Self-guided Walking Tour of Naples

Visitng Naples

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Situated near the infamous Mount Vesuvius, Naples captivates tourists as Italy’s third-largest city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas globally. Originally established by the Greeks as the colony of Parthenope in the 9th century BC, it was later re-founded as Neápolis (“New City” in Greek) in the 6th century BC.

Historically, Naples has played a pivotal role, serving as the capital of the Duchy of Naples from 661 to 1139, then the Kingdom of Naples from 1282 until 1816, and subsequently the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until Italy’s unification in 1861. Between 1925 and 1936, under Benito Mussolini’s regime, Naples underwent significant expansion and modernization. However, during World War II, the city suffered extensive damage due to Allied bombings and underwent considerable reconstruction in the postwar years. Since the late 20th century, Naples has witnessed substantial economic growth. In 1995, its historic center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The main square, Piazza del Plebiscito, originally designed as a tribute to Napoleon, was named following the 1860 plebiscite that integrated Naples into the Kingdom of Italy. Notable sites around the piazza include the Royal Palace and the Teatro di San Carlo, Italy’s oldest opera house. Opposite the theater lies the Galleria Umberto I, a bustling shopping center and social hub.

Naples is also famous for its historic castles, like the 13th-century Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino, a key landmark built under Charles I, the first king of Naples.

Beneath the city surface, a network of caves and structures from centuries of mining now serves as a fascinating tourist attraction.

Naples boasts around 1,000 churches, half of which are historic, including the Duomo di Napoli (Naples Cathedral), the seat of the Archdiocese of Naples. Known as the Duomo di San Gennaro, it hosts the annual Miracle of Saint Januarius, the city’s patron saint, on September 19.

To discover these and other culturally and historically significant sites in Naples, consider taking a self-guided introductory walk through the city.

Castel dell'Ovo

CC BY-SA 2.0 / Mac9

The Castel dell’Ovo, or Egg Castle, is a historic seaside fortress in Naples, situated on what was once the island of Megaride, now a peninsula on the Gulf of Naples. Its intriguing name stems from a medieval legend involving the Roman poet Virgil, who was believed to be a powerful sorcerer. According to the tale, Virgil placed a magical egg in the castle’s foundations, which, if broken, would lead to the castle’s destruction and bring disaster upon Naples.

Originally settled by the Greeks from Cumae, the site of the Castel dell’Ovo is where they established the nucleus of what would later grow into the city of Naples. The current structure, predominantly dating back to the 15th century, was constructed by the Aragonese dynasty. It has served various roles throughout history, including a royal residence and the state treasury. In the 19th century, a small fishing community developed around the castle, known today for its marina and seafood restaurants.

The castle’s rooftop offers a stunning vantage point, paved with bricks and providing panoramic views of Naples, the Mediterranean Sea, and Mount Vesuvius. The ascent to the top is relatively easy, accessible by a broad, gently sloping road. Visitors will find a few shops and a small art gallery within the castle, alongside numerous spots perfect for taking scenic photographs.

Tip: For the best experience, visit Castel dell’Ovo towards the evening to catch the breathtaking sunset. Remember to bring a camera and binoculars to enhance your visit, and don’t forget a bottle of water. Conveniently located near the boat terminal, it’s easy to return to Sorrento by boat if you’re staying there, making it a perfect day trip.

Location: Castel dell'Ovo, Via Eldorado, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Monday to Friday: 9 am to 7 pm. Sunday: 9 am to 1 pm. | Price: Free
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Fontana del Gigante

Fontana Del Gigante,Naples
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Paolo Villa

From the castel walk with the sea on your right.

The Fontana del Gigante, also known as the Fountain of the Giant, is an iconic 17th-century fountain located in Naples, Italy. Originally erected next to the Royal Palace of Naples, the fountain derived its name from its proximity to a large statue known as “il Gigante” or the Giant. Over the centuries, the fountain has experienced multiple relocations, eventually settling in its current scenic location on via Partenope near Castel dell’Ovo. It is sometimes also referred to as the Fontana dell’Immacolatella.

Commissioned by Antonio Álvarez de Toledo, the 5th Duke of Alba and then Spanish Viceroy of Naples, the fountain originally graced the corner of Largo di Palazzo. Its design is attributed to the Florentine artists Pietro Bernini and Michelangelo Naccherino. The nearby Giant statue, created in 1670 and featured in historical paintings, including one by Gaspar van Wittel housed at Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, was removed in 1807.

