In the heart
Visiting Naples means to dive into a scenery of extraordinary complexity and beauty: 2500 years of history represented and rebuilt from artistic and architectural testimonies of enormous value which, in the actual urban fabric, they cross, they overlap and they offer to the visitor the chance to build a personal journey and a proper baggage of knowledges and discoveries.
Every corner of the city guards works of great artistic and historical value.
The museums exhibit collections of art and archeological finds, among the most important and rich in the world.
So welcome to Naples, city of art exalted by an extraordinary architectural scenography and landscape, by the sea, by thousand colors, by walls and ancient palaces, but it’s also a city characterized from a great enogastronomic tradition.
Welcome to the center of the city from which every day you can go to a museum, a street, a square, a monument or walk along the biggest center of Europe, a real museum to open sky, declared by UNESCO patrimony of the humanity. Buildings, churches, streets ancient fortresses and castle in the sea, as well as natural caves and places impregnated with mystery and mysticism, all of which makes Naples unforgettable in the minds of travelers.
No only a natural stages, but places symbolic of the city, an integral parts of its history, of mythology and legends that have touched it.
The area of the old town centre was that of the first settlement of Neapolis (5th century BC), the "new city", so called to distinguish it from Palepolis, the old city that stood in the area of Pizzofalcone.
The urban plan of Neapolis was that of a "chessboard" formed of three wide roads from east to west, called "decumans": the upper decuman (Via Sapienza, Via Pisanelli, Via Anticaglia, etc.), the main decuman (Via Tribunale), and the lower decuman (Via B. Croce, Via S. Biagio dei Librai, etc.) intersected by a series of connecting roads from north to south called "cardines" (cardinal points).
The old town centre of Naples is very different from that of other Italian towns: there are stratifications of various ages beginning from the Greaco-Roman period up to today.
The main decuman – via dei Tribunali
Our itinerary begins in the lively piazza Bellini with its literary cafés, the backdrop of the 18th-century piperno staircase climbing up to the ex-convent of Sant'Antoniello a Port'Alba, now the Arts Library of "Federico II" University base , and the 4th-century BC Greek walls of Neapolis.
We continue along Via San Pietro a Maiella, where the Academy of Music stands, and Via Tribunali with the 16th-century palazzo of the Dukes Spinelli di Laurino, transformed in the 18th century by the architect Ferdinando Sanfelice. In this street there is the palace of Filippo of Anjou (or of the Emperor), Prince of Taranto and Emperor of Constantinople, with its medieval arcades, where an attractive street market takes place.
The present-day Piazza San Gaetano is in the area of the Greek Agorà and the Roman Forum and is still the very-much-alive heart of the old city. From it, it's accessible the celebrated Via San Gregorio Armeno, famous for its artisan's workshops of shepherd figurines, artificial flowers and Christmas cribs and swarming with people during the Christmas period when the various stalls display their colourful goods.
The urban planning of Piazza Riario Sforza is particularly interesting, enclosed as it is by the secondary entrance stairway of the Duomo, the magnificent dome of the Chapel of San Gennaro and the prestigious Monumental Complex of Pio Monte della Misericordia, whose Church preserves the masterpiece "The Seven Works of Mercy" by Michelangelo da Caravaggio.
At the end of the Main Decuman stands the imposing mass of the royal palace-cum-fortress Castel Capuano, one of the ancient city gateway .
The lower decuman - Spaccanapoli
Called "Spaccanapoli" because it splits (spacca) the old city in two.
We start from Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, so named after the Baroque Jesuit church erected in the area of the Renaissance Palazzo Sanseverino, which has its original diamond-pointed rusticated façade; the reference point in the area is the Baroque guglia dell'Immacolata, erected between 1747 and 1750 with funds from public subscription.
From here we walk along via Benedetto Croce with its monumental noble palaces, one of which is Palazzo Filomarino where the philosopher Benedetto Croce lived and died.
The street widens into Piazza San Domenico Maggiore dominated by the polygonal apse of the church of the same name, the Gothic portal of Sant'Angelo a Morfisa and, on the other three sides, the important noble palazzi of Petrucci, Casacalenda, Sangro di Sansevero and Corigliano. At the centre of the piazza the impressive guglia by C. Fanzago and D.A. Vaccaro stands, which was erected to release the people from the vow made during the 1656 plague. A visit to the Sansevero Chapel is not to be missed; this houses the Veiled Christ, a celebrated masterpiece by the Neapolitan sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino.
Along via San Biagio dei Librai which gets its name from the time the street was lined with bookshops, and now with goldsmiths' shops, there are some Renaissance palaces of note: the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà with its annexed Chapel, Marigliano and Carafa Santangelo.
In via Duomo, notice the Church of S. Giorgio Maggiore, built between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century, but then restructured by Cosimo Fanzago in the 17th century.
Going up the street, it reaches the Cathedral with the Chapel of the Treasure of St. Gennaro and the Museum dedicated to the latter. A visit to the Diocesan Museum, hosted in the omonym Church, is possible in the neighbouring Piazza Donna.