Naples Sightseeing

One of the most utterly fascinating places in Italy

Here we are at last. The Italian proverb says “See Naples and die” but I say, see Naples and live; for there seems a great deal worth living for. Arthur John Strutt

A surprisingly big and rather sprawling city, Naples unravels around many centres: the oldest area is the one located between Piazza Garibaldi and Via Toledo, roughly corresponding to the old Roman Neapolis (much of which is still unexcavated below the ground) and known as the centro storico. Its narrow streets follow the pattern of ancient Neapolis, traversed by the three decumani ("streets of orientation"), running from east to west and now called Via San Biagio dei Librai (best known as Spaccanapoli), Via dei Tribunali, and Via Anticaglia, all descending towards the harbour.
This is the most lively part of the town, teeming with people. Buildings rise high on either side of the narrow streets where you can wonder staring at the hundreds washing lines to air fresh laundry hanging over your heads. Very little light filters through the high buildings making the place gloomy but cosy and making you loose the sense of the rest of the city as well as the proximity to the sea.

Few steps away from the somewhat secluded area of the Historical Centre you will discover a quite different side of Naples, sprouting along the sunny Via Toledo , named after the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro Alvares de Toledo. Via Toledo edges the old city centre from Palazzo Reale up to the National Archeological Museum on the slopes of Capodimonte.

Three hills overlook the town: the Vomero hill, with its fancy housing and museums, the Arenella height, and the Posillipo promontory. Don't miss Naples celebrated promenade, starting from the famous Via Santa Lucia, not far from the Port. Continuing along Via Partenope and then Via Caracciolo, past the Immacolatella Fountain and the mighty Castel dell'Ovo, you will admire the public gardens better known as Villa Comunale. At the end of Via Caracciolo you will enjoy the view of Mergellina's charming bay and the homonyn small port. Via Posillipo, a panoramic street gently rising uphill and coasting luxuriant vegetation along with elegant aristocratic mansions, starts there.

The City

Compact and dotted with impressive monuments, the City Centre is really worth visiting: the Cathedral, the Palazzo Reale with its marvellous Gardens, San Carlo Theatre, the National Archeological Museum and the famous Napoli Sotterranea - a fascinating series of underground tunnels, passageways, stairs, rooms and halls, right in the heart of Naples - are waiting for you to come and visit!

Galleria Umberto

The most prominent example of the architectural aesthetics born from the industrial revolution, Galleria Umberto was inaugurated in 1890 and named after Umberto I, king of Italy from 1878 till 1900, when he was murdered. It represents a wonderful aesthetic fusion of the industrial glass and metal with a spectacular collage of Renaissance and Baroque ornamentation.
Galleria Umberto was built to encourage commerce and support the economic revival of the town. All shop-a-holics should make their way to the Gallery to grab a bargain in the several fashion stores or book and record shops or simply have a rest sipping a drink while enjoying the view.

Maggio dei monumenti

Springtime is no doubt the best time to visit Naples. An event not to be missed is the so called Maggio dei monumenti when both private collections and monuments normally closed to public can be admired. Each spring, the Maggio dei Monumenti focuses on a specific theme: several touristic routes and itineraries are established to make it easy to visit Neapolitan artistic patrimony.

Palazzo Filomarino

Erected in the 15th Century on behalf of a branch of the Brancaccio dinasty, Palazzo Filomarino was completely renovated between 1512 and 1530 on behalf of the Sanseverino princes of Bisignano. Gothic windows, two ogival arches, a courtyard, and lava stone gateways are its main features. Benedetto Croce, the well-known historian and founder of the Institute of Historical Studies dwelled there till 1952, year of his death. It certainly is a place not to be missed.


In 62 A.D. a terrible earthquake left Pompeii devastated. The survivors of this first disaster were still trying to rebuild their town when the second and final disaster hit. . . the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
In 79 A.D. shortly after midday, flames from the Vesuvius shot into the sky, and an immense black cloud covered the sun. For three days, volcanic matter, lapilli and red-hot scoriae rained down on Pompeii making a blanket almost twenty feet deep.
The ruins of Pompeii remained hidden for centuries and it was not until 1748 that the Bourbon King Carlo III commissioned the first excavations with the aim of finding precious objects.
Excavations have continued up to the present day to unveil one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world. Among the wonderful remain you will admire mosaic floors, houses, thermal baths and temples, as the one offered to the Greek god Apollo.
Modern Pompeii was built at the foot of the Vesuvius in an area known as Campo Pompeiano or "Pompeiian field" . Today it appears as a middle-sized town mainly living on tourism generated both by the vast archaeological site of the ill-fated ancient city and by the Madonna of Pompei's Sanctuary attracting tourists from all over the world

Teatro San Carlo

Designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano on behalf of King Charles of Boubon in 1737, San Carlo Theatre was the first theatre to be built in Italy. Since then it has never really suspended its performances, with the exception of the period between May 1874 and December 1876. In 1816 the San Carlo Theatre was almost completely destroyed by a fire but the king Ferdinand IV managed to have it rebuilt, adding luxurious reception rooms, and ordering magnificient paintings for the Auditorium.
With a seating capacity of three thousand people, the Theatre continues to be frequented by the most celebrated singers and accomplished musician.