The fountain is celebrated for its exquisite Mannerist style, marked by three ornate rounded arches that are embellished with the heraldic symbols of the Viceroy and the king he served. The central arch showcases a cup held aloft by two marine creatures, and the lateral arches are adorned with statues of river deities gripping sea monsters. Flanking the ends of the arches are caryatid statues bearing cornucopias, adding to the grandeur and historical narrative of this magnificent work of art.

Location: Fontana del Gigante, Via Partenope, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: 24 hours | Price: Free
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Piazza del Plebiscito (Public Square)

Piazza Del Plebiscito, Naples
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Argo Navis

Continue with the sea on your right, turn left at Via Cesario Console and walk throguh the park until you reach Piazza del Plebiscito.

Piazza del Plebiscito, commonly referred to by locals as “Piazza Plebiscito,” stands as one of Naples’ most renowned squares and serves as the city’s elegant epicenter, often featured in numerous films, TV series, and documentaries. This grand square, home to the Royal Palace of Naples, offers a quintessential Neapolitan scene with the majestic Mount Vesuvius in the backdrop. Spanning about 25,000 square meters (approximately 270,000 square feet), it ranks among the largest public spaces in both the Campania region and Italy at large.

Located in the central San Ferdinando district, Piazza del Plebiscito is strategically positioned halfway between the historic heart of Naples and its scenic waterfront. The square is easily accessible via Via Toledo, one of the city’s primary shopping arteries, where both locals and visitors enjoy a vibrant stroll past various shops, cafes, and historical buildings en route to the piazza.

Historically, this site has been significant to Naples’ rich and complex narrative for centuries. The area has hosted an open square since the mid-16th century when Viceroy Don Pedro of Toledo established his palace here, which was later demolished two centuries afterward. The square as it is known today originated in the early 19th century, designed by Domenico Fontana under the commission of Joachim Murat, the then King of Naples during the Napoleonic reign. Initially named Largo di Palazzo, its title was changed following the decisive plebiscite on October 21, 1860, which marked the end of Bourbon rule and facilitated the integration of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the newly unified Kingdom of Italy.

Location: Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free
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The Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale)

Il Palazzo Reale, Naples
CC BY-SA 3.0 / pietro scerrato

The entrance to Palazzo Reale is on your right.

The Palazzo Reale di Napoli, a grand edifice, stretches along one side of Piazza del Plebiscito. Originally the residence for Spanish viceroys, it later became the home of the Bourbon kings, followed by the Austrians, and the French, establishing its role as a primary seat of power after Charles III of Bourbon chose it as his official residence in 1734.

Throughout the period leading up to the unification of Italy, the palace played a pivotal role in the history of Naples, serving as a cultural and political hub that welcomed various European dynasties and nobilities. Its main facade features 19 arches, each housing statues of Naples’ most illustrious rulers, spanning from King Ruggiero II the Norman to Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy.

Since 1919, the Royal Palace has been under the stewardship of the Italian state and now functions as one of Naples’ premier museums. Visitors to the palace can explore its majestic grand staircase, the opulently furnished Royal Apartments, and the extensive National Library with its beautiful gardens. Additionally, the prestigious Teatro San Carlo opera house, which faces the adjacent Piazza Trieste e Trento, forms part of this historic palace complex.

Location: Royal Palace of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Thursday to Tuesday: 9 am to 8 pm. Closed Wednesdays. | Price: Adults: € 10 (£ 8.60). Young people between 18 and 24 years old: € 2 (£ 1.70). Children under 18 years old: free entry.
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Basilica di San Francesco di Paola

Basílica De San Francesco Di Paola, Nápoles
CC BY-SA 2.0 / "Diego Delso,

Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola is directly opposite the palace.

Directly across from the Royal Palace, the neoclassical Basilica di San Francesco di Paola stands as one of Naples’ most iconic churches. Built in the 19th century, it is renowned for its distinctive architecture, which includes a semicircular colonnade that gracefully frames the square. At the center of this architectural marvel is a large dome, reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, adding a majestic touch to the already striking facade. This architectural style marks the basilica as a key highlight in Naples’ rich tapestry of historic and cultural landmarks.

Location: San Francesco di Paola, Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Monday to Saturday: 6:45 am to 12 pm and 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Sundays: 8 am to 12 pm. | Price: Free
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Bourbon Tunnel

Galleria Borbonica
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Associazione Culturale Borbonica Sotterranea

From the Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola turn left and left again to walk down Via Gennaro Serra.

