Sightseeing in Naples Italy

Naples is one of those romantic cities that everyone should make a point of visiting at some point in their life. Naples is one of the oldest cities in the western world with an unusual blend of old and new. Founded by the ancient Greeks the city quickly became an integral part of the roman republic. Its significance remained as several different civilizations came and went and made their mark on the city. UNESCO has listed Naples as a World Heritage Site.

Naples is so loaded with incredible sights that there are a few that must be explored by every visitor to the city.

Castel dell’Ovo

Castel dell’Ovo or the Egg Castle was the original center of the city back in the 6th century BC. In the first century BC Castellum Lucullanum was constructed on the site and was refortified in the 5th century. Unfortunately this structure and its fortifications were destroyed in the 9th century but the site remained a favorite and a castle was built there in the 12th century by the Normans. This is the structure that remains and is very popular with tourists and for wedding photos. Even though it is called the Egg Castle, it is square in shape, the egg notation comes from a legend that states Virgil put a magic egg in the foundation for support. In addition to the impressive structure, the views from the castle are some of the best around.

L’Accademia de Belle Arti de Napoli

L’Accademia de Belle Arti di Napoli is the school for visual arts in Naples. Established in 1752 the school still functions as a school of higher learning for those interested in visual arts. But it’s the collections portion of the school that is most interesting to tourists. The collection of paintings cover a variety of historical periods showing the progression in artistic styles through the ages. There are also a large number of drawing and watercolors on display created by students and faculty. There is also a sculpture and video section available for viewing. The school gives great insight into the development of art in the region.

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

The Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte or National Museum of Capodimonte holds the main collection of Neapolitan painting and decorative art but also houses many other significant works of art and ancient roman sculptures. Originally the museum started as a hunting lodge, or at least that was King Charles VII’s intentions in 1738 but he quickly decided he wanted a grand palace instead and he would house his Farnese art collection inside. Throughout the years the palace grew with the art collection and by 1787 there was even a laboratory to restore aging works of art. Part of this original collection was ransacked during the French occupation but once power was restored King Ferdinand went about returning great works of art to the palace. When the monarchy ended in 1950 the museum became a national treasure. This art museum is a must for everyone as it houses a huge amount of artwork from some of the greatest artists to ever live.

Underground City

One sightseeing trip in Naples is a little beyond the norm, as its underground. Look for a walking tour of the underground city and examine 5,000 year old carved out caves and roman water systems. There is even a cemetery underground for the people that were indigent at the time. The underground caves also served as bomb shelters and escape routes from 1941 to 1943, some even had electric power and by the end thousands of people were discovered living in these ancient water tanks.

Duomo di San Gennaro

The Duomo di San Gennaro of Cathedral of Naples is the main church of the city and is dedicated to San Gennaro or St. Januarius. Within the church is a vial of the saint’s blood which is said to liquefy twice a year when it is brought out, if it does not liquefy then myth has it that something bad will happen to the city. The building was commissioned between 1285 and 1309 and is an incredible example of Gothic architectural style in this era. The cathedral was built on the foundation of two basilicas, parts of which can still be seen and underneath the church excavations have uncovered Greek and roman artifacts. Inside the Duomo are incredible works of iconic art that have been collected through several centuries, it’s a wonderful combination of history, art and religion all rolled together.

Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata

Most people of heard of Pompeii but not everyone realizes that this was not the only city lost to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Both the city of Pompeii and Herculaneum were devastated as well as a number of other villas. Since the discovery of the ruins at Pompeii more and more of the region has been excavated and made available to the public. Although Pompeii is the better known of the cities, Herculaneum is actually better preserved. Remarkably the murals at Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata have survived and they depict the lifestyles of those who lived there. It was from the Bay of Naples that Pliny watched the eruption and wrote a detailed account of the devastation across the water. It is the Naples National Archaeological Museum which houses many of these artifacts including the casts of people who perished during the volcano.

Parco Vergiliano

Parco Vergiliano is a public park dedicated to the poet Virgil and claims to be his final resting point. The tunnel in the park is said to have been created by Virgil who was also believed to be a sorcerer. Although it is now believed that the tunnel was actually built by Lucius Cocceus Auctus, a roman engineer. The tunnel was probably a major thoroughfare in its day, connecting the city through the Posillipo hill to the road leading to Rome. This is a wonderful stop for visitors looking to take a break and enjoy a moment of peace and reflection.

There are so many churches that are notable and worth a visit in Naples that I could write an article just on the churches, so I’ve kept most of them out of the above list, but make sure to visit at least one of these marvelous structures during your visit to Naples.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: JJKDC