WHAT TO SEE IN NAPLES IN A WEEKEND
The Neapolitan city indeed boasts an immense historical and cultural heritage and making a selection of places to visit is not easy. However, if you have little time and want to fully enjoy its beauty we give you some suggestions on what to see in Naples in two days.
The many wonders of the Spaccanapoli district
If you look at Naples from above, perhaps from Castel Sant’Elmo, you cannot miss the road that literally divides the historic centre of the city into two. The Neapolitans have renamed it Spaccanapoli, but in reality, it has seven names (via Pasquale Scura, via Maddaloni, Via Benedetto Croce, Via San Biagio dei Librai, via Vicario Vecchio, via Forcella and via Giudecca Vecchia).
To get there, take the Metro Line 1 and get off at the Piazza Dante station. Back on the surface, continue along Via Toledo and the game is soon done: welcome to Spaccanapoli!
The list of stages to be touched is, indeed, long and among these cannot miss the Monastery and the church of Santa Chiara, the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, the Sansevero Via San Gregorio Armeno and the Cathedral of San Gennaro.
The church of Santa Chiara and the annexed monastic complex were built between 1310 and 1340, at the behest of Robert of Anjou and Queen Sancia. The building, initially in Gothic style, has been the subject of various interventions, and today it shows an essentially Baroque profile. The main facade, very simple, has a large central rose window; the bell tower, separated from the rest of the complex, has been erected since 1328, but the works have continued over time. The five bells, bombed in 1943, were put back in their place only after six long years.
Inside you can admire the Sepulcher of Maria Cristina of Savoy, queen of Naples, and the remains of the carabiniere Salvo d’Acquisto.
During your weekend in Naples, you can’t miss going to the Clarisse majolica cloister, crossed by two wide internal boulevards and interspersed with wonderful gardens.
Time goes on and it’s time to continue your tour, destination Church of San Domenico Maggiore. The structure, which is located in the square of the same name, was built between 1283 and 1324 and includes a monastery, dating back to the 10th century, where the Dominicans were hosted. The interior cannot but leave you open-mouthed with its coffered ceiling, the majestic organ, its 27 chapels (in particular that of the frescoes and the Crucifix) and the sacristy, where the mummified remains of the Aragonese are kept.
The Sansevero Chapel rises, next to the home of the family of the same name in Via Nilo, and was, for a long time, the favourite place of the Prince of Sansevero, Raimondo di Sangro. Inside, some very famous works are kept, including the Veiled Christ, the Anatomical Machines and Veiled Modesty. The Veiled Christ, housed in the central part of the building, is really very suggestive for the effect created by the marble veil, which covers his lifeless body.
This peculiarity has given rise, over time, to various legends and it seems, moreover, that one of these refers to the strange occult powers possessed by Prince Raimondo di Sangro. In reality, the enchanting work is entirely due to the skill of the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino.
The anatomical machines are kept, in the underground cavea, inside two large boards; they represent the petrified skeletons of a man and a woman and were made, in the mid-eighteenth century, by Giuseppe Salerno, a doctor of Sicilian origins. The circulatory system that surrounds the two individuals, after two centuries, is completely intact and reconstructed in great detail.
On the other hand, the Veiled Pudgy statue represents a woman, wrapped in a cloth, which is supported by a broken tombstone. The work, strongly desired by the prince, is a tribute to the young mother, Cecilia Gaetani d’Aragona, who died at the age of 23.
You cannot, then, not take a walk along Via San Gregorio Armeno and take a peek at one of the many shops, where the skilled artisans make the terracotta cribs entirely by hand.
The visit in the neighbourhood ends at the Cathedral of San Gennaro; the building dates back to the 13th century and was built, at the behest of Charles II of Anjou, on the remains of an old church.
The interior, in the shape of a Latin cross, is divided into three naves: on the right you can see the Chapel of San Gennaro, where there is a statue of the homonymous saint, while on the left is the Chapel of San Lorenzo which communicates, through an elevator , with the roof.
The main Neapolitan museums
The National Museum of Capodimonte , one of the many jewels of Naples, must necessarily be a must for your weekend. The location is really very particular: the building is, in fact, immersed in the park of the Capodimonte palace and inside the Farnese and Borgia collections are preserved. The Neapolitan gallery and that of the nineteenth century are also worthy of attention. Finally, there are works that bear the signature of authoritative painters such as Botticelli, Raphael and Titian. You can end your visit with a marvellous walk in the greenery between the Church of San Gennaro, the hunting house and the ceramics museum.
The Archaeological Museum, inaugurated way back in 1816, boasts one of the richest collections in the world.
The things to dwell on are so many and among these, there are the findings of the archaeological excavations of Pompeii, the jewels dating back to the Greco-Roman era, the finds of Egyptian and Etruscan origin and the well-known ‘Secret Cabinet’, a collection of frescoes and sculptures entirely dedicated to eroticism.
In the enchanting setting of Piazza del Plebiscito you can instead admire the Royal Palace. The building, residence of the Bourbon royal house, is embraced by Palazzo Salerno , the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola and the Palazzo della Prefettura . In 1919 the complex became the property of the state property and today it is a much-appreciated museum centre.
Be sure to visit the Royal Gardens , the Cortile delle Carrozze and the Belvedere ; the ancient rooms are, instead, finely furnished with furniture from the Napoleonic age, French carpets, porcelains and clocks.
Naples is ready to surprise you even underground with a magical labyrinth, made of tunnels and cisterns, which runs beneath the city and reaches a depth of about 40 meters. Napoli sottorranea is a maze of tunnels, galleries and quarries and some of them date back to 5000 years ago. Its history hangs up, indissolubly, with that of the Serino aqueduct: the quarries were, in fact, used until 1500 to supply the city of Naples with water. The belly of Naples, from that moment on, has become the scene of legal and illegal activities, which have taken place almost to the present day.
These places were, in fact, the refuge from the bombings of the Second World War, strategic points for strange traffic, meeting places for sinful loves, storage of various objects and much more. The entire area was rediscovered in the second post-war period when remediation and safety interventions were carried out that brought to light finds and brought back ancient legends.
Another important example of underground Naples is the Bourbon Gallery excavated, in 1853 , to connect Palazzo Reale with Piazza Vittoria. Through these passages the army could easily access the palace and, at the same time, the sovereigns managed to escape in case of need.
The other symbolic places of the Neapolitan city
If time is on your side, you can then go to the Lungomare di Napoli, where an enchanting 3 km walk awaits you, starting from Mergellina and touching via Caracciolo, via Partenope and via Nazario Sauro. The view you enjoy is truly magical and includes Vesuvius, Ischia, Capri and the Sorrento peninsula. Surely you will have to be on your list of things to see in Naples.
Piazza del Plebiscito, one of the symbols of the city, is located in the heart of Naples and covers an area of over 25 thousand square meters. Finally, you cannot return home without having taken a look at the Castel Nuovo, the Cimitero delle Fontanelle and the Teatro San Carlo.