Buried about 100 feet beneath the bustling streets of Naples lies a vast tunnel filled with rusting vintage cars and relics from wartime, originally intended as a secret escape route for the royal family. Commissioned in 1853 by King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who ruled over Sicily and Naples during a time rife with riots and uprisings, the tunnel was designed to provide a safe passage from the Royal Palace to the military barracks. Carved from the volcanic rock below Naples, it linked to the Carmignano aqueduct, dating back to the early 17th century. Unfortunately, the tunnel remained unfinished at the king’s death, slipping into obscurity until World War II.

During the war, these underground corridors and adjacent cisterns served as air raid shelters for up to 10,000 Neapolitans. Today, historical tours of the tunnels reveal remnants left by those who took refuge here, including children’s toys, gas masks, and everyday items such as hair brushes, alongside the remains of toilet blocks and makeshift beds.

Post-war, the Bourbon Tunnel, or Il Tunnel Borbonico, became a repository for wartime debris and other discarded items, housing everything from fascist statues to impounded vehicles up until the 1970s, after which it was again forgotten.

Rediscovered and restored in the 2000s, the tunnel now serves as a museum known as the Bourbon Gallery (Galleria Borbonica), where the stored vintage cars and wartime remnants are displayed in a haunting setting. Located near the entrance to Naples Underground, this site offers a unique glimpse into the hidden network of tunnels beneath the ancient city. Guided tours provide an in-depth exploration of this historical tunnel, including ventures into its darker, more mysterious sections.

Location: Galleria Borbonica - Ingresso Via Morelli, Via Domenico Morelli, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays: Tour Start times: 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3pm, 5pm | Price: €11.00 | Website
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Teatro di San Carlo

Teatro San Carlo Naples
Public Domain / Sony photographer

Return to the Piazza del Plebiscito and leave by the north east exit. Teatro di San Carlo is on your right.

Adjacent to the main square Piazza del Plebiscito is the renowned Teatro di San Carlo, Italy’s prestigious opera house. Founded in 1737 by King Charles II of Bourbon, the theater opened with a celebrated performance of “Achilles in Sciro.” As one of the oldest and most illustrious opera houses in the world, Teatro di San Carlo offers visitors the chance to experience an opera performance in a historically rich setting. Alternatively, guided tours are available, providing insights into its grand architecture and storied past, allowing visitors to explore behind the scenes of this cultural landmark.

Location: Teatro di San Carlo, Via San Carlo, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Guided tours: Monday to Saturday (excluding holidays): 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm. | Price: Adults: € 9 (£ 7.70). Young people under 30/seniors over 60: € 7 (£ 6). Children under 10 years old: € 4 (£ 3.40).
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Galleria Umberto I

Interno Cupola Galleria Umberto I
CC BY-SA 3.0 / pietro scerrato

Galleria Umberto I is opposite the Teatro di San Carlo.

The Galleria Umberto I in Naples, a stunning example of 19th-century architecture, is celebrated as one of Italy’s most beloved public shopping arcades, alongside Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Constructed between 1887 and 1890 as part of a comprehensive project to rejuvenate Naples, this architectural marvel mirrors the grandeur and timeline of the Eiffel Tower’s construction in Paris.

With its impressive dimensions — 147 meters in length, 15 meters wide, and a towering dome peaking at 57 meters — the Galleria quickly became a social hub for the city. Its design features a glass and steel roof that fills the space with light, murals, sculptures, and a blend of retail shops, cafes, and restaurants on the ground floor, while the upper levels house business offices.

Location: Galleria Umberto I, Via Santa Brigida, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
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Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo, Naples
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Ra Boe / Wikipedia

Leave the Galleria Umberto I by its eastern entrance. Turn right and then left. Castel Nuovo is infront of you.

Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep), is a prominent Medieval Renaissance fortress located adjacent to the port of Naples. Initially constructed between 1279 and 1282 by King Charles I of Anjou, it was named “New Castle” to distinguish it from older fortifications in the city. The castle is more commonly referred to by locals as Maschio Angioino.

Following the end of French rule and the subsequent Spanish conquest of Naples in the mid-15th century, Castel Nuovo underwent a significant reconstruction under Alfonso V of Aragon. This redevelopment transformed it into the grand Medieval Renaissance style fortress that today stands as a majestic landmark by the port.

