You really should consider visiting
Naples, as you should consider visiting other parts of Campania, described
in companion articles in this series.
My generation remembers Dean
Martin singing That's Amore (Napoli) in his perhaps less memorable 1953
movie, The Caddy: "When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool;
That's amore (that's amore); When you dance down the street with a cloud
at your feet, you're in love; When you walk in a dream but you know you're
not dreaming, signore; 'scusa me, but you see, back in old Napoli, that's
amore." My parents' generation remembers the phrase See Naples and Die.
Some say that it was the famous German author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
(who wrote Faust, a charming story about a guy who made a pact with the
devil) that coined this phrase during his extended visit to Italy in 1786-1788.
|Greek colonists founded
Neopolis (new city) between the Seventh and Sixth Centuries B. C. The city
maintained its Greek character during the Roman occupation. Over the centuries
this sometimes beautiful, often ugly city was dominated by nearly a dozen
nationalities ranging from the (French) Angevins to the (German) Swabians.
Things were not always quiet. For example, in 1647 Masaniello a Neapolitan
fisherman led a tax revolt against the Spanish occupiers. He died as a
national hero; and his revolt led to a short-lived Neapolitan republic.
one time Naples was the third largest city in Europe and a major cultural
center. When the Bourbon kings established the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
in 1738 they chose Naples as its capital. After joining Italy in 1860 Naples
started to decline.
The Campania regional economy
ranks near the bottom of the Italian regional economies, but these statistics
are somewhat misleading as they don't take into consideration the underground
economy. Unlike the cities of northern Italy Naples has few immigrants,
perhaps forty thousand, in a metropolitan population of at least three
million. Unemployment remains high. The Sicilian-based Mafia is not very
present, but the local Camorra is. Even more than elsewhere, be sure to
watch yourself and your belongings in this fascinating city.
start our tour underground. Naples is home to many miles of subterranean
reservoirs and tunnels, some which may be visited. People who lived
above these tunnels once got their drinking water from wells in their homes.
Much of Naples is constructed from stone that was removed during tunnel
excavation. During World War II underground Naples served as air raid shelters
whose walls display legible graffiti more than sixty years later. Unfortunately
many of these tunnels are still blocked by World War II rubble. The rest
of our tour will be above ground starting with Royal Naples.
|The Castel Nuovo
(New Castle) was built by the Angevins in the Thirteenth Century. It includes
a decorative marble arch honoring a Spanish king. The castle includes numerous
frescoes from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. The moat surrounding
the castle once contained a crocodile that devoured prisoners. The crocodile
was killed and stuffed, and proudly hung over a castle doorway where it
remained until the mid-19th Century.
The nearby Palatine Chapel
includes the ironically named Sala dei Baroni (Baron's Hall) in which a
vicious king doused boiling oil on rebellious barons who were under the
impression that they were going to a very different kind of party. In another
version of the story, they were arrested and executed. In spite of its
history the room is still used for city council meetings.
The Twelfth Century Castel
dell'Ovo (Egg Castle) was built upon the ruins of a Roman villa overlooking
Naples Harbor. As they say in real estate, location, location, location.
Should you so desire, you can get a hotel room right on the promontory.
The Palazzo Reale (Royal
Palace) built early in the Seventeenth Century was one of four Bourbon
Palaces in the Kingdom of Naples, the only one in town. Napoleon's youngest
sister and her husband, the King of Naples, lived there. Be sure to see
the royal apartments to get a look at real luxury. Next door to the palace
is Naples largest square, the Piazza del Plebiscito (Plebiscite Plaza),
which was designed for that king and named for the plebiscite that joined
Naples to Italy in 1860. The highlight of the square is the San Francesco
di Paola, which is said to resemble the Pantheon in Rome. There are dozens
of historic churches in Naples, built over many centuries.
If we are going to cite Dean
Martin, we should give equal time to Mario Lanza. In 1950 he produced an
English-language version of the popular Italian tune Funiculi, Funicula
that was featured in many movies and in the very first episode of The Flintstones.
