NAPLES. Founded by the Greeks and later a Roman colony, Naples lies in one of the most splendid natural settings in the world.
During the two days of our stay, we will relieve our visits to the works of art and monuments of Naples with tours to its immensely charming and incomparably beautiful surroundings.
We will start our tour from Piazza Municipio, with its splendid view of the harbour on the one side, and of the massive Fort of Sant'Elmo and Certosa di San Martino on the other.
Looking towards the city, we have before us the neo-classical Town Hall, whose one side is part of the church of S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli (1540) which contains handsome tombs and memorials. Continuing in the direction of the harbour, we have, to the right, the impressive Castel Nuovo (also called Maschio Angioino) with its massive round towers, built in 1282 and rebuilt in the middle of the 15° century under Alphonse I of Aragon who added the sumptuous Triumphal Arch (1467), designed by Laurana, through which we enter. In the courtyard is the Palatine Chapel, which has a fine Renaissance portal with a Virgin by Laurana, and contains the stately Sala dei Baroni (Hall of Barons).
From here, passing the neo-classical Teatro S. Carlo, we reach the semicircular Piazza del Plebiscito, with the church of S. Francesco all Paola (1846) modelled after the Pantheon in Rome, and the majestic Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), built with the impressive Castel dell'Ovo (1138) on the left, to enjoy the spectacular view, of the harbour, the city, Mt. Vesuvius, and the islands of Procida and Ischia. Continuing along the magnificent Via Caracciolo, we reach the Wergellina, an enchanting inlet with fishing boats yachts at the foot of the hill of Posillipo. Climbing up through a series of winding panoramic streets, among which Via Tasso and Via Aniello Falcone, we reach National Museum of Ceramics (Museo d'Arte Duca di Martina), with a rich collection of porcelain, glassware, and silver (31 rooms).
Crossing the park and the Piazza Vanvitelli, we come to the Castel Sant'Elmo, next to which, on a magnificent natural terrace, stands the Certosa di San Martino, a medieval monastery, enlarged during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the finest example of Neapolitan with the impressive Castel dell'Ovo (1138) on the left, to enjoy the spectacular view, of the harbour, the city, Mt. Vesuvius, and the islands of Procida and Ischia. Continuing along the magnificent Via Caracciolo, we reach the Mergellina, an enchanting inlet with fishing boats yachts at the foot of the hill of Posillipo. Climbing up through a series of winding panoramic streets, among which Via Tasso and Via Aniello Falcone, we reach National Museum of Ceramics (Museo d'Arte Duca di Martina), with a rich collection of porcelain, glassware, and silver (31 rooms). Crossing the park and the Piazza Vanvitelli, we come to the Castel Sant'Elmo, next to which, on a magnificent natural terrace, stands the Certosa di San Martino, a medieval monastery, enlarged during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the finest example of Neapolitan Baroque, with a magnificent