Location: Castel Nuovo, Via Vittorio Emanuele III, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Monday to Saturday: 8:30 am to 6 pm. Sunday: 10 am to 1 pm. | Price: Adults: € 6 (£ 5.10).
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Santa Chiara, Naples

Naples - Santa Chiara - Cloitre
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Jean-Christophe BENOIST

Walk north up Municipio, cross over into Via Monteoliveto. Take a detour to see the Via Santa Maria la Nova and its cloisters (I love cloisters!). Continue up Via Monteoliveto and turn right onto Calata Trinità Maggiore. Continue until you reach the Piazza del Gesù Nuovo and the Guglia dell’Immacolata monument (“Spire of the Immaculate Conception”). Continue and the entrace to the Santa Chiara Complex is on your right.

The Santa Chiara Complex in Naples, a rich ensemble of religious buildings, stands as a testament to medieval devotion and artistry. This historic complex, founded in 1310 by Queen Sancha of Majorca and King Robert of Naples, includes the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery, tombs, and an archaeological museum. Notably, King Robert is interred within the complex.

Originally constructed in the Provençal-Gothic style, the Church of Santa Chiara was later revamped into Baroque in the 18th century and underwent restoration after sustaining damage during World War II. The church features a modest west facade with a central rose window and houses Naples’ largest interior, boasting ten chapels adorned with magnificent Gothic monuments.

The complex was initially established to house the royal Anjou tombs, including that of Joan I, buried here in 1382. Among its most enchanting features are the cloisters, where seventy-two columns line the garden walkways, connecting a series of benches. These columns and benches are embellished with hand-painted 18th-century Majorca tiles, each unique and collectively depicting various pastoral and maritime scenes amidst lush vines and flowers. The cloister’s porticoes are graced with 17th-century frescoes that adorn the ceilings.

The gardens are a serene haven, dotted with citrus and lavender trees, centered around a fountain situated in a medieval friar’s refectory. The museum within the complex showcases the ruins of a first-century Roman spa and sauna, alongside a collection of ecclesiastical artifacts and historical exhibits.

Why You Should Visit: The Santa Chiara Complex is a cultural treasure, reflecting the devotion of King Robert the Wise and Queen Sancha to their patron saints, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Chiara. The exquisite cloisters are a highlight, but the impressive church and the well-preserved Roman ruins also offer compelling reasons to explore.

Tips for Visiting: To avoid the crowds and fully appreciate the tranquility of the cloisters, consider visiting early in the day. Starting your visit with the cloisters can provide a more peaceful and enriching experience.

Location: Santa Chiara, Via Santa Chiara, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Monastery: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am - 5:30 pm. Sunday 10:00 am - 2:30 pm. Basilica: Monday to Saturday 8:00 am - 12:45 pm and 4:30 pm - 8:00 pm. Sunday 9:00 am - 12:45 pm and 4:30 pm - 8:00 pm. | Price: Adults: €6 | Website
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Museo Cappella Sansevero (Sansevero Chapel Museum)

The Veiled Christ Anagoria
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Anagoria

Walk east along Via Benedetto Croce Until you turn left at the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. At the centre of Piazza San Domenico Maggiore stands the Obelisco di San Domenico, at the top is a bronze statue of San Domenico blessing the people below. Walk north up Vico San Domenico Maggiore alongside the Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore and turn first right. Museo Cappella Sansevero will be on your right.

The Sansevero Chapel Museum, also known as the Chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà, is named after a revered painting of the Virgin Mary which holds a miraculous backstory. In the late 16th century, an innocent man wrongfully imprisoned was miraculously released following the appearance of the Virgin Mary. In gratitude, he commissioned The Pietà, which soon attracted pilgrims, including John Francesco di Sangro who, after being cured of an illness by viewing the painting, was inspired to build a private chapel in 1590. This chapel would later serve as a family burial site.

Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, later renovated the chapel, enriching it with the exquisite artworks that draw visitors today. Among the nearly thirty significant pieces housed here, notable works include Antonio Corradini’s “The Veiled Truth” (1752), a poignant tribute to Raimondo’s mother, and Giuseppe Sanmartino’s “The Veiled Christ” (1753), a remarkable marble sculpture depicting Christ under a lifelike transparent shroud. Another striking sculpture, “The Release from Deception” by Francesco Queirolo (1754), represents Raimondo’s father struggling to free himself from a net, symbolizing liberation from deception.

