Nooks of Napoli
Musical journalist Bruno Sokolowicz decided to leave behind his hectic work life for a few years to embark upon a long journey leisurely exploring the most out of the way corners of the world. His plan: to slow down, turn off the auto-pilot and learn to look at the world around him again – to live every experience as if it was the first time again. First stop: Naples.
Napoli is a fascinating city. Unique. With great character. It is THE city of southern Italy. A historical marvel, architectural wonder, artistic beauty, gastronomic delight and geological impressive. Its inhabitants are as hot-blooded as the lava from Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that looms over the city, always in the background. There is an endless list of historical buildings, castles, palaces and churches to visit in Naples: Castel dell’Ovo, Palazzo Reale, the iglesia del Gesù Nuovo and the Capella Sansevero where one of the most special statues from the history of sculpture can be found – the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe di San Martino
On this tour, we will explore the streets of this Mediterranean city and its surrounding area in search of some unique sites.
Pizza Da Michele
The world’s first pizza parlour, opened in 1870. Even today, with thousands of pizza parlours all around the planet, it continues to be one of the best and, of course, the most authentic. They only offer the two classic varieties from the city: Margarita (normal or double cheese) and Marinara. Less is more!
It was here that the pizza legend began and the most popular version comes from Naples: the Margarita. Three colours like the Italian flag: white for the mozzarela di buffala, red for the home-made tomato sauce and green for the fresh basil.
For those interested in more “pizzeril” gastronomy tourism, there are a couple of appealing alternatives to a Da Michele (always full of both locals and tourists long before Julia Roberts scoffed her pizza in “Eat, Pray, Love”): Gino Sorbillo, the inventor of the calzone, wide variety of pizzas. Quality.
Di Matteo, spectacular Marinara (no mozzarela, but with a decent portion of garlic).
A shopping precinct with some serious architectural touches from the end of the 19th Century. Built at the same time as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the architect Emanuele Rocco was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Tall, imposing, something interesting wherever you look. From the mosaics on the floor to the glass and metal domed ceiling. For talking a walk indoors around the Naples of 120 years ago.
Mergellina Fishing Port
Strolling along the shores of Naples, leaving Mount Vesuvius behind us, we reach the old fishing village of Mergellina. Today, it is a district of the city with its own character where locals relax in the sun, especially at weekends. One sunny Sunday morning, no matter if it’s in the middle of winter, the fishing port of Mergellina fills with walkers, roller-skaters, cyclists and people gathering for chat. People seeking to enjoy the more Mediterranean side of the city. An excellent place to buy live fish directly from the fishermen on the boats or on the beach. Or even to eat that fish in one of the many beach bars that dot the promenade.
Fancy wandering around the most beautiful houses in Naples? Take a photo of the bay from where you can see the whole city, the sea and Mount Vesuvius in the background? Go to a park and take in the Mediterranean breeze? Take a break from the fast pace of the city and recharge your batteries? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you can’t leave Naples without visiting the residential Posillipo district, where the smart, rich people live. But don’t worry, you won’t spend much money there because there are hardly any bars or shops to be found. Just lovely tree-lined streets, views of the sea, gorgeous houses, parks and lookout points. Basically, a wealth of peace and beauty to be enjoyed free of charge. Check it out!
Solfatara de Pozzuoli
Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius was one single volcano. With the violent eruption of 24 August of 79 AD, which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum (also recommended visits), a crater was formed that created a volcano with two peaks: Vesuvius and Solfatara. Solfatara is like a snub-nosed volcano with vents that stink of rotten eggs. That is the smell of sulphur, which was once associated with hell and the devil, and that some believe today increases libido, strengthens sex lives and enhances reproduction when inhaling the fumes. Just in case it’s true or even if you only get the placebo effect from visiting Solfatara de Pozzuoli, it has to be included as another place of interest in the Gulf of Naples.
By Bruno Sokolowicz from scannerFM
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Visitors to the every surprising and – for many – chaotic Naples have a huge array of things to see and do. Interesting sights include its magnificent churches, like those of San Francesco da Paola and Gesù Nuovo, castles like the Castel dell’Ovo and such amazing archaeological jewels as those on display in the National Archaeological Museum, including exhibits from the ancient sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum. You could also just stroll through the streets of its Centro Storico, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. And, of course, all such sightseeing requires timely stopovers to indulge in their excellent pizzas, which is why we have come to the place where this popular dish first saw the light.
As if all the things we can enjoy on the city’s ground level were not enough, in its bowels lurks a whole world of tunnels, galleries, catacombs, cisterns and countless spaces where the earliest traces unearthed belong to the founders of Naples – the Greeks. The latest of them endure into our own times, as the Camorra is said to have used the network for their drug running and their undercover meetings. Nowadays, particularly in recent years, this hidden face of the city, known as the Naples Underground or Napoli Sotterranea, has been attracting ever greater attention and has now become yet another tourist attraction. And, understandably so, as many a story lies buried in that subsoil.
As mentioned in passing, it was the Greeks who first started building that “invisible” underground city for the purpose of defence and as a place of worship. The Romans continued where the Greeks left off, although they took things a step further – they created a network of underground channels and aqueducts for water conveyance. Much of that original system of water channelling continued to be used in the city until the early-20th century. Also from those ancient times are the remains of a Greco-Roman theatre which visitors can see on a tour of subterranean Naples. Legend has it that Nero himself sung in the theatre during an earthquake set off by the nearby volcano, Vesuvius.
Persecuted for their faith, the early Christians used those catacombs to gather for prayer and to bury their dead. Indeed, one of the most striking features of the Naples Underground is precisely the Catacombs of San Gennaro, tunnelled out of a large chunk of the Capodimonte hillside. They are the largest catacombs in southern Italy. With passageways arranged on two unstratified levels, they feature some fresco remains from the late-2nd-century AD. Interestingly, San Gennaro is the city’s patron saint, while the catacombs were the burial site of Neapolitan bishops and a place of pilgrimage up until the 11th century. There are two other catacombs in the city –San Severo, of which only a small cubicle remains, and San Gaudioso, reached via the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità.
Apart from acting as hideouts, means of conveyance and access routes to the city, these passageways were also turned to belligerent purposes, as on more than one occasion they were used to mount surprise attacks on the city. That was true of operations conducted by Belisarius in the year 536, and Alfonso of Aragon in 1442, or at least that is how the story goes. Closer to our times, the underground was used as an air-raid shelter during World War II. Objects surviving from that horrific period can still be seen there.
Entrance to the Naples underground is via the Piazza San Gaetano, 68 and guided tours are available in Italian or English. Scheduled times are given on their website.
Embark on an adventure of discovery in the Naples Underground and unearth the stories hidden there. Check out your flight here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS