Spaccanapoli: No one can claim to have truly enjoyed the best of Naples who hasn't spent at least a couple of days in the section of town known generically as Spaccanapoli, or 'Split Naples,' so named after the long straight progression of narrow streets that bisects the Centro, especially in the area between Piazza del Ges Nuovo and the Via del Duomo. Important not only for the presence here of distinguished churches, monuments, statues and archaeological sites, Spaccanapoli, with its grandiose Baroque palazzi and warren of colorful vicoli, recalls Naples as it was under the reign of the Bourbons, from 1734 to the arrival of Garibaldi's liberating Redshirts in 1860. The Neapolitans rightly consider Spaccanapoli, in all its noisy confusion and exhilarating vitality, to be the city's soul. Spaccanapoli itself has been closed to traffic, the whole area is safe to wander in and the rewards, visual and cultural, for a sightseer are many. Most of the restored palazzi, such as the elegant Carafa and the Spinelli, with its strangely beautiful elliptical courtyard and bas-reliefs, can be visited and carry identifying placards beside their front entrances. Well-marked accesses to the archaeological sites are situated conveniently near the Duomo and other churches. They offer tantalizing glimpses into the Roman and Greek civilizations that underlie the whole city and one Napoli Sotterranea, provides a spooky, comprehensive hour-and-a-half tour of these long-vanished worlds.
The churches themselves are wonderful in their variety, ranging from the fantastically ornate to the austere Gothic of the Monastery of Santa Chiara, destroyed by incendiary bombs during World War II but rebuilt exactly as it had been. In contrast is the Church of Ges Nuovo across the way, with its rich mosaics, inlaid marbles, paintings and sculptures and, in a side chapel, the busts of 70 saints perching serenely on top of their reliquaries as if in miniature opera boxes. The privately owned little Chapel of Sansevero is a cornucopia of treasures, including the piece known as the 'Veiled Christ,' made in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino, a statue so technically amazing that another accomplished sculptor, Antonio Canova, on a visit to Naples, reportedly attempted to buy it for himself. Less well known, the Church of San Gregorio Armeno provides an oasis of cool silence from the hubbub outside in the street of the same name, where for generations Neapolitans have manufactured their presepi, or Christmas mangers. The last time I visited San Gregorio Armeno, a baby was being baptized, the child's family the only others present, while from high above the nave a cluster of beaming, bare-breasted angels gazed down upon the scene, a reminder that the church was originally founded as a convent for the wayward daughters of the nobility.
And then, in isolated splendor, its elaborate decorated ceiling supported on 16 piers incorporating more than 100 antique columns, there is the great Duomo of San Gennaro (St. Januarius), known affectionately to Neapolitans as San Gennà. Indifferent to the fact that under Vatican II San Genn was inexplicably demoted from the Holy See's official calendar of saints, his constituents still consider him the city's guardian angel and his dried blood, kept in a couple of ornate vials in a side chapel, continues miraculously to liquefy several times a year, most notably on his feast day, Sept. 19. Visitors can reserve early for good seats at the event. San Genn's most vocal supporters maintain that the city's well-being depends on the speed of the liquefaction, a phenomenon no one has yet been able to debunk. Older Neapolitans tend to believe in miracles and, given their city's tumultuous history, why shouldn't they?
I don't know if this is really 'off the beaten path' since it is in the middle of the historic centre, but it wasn't easy to find.
The chapel predates the 18th century when alchemist Raimondo decided to redecorate. What you see are his improvements. It is fairly small and the main points of interest are the fantastically carved marble tombs. I thought the most impressive was 'Disillusionment', showing the figure of a man struggling under a net.
Raimondo was apparently ex-communicated for his experiments on people and you can see two of his victims in a small room downstairs. He created something that preserved the veins and capillaries of the body and what is on view are a man and a woman. A bit gruesome, really, but you have to walk past them to exit.
Hours - Mon, Wed, Sat 10 - 5 L8000
No photos allowed
We have to define what the Beaten Path is to determine when we've gotten off of it. The one thing that is for sure is that people beat a huge path to see Pompeii.
This ancient city at the foot of Vesuvius was quite prosperous in Roman times. It was destroyed in 79 A.C., following the famous volcanic eruption which covered it with a layer of pumice and ash. The first archaeological explorations took place towards the mid-18th century, and excavations soon began in earnest, but not until 1860 were they conducted in an orderly, systematic fashion. It is thought that, to date, about three-fifths of the ancient town has been excavated. Pompeii is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, because it provides a complete picture of the topography and life of a Roman town.
Walk through ancient streets to visit the Villa of the Mysteries, the House of the Faun and of the Vettii brothers. Discover baths, basilicas, temples, theatres, private homes, the amphitheater, even the palestra where gladiators trained for the arena.
For those who choose to travel by private car, also visit the so-called 'Villa of Poppaea,' the second wife of the emperor Nero. It is located at Oplantis, which was a holiday resort area for the rich who had their vast suburban villas built here in order to live in sumptuously decorated surroundings far from the noise and inconvenience of Pompeii. Amongst these villas stands one whose size and rich mural decorations set it apart from all of others. The 'Villa of Poppaea' is the largest and most luxurious suburban villa so far brought to light.
The town, built on an elliptical plan, was divided by a regular network of streets intersecting at right angles. The houses generally had two floors, with a garden or internal courtyard, and were decorated by architectural coverings and paintings of fine quality.
The Forum, a vast rectangular square, was the fulcrum of the political, religious and economic life of the town, and is bordered by the main public buildings.
There are two theatres: the Odeon, built between 80-75 B.C., used for musical recitals and mime-shows, and the Large Theatre, with seating for 5,000 spectators, which dates from the Hellenistic period (200-150 B.C.). The largest baths were the Stabian Baths, built in the Samnite period and reconstructed in the Imperial period. The stucco decoration, dating from the Flavian period, is some of the finest surviving.
The many houses of remarkable beauty include the House of the Vettii, one of the most interesting examples of a rich merchant's house, while the Villa of Mysteries is perhaps the most important building in the whole of Pompeii. Its most interesting feature is a cycle of paintings dating from the 1st century B.C. which decorate the walls of one of the rooms in the centre of the house.
Many other buildings are worth special attention. These include: the House of Menander, the House of Loreius Tiburtinus, the House of the Golden Cherubs, the House of the Faun, the Villa of Diomedes and the Amphitheatre.
Built in the 17th century, it was restored at the beginning of the the 19th century.
At the end of Via Chiaia.
Its really amazing seeing this when leaving the centre of Naples. Something you only expect in South-East-Asia or the United States.
Would you call this a bird-eye view? This aspect of Naples reminds me of places I've been in Southern California. Santa Monica?
This is the photo of through the archway and looking back..........it had just started to drizzle with rain.
I looked back and took another photograph so that I could maybe sort out where I was and what I was looking at.
Sybil's Cave, where people coming from everywhere would come since 5th century BC to hear their future.
The atmosphere here is really misterious !!
Wander through the Public Gardens, enjoying the sights and peaceful sounds of nature, as you leave the busy city life behind.
If you want to get a moment just for yourself on the Capri, try to pick up pine seeds (they are tasteful and free - just lying on the ground, need to be crashed with a stone before you eat them).