Districts of Naples
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 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, 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 the city 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.
Quartiere 1: Chiaia - Posillipo - San Ferdinando The places, monuments and landscapes in this triangle are probably the ones that have made Naples famous, and they also offer one of the best itineraries for visitors. The tourist who lands in Naples finds themselves immediately immersed in the scenery of the Piazza Municipio, which is itself dominated by the impressive
Quartiere 2: Avvocata - Mercato - Montecalvario - Pendino - Porto - San Giuseppe Naples is characterized by its uniformity in town planning. In fact, the quarters that makes up the ancient center still faithfully adhere to the Greco-Roman plans for the city of Neapolis. In these quarters are layer upon layer of history which unfolds before the eyes of the unsuspecting visitor like the pages of an enormous history book. The alleyways overflowing with life in quarters such as San Giuseppe, Porto, and Pendino are the same ones in which Greeks would trade and build temples during the 4th Century. This is also the area which faces the bay; you must visit and take a long walk along the promenade from Via Partenope past Via Caracciolo until Mergellina, or stop by at
Quartiere 3: San Carlo all'Arena - Stella Piazza della Sanità holds the 17th century
Quartiere 4: Poggioreale - San Lorenzo - Vicaria It is practically impossible to list all the monuments that you will find in the three decumani and the numerous side streets (i cardi) which run perpendicular to them, but mention must be made of the following churches: San Paolo Maggiore which is built upon the foundations of the Tempio dei Dioscuri (two columns of the temple are still visible) and San Lorenzo Maggiore, underneath which are important archaeological 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 church and street of San Gregorio Armeno are also worth a visit; the 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 the
Quartiere 5: Arenella - Vomero 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 1950s and 1970s, which made it into one of the busiest and most chaotic areas in the city. It is linked to surrounding areas by three funicular railways, and it still retains among some of the city's most important monuments. The
Quartiere 10: Bagnoli - Fuorigrotta A modern residential zone where the Rai and the Politecnico have their headquarters, the Fuorigrotta is also the new home of the Universitaria and important sports complexes such as the
The Province of Naples Outside of the city of Naples, there are fantastic day trips and sights to see via train or boat! The nearby cities of Salerno,
The origins of the city of Naples are rooted in legend. The chief protagonist is the Parthenopean Siren, a mythical, fascinating creature which for centuries, was said to resemble a bird, but with the delicate facial features of a young girl. In Antiquity, many shipwrecks occurred off the Island of the Sirens, (believed by some to be the Isle of Li Galli), which lies in front of the coast at Positano. This was apparently because sailors would be bewitched and disturbed by the irresistible song of the island's inhabitants (the sirens), causing them to lose control of both themselves and their ships. It was only Ulysees, the hero of Ithaca who managed to escape this fate, by forcing his crew to plug their ears with wax and then tying them to the mainmast of the fragile hull, thus saving the ship and all its equipment from being wrecked in a disastrous storm.
History books tell us that the Greeks arrived in Naples in stages. In the 9th century B.C., they arrived on the island of Pithecusa (Ischia); in the following century, they arrived on the island of Cuma, and it was only in the 6th century B.C. that they founded Parthenope on the isle of Megaride, then extended to Monte Echia (the Pizzafalcone hill), which was more of a commercial centre than a city. In 470, the inhabitants of Cuma founded a real city in the east (on the site of the current historic city centre), which they called Neapolis (new city), in order to distinguish it from Palepolis (old city).
The urban layout of the city of Neapolis echoed the Grecian layout consisting of the “cardo” and “decumano” road system. The cardo is a narrow street running from north to south, while the decumano is wider and runs from east to west. This layout is still visible today as you walk down Via dei Tribunali and Via Benedetto Croce, Decumano Superiore and Via San Biagio dei Librai, Decumano Inferiore.
The city of Naples, with its magnificent scenery, attracted many intellectuals, including Cicero, Horatio and Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the terrible eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 B.C. which destroyed Pompeii and Ercolano. The great Latin poet Virgil also lived in Naples—he chose to stay in the delightful Mergellina district where the so-called Tomb of Virgil and the nearby Tomb of the Leopards can now be found.
During the early Middle Ages, the city remained inside the walls that were built under Valentiniano III (450-455). The walls were only widened at certain sections, to include the del Gesù Church, part of the Santa Chiara Convent, the neighbouring palaces, and the Santa Maria La Nova and San Giovanni Maggiore churches. The first Christian cemeteries in southern Italy were also built here: the San Gennaro and San Gaudioso catacombs bear witness to this. Local ecclesiastical history states that the Emperor Constantine founded the basilica which was dedicated to Santa Restituta in the 8th century. The apses, dedicated to San Giorgio Maggiore and San Gennaro in the basilicas founded by the Bishop Severo at the end of the 4th century are of particular interest; they are linked via the underground catacombs dedicated to San Gennaro.
