The cloister of the Monastery of Santa Chiara, founded in 1310, looks more like a park in a seaside resort town than a solemn retreat for nuns. Majolica tiles made at the Capodimonte workshops, in vivid colors and lively designs, cover the 66 octagonal columns surrounding its cloister, and between the columns are long benches also covered in tiles. These seem to bring the secular world inside the monastery walls, with scenes from everyday life of their period - the mid-1700s. Under the porticos, the walls on all four sides of the cloister are covered with 17th-century frescoes of Old Testament scenes.
There are more reasons to visit Santa Chiara besides its surprising and beautiful cloister. Inside on the right is a presepio (nativity scene) set in a Roman ruin, incorporating mundane daily Neapolitan life along with the sacred creche scene. The figures are dressed in typical local 18th- and 19th-century clothing. The setting in a Roman ruin is thought perhaps to reflect the intense interest in the discovery of Herculaneum in the early 18th century. While repairing damage after World War II, the intact remains of a first-century Roman thermal spa were discovered, probably part of a villa. This and other finds from the first through fourth centuries make up a small archaeological area and museum.