Get outside of Naples and use...
Get outside of Naples and use Agropoli as your starting point to visit cities or sites steeped in ancient history. It wasn't Naples, but a town a few hours away. Paestum is an ancient Greek settlement where the ruins are preserved and so is the atmosphere of those days and the lives of the people who lived there.
Some people may say, oh it's just alot of old stones and rocks now. But take your time and open your heart. Just knowing that over 2000 years ago the stones beneath your feet were part of a busy pedestrian thoroughfare will start connecting you to the past. Then walk around the temples and other structures and catch the sun glinting over them...
Caserta--the 'Versailles' of...
Caserta--the 'Versailles' of Naples. A lovely little palace. Capri--a gem of an island in the Bay of Naples with many facets: fashionista Capri, hometown Capri, natural Capri and imperial Capri. Not to be missed: the ruins of Tiberius' palace and 'Tiberius' leap.' Along the way, you may see the 'scuola Tiberio,' or the 'Tiberius elementary school' (is there a 'Nero nursery school'?). Capri also has a serene monastery and of course, the gaudy Blue Grotto. Amalfi--take a local bus from Sorrento to Amalfi for breathtaking, heart-stopping views, and then take the equally spectacular but soothing ferry back. Pompeii--absolutely unequalled for decadent Roman splendor. A resort town, it had it all--villas, gardens, temples, theatres, athletic arenas, restaurants, and shops--all beneath the unquiet majesty of Mt. Vesuvius. It's still not completely excavated. Also, it's easy to get to--it's a stop on the local train from Sorrento. Herculaneum (modern Ercolano)--like Pompeii but not as big. It's striking to see how people actually lived. Also on the train line. Cuma (ancient Cumae, near modern Pozzuoli, Sophia Loren's hometown)--site of an ancient oracle maintained by a line of priestesses (and immortalized on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome). Not so easy to get to, but very much worth it for the serious lover of all things Roman. It's quiet, untouristed--a mystical, powerful place.
We’d spotted this restaurant the previous evening and thought it looked warm and welcoming, and maybe a little smarter than others in the square, so it seemed an easy choice for our Saturday evening in Naples. Big mistake! Inside it seemed quite bland and uninteresting in its décor, and the waiter seemed fairly uninterested in us, despite having only a few other customers. The food was OK, but rather dull and lacked colour. The “mixed salad”, which consisted only of lettuce (mainly tasteless iceberg) poorly dressed, was a particular disappointment in a country which usually does such things so well.
Altogether we paid €33 for two starters (prosciutto & parmesan for me, spaghetti frittata for Chris) and two mains (fried prawns and calamari for me, probably the best of our dishes overall, and veal in lemon sauce for Chris, with no accompaniments apart from the aforementioned salad), plus a small beer and a glass & a half of house red. We also had an unasked for (but welcome) bottle of mineral water which was the only sign of the inevitable “covers” and were charged 12% for the somewhat half-hearted service. When offered dessert we declined and headed instead for our favourite bar (see Nightlife) for coffee and cakes.
The Royal Palace of Naples is one of four palaces that the Bourbon Kings of Naples used during their rule of the Kingdom of Naples (1730-1860): one is in Caserta, another on the Capodimonte hill overlooking Naples, and the third (now the site of the agricultural department of the University of Naples) is in Portici on the slopes of Vesuvius.
The Royal Palace is on the site of an earlier building meant to host King Philip III of Spain, who however never made the trip. The architect chosen for that palace was Domenico Fontana. The building was put up on the site of an even older Spanish viceroyal residence from the early 16th century. The royal residence was moved to Caserta in the 18th century, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault than Naples.
Today the palace and adjacent grounds house the San Carlo Theater, a museum, the National Library of Naples and a number of city offices, including those of the regional tourist board.
As Newcastle fans we can never resist pausing to check out any other “new castle” we come across, and here is Naples’ example. The Castel Nuovo was built by Charles I of Anjou in 1279-1282 to house his court, which he moved here from the former capital, Palermo. The castle remained a royal residence for about 200 years, during which time several historic events took place here, for example the election of Pope Boniface VIII. After the late 15th century it became more of a fortress than a residence, and now houses the Museo Civico (silver and bronze artefacts, and paintings depicting Neapolitan history), the Palatine Chapel (all that remains of the original 13th century structure) and the Hall of Barons.
I confess we didn’t bother with any of these so I can’t comment on them, but we did stop long enough to admire the Arco di Trionfo, between the two entrance towers, which is considered the most important Renaissance work in Naples. This arch, completed in 1468, commemorates the return to the city of Alfonso I of Aragon and Naples in 1443.
The last restoration was in 1823, and today the castle serves as the home of the city government.