The Baptistery of St John the Baptist also dates back to this period—it consists of a baptismal building founded by the Bishop Sotero in the second half of the fifth century. The small Santa Maria Maggiore bell dating back to the ninth century is an isolated example of Lombardian architecture.
After having been made an autonomous Byzantine duchy, Naples was conquered by the Normans in the ninth century. The urban development that took place during this period encompassed more of the hinterland, (with the construction of the Capuano Castle) and the flat land near the port where the ‘Castel dell'Ovo' (‘Egg Castle') was enlarged, to become the royal palace of Ruggeri II.
Angioino and Aragon period
In 1266, Charles I of Angiò transferred the capital of the kingdom of Sicily from Palermo to Naples, heralding a period of active civil renewal for the city. The city walls were enlarged: from the Capuano Castle, they now included the churches of Sant'Eligio and Egiziaca a Forcella, the area around the Market, Santa Maria La Nova, the area where the Orsini of Gravina Palace was to be built, the area on which the Piazza del Gesù currently stands and the Via San Sebastiano leading all the way down to Port'Alba. Charles I was particularly concerned with carrying out public works; he ordered the drainage and settlement of the marshy area in the northeast of the city, as well as the restructuring of the Campano Aqueduct. The Market and all the artists' workshops, which were situated in the historic city center, were moved to the southeastern part of the city. In 1279, the construction of the Castle Nuovo began.
The religious architecture of the time gave rise to churches such as the San Lorenzo Maggiore church, which was already built on the site of the Roman basilica and also the churches of San Domenico, San Pietro a Maiella, Santa Chiara, Santa Maria Egiziaca, San Gregorio Armeno, Donna Romita and Donnaregina.
The Angoians imported architecture, jewellry, fabrics and various other objects into Naples from France.
Representative masters from major Italian schools of art were invited to Naples: Pietro Cavallini from Rome, Simone Martini from Sienna and Giotto from Florence. The large cycle of frescoes in the ancient Santa Maria Donnaregina church are evidence of the influence of the Roman school of art in Naples. The only evidence of the three years of Giotto's work in Naples (1329-1332) are the fragments of his work which remain in the Santa Barbara Chapel in the Castel Nuovo. Evidence of the school of painting developed during the reign of Joannna I are visible in the Chiesa dell'Incoronata and the Barrese Chapel in San Lorenzo.
The passage from typical Neopolitan architecture to the floral décor of 15th-century Catalan architecture which appeared in urban centres of the the Aragon period was masterminded by Guglielmo Sagrera. This was the architect who designed the ‘Room of Barons' in the Castel Nuovo, and who was probably also involved in the reconstruction of the castle in the 15th century, before Italian Renaissance elements were introduced.
The Spanish Viceroy
In the 16th century, Naples became the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty. Don Pedro Alvarez of Toledo (Viceroy from 1532-1553) widened the city walls, increasing the city's surface area by a third. The walls on the western side joined at the Sant'Elmo Castle fortress, which was re-built to include the Angioian Belforte. The building work was carried out along the axis of the newly built Via Toledo. Six streets parallel to the Via Toledo, crossed by a series of streets at right angles to it, make up an area that was dedicated to military lodgings. This area corresponds to the Montecalvario district, which is now a residential area.
The construction of residences for the aristocracy both in the ancient city centre and outside the city walls provided the city with a good equilibrium, with both luxury buildings, and less ostentatious ones being built to cope with the demand for housing: the Orsini, Marigliano and Corigliano Palaces are all examples of civil Renaissance buildings.
The grandiose Porta Capuana by Giuliano da Maiano remains standing to this day. The Triumphal Arch of Alfonso of Aragon in the Castel Nuovo was also built during this period—some believe it was the work of Luciano Laurano, while others attribute it to Guglielmo Sagrera.
The architectural organisations of the 15th century were housed in the Palace of Diomede Carafa a San Biagio dei Librai and in the Cuomo Palace on Via Duomo. Today, the offices of the Faculty of Architecture are housed in the Gravina Palace and the Church of Santa Caterina a Formiello. Marble was sent to Naples by Donatello and Michelozzo for the tomb of Cardinal Brancaccio in the Church of Sant'Angelo a Nilo. Antonio Rossellino sent the last of his works to the Monteoliveto Church where Guido Mazzoni of Modena and Benedetto of Maiano also worked.
