A few days ago, I revealed to you my first impressions of Naples. Today, I want to tell you what to do in Naples in eight hours.
We went there in August. At that time we were in Rome, but Italo has some great offers so we picked up the opportunity (return ticket € 30 each). The trip was perfect and in one hour we arrived in Naples. Not having a guide and being our first time in town, we stopped at the tourist information point in the Central Station. There a beautiful and nice girl gave us a very detailed map and some useful advice.
WHAT TO SEE
In 1995, the historic centre of Naples was listed by UNESCO as a World heritage Site. Considering the few hours available, we decided to visit the centre.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (or San Gennaro) is very close to Stazione Centrale.
It was our first stop because there was about 40 degrees and fortunately the churches are always cold. Naples has about 350 churches, but this one can be considered the most important because it houses the San Gennaro’s relics (San Gennaro is the patron saint of the city). The church is an overlap of styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic. This because the construction began in the 13th century is finished in the 19th “only” (we – Italians – love slow life!). Inside there is also the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte, the oldest baptistery of the Western World.
Crocefisso – The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Inside the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Spaccanapoli (officially named Via Benedetto Croce)
So called because it divides the city between North and South is one of three old Greek decumani that can be considered the main streets of Naples. If I remember correctly, Spaccanapoli is composed of four ways: P. Scura, B. Croce, S. Biagio dei Librai e Forcella. While you walk through Spaccanapoli, you have to explore the side streets! At some point you’ll find Via San Gregorio Armeno. Known for its nativity shops since ancient times, it is very colourful! There, it’s always Christmas, even in August!
Nativity scenes – Via San Gregorio Armeno
Pulcinella (a classical character that originated in the commedia dell’arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry).
Taking this streets is an experience which brings you back in time, that will touch you deeply and that will make you angry: for the vasci, for poverty and for the lifestyle (clothes hanging in the windows, doors and windows wide open, the ladies who clean the vegetables in the street, etc.). At the beginning you feel lost, but it is a stage that I highly recommend to immerse yourself in the Neapolitan culture tout court. Here between misery, poverty, scented sauce and sewer smell you will want to pray. You look up and the sky will be unreal, you will point your eyes to people, and you will find only smiles. At that moment, you’ll understand two things: 1. what hope is and 2. the Neapolitans are people who don’t give up.
Galleria Umberto I
After Quartieri Spagnoli, the splendour of this public shopping gallery will leave you a bit confused. The Galleria is a high and spacious cross-shaped tunnel surmounted by a glass roof. Inside, it is very elegant and sophisticated. Floor and zodiac mosaics under the central cupola are stunnig! In the past, the gallery hosted the famous sucsià (the shoeshine boys)and getting polish shoes inside the galleria was considered very chic!
Piazza del Plebiscito
Located at the end of Via Toledo is one of largest squares in Naples. Famous for its colonnade, it dues his name to the plebiscite taken in 1860, which brought Naples under the House of Savoia.
Castel Nuovo or Maschio Angioino
Another symbol of Naples, the Maschio Angioino is a medieval castle site near Naples Bay. It take its nickname from Charles I of Anjou, who in 1266 moved the capital of the kingdom in Naples, before the capital was Palermo (I cannot wait to visit it!!). From outside the castle is gorgeous and impressive, but unfortunately we couldn’t visit it inside!
While you are there, delight yourself with a stroll along the promenade and enjoy the view of Vesuvio. During the summer, the promenade offers another preview of Neapolitan life. I do not believe that the area is really for swimming, but a lot of people are placed on the rocks and not only sunbathing, but also swimming! I love them :-)
Another preview of Neapolitan life
WHERE TO EAT
Naples is the birthplace of pizza! The real purpose of our trip was to go Da Michele on Via Cesare Sersale, but we had not considered that Naples is not Milan, and in August the pizzerie are closed! By Twitter and Facebook I got more advice of alternatives pizzerie, but there was no way … pizzerie were all closed! Stored – against my will – the desire of pizza I focused myself on pasta with clams! After having comb through all menus of the osterie, I convinced Maurizio to try Hosteria Toledo.
The place is not big and should be refurbished, but the food is really good. I made my menu as follows: Caprese – pasta with clams – a glass of red wine and delizia al limone (sorry I’m Italian). Mozzarella was fresh, the pasta with clams divine and cake spectacular.
Pasta con le vongole – Pasta with clams
Delizia al limone – Lemon deliza
Maurizio opted for the special of the day: pasta with olives and aubergines sauce + water (he doesn’t seem Italian!). Both had coffee and spent 34 euro in all. It’s not much, but there was a little misunderstanding. Prices shown on the list include the service, but not the VAT. We recommend the owner to indicate this fact somewhere because is not nice to find at paying time. However, the food is great and mouth-watering.
In the afternoon we cuddled ourselves with an caffè freddo at Gran Caffè Gambrinus located in Piazza Trieste e Trento.
Its history begins with Italian unification and over the centuries it has become one of the leading literary cafes in Europe. Given the price of coffee (an iced coffee with cream and one without, at the table, cost us 12 euro) enjoy the architecture of its interior. The plasters are magnificent!
On the way, reward yourself with babà and sfogliatella!
Sfogliatella and Babà
Forget the diet! And eventually, if you really want be exaggerate… pleasure yourself with fried pizza!
If you are vegetarian, MIret – my favorite travel blog – recommends UN SORRISO INTEGRALE http://flaneriefeminine.com/2013/01/18/lunch-at-un-sorriso-integrale/