The chapel also features Francesco Maria Russo’s ceiling painting “The Glory of Paradise” (1749) and a unique floor originally designed in a black and white labyrinth pattern. Additionally, it contains two remarkable anatomical displays of preserved human skeletons with silk and wax reconstructed blood vessels.

Why You Should Visit: The Sansevero Chapel Museum is a treasure trove of 18th-century Italian art, presenting a collection that is both hauntingly beautiful and historically significant. Despite its unassuming exterior, the chapel offers a captivating interior filled with masterpieces that reflect both the artistic and scientific curiosities of its patrons.

Tips for Visiting: To enhance your visit, utilize the audio guide available at the museum. It provides invaluable insights into the artworks, the chapel’s history, and the intriguing stories behind each piece, ensuring a deeply enriching experience.

Location: Cappella Sansevero, Via Francesco de Sanctis, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 9 am to 7 pm. Closed Tuesdays. | Price: Adults: €8. Young people between 10 and 25 years old: €5. Children under 10 years old: free.
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Chiesa delle Cape di Morte

Chiesa Delle Cape Di Morte
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Sailko

Turn left when leaving Museo Cappella Sansevero, and left again so you are walking north along Via Nilo. Turn right along Via dei Tribunali. The Complesso Museale Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco is on your left. Via dei Tribunali, often referred to as Decumanus Maggiore, is one of the oldest and most historic streets in Naples. Originating from ancient Greek times and continuing into the Roman era, this street was one of the primary east-west thoroughfares in the ancient city of Neapolis.

Today, Via dei Tribunali is affectionately known as the ‘pizza street’ of Naples, celebrated for its abundance of outstanding pizza restaurants. This vibrant street is a must-visit for anyone wanting to experience authentic Neapolitan pizza right in the heart of the city where this world-renowned dish originated.

The Complex of Santa Maria delle anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, dating back to the 17th century, stands prominently along the Decumano Maggiore in the historic center of Naples. At the entrance, visitors are greeted by three bronze skulls on the kerbstones, setting the tone for this unique site that deeply intertwines with Neapolitan spiritual traditions.

This architectural gem consists of two distinct churches built one above the other, an Opera museum, and a historical archive. The complex was established by the lay congregation, Opera Pia Purgatorio ad Arco, which remains active to this day. They dedicated the church to the Virgin Mary, envisioned as the protector of souls languishing in Purgatory. The entire complex, especially the upper church, showcases Baroque architecture rich in death symbolism and houses significant historical, artistic, and anthropological treasures that encapsulate the essence of Neapolitan culture.

The Hypogeum or the lower church is accessed via a trapdoor from the upper church and holds a profound connection to the Neapolitan people through the cult of the purgative souls. Here, skulls housed in niches—known as the skulls of the Holy Land—represent the deceased of unknown identity, the “beggarly souls” seeking respite from their sufferings in Purgatory. According to Neapolitan beliefs, these souls exert a powerful influence over the living, considered benevolent spiritual entities that can bestow real graces upon their adherents.

One of the most venerated figures in the Hypogeum is Princess Lucia, whose spirit is believed to be particularly benevolent. Her niche, adorned with flowers, candles, and small gifts, remains a focal point for those seeking divine intervention.

The Complex of Santa Maria delle anime del Purgatorio ad Arco serves not only as a museum but also as an active place of worship. Mass is still celebrated weekly in the upper church in honor of the deceased, maintaining the sacred tradition and spiritual reverence that define this unique cultural and religious landmark. This site continues to be a poignant testament to the enduring relationship between the Neapolitan people and their cherished ancestral spirits.

Location: Complesso Museale Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, Via dei Tribunali, 39, 80138 Napoli, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00 Sunday: 10.00 – 14.00 | Price: Upper Church free entry, Guided tours €7 | Website
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Duomo di Napoli (Naples Cathedral)

Main Facade Of Naples Cathedral
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Yair Haklai

Continue along Via dei Tribunali and turn left on Via Duomo.

Naples Cathedral, also revered as The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, is affectionately termed Cattedrale di San Gennaro in honor of its patron saint, Saint Januarius. The origins of this grand Gothic structure trace back to the 13th century, with completion in the 14th century, built atop the remnants of earlier churches. Excavations here have revealed Greek and Roman artifacts beneath the cathedral, adding layers to its historical depth.