17th century Naples
During this period, the Treasury was called upon to finance the building of luxury residences for the nobility: religious buildings and the building of the new Royal Palace (all by Domenico Fontana), as well as the degli Studi Palace, which is now the National Museum. Palaces were also built in Posillipo, including the Donn'Anna di Cosimo Fanzago Palace that renewed a tradition started by the Romans for residences in the Posillipo Hills.
Numerous churches by Francesco Grimaldi—San Paolo Maggiore, Santi Apostoli, Santa Maria degli Angeli a Pizzofalcone—were also built at this time. The churches of the Ascensione a Chiaia, Santa Maria degli Angeli alle Croci, San Ferdinando, San Giorgio Maggiore, San Giuseppe delle Scalze a Pontecorvo, la Sapienza, SantaTeresa a Chiaia and Santa Maria Egiziaca a Pizzofalcone and the Maddaloni Palace were all designed by Cosimo Fanzago.
All of these works are Neopolitan interpretations of the Baroque style—more obvious in external appearance than in spatial conceptions, they are extremely colourful and intricately decorated. Brother Nuvolo, who designed the churches of Santa Maria alla Sanità and San Sebastiano—was also influenced by new, expressive Baroque styles. The architect Arcangelo Guglielmelli continued this theme and painted beautifully imaginative settings and backdrops such as that of San Giuseppe dei Ruffi and the Library of the ‘Girolamini'. In 1607, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio left his masterful paintings to the Pio Monte di Misericordia and the San Domenico Maggiore charitable institutions.
The invading Austrian powers of 1707-1734 took over a city afflicted by the epidemic of 1691, in economic stagnation and under the influence of the excessively dictatorial ecclesiastical powers.
The city was in an even worse state when Charles III of Bourbon succeeded the Hapsburgs in 1734. The new monarch imposed a tax on the property of the Church in order to augment the resources of the Treasury. Charles III encouraged the development of commerce and industry, the building of an urban infrastructure (roads, ports etc.), the improvement of urban conditions, as can be observed in the city plan drawn up by Giovanni Carafa duca di Nola which indicate the new ideas in urban development with regard to the Via Foria, Capodimonte and the Torre del Greco area as well as the expansion of the Granili.
The Bourbon dynasty was also involved in the construction of major buildings such as the Teatro San Carlo designed by Medrano and inaugurated in 1737, the Royal Palace at Capodimonte – also by Medrano, and the Royal Hostel for the Poor by Ferdinando Fuga (who also designed the façade of the dei Girolamini Church, the Giordano and Caramanico Palaces), the cavalry barracks on the della Maddalena bridge by Luigi Vanvitelli, the palaces of Ferdinando Sanfelice ai Vergini, the Serra di Cassano Palace and the Church of Santa Maria delle Periclitanti at Pontecorvo. Luigi Vanvitelli designed the d'Angri Palace, the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Church of the Missionary Fathers and the Carolino Forum.
All buildings constructed in the Bourbon period gave the city a more European dimension.
19th century Naples
At the beginning of the 19th century, Joseph Bonaparte continued with the work on the city's infrastructure that was started by Ferdinando. He had a wide road built that ran from the Museum to the Royal Palace at Capodimonte, which dug in to the della Sanità Valley with a viaduct inaugurated by Murat in 1810. Murat promoted the creation of the Botanical Gardens, the Astronomical Observatory, the widening of the Via Foria and the lengthening of the Via Posillipo, all in line with the new guiding principles of urban development.
When Ferdinand I returned to Naples, the construction of the Ferdinand Forum (now known as the Piazza del Plebiscito) got underway. At the end of the piazza stand the San Francesco di Paola Church and the San Giacomo Palace for the ministery. The Bagnoli road was completed and Antonio Niccolini was given the task of re-building the San Carlo theatre, which was destroyed in a fire.
Ferdinand IV had the Via Posillipo completed so that it ran all the way to Bagnoli, and work was begun on the building of the Royal Villa, (now the Town Hall) which stands on the Chiaia Riviera.
During this period, tourism experienced a boom, with around 8000 visitors arriving a year. Ferdinand II had the Via Costantinopoli widened, the Via del Piliero settled, and built the Corso Maria Teresa, (now renamed the Corso Vittorio Emanuele).
In 1860, Naples was unified with the rest of Italy. At this point it had around 450,000 inhabitants.
The first significant work carried out in 20 years of unity was the widening of the Via Duomo (an ancient pivotal point of the Greco-Roman city), the Corso Garibaldi and the Via Caracciolo. Part of the urban renewal work which was carried out after the cholera epidemic of 1884 was the demolition of the most congested areas which were located in a straight line along the Corso Umberto I, as well as the construction of a fifth road characterised by the Umbertini Palaces. With the exception of this road, the alleys and shops in the surrounding area remained breeding ground for poverty.
