If you’re going to Naples and expecting it to be pristine, clean and romantic like Rome, don’t. Naples isn’t Rome. It was a bit of a shock to be honest, to see the differences between the two cities and quite frankly all of the other cities that I’ve visited while in Italy. I spent 8 nights there and found some really beautiful things to see while there, you just have to know where to look.
Naples is certainly grittier, dirtier and rougher around the edges, but is still a charming city. While there I found some really incredible treasures that are worth a visit.
The Buried City: Subterranean Naples
La Napoli Sotterrata is the preserved portion of the ancient Roman city that lies underneath the church San Lorenzo Maggiore and the historic center of Naples. Located in Piazza San Gaetano, this ancient site has an incredible number of remnants of shops, bakeries, laundries and the old stone road that runs the length of it. The current historic center of Naples is built upon this older level and sits 40m (131ft) below street level of the historic center of Napoli. It’s so interesting to see an entire city that lies underneath your feet.
The National Archeological Museum
This museum has an incredible collection of artifacts from around the world and is said to be one of the most important in Italy. With works from Greek, Roman, Renaissance times and, most notably, many artifacts from Pompeii. A full scale model of the city of Pompeii, along with a video showing what it looked like before and after Mt. Vesuvius erupted is showcased.
The cost at the time of this writing is 12 euro, but is free on the first Sunday of each month. The museum is easily, and best, accessed by taking the metro to the Museo stop. It lets you off right beneath the front entrance.
The Veiled Christ
One of the most astonishingly beautiful works of art that I’ve ever seen thus far has to be the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino. Housed in the Sanservo Chapel Museum, the horizontal marble sculpture of the Christ figure has been carved to depict the body of the Christ delicately draped in a very sheer, thin shroud.
The face and body are visible underneath the cloth, carved so delicately that you can see the facial expression, every curve of the body and even the lace at the bottom of the shroud. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact this is a marble sculpture. The patience and skill required to achieve such a masterpiece is astonishing. Unfortunately photos are not allowed and the cost at the time I visited was 7 euros to enter. Completely worth it if you love sculpture!
Art in The Metro Stations
The Municipality of Naples has done something ingenious. Commissioning some of the top artists and designers to create permanent installations and unique designs in several metro stations. This has turned them into a day out that you have to experience! Though there are no longer organized tours, you can easily pick the ones you find most interesting and go. For the cost of an all day metro ticket you can explore each station.
Line 1: Garibaldi, Università, Municipio, Toledo, Dante, Museo, Materdei, Salvator Rosa, Quattro Giornate, Vanvitelli, Rione Alto
Line 6: Mergellina, Lala, Augusto, Mostra
Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius
If you go to Naples you have to visit Pompeii. If you’re driving, it’s only about 30 minutes away and totally worth a day trip. I would suggest getting a tour guide at the site instead of taking a big tour. I took a tour with a group and I have to say that I was not happy with the pace of the tour because they really rush you through the site. The tour guide was really very good, funny, engaging and knew his history. I LOVED seeing Pompeii, but I would never do it again with a big tour group.
Naples is city that definitely has it's own appeal and if you look past the rough exterior you'll find that it's a diverse and welcoming city.