In the shadow the Vesuvius tourism’s roots run deep: on the imprints of great greek columns refined aristocrats and roman emperors built their sumptuous villas and oasis all along the shoreline of the Gulf. It is not a coincidence that at the beginning of this third millennium the peculiar magic of this civilization continues to generate new sources of amazement: the recovery of age old monuments and traditions – folklore, gastronomy, genuine cultivation – that were thought irreparably lost, events and shows worthy of the great international circuit, new fodder for artistic and scientific research.
The artistic treasure of Naples to visit are, in fact, too many to count: the historical centre, a patrimony under the tutelage of UNESCO, the palaces, churches, catacombs and underground passageways, the Archaeological Museum, the places of medieval and renaissance power amassed around the Castel Nuovo and Royal Palace, the unforgettable waterfront from Castel dell’Ovo to Posillipo. The hilly area of Vomero offers masterfully restored buildings like the Capodimonte Royal Palace and the Certosa (monastery) of San Martino, museum collections amongst the most important in the world. A trip through the twentieth century city takes you, among the notable emerging urban and architectural sights, to the rationalist Mostra d’Oltremare, with its park, sports complex and exhibition space, to Città della Scienza (Science City) nearby. Science is also witness to the recovery of industrial archaeological complexes and the originality of a scientific tradition that renews itself. Unusual and surprising is the exploration of the new homes of contemporary art: monumental structures like the PAN - Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, the MADRE - Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Donnaregina Contemporary Arts Museum), and the unique artistry of the metro stations that evidence the original horizons of farseeing cultural politics.
Naples, in the final sum, remains, deep in its roots, even with all the difficulties and contradictions inherent to all big metropolitan cities, an extraordinary place to live, admire, and enjoy with all the senses: for the depth of the art and civilization that has indelibly marked its history; for the mild climate that accompanies day and night the shows, musical and theatrical events, exhibitions, fairs and religious gatherings; for the gourmand possibilities to search out the age old culinary tradition, the seafood and the unique typical products (buffalo mozzarella, pizza, Docg wine, varied and refined pastries) in all their local translations, or for finding fine hidden little shops where craftsmen still ply their wares.
The origins of the city are lost in time and charming legends. The most tenable hypothesis puts the beginnings of the city in the 9th century BC, when the greeks colonised the Gulf on their way up to the high Thyrrenean mineral deposits. In 326 it was declared a Roman colony. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Naples became the capital of an important Duchy, that managed to stave off the invading Longobards. In 1137 the Duchy fell into the hands of the Normans, who favoured cultural integration. The Port of Naples became the most important in the world. After the death of Frederick II of Svevia, Carlo D’Angiò made his triumphal entrance to Naples in 1266. Power passed into the hands of Alfonso d’Aragona in 1442, after a long war that brought the city to its knees. In a short time, however, the situation changed: important civil engineering (the construction of sewage conducts and streets) and restoration works were undertaken (at Castel Nuovo the Triumph Arch was built). Other works (like the opening of via Toledo, the construction of the Spanish Quarters – formerly barracks – and the restoration of the Chiaia Riviera) were completed during the following two centuries during the Spanish rule (1503-1707), up to the arrival of the Bourbons (1734), who reigned the Kingdom of Naples until 1860 when Italy was finally united. Our journey of discovery of the city begins in the historic core which preserves ancient greek-roman imprints, to continue with the places of power of the medieval-renaissance period concentrated around the Castel Nuovo and Royal Palace. We will then follow along the waterfront from the Castel dell’Ovo to Posillipo, to end up on the green hills of Capodimonte and Vomero. More info: http://www.comune.napoli.it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naples
Piazza Plebiscito and Galleria Umberto The main city square or piazza of the city is the Piazza del Plebiscito. Its construction was begun by the Bonapartist king Joachim Murat and finished by the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV. The piazza bounded on the east by the Royal Palace and on the west by the Church of San Francesco di Paola, with the colonnades extending on both sides.
At the centre of the square the two great statues of Charles of Bourbon (work of Antonio Canova) and Ferdinand I on horseback face the Royal Palace. Construction was begun in the early 1600’s based on a project by Domenico Fontana; enriched by Joachim Murat and Carolina Bonaparte with neoclassical embellishments and decorations, some from the Tuileries, it was damaged in 1837 by fire, and restored by Gaetano Genovese. To visit the priceless interior cross over the honour courtyard and enter the Historical Living Quarters Museum (30 rooms on one floor) which has preserved the original furniture and décor. The monumental staircase of coloured marble inlay and the Small Court Theatre, a ballroom transformed in 1768 by Fernando Fuga into a gracious Rococo ambience, are beautiful. In another part of the palace the National Library, with its more than million and a half volumes and several priceless medieval codices, can be found. The famous papyrus of Herculaneum are preserved here.
Nearby is the Teatro di San Carlo, which is the oldest and largest opera house in Italy. Inaugurated on November 4, 1737, and named after its patron Charles of Bourbon, is the oldest opera house in the world. The building, partially destroyed by fire in 1816, was restored by Antonio Niccolini, the designer of its façade. In the early 1800’s the San Carlo Theatre lived through one of its most glorious seasons ever thanks to the impresario Domenico Barbaja who commissioned works by musicians such as Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti. Directly across from San Carlo is Galleria Umberto, a shopping centre and social hub. Above has a splendid iron and glass covering 57 meters high, and below an elegant inlaid marble floor. There are shops, cafès and bookstores on the inside. Santa Brigida Church is part of the complex and has a beautiful fresco called Heaven, by Luca Giordano, in its dome.