In 1891, the introduction of the funicular provided the first link to Vomero, a newly expanding district. Between the two world wars, Naples' urban expansion was considerable. The expansion included the Vasto district, located near the central railway station, the Vomero district, and the Regina Elena district in the west, the Arenella and Materdei districts in the north and the Fuorigrotta district in Campi Flegrei.
In the city centre, renewal work continued with the building of the Carità district, the Via Diaz and the palaces of the fascists. The ‘Mostra d'Oltremare' exhibition complex was built in the western region.
During the Second World War (1943-1944), the city sustained considerable damage.
Where to stay in Naples
Naples is a city that never sleeps, but it still offers a wide variety of places to stay for the weary traveler; there are hotels to suit all tastes and all pockets, and some of them are world-renowned. You can find some of the city's most luxurious and famous hotels on the beaches in the zone of Santa Lucia, home of the legendary siren Partenope (from whom the ancient city took its name) and where Greek colonies settled in the 7th Century. While standing on the beach, you'll understand why it inspired poetry, as you delight in the beauty of the bay, stretching from Vesuvius to the hill of Posillipo, with Capri and Sorrento on the horizon, and where silver stars still sparkle on the sea.
Quartiere 1: Chiaia – Posilipo - San Ferdinando Some of the cities greatest hotels reside in this district, close to all the major sights, transportation and the sea. These include Hotel Excelsior, which is situated on Via Partenope: this is an example of elegance, luxury, and tradition, and the rooms have the best view of the bay. Its majesty and refinement make it the ideal place for wealthy guests who know exactly what they want. Grand Hotel Vesuvio is prestigious and very elegant and has been host to many famous people, amongst who is the great Caruso, after whom the hotel has named its best restaurant. The last of the grand hotels on this street is the Grand Hotel Santa Lucia; it is a little less expensive than the others, but just as refined and comfortable with a splendid view of Capri. Along the promenade is the Hotel Royal Continental, both modern and functional, with a swimming pool and an architectural style that is quite different from the neighboring hotels. Not far from the sea, in the Largo Vasto a Chiaia, between the Villa Comunale and Via Dei Mille, one of the most elegant zones of the city, you'll find the Hotel Majestic. Near the Via Partenope, Hotel Miramare is housed in an ancient patrician villa, restored to its former glory on Via Nazzaro Sauro; its rooms should suit the most refined tourist. Hotel Paradiso stands on Via Catullo on the Posillipo Hill, and has a beautiful terrace garden overlooking the bay. In Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Hotel Britannique and G. H. Parker's are exquisitely furnished with period furniture and boast wonderful views that will satisfy everyone's tastes. If you want to stay in the Chiaia area, you might want to look for the following: the Hotel Canada, which is close to the sea; the Hotel Splendid on Via Mergellina faces the Phlegrean fields and the islands in the bay. One of the more affordable hotels close to the sea is the Hotel Rex.
Quartiere 2: Avvocata – Mercato – Montecalvario – Pendino – Porto – San Giuseppe If you want a hotel in the centre of the city that is close to the most important monuments, try one of the following: Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo on Via Ponte di Tappia, not far from the attractive shop windows of Via Toledo and Piazza del Municipio; Mercure Napoli Angioino Centro on Via De Petris close to the maritime museum; Grand Hotel Oriente on Via Diaz; or the Jolly Hotel housed inside a skyscraper on Via Medina. All of these hotels have a welcoming atmosphere and are stylish and elegant. Not far from Corso Umberto I is the Hotel Suite Esedra and near Via Toledo is Hotel Executive and Hotel Toledo. There are many pensions and small hotels, especially in the university area, and close to the railway, where the prices are moderate compared to those in the city centre: Duomo, Hotel Gallo, Hotel Milton, and Albergo Nettuno. There is also the Hotel Luna Rossa.
Quartiere 3: San Carlo Arena – Stella On the Capodimonte hill, near Via Moiariello, the Hotel Villa Capodimonte has a large green park and offers a breathtaking view of the city and its surroundings.
Quartiere 4: Poggioreale - San Lorenzo – Vicaria – Zona Industriale Near Corso Umberto IHotel Nuovo Rebecchino, the Hotel Siri, and the There are many three-star hotels in Naples, and many can be found near the train station, such as the Hotel Cavour. Close to Central Station, it is very comfortable and has impeccable service. Hotel Palace is on the corner of Piazza Garibaldi and the Starhotel Terminus. Hotel delle Nazioni is in Vicolo Ferrovia and close to Central Station. The Holiday Inn is set amongst the skyscrapers in the Centro Direzionale and is perfect for business travelers. Heading down to the central zone, on Via Cerare Rossarol, you'll find the historic Hotel Prati.