The cathedral’s neo-Gothic facade, completed only in 1905, fronts an interior adorned with a gilded coffered ceiling and baroque enhancements by artist Luca Giordano in the nave and transept. The Chapel of the Treasury, a brainchild of priest and architect Francesco Grimaldi and completed in 1646, features works by eminent artists like Jusepe de Ribera and Giovanni Lanfranco, including the famed dome fresco and the canvas of Saint Gennaro Escaping the Furnace Unscathed. The chapel also treasures the skull of Saint Januarius and two vials of his blood, encased in a silver strongbox behind the altar.

Adjacent to this, the next chapel houses Saint Januarius’s bones in an urn, with additional relics below the altar in the Cappella Carafa. The Basilica di Santa Restituta, part of the cathedral complex, stands as a testament to early Christian architecture, originally constructed in the 4th century and renovated in the 17th. It is home to Europe’s oldest baptistry, the Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte, adorned with stunning 4th-century mosaics.

A revered tradition involves the vial of Saint Januarius’s blood, which is displayed thrice yearly; it is believed that if the dried blood fails to liquefy, disaster will befall Naples.

Why You Should Visit: Naples Cathedral offers a profound glimpse into medieval religious culture, adorned with miraculous relics, exquisite Italian art, and significant architectural elements from various eras.

Location: Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Via Duomo, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Daily from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and from 4:30 pm to 7 pm. | Price: Free entry. Baptistery: € 2 (£ 1.70)
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National Archaeological Museum of Naples

National Archeological Museum, Naples
Public Domain / Shonagon

Continue up Via Duomo, cross over Cavour and turn left. At the far end of the small park is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN) stands as one of Italy’s most esteemed and frequented museums, renowned globally for its vast and unique collection. Established as one of the earliest archaeological museums in Europe, MANN has played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape of the continent with its significant contributions.

Originally serving as a cavalry barracks, the building was later known as Palazzo dei Regi Studi, functioning as a university during the Bourbon reign. The transformation into a museum began in the late 18th century under the auspices of Charles III of Bourbon, who was instrumental in initiating the first excavations of the cities buried by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This enlightened cultural policy helped preserve the astonishing artifacts unearthed during these digs. Moreover, Charles III enriched the museum’s collection with invaluable pieces from the collection inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, which are still prominently featured today.

A visit to MANN is an immersion into the core of Italian and Western civilization’s history. The museum houses the famed Farnese Collection, which includes a breathtaking array of sculptures and classical art. Highlights of the museum include relics from Pompeii and Herculaneum such as exquisite frescoes, detailed mosaics, and an array of statues, precious artifacts, and objects from daily life that paint a vivid picture of ancient Roman life.

The museum also boasts a remarkable Egyptian Section and hosts numerous temporary exhibitions each year, offering fresh and insightful perspectives into various aspects of historical and archaeological significance. Not to be missed is the Secret Cabinet, which displays a collection of erotic art and objects from antiquity, providing a candid look into the sexual customs of the past.

A trip to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is not just a visit; it’s an educational journey through time, offering deep insights into the past civilizations that shaped today’s cultural and historical understanding.

Location: National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Piazza Museo, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 9 am to 7:30 pm. Tuesdays: closed. | Price: Adults: € 18 (£ 15.40) Artecard: € 9 (£ 7.70) Under 18s from the EU: Free 18 - 24 year olds from the EU: € 2 (£ 1.70) First Sunday of the month: free
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Piazza Dante

Monument Of Dante Alighieri In Piazza Dante Napoli
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Mstyslav Chernov

Walk south along Via Enrico Pessina until you reach Piazza Dante.

Piazza Dante, also known as Dante Square, is a central landmark in Naples, prominently featuring a statue of the Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri. Originally, this site hosted a large marketplace known as Largo del Mercatello or Market Square. In 1765, the square underwent a significant transformation under the direction of architect Luigi Vanvitelli and was renamed Foro Carolina in honor of Maria Carolina of Austria, the wife of then King Ferdinand IV of Naples. Following Italy’s unification in 1871, a statue crafted by sculptor Tito Angelini was erected in 1872, dedicating the square to Dante Alighieri.

Today, Piazza Dante is a vibrant hub for both locals and tourists. It is conveniently situated near many of Naples’ significant monuments and is adjacent to the new first line of the underground station. Nearby, the Rione della Pignasecca hosts a well-known food market, adding to the square’s appeal. Vanvitelli’s original design features, including a semicircle of ornately decorated columns with statues, still grace the western side of the square and are part of a boarding school’s architecture. Piazza Dante remains a favored spot for family outings and cultural activities in Naples.

