The Province of Naples is a magical place where colors, flavors, culture and history are intertwined in a charming mix of knowledge, joy and fun.
The area is loomed over by Mt. Vesuvius and overlooks a marvelous bay, whose beauty has served as driving inspiration for many an artist.
The allure of the landscape, the beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean like jewels, the energy of a fiery and vivacious people open the doors to that joie de vivre that pervades every inch of this land, whose popular songs and delicious recipes never fade.
The multitude of places will excite every type of tourist: from the art and history enthusiast to the nature and sea lover, from the enogastronomy to the ancient traditions.
Two places highlight and define the bay: the Sorrento Bay to the south and the magnificent area of Phlegraean Fileds to the north. In the center of this arc lies Naples with the majestic Vesuvius directly behind it.
The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide for their astounding number of ruiins. The entire area is interspersed with finds from the long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.
Not to mention the natural masterpiece created over the course of the millennia by the volcanic eruptions and lava flows that have drawn such a unique landscape: it is a reminder of the strength and grandeur of Mother Nature, against which man can do very little.
Finally, in a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands - Capri, Ischia, Procida and a few islets - each boasting unique identities and history. In the Province of Naples, tourists can take on a truly multi-faceted vacation that will leave wondering why they waited so long!
Naples is a real treasure trove of art and history, of indelible signs from past dominations, each of which has contributed to this city's construction. Its center, in particular, encompasses a heritage so rich that it has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2,500 years of history is evidenced in palaces, churches, monuments and art galleries, amidst which the Napoletani carry on their daily lives with their trademark vivacity and creativity.
Four castles tower over the city. The different but well-integrated architectural lines of Castel Nuovo, otherwise known as the Maschio Angioino, evoke the double role of palace and fortress that this building played during the domination of the Anjou and Aragon families. The Triumphal Arch commissioned by King Alfonso I of Aragon and designed by Pietro de Martino and Francesco Laurana is rare in that it is of a rather austere beauty. On a small island, linked to the mainland by a bridge is the monumental Castello dell’Ovo, now an exhibition and congress center, with a stunning view of the whole Bay.
Nestled on the Vomero lies Castel Sant'Elmo, overlooking the street locally known as Spaccanapoli that divides the city into two sections. Finally, Castel Capuano, originally built as a fortress but subsequently renovated and transformed into a residence for the aristocrats. Nearby, Porta Capuana, outlined by a marble arch, is the main entrance to the old town.
The churches in this city are countless. The Cathedral - erected upon pre-existing buildings - over time has undergone radical modifications to repair the damages caused by the earthquakes, especially on the outside. In 1800, Enrico Alvino opted for the currently-visible vertical development that features façades with spires, niches and steeples built around what had survived the earthquake. The interior, based on a Christian cross plan and three long naves divided by two rows of columns, hosts the famous Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro (the Chapel of St. Gennaro’s Treasure) that conserves masterpieces made with precious metals and the two vials containing the Saint's blood. Another place linked to the Patron Saint of Naples is the Catacombs of San Gennaro, with their frescoes, mosaics and other valued artwork.
A combination of architectural layers realized over time outlines the massive San Lorenzo Maggiore Basilica, built upon Greek-Roman remains, now restored and open to the public by way of the inner cloister.
Along Spaccanapoli, the visitor can visit the Church of Gesù Nuovo, with its unique façade (obtained from a 15th-Century palace), and marble decorations and paintings inside. The Santa Chiara Monastery - with its simple lines characteristic of the Franciscan churches - conserves, besides the royal tombs, the Chiostro delle Clarisse, with rare adornments entirely made with multi-colored majolica depicting the colors of the land. Majestic as if it were a cathedral and filled with art is the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, another interesting example of the peculiar artistic heritage of the City of Naples.
The Sansevero Chapel is linked to the polyhedric personality of Raimondo di Sangro; the church is commonly called pietatella ("Little Pietà) and is a notable example of the merging of architecture and art. Famous is the Cristo Velato (Veiled Christ) by Giuseppe Sammartino, striking the ey for the extraordinary craftsmanship employed to sculpt the marble shroud over the body of Christ.
The art collections of noble families such as the Farnese and Borgia, and the many finds from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other areas making up finds now inside the largest museum of ancient art in southern Italy: the National Archaeological Museum, housed in Palazzo degli Studi.
The Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, surrounded by a large park, hosts the Capodimonte Museum and National Galleries, an incredible collection of masterpieces by Titian, Raphael, Correggio, Masaccio, Mantegna, Caravaggio and the Neapolitan masters. Amazing is the furnishings in the Royal Apartments, for instance the famous porcelain drawing-room, a masterpiece of the Royal Manufacture of Capodimonte, whose production is partly on display in the Porcelain Gallery. This is the only museum to balance classic pieces with those modern (think Andy Warhol!).
The Museo Civico Gaetano Filangieri, in addition to its large collection of sculptures and paintings, hosts a vast array of European and Asian weapons, an invaluable numismatic collection, and many precious porcelain items from the most important Italian and European factories.
Probably the most prominent Neapolitan piazza is Piazza del Plebiscito that displays the grand colonnade designed by Gioacchino Murat, in front of which is the magnificent Royal Palace designed by Domenico Fontana. The Palace is home to the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library, the largest in southern Italy, boasting ancient and invaluable items. Teatro San Carlo lies behind the Palace; a music and ballet temple, famed artists the caliber of Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti have performed here.