What, you might ask, does all this have to do with Naples? Take the funicular
(a self-contained cable railway in which a pair of vehicles on rails moves
up and down a very steep slope counterbalancing each other) to the upscale
Vomero neighborhood high above the Bay of Naples.
|The Fourteenth Century Castel
Sant'Elmo (Saint Elmo Castle) was built to honor Saint Erasmoso. Perhaps
Erasmo was too hard to pronounce. In the Sixteenth Century Spaniards rebuilt
this castle to deal with artillery fire. This castle is so well built that
even now it is used for military exercises as well as art exhibitions.
When you admire it, you really should remember that it served as a prison
for many years. The Certosa di San Martino (Saint Martino Charterhouse)
is an ancient monastery transformed in the Seventeenth Century into one
of Naples finest Baroque buildings with beautiful garden terraces. It houses
the National Museum. Among its many treasures be sure to see the presepi
(Christmas creches) and Tavola Strozzi (Strozzi's Board), a depiction of
Fourteenth Century Naples. The Villa Floridiana was built by King Ferdinand
I of Bourbon for his second wife, the Duchess of Floridia.
Not a bad gift; the grounds
contain over one hundred species of trees, flowers, and plants as well
as statues, fountains, temples, and even a fake ruin or two. The villa
honors this site, and its view of Naples is spectacular.
(Split Naples) street is what the Neapolitans call it. You'll find
it on the map under the names Via Benedetto Croce, Via San Biagio dei Librai,
and Via San Gregorio Armeno depending on the neighborhood. Sights to see
on the street or near it include the Gesu Nuovo (New Jesus) Church, originally
built as a palace in the Fifteenth Century, the Fourteenth Century Santa
Chiara Church and religious complex, the Sixteenth Century Cappella Sansevero
(Sansevero Chapel) with multiple tombs and three quite distinctive sculptures,
the Thirteenth Century San Lorenzo Maggiore Church complex built over Greek
and Roman excavations, the Sixteenth Century Girolamini Church and monastery,
and the Thirteenth Century Duomo (Cathedral) just across Via Duomo. The
Cathedral encompasses the Sixth Century Santa Restitua Church. In addition
to these historic churches, Spaccanapoli street is definitely worth the
walk, whatever its official name.
|Last but not least, make
sure that you visit Naple’s excellent museums. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale
(National Archaeological Museum) has a great collection of Greek and Roman
antiquities. The Museo di Capodimonte includes an extensive collection
of paintings by Italian and other European masters and Bourbon royal apartments.
The Palazzo delle Art Napoli (Palace of Neapolitan Art), known as PAN,
and Museo d'Arte di Donna Regina (Donna Regina Art Museum), often called
MADRE, are devoted to contemporary art.
What about food? Naples is
the home of pizza of which three varieties are most famous: Pizza alla
Napoletana (the one with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Oregano), Pizza Margherita
(with Tomatoes, Mozzarrella, and Basil), and Pizza Marinara (with Garlic,
Tomatoes, Oregano, Basil, and Anchovies). I love them all.
Let's suggest a sample menu,
one of many. Start with Alici in Tortiera (Baked Anchovies with Pecorino
Cheese). Then try the Ragu Napoletana (Veal Shank and Short Rib Stew).
For dessert indulge yourself with Pasteria Napoletana (Cheese and Grain
Pie). Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines
with your meal.
We conclude with a quick
look at Campania wine. Campania is number 9 among the 20 Italian regions
when it comes to acreage devoted to wine grapes and for total annual wine
production. The region produces about 64% red and and close to 36% white
wine, as there is little rose. There are 17 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione
di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled
Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita,
but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Only
2.8% of Campania wine carries the DOC designation. Add a G for Guarantita,
and you'll find three of them, the red Taurasi, the white Greco di Tufo,
and the white Fiano di Avellino. I have tasted this wine and found it to
be top of the line. The white Campi Flegri DOC and the red or white Aversa
DOC are produced not far west of Naples. Both whites are also available
in sparkling version. Frankly, I'd go with the Fiano di Avellino.
/ Featured Naples Hotels / Campania
About the Author - Levi Reiss
is the author or co-author of ten computer and Internet books, but to tell
the truth, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied
by the right foods. He knows about dieting but now eats and drinks what
he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His new wine, diet, health, and nutrition
links to his other sites.