reale - Joachim-Napoléon Murat

This French dandy turns out to have been 'Little Boney's bro-in-law and seems to have got the gig on those grounds.

The statues all overlook the Piazza del Plebiscito named for the plebiscite[1] that was taken to bring Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy, like you didn't know already.

Naples - Piazza del Plebiscito

This vast, public area hosts the occasional outdoor concert including Bruce Springsteen, no less. It's the size of two football pitches meaning 'The Boss' would have played here to twice the crowd at St James' Park in  1985, probably.

[1] Unlike Brexit, that referendum wasn't nearly so divisive.

 
Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro (Via Duomo, 149)

A succession of Kings and dignitaries and even Napoléon Bonaparte were 'encouraged' to donate to the city's patron saint over the centuries. An ingenious business model based on the promise of everlasting life, which couldn't really be proved one way or the other.

Naples - Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro

They proudly advertise outside that their collection of 'tresure' is better than our own Crown Jewels but what's that you ask? Of course it isn't!

They're castle mad here and just up from the palace the Castel Nouvo's name is a little misleading since they really mean 13th-century new.

Naples - Castel Nuovo Naples - Castel Nuovo

The magnificently marbled Arco di Trionfo came a couple of hundred years later but beyond that you'll have to pay.

Further down on the waterfront, the Castel dell'Ovo isn't at all egg-shaped but refers to the old Roman poet Virgil who planted an egg in the basement.

Naples - Castel dell'Ovo

When the egg breaks, Naples will fall, they say, although there's more concern at a 4000-foot volcano than a clumsy plumber called to check the pipes downstairs. Whatever the metaphor, there's been a castle here since ever so slightly BC[1] and it's Naples' oldest, still-standing fortification.

[1] Before Concrete.

Today, you'll have to share the free view with the delegates attending a medical conference.

Naples - Castel dell'Ovo

It would be nice to tell you it was fertilisation and egg related but it wasn't. Bloody presentations, it would appear, unless that lanyard was misread and he really is called 'Haemo' something.

Heading west into the suburb of Chiaia brings a different perspective. The port and the waterfront bore the brunt of the wartime bombs and have been largely rebuilt, some of it more 'sympathetically' than other bits.

Naples - Via Partenope Naples - Via Partenope

The stretch along the pedestrianised Via Partenope is home to Naples' fancier hotels and restaurants and, for the first time, you could be just about anywhere on the Med.

 
Palazzo Petrucci Pizzeria (Piazza San Domenico Maggiore)

Gigi Sorbillo is the big cheese when it comes to authentic, Neapolitan Pizza providers. One of his newer  gaffs is down here by the water but the first and the best is back up in Centro Storico where they're queuing two hours before he opens.

An acceptable alternative was found, it's thought, not too far from there, which was only four minutes from pen to plate.

Purists say there are only two types, Margherita with and Marinara without, cheese that is, but they'll happily throw on a salami or a mushroom or an anchovy just don't ask for pineapple.

See that English couple behind you using a knife and fork? Scoop it up man-woman-man! Thumb and middle finger, ring is allowed, to create the cradle and forefinger or middle to provide the stabilising, downward force. Semplices!

Was it mentioned that Naples is a little hilly? One of three funiculars starts from hereabouts but today's locked gate suggests there's a lug up on foot to be done.

Naples - Near Stazione Parco Margherita

Two dozen shrugging locals don't know, neither, but it's understood it will re-open at 3 PM and a couple of cappuccinos[1] later, a burly policeman with a gun arrives having just been assigned to key duty.

No need for the Beretta, just a riotous round of applause and some rather civilised merging in turn. Naples? Worse behaviour has been seen in the queues at the checkouts in Tesco™s.

[1] Some phrasebook fun with the barista earned a laugh... 'Cappuccini a quest'ora per l'inglese eh?'

In the time-honoured tradition of toffs at the top, Vomero is, after Chiaia, Naples' second swankiest area. All your high street chains confirm that and it bears no resemblance to the anarchy going on downstairs.

Naples - Vomero

It's also home to the Parco di Villa Floridiana, one of Naples' prime areas of green space.

Naples - Parco di Villa Floridiana Naples - Parco di Villa Floridiana

There's a maze of well laid out paths through the trees and a fountain full of turtles.

It was acquired by Ferdinand I of the House of Bourbon and that's not the only thing that's been baked. The villa itself houses the National Museum of Ceramics, which is a full afternoon's worth if you're partial to the porcelain.

Naples - View from Parco di Villa Floridiana

If you're not, just enjoy the view back down to Chiaia and the beautiful  Isle of Capri.

Things were a little castle heavy earlier but this hill is home to the pick of the bunch. Castel Sant'Elmo has its foundations in the 13th century and provides 360° views from all six points of its star-like layout.

Naples - Castel Sant'Elmo Naples - View from Castel Sant'Elmo

It's only a few €euros for access to the ramparts and if it's raining[1], there's some hefty discouragement at the entrance booth since there's nowhere to shelter inside apart from the lavs.

[1] It was.

Inexplicably, there are no knick-knack providers or caffès to go with the best view in Naples with what rooms there are given over to the administrative.

Naples - View from Castel Sant'Elmo Naples - View from Castel Sant'Elmo

With the rain now gone, if only there was somewhere for a cappuccino at an inappropriate hour while you wait for old Vesuvio to go off.

A different funicular will take you back down and while you're waiting, an example of the Neapolitan rant.

Naples - Stazione Morghen

A respectable enough looking gent with a laptop gesticulating and raging at a member of staff.

Three times he walked away but wouldn't let whatever go returning each time with what's presumed to roughly translate as '... and another thing!' It's a fine line from fisticuffs on this pair's scale but his parting 'Ciao!' is just what they do here, apparently.

Down in Quartieri Spagnoli, things are similarly compact to the old centre but a different kind of colourful.

Naples - Stazione di Montesanto Naples - Quartieri Spagnoli

There aren't nearly so many tourists with the shops stocked with stuff that people might actually need. 14,000 people are crammed into less than a third of a square mile here, which makes for an awful lot of shouting... and 'Ciao!'s.

Crossing Via Toledo brings you to Piazza Dante where a couple of caffès sit side by side with the second-hand books.

Naples - Piazza Dante Naples - Piazza Vincenzo Bellini

This continues through the Port'Alba one of the four, medieval city gates, which in turn leads to Piazza Bellini and just about back at the Centro Storico.

This Piazza is named from Vicenzo, the famous composer, apparently, and is a nighttime gathering point for local youth and a handful of wastrels. They're largely unthreatening and it's a reminder of all that talk earlier of honking horns.

The strange, sickly-sweet, herbal smell emanating from them means there's a very different kind of 'tooting' going on here.

 
Hotel Piazza Bellini (Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 101)

Boutique lodgings in an old palace with a courtyard and a discount in next door's restaurant. Book direct for the best rates and a free bag of pasta on arrival and if you're here for any amount of time, consider the terraced option with a view of Vesuvius.

Naples - Hotel Piazza Bellini

Not that you'll need it. After a nightcap in Piazza Bellini you'll already be 'high' enough from the fumes.