Palazzo Reale

The Royal Palace was built at the beginning of the 17th century in the vast area between Santa Lucia and Castel Nuovo, south west of the original city centre. It was designed by the architect Domenico Fontana on behalf of the Bourbon King Charles III in the attempt to imitate the late Renaissance style of Versailles.
Its pink and grey faade was built in brick and black Piperno stone, the size reflecting the manneristic tendencies of the time. Its decorative style, on the other hand, is reminiscent of ancient Roman buildings: granite columns, Latin inscriptions, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pediments, pilaster strips lay are on display.
The Palace became the Spanish Bourbon Residence in 1734. In 1736 it hosted the Farnese Collections later partly transferred to Capodimonte. On the occasion of the marriage of the King to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1737 the Diplomatic Hall and many other parts of the Palace were redecorated by renowned artists such as Francesco Solimena, Francesco De Mura, Nicola Maria Rossi, and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro.

Porta Capuana (Capuana Gate)

One of the main Renaissance evidence in Naples, Porta Capuana dates back the late 15th century on the design of Giuliano da Maiano. The impressive triumphal arch emerges from two mighty cylindrical towers, usually referred to as Honour and Virtue. Due to the enlargement of the city walls the former gate, nearer to Castel Capuano, was transferred in the modern position. The arch is clad in marble: the original relief, portraying the crowning of Ferdinando I, was replaced in 1535 at the entry of the Spanish troops of Emperor Charles V.

Mergellina station

Built in 1925 by Gaetano Costa, Mergellina station is an interesting example of iron and glass architecture. The richly decorated structure has three entrances with pillars and windows with a triangular tympanum and similarly robust columns, dominated by a wide lunette decorated with friezes and shells. The shell, decorated with vine shoots adorning the base of the cornice bearing the symbols of the horse and the Capitoline wolf is very interesting. A cornice, supported by brackets and decorations with the heads of Mercury and some lions, supports a clock held up by an eagle flanked by two statues. The central lunette is richly decorated while the enormous vault is decorated with natural motifs and stained-glass windows. The now empty niches once hosted fine statues.

Underground Naples

Underground Naples has a unique charm: discovering it could turn out to be a highly evocative and original experience, lost in a muffled world of silence surrounded by treasures and secrets. With its numerous alleyways and passages, the underground city is enormous. Spelaeologists recently calculated that there are about 700 grottoes winding through the part which has already been explored, while there are just as many in the area that has not been explored yet.
Suggestive echoes, shadows, voices and footsteps of this subterranean world contrasts vividly with the chaotic ferment of the surface city. In the "quartieri Spagnoli" area, buried some 40 metres under the surface, you will admire catacombs, underground passages and aqueducts, used as a refuge by cursed early Christians or as hideaways during the war. Legend has it that the passageways are inhabited by the "monaciello", a sort of evil and mischievous spirit, occasionally vexing unfaithful wives.
To visit the underground city you should contact Associazione Napoli Sotterranea, p.zza San Gaetano, 68, tel.081- 449821.

Mount Vesuvius

The Mount Vesuvius, a complex volcano, began to form about 300,000 years ago, after the nearby Somma Volcano collapsed.In 5960 B.C. and 3580 B.C., Vesuvius had two eruptions that rate among the largest known in Europe. The area was frequently jolted by large earthquakes. The 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii and its sister city Herculaneum, was the first volcanic eruption ever to be described in detail. From 18 miles (30 km) west of the volcano, Pliny the Younger, witnessed the eruption and later recorded his observations in two letters.
Today more than two million people live in the immediate vicinity of Mount Vesuvius. Don't miss Pompei's ad Herculaneum's archaeological remains.

Historical Centre

Spaccanapoli, the Roman decumanus inferior whose paving dates back the 13th to 14th centuries, is nowadays lined with palazzi and churches.
The Church of Gesù Nuovo, in the homonym square, sums up the split personality of local architecture with the lush baroque interior. Just opposite the church you will admire the austere Norman and Angevin Santa Chiara, with its jasmine-laden tiled cloister. Further along you will see the intricate doorway of Palazzo Carafa della Spina, built at the end of the 16th Century and completely renovated in the first half of the 18th Century in Rococo style.
Few meters ahead you could have a rest in one of he numerous cafs set around the baroque church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the homonym square. Not far from there you could visit Piazzetta Nilo, named after a statue probably dating back the early Roman times and representing the reclining figure of the river god Nile.