Quartiere 5: Arenella – Vomero One of the more pricy options within the city and close enough to all the action is the Hotel Belvedere on Via Angelini in Vomero. Or, if looking for more affordable accommodation in this area try the Hotel Oasi.
Quartiere 10: Bagnoli – Fuorigrotta In Agnano, which is close to the most important sports grounds, you'll find Hotel San Germano on Via Beccadelli; its rooms are elegant and well furnished. In the Campi Flegrei zone protected by beautiful parks, are the Hotel delle Terme on Via Agnano Astroni, Montespina Park Hotel on Via San Gennaro close to the thermal baths, and American Park Hotel on Via Scarfoglio. In Fuorigrotta, near to San Paolo stadium and the Mostra d'Oltremare (the headquarters of the trade fairs), perfect for those who are just passing through, are Hotel Serius, the Hotel Cesare Augusto in Viale Augusto, Hotel Leopardi, and Villa Medici on Via Nuova Bagnoli, which is housed in a renovated villa. The Hotel Miravalle is close to the nature reserve in Astroni, the Villa Maria is in Bagnoli,
Dining Out In Naples
The wonderful Neapolitan food scene is an amalgamation of a history full of splendour and misery, riches and poverty, the fruit of numerous dominations, and the ability of Neapolitans to make a virtue of necessity. An elegant gastronomy which has roots in tastes and habits of the people who produced traditional local products which have now become synonymous with the glorious city of Naples: pizza, spaghetti, ragù, mozzarella, a tazzulella e caffè, not to mention desserts such as babà, sfogliatelle, pastiera (puff pastry filled with cream cheese, barley and candied fruit), and gelati.
Neapolitan cuisine owes much to the city's fertile soil, which offers up a bounteous offering, above all the San Marzano tomato, and the sea, which is the basis for seafood dishes such as the exquisite spaghetti alle vongole (a clam pasta dish), impepate di cozze (a mussel-based dish), and the exquisite soutè, and we haven't even mentioned the grilled fish and seafood dishes or the elaborate fish- and seafood-based soups. Many restaurants serve raw oysters, cannolicchi, and taratufi, which are strictly from Naples.
If you want a traditional restaurant you should head for the Borgo Marinaro area, where the streets wind down to the Castel dell Ovo. Try La Bersagliera or Zi' Teresa.
In Santa Lucia, you'll find exclusive hotels and exclusive restaurants, such as La Cantinella and Caruso; they all offer wonderful views of the gulf.
Mergellina sits right on the coast and has great restaurants where you can taste the fruits of the sea. The following places are well worth a try: Dal Delicato, Ciro a Mergellina, Don Salvatore, and Al Sarago in Piazza San Nazzaro, where there are other restaurants that are a little more economical.
Sbrescia is in Posillipo and also has a wonderful view. La Sacrestia offers very sophisticated cuisine and Giuseppone a Mare serves traditional fish recipes made with the freshest fish possible.
If you consider yourself to be a true romantic, then Fenestella di Marechio is the place to be. Relax in this beautiful area and feast on Parthenopean cuisine at La Fazenda or A Fenestella.
The Centro Storico has plenty of trattorias to choose from which serve traditional dishes at low prices. These places are less fancy but which are just as welcoming, and you will definitely meet the real Napoletani here! Try Dante e Beatrice in Piazza Dante; Ciro a Santa Brigida close to Teatro San Carlo; or San Carlo (the restaurant), which is close to Palazzo Reale. On Via Monte di Dio in the ancient area of Partenope, there's the splendid Amici Miei. In the heart of the city, you'll find Umberto. If you are close to the station and looking for a bite to eat, why not try Da Mimì alla Ferrovia?
Pizzerie deserve a mention of own, and Naples is full of them! They differ from the traditional evening eateries and are filled with students, professionals, salespeople, craftsmen - nearly everybody, in fact! They are as busy and as popular as fast food joints, but offer delicious flavours and high quality ingredients. L'Antica Pizzeria in Forcella has large marble tables, and they serve only delicious seafood pizzas (seasoned with garlic, olive oil, tomato, and oregano)and Pizza Margherita with its traditional mozzarella topping.
The creative genius of the Neapolitan pizzamakers is now taking precedence over tradition as they wildly combine weird toppings to make the ultimate taste sensation. Every pizzaiolo (pizzamaker) worth his salt has invented a topping, and each pizzeria includes variations on traditional themes on their menu.