Goethe sympathised with all those who fell in
love with Naples and lost their senses. He felt that once one began to
write about the city, paint it or come close to it in anyway, one
forfeited heart and soul to its beauty.
The city is rich in age-old history and contradictions. As a tourist, you have to decide which of its many attributes you want to focus on, the mysterious and fascinating aspect which has its roots in legends, or whether you prefer to focus on the city's more brutal and violent side, which is just as intriguing and displays the wounds of its turbulent history. Perhaps the sunny and easy-going side of corruption appeals to you more or the efforts made to give the city a new cultural and moral code.
The city is divided into 21 zones, and it has so many monuments that it is rightfully known as 'an open air museum'. Meanwhile, here is a little guide to allow you to choose the most significant places of interest and tourist attractions, should you find yourself in this glorious city, but with time as your enemy.
San Ferdinando ' Chiaia ' Posilippo - The places, monuments and landscapes in this triangle are probably the ones which have made Naples famous, and they also offer one of the best itineraries for tourists who would like to visit these areas. The tourist who lands in Naples finds themselves immediately immersed in the scenery of Il Piazza Municipio which is itself dominated by the impressive mole del Maschio Angioino or Castel Nuovo; Teatro San Carlo, the splendid Galleria Umberto I° and the spectacular Piazza del Plebiscito behind the façade of the majestic Palazzo Reale,the semicircular colonnade and the domes of the splendid Basilica di San Francesco di Paola are all close to one another and just waiting to be seen. Heading down towards the sea, you'll come upon Santa Lucia and then Borgo Marinaro where the Castel dell'Ovo stands in all its glory.
Chiaia - is the area which faces the bay; you must visit this area and take a long walk along the promenade from Via Partenope past Via Caracciolo until Mergellina or stop by at Villa Comunale blessed with trees dating back centuries, neo classical statues, artistic fountains; it is here that you'll find the oldest acquarium in Europe. The most important monument in the zone is the Villa Pignatelli which today is home to one of Naples' museums.
Posillipo - offers up the chance to enjoy a splendid view of the bay and the incredible mount Vesuvius, the promontory of Sorrento and the island of Capri. Looking eastwards, you will behold the Bay of Pozzuoli as well as the islands of Nisida, Ischia and Procida and the historical Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields).
Il Centro Antico - Naples is characterised by its uniformity in town planning. In fact, the quarters which make up the ancient centre still faithfully adhere to the Greco-Roman plans for the city of Neapolis. In these quarters are layer upon layer of history which unfold before the eyes of the unsuspecting visitor like an enormous history book. The alleyways overflowing with life in quarters such as San Lorenzo, San Giuseppe, Porto e Pendino are the same ones in which Greeks would trade and build temples during the 4th century.
It is practically impossible to list all the monuments that you will
find in the three decumani and the numerous sidestreets (i cardi) which
run perpendicular to them, but mention must be made of the following
churches: San Paolo Maggiore built upon the foundations of the tempio dei
Dioscuri, (two columns of the temple are still visible), there is San
Lorenzo Maggiore, underneath which are important archaelogical remains
which the public are able to visit. These two churches are located in
Piazza San Gaetano, the ancient Roman marketplace along Via dei Tribunali,
the ancient decumanus maggiore. The church and street of San Gregorio
Armeno are also worth a visit, this church was also built on the site of a
temple. Via dei Tribunali ends in front of Castel Capuano, the oldest fort
in the city built for Norman kings, behind it lies opening onto the Porta
Il Centro Storico - The quarters of the Centro Storico are natural extensions of the Centro Antico, which represent the Medieval and Renaissance developments reaching to the Spanish viceroys and the Neapolitan Bourbons.
The 'Spanish quarters'; the elegant Via Toledo with its historic palazzi and churches that contain the masterpieces of 17th century Neapolitan painters; Piazza Monteoliveto which contains Palazzo Gravina, the Fontana built in honour of Carlos II of Spain and the church Sant'Anna dei Lombardi with a wealth of Renaissance treasures, Piazza Dante with the 18th century façade of the National Boarding School il Convitto Nazionale and Port'Alba, where the 'lazzari' di Masaniello got the better of the cannons of the Viceroy. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the most important museums of its kind and is located in Piazza. The Porta San Gennaro is located in Piazza Cavour and its one of the oldest gateways in the city.
Via S. Maria di Costantinopoli has many palazzi such as L'Accademia di Belle Arti and many dazzling churches. In Piazza Bellini one can still see traces of ancient Greek city walls; Piazza della Sanità holds the 17th century Chiesa di Santa Maria under which are the San Gaudosio Catacombs; the zona dei Vergini e zona delle Fontanelle, are ancient areas used for burial in Greco-Roman Naples, other places of interest in the immediate vicinity are: Via Foria; Piazza Carlo III which has an enormous façade (375m long) the Albergo dei Poveri and the Orto Botanico; Corso Garibaldi and the piazza of the same name, which is now the headquarters of Central Station; Corso Umberto with the Neo-classical style University of Federico II; Piazza Bovio with the Palazzo della Borsa and the famous Fontana del Nettuno; Piazza Mercato, the back drop to dramatic events in Neapolitan history adjacent to this piazza is Piazza del Carmine; all of these places are representative but not unique to the zones which developed and grew into the centro antico.
I Quartieri Collinari - These are hill zones which were developed at the end of the 19th century as a residential district for the Neapolitan bourgeoisie il Vomero underwent radical changes in the '50s and '70s which has made it into one of the busiest and most chaotic areas in the city. It is linked to surrounding areas by three funicolar railways, but it still retains among some of the city's most important monuments. Castel Sant'Elmo and the Certosa di San Martino, were built around 1350, and dominate the city from above. Today, La Certosa houses the National Museum of San Martino, which shows collections, paintings scupltures, documents and relics of Neapolitan tradition, amongst other things.
Villa Floridiana was given by King Ferdinando of Bourbon to his second wife; it consists of a park, at the centre of which stands a small palace which is now a museum (Il Museo della Ceramica Duca di Martina). The attentive tourist can't let a visit to the catacombs of San Gennaro escape him. The catacombs were dug from the yellow tuff of the Aminei hills in the Capodimonte at the beginning of the second century. The galleries, which create a kind of underground basilica leave a lasting impression on the unsuspecting traveller. The sepulchre of San Gennaro and the tombs of the bishops, amongst whom lies the bishop of Carthage.
Inside the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, (a palace, built in 1738 and surrounded by a large park and a wood which acted as a hunting ground), is the museum with its collections and the National Gallery with its extensive art gallery.
La Zona Flegrea
The peripheral zones do not offer much of interest to the tourist: these zones are mainly industrial or ex-agricultural zones which have been destroyed over the years by cement which has been dumped here as the city tries to find space in which to expand.