The Umberto I Gallery is just in front of the of the theatre entrance, with marble floors decorated in fine geometries. Along one of the main streets, Via Toledo, are the so-called Quartieri Spagnoli; built in 1500 by Don Pedro da Toledo as army barracks, the Spanish Quarter is now a neighborhood with the most authentic Neapolitan spirit. The atmosphere that pervades the area can also be felt throughout the Province, where an ancient mystique blends with the incomparable environmental beauty.
In the zone surrounding Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii and Ercolano, the "resurrected cities," are UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to the incredible value of the ruins and their excellent state of preservation. A visit to the ancient Forum means a visit to the Casa del Fauno, a monumental structure with rooms dedicated to several activities; the Sacrario dei Lari Pubblici, one of the most interesting buildings of Pompeii, probably devoted to the gods that were said to protect the city; and the Casa dei Vettii, with the interior decorated with precious paintings.
Driving southward, the visitor enters the beautiful Sorrento Peninsula, a world of colors that range from the blue of the sea to the green dotted with the gold of the lemon trees. Immersed in this wonderful landscape is Sorrento: composed of history, nature and flavors, it is the mainland counterpart to the queen of these waters, Capri, and her three Faraglioni (sea stacks) that guard "her majesty" and her many sea caves –among which the celebrated Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra).
Past the Posillipo promontory, from which the view is absolutely breathtaking, the visitor enters the volcanic area of the Phlegraean Fields, a perfect combination of the work of nature and that of ancient civilizations. The nearby, crystalline sea is strewn with islands such as Ischia, an ideal place to get away from the everyday thanks to the healing properties of its waters, appreciated as far back as the time of the Roman Empire. Spas equipped with all the comforts and located in a natural environment offer a wide variety of treatments for a vacation of total relaxation.
Different, but just as beautiful is Procida, surrounded by sheer cliffs that intersperse with the sandy beaches lapped by the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Excitement in Naples Province is always guaranteed! The hard part is choosing what to do. So many opportunities abound that the visitor will be tempted to try them all.
Water, sun and nature provide countless possibilities for aquatic sports, both over and underwater. In Baia, one should not miss the chance for a tour of the underwater villas decorated with mosaics, ancient fish farms and a Roman port inside the Underwater Archaeological Park.
The visitor can best explore the remotest corners of this heavenly realm by renting a boat or booking a guided tour.
In the evening, when the sky becomes a cobalt blue blanketed in the stars that light up the night, bars, restaurants, pizzerias, clubs and discos remain open until late for hours of carefree fun.
For the shopping lovers among us, choose from a wide variety of handmade creations and amusing Neapolitan souvenirs. In the streets of the center, workshops, shops and boutiques where one can buy almost anything - from the terra-cotta statues of San Gregorio Armeno (where during Christmastime creativity reaches its apex) to fashion items such as leather accessories, neckties, shoes, gold and exclusive handmade umbrellas.
Naples, blessed as it is by the sun, conceals an underground city, dug first by the Greeks and subsequently by the Romans, who built a massive aqueduct used until the 17th Century. A tour guide will take visitors on a journey through time in the Napoli underground, an itinerary of tunnels and remains, e.g. the Greek-Roman Theatre.
Just outside the city, in Torre del Greco, one can shop for jewels made with the local precious red coral. Herculaneum and Pompeii provide a wide array of souvenirs replicating archaeological finds and objects, in lava rock. Finally, Sorrento has a tradition of valuable, finely-inlaid wooden articles.
If one is seeking relaxation and wellness, numerous spas throughout the Province, all highly specialized in therapeutic and treatment packages to suit everybody.
The volcanic nature of the area is a world definitely worth exploring. Mount Vesuvius, with its massive crater, the solidified lava flows and the contrasting color of the cultivated fields is a spectacle not to be missed. A surreal atmosphere, the charm of a distant past, wild nature, all surrounded by a wonderful sea, are the fundamental components of the Phlegraean Fields Regional Park, one of the most evocative places on all of Naples Bay.
When thinking about Neapolitan culinary traditions, the mind immediately travels to images of the famed and favorite Pizza Margherita, a gastronomic marvel created to honor the Queen Margherita. Simple ingredients and the local creativity have given birth to one of the most loved and imitated dishes in the world! Naples, however, will always remain the only place to sample the real pizza napoletana, thinner in the middle but with a thick, chewy crust, and seasoned with local tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
And what about the ragù? The great Eduardo de Filippo, in one of his theatrical works, dedicated a poem in which he expressed all his nostalgia for the original Neapolitan ragù, different from what he calls “what is this meat with tomato sauce!”. It is a thick sauce that is added to the famous lasagne and spaghetti or vermicelli al dente, perfectly cooked.
Another gem of Neapolitan gastronomy is the buffalo mozzarella, a fresh, handmade cheese that melts in the mouth, leaving an intensely-delicious milk flavor.
Spaghetti with mussels or clam sauce, risotto alla pescatora, moscardini affogati, grilled fish, fried anchovies, fried or stuffed calamari are a few recipes that employ the fresh fish caught and sold by fishermen everyday on the docks.
Finally, for dessert, taste the sfogliatella, a crunchy pastry filled with ricotta; some pastiera (the most popular cake); or a rum-filled babà.
These are masterpieces of a cuisine that ought be paired, no less, with a selection of the excellent local wines: Lacryma Christi of Vesuvio DOC, Taurasia and Greco di Tufo, all labeled DOCG.
Of course, do not forget to sample Sorrento’s Limoncello!