This is a phrase coined in the mid-1800s during the reign of the Bourbons. At the time Naples was the third most populous city in Europe after London and Paris. It was also one of the wealthiest.
I prefer to agree with the original meaning of the phrase and not the “if you go to Naples you will die because it’s so dangerous” image the city had for years.
I first went to Naples in 2007 on a day trip during my second trip to Italy. I met the lovely Tracie P, then know as Tracie B. I don’t believe that was almost eleven years ago! My last trip to Naples was with Erica in 2009. I thought it was four years ago at most.
I cannot tell you how many people back then worried for my safety when I told them I was going to Naples. One friend said he hated the place as he was mugged literally five minutes after he walked out of the main train station. Naples was mentioned in the international press mostly for its pizza, the mafia, and a major garbage problem. During both trips I could count the number of American tourists on one hand. One famous guidebook said if Rome was overwhelming, don’t go further south. Naples is Rome squared.
I loved the energy of Naples during those early trips, even with the garbage situation. There’s no place like it. It reminded me a little of pre-Disneyfied New York City.
Not sure what the heck took me so long to return but I was shocked at the change. The city is cleaner than Rome. There are more American tourists. Fuelled in part by the popoluarity of the Ferrante book series, the international press is writing about the great things happening in Naples. Naples is “in”. Are there still problems, yes. I recommend using the same precautions you would in any major, densely populated city. Leave the fancy watches, rings, etc at home or in your hotel safe.
I wasn’t as overwhelmed during this trip. It could be because I live in a walking city again whereas during my the first trip i was coming from Los Angeles where your car is a cocoon. I’d visited the archeological museum and Castel Nuovo on those trips. I wanted to see a few places I missed.
My first stop was the Museo Capella Sansevero. You buy your ticket (€7) at the small nearby center/office . There was a long line to enter but it moved quickly. You cannot take any photos inside. It’s not the easiest to find. It’s on a small side street but my Google maps was on point.
This is a church I would return to again, maybe in the dead of winter/off season so I could have more time to take it all in. I now understand why the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino is considered one of the most incredible sculptures in the world.
I know this is all marble yet I have a hard time believing it.
Prince Raimondo di Sangro commissioned the young Sanmartino to create this work for his family’s chapel. The Prince was a well-known alchemist and bold experimentalist. There are several other incredible works in the chapel inculding a poignant Pudicizia by Antonio Corradini, whose veiled female figure next to a cracked plaque, honors Raimondo’s mother, Cecilia Gaetani d’Aquila d’Aragona. He was only 11 months old when she died.
There’s a little room downstairs. Folks, once I descended down the narrow iron staircase I was shook. There are two skeletins, a man and a woman. They are encased in what looks like perfectly preserved human arterial systems. Over two centuries ago, Dr. Giuseppe Salerno from Palermo, along with the Prince, created theses anatomical works. There were/are all kinds of rumors as to how these bodies came to be. Word was that the Prince killed members of his staff, injecting them with liquid while they were still alive. Others said the arterial systems are reproductions. They are fascinating and creepy. No Google search for photos. Nope. Cannot.
I got lost and went into many churches as I made my way to the restaurant Antica Osteria Pisano. Thanks for the suggestion, Gina. The restaurant is in the Historic Center on the cusp of the Forcella neightbhood. If you’ve watched the third season of GOMORRA you’re familiar with this mural of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples.
I asked about the pasta of the day. It was Rigatoni alla Bolognese. I was skeptical about ordering this dish outside of Bologna but Gennaro (one of the owners) told me it was delicious. He was correct.
I walked off my pasta getting lost on the way to Palazzo Reale. I had the palace on my list but never made it during my last two trips.
I listened to the audioguide. I highly recommend it as the history of this palace is fascinating. The palace suffered some major damage during WWII but you can still get a sense of the wealth and presitage of the era.
Located in Piazza del Plebiscito, the outside is understated. I was not prepared for this.
I was overwhelmed by the beauty and will have to write a seperate post about the interiors and history of this palace.
The seafront is very close to this piazza, just down the hill. I decided to walk along the sea on my way to the Chiaia neighborhood. A large section of the Lungamare is a car-free zone. This was started in 2012 and what a great idea. People, mostly locals, were out and about enjoying the sunny weather. There are plenty of caffes and restaurants
I didn’t get to spend much time in the Chiaia area because I had to catch my return train. Chiaia is an upscale neighborhood where you find your luxury local shops and some of the international brands like Prada. I popped into a small enoteca, Belledonne, for a glass of wine. It was excellent and €6.
I made my way to the closet Metro stop. I found the signage a little confusing but asked for directions.
I took the fast Italo train. It’s only an hour and usually there are great deals during the week for same day travel. I really need to spend more time in Naples.
Photos: Me and my iPhone unless noted