Naples and then die"
This proverb sums up in a few words the spirit and enthusiasm that bring tourists
to this wonderful town. One is immediately brought into contact with ancient
traditions that only survive because they have been blended one with another.
There are still olden professions that have survived into this modern 21st
century: an entire quarter in the heart of Naples, for example, is given
over to the craft of the goldsmith; there are still the world-famous handwrought
nativity tableaus with their figurine shepherds; old craftsmen still sell
handmade chairs from the backs of carts that they push through the streets;
and you can still hear the clanging hammer of the blacksmith. There is even
an artisan who gives new life to old and damaged dolls in his workshop,
appropriately called The Doll Hospital.
history of Naples is written in its architecture; every monument is a
piece of history, a link to one of the many dynasties that have governed
here. UNESCO has declared the urban value of Naples to be "heritage for
humanity". It is a grand heritage, running from the 7th century BC to
the present. Besides the museums, castles, ancient city gates, fountains
and parks, the more than 200 churches, alone, contain thousands
of precious and beautiful works of art. .
historic centre of the town deserves particular attention, since it is practically
an open-air museum. It is an architectural and artistic overview of 25 centuries,
beginning with the Greco-Roman founding and the ancient walls, the ruins
beneath San Lorenzo Maggiore and the Greek method of dividing the
city into a grid of cross-streets, the "Decumani" and "Cardini"; the panorama
of history then sweeps through centuries of construction of churches, grand
houses for the aristocracy, monasteries and fountains. The layout of the
historic centre of Naples is ancient and founded on two main axes: roads
running east to west (the Decumani) were crossed at precise right angles
by the north-south roads (the Cardini), forming rectangular blocks (the
Upper Decumanus takes its name from two walls, dated to the second century,
B.C., built to support the Teatro Romano, ruins of which are still visible
today in the modern city street, Via Anticaglia. Along this axis stand ancient
churches such as "San Giovanni a Carbonara", "Santa Maria di Donnareggina",
and the "Hospital for the Incurables", where there is still a chemist's
shop, a remarkable work of art from the 1700s.
Central Decumanus corresponds to today's "Via dei Tribunali", so called
because it ends at Castle Capuano, premises of the municipal courts since
the 1500s. There is an extraordinary concentration of buildings and churches
along this axis, truly a stratification of cultures: the ancient Greco-Roman
ruins beneath the church of S. Lorenzo Maggiore and the Duomo; the monastery
of the Girolamini; the music conservatory S.Pietro a Maiella; and
the Pio Monte della Misericordia with its famous art gallery, which today
displays works from the Neapolitan school of the 17th and 18th century.
Lower Decumanus is popularly known as "Spaccanapoli" (Naples-Splitter),
since it seems to divide Naples into two equal halves. The street corresponds
to today's "Via Benedetto Croce" and "Via S. Biagio dei Librai." The churches
along this axis are magnificent: the church of Gesù Nuovo, and the
church of Santa Chiara, built at the behest of Robert I onto the extraordinary
convent of the Sisters of St. Clair. Following along "Spaccanapoli" we come
to Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, site of the 13th-century basilica, then
the Cappella Sansevero, the church of Sant'Angelo a Nilo and, further on,
the church of San Gregorio Armeno, which is on the cross-street of the same
name, one of the most famous streets in the city, a true marketpace for
nativity tableaus and figurines.
historic centre of Naples shows it historic importance in the large buildings
that were once the homes of Neapolitan aristocracy. Palazzo Carafa di Maddaloni,
Palazzo Marigliano and Palazzo Filomarino are but a few examples.
Waling along these streets, it is difficult not to peek beyond the mammoth
entrances and into the beautiful courtyards of these buildings, which are
mostly from the 1500s. Naples is also characterized by the hospitality of
its inhabitants; bright and shrewd, they are always ready with advice for
those who ask. Yes, to be in Naples means to be totally overwhemed by the
chaos that rules here, but that is what makes the city a colourful and living
metropolis; each moment in the daily routine has its own hectic charm to
cuisine is related to traditions of old. It is based strictly on local products
grown only in this region, under this sun, in this temperature, and in this
particularly fertile soil! Neapolitan creativity at work on these typical
products has given us an elaborate array of tasty Mediterranean dishes.
Look at the countless ways to prepare bread, pizza, and tomatoes; look at
the typical mozzarella, and where else can you get "friarielli",
fried with oil, garlic and red peppers? Last but not least are typical pastries:
from the "pastiera," "babà" and "sfogliatelle" to the traditional pastries
recent urban upgrade to accomodate tourism is evident. In the streets between
Piazza Bellini and Piazza del Plebiscito you can now see a town rising
from poverty. Night life lasts into the wee hours. Cafés, bars, pubs, restaurants,
and fast food places are all open and full. And when they get too full for
you, you can wander down to the sea-side haunts at Borgo dei Marinari sit
outside in the mild air, have a drink, or treat yourself to a "caponata"
or "impepata di cozze".