Via Toledo

Via Toledo (also known as via Roma), was built on behalf of Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo to link the new area of Quartieri Spagnoli to the old city centre. The Quartieri's urban squalor is set against the chic storefronts and palazzi of via Toledo. Anchoring one end of the street, the National Archaeological Museum houses a number of treasures, including mosaics and statues from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum. It also houses the Gabinetto Segreto, an adult-only collection of Roman erotica. Beyond busy Via Foria you will see the old quarter known as La Sanità famous for its catacombs, and the renowned Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, the historical residence of Charles III. A huge park surrounds the city's most important art gallery, sheltering works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Breugel.

Piazza Del Plebiscito

Dominated by the church of San Francesco di Paola, by the old Bourbon Palazzo Reale as well as by San Carlo Theatre, the pedestrian precint of Piazza del Plebiscito is a huge semicircular space.
The monumental, imposing square can be said to be the symbol of Naples. As you walk through the silence and beauty of this place you will discover another fascinating and magical side of Naples, so different from the noise and smog of the city.
The impressive semi-circular colonnade of San Francesco di Paola and the facade of Palazzo Reale are really spectacular. Built in imitation of the Pantheon, the church is like a pagan temple with its Ionic columns, side pillars and triangular tympanum. Always under the constant assault of photographers, the Piazza is an enormous, airy space, a complete contrast to the noisy alleyways and streets immediately behind it, where the sun barely manages to filter. The square is also a favourite background for newly-weds who pose for their traditional wedding photographs.

Castel dell'Ovo

Neglected fishermen suburb till the late 16th Century, Santa Lucia was transformed into a prestigious road on behalf of the Spanish Viceroy Lemos Ferdinando Ruiz de Castro.
Castel dell'Ovo rises upon the islet of Megaride, in front of the small promontory of Monte Echia (also called Pizzofalcone), which divides the two small bays on the waterfront of Naples: the one of the harbour and the other of Riviera di Chiaia (Mergellina). The islet was the first settlement of Greek colonists coming from Pithecusa (Ischia island) who also founded the old town of Partenope on Monte Echia, the earliest nucleus of Naples. During the 1st century b.C. the islet of Megaride became property of Lucius Licinius Lucullus, who made built there his most magnificent villa. They remain very few signs of this legendary villa, because of the several constructions made in the following times upon it.
Castel dell'Ovo has always marked the political and historical changes in the city of Naples: in 1733 it was besieged and bombed by the Bourbons, who replaced the Austrians (who had been governing Naples after the Spaniards for about thirty years, during the war for the Spanish Succession). In 1799 it was occupied by the revolutionary Jacobins and then conquered again by the cardinal Ruffo di Calabria, who guided the troops supporting the Bourbon's restoration. After the unification of Italy (and until 1963) the castle has been military centre for the Italian government. Recently Castel dell'Ovo received deep restorations that have highlighted numerous and important architectural episodes belonging to all periods along the history of Naples.


Posillipo is an exclusive and fascinating area of Naples: the incredible colours of the panorama, the splendid villas clinging to the hillside and overlooking the picturesque gulf together with the warmth of people, make it a unique corner of heaven.
At the foot of Posillipo hill, Mergellina owes its name to a bird that is very well known along the Neapolitan coast, the "mergus". This area was known from the Renaissance as "Mergolino" and a watchtower, built on the seashore, was also named after it.


Built in 1738 on the design of architect Medrano to satisfy King Carlo's passion for hunting, Capodimonte Palace is surrounded by a huge park and English gardens, with a pheasant and a cattle breeding area, a hunting lodge and a larder. It also encloses a porcelain (Meissen) factory, known as "Royal Capodimonte Factory".
The museum boasts valuable works by Bellini, Lotto, Correggio, Parmigianino, Simone Martini, Masolino, Botticelli, Mantegna, Tiziano, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, El Greco, Goya, Lanfranco, Bruegel. The splendid porcelains on display once belonged to queen Maria Amalia of Saxony, wife of Carlo di Borbone. Some rooms houses parts of the Farnese collections, to which various gifts and purchases were added that complete the contents of the museum.
The astronomic observatory surely merit a visit: built in 1819 on the design of the brothers Stefano and Luigi Gasse, the elegant neo-classical building boasts valuable instrumental equipment and telescopes, as well as the meridian circle of Repsol.
Capodimonte is also famous for the Bellini theatre, dedicated to the famous composer. The typically horse-shoe shaped interior has five tiers of boxes and a "top gallery". After a long period of inactivity, the theatre was inaugurated in 1988 with "The three penny opera" by B. Brecht. The "Elena of Aosta Fountain" and the church of the Madre Del Buon Consiglio, imitating Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, are also very interesting.

With so many things to visit you would certainly need to plan your tour and bring comfortable shoes!