Location: Piazza Dante, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: 24 Hours
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Castel Sant'Elmo

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Hotepibre

Walk to the right of the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo a Port’Alba, at the south of the piazza, and turn right Via Tarsia. Continue along here when it turns into Via Montesanto. Take the furnicular at Stazione Di Montesanto to go to Morghen. This is in the Vomero neighborhood which is located on top of the hill overlooking the city center. Turn right on exit and right again at Via Tito Angelini.

Castel Sant’Elmo is a historic castle perched atop Vomero Hill in Naples, standing on the site of a 10th-century church dedicated to St. Erasmus, from which the names Eramo, Ermo, and eventually Elmo are derived. The decision to build the castle was made by Roberto d’Angiò, who selected the ideal location during a visit to the nearby Certosa di San Martino, which was then under construction.

The original architectural design was the work of Sienese architect Tino da Camaino, also responsible for the Certosa. Upon his death, the project passed through several hands, including Attanasio Primario, Francesco di Vico, and finally Balduccio de Bacza, who completed the castle in 1343 during the reign of Giovanna I d’Angiò.

Today, Castel Sant’Elmo is not only a symbol of medieval architecture but also a cultural hub. It houses the Museum Novecento, dedicated to documenting artistic achievements in Naples from 1910 to 1990. The museum, situated in the rooms of the castle’s High Prison, showcases approximately 230 works by 116 artists, both Neapolitan and non-Neapolitan, who were influential in the city’s art scene, particularly in painting, sculpture, and graphic experimentation. This museum serves as a testament to the rich cultural and artistic history of Naples throughout the twentieth century.

Location: Castel Sant'Elmo, Via Tito Angelini, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: Daily from 8:30 am - 7:30 pm (last entry 6:30 pm) | Price: €2.50
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Certosa e Museo di San Martino

San Martino Monastery And Museum
CC BY-SA 3.0 / pietro scerrato

The Certosa di San Martino, often heralded as the pinnacle of Neapolitan Baroque architecture, was originally constructed as a Carthusian monastery between 1325 and 1368. Its heart is one of Italy’s most stunning cloisters, enriched over the centuries by illustrious Italian talents including 16th-century architect Giovanni Antonio Dosio and the Baroque sculptor Cosimo Fanzago in the subsequent century. Today, it stands as a magnificent repository of Neapolitan and Italian art.

The monastery complex includes the church, sacristy, treasury, and chapter house, each brimming with a rich array of frescoes and paintings from Naples’ finest 17th-century artists like Battista Caracciolo, Jusepe de Ribera, Guido Reni, and Massimo Stanzione. Notably, Cosimo Fanzago’s intricate marble inlay work graces the nave, showcasing exceptional craftsmanship.

Adjacent to the church is the smaller Chiostro dei Procuratori. A grand corridor from here leads to the larger Chiostro Grande (Great Cloister), a breathtaking assembly of Tuscan-Doric porticoes, marble statues, and lush camellias, further adorned by Fanzago. This area also includes a quaint cemetery marked by Fanzago’s skull sculptures.

Beyond the cloisters, the Sezione Navale chronicles the history of the Bourbon navy from 1734 to 1860 and displays an impressive collection of royal barges. Opposite the refectory, the Sezione Presepiale houses an enchanting array of Neapolitan nativity scenes from the 18th and 19th centuries, including the massive Cuciniello nativity that occupies an entire wall of the former monastery kitchen. The Quarto del Priore, located in the southern wing, contains a significant portion of the historic picture collection and features Pietro Bernini’s Madonna col Bambino e San Giovannino, as well as a notable statue of St. Francis of Assisi by Giuseppe Sanmartino.

The museum also presents Immagini e Memorie della Città e del Regno (Images and Memories of the City and Kingdom of Naples), a comprehensive pictorial history of Naples. This section includes portraits of historical figures, antique maps, and room-specific exhibitions on events like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the Revolt of the Masaniello. Notably, Room 32 showcases the Tavola Strozzi, a celebrated depiction of maritime Naples in the late 15th century.

Location: Largo S. Martino, 5, 80129 Napoli NA, Italy | Hours: Thursday to Tuesday: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm Closed on Wednesdays | Price: €6
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You can take the Funicolare Centrale to head back towards Piazza del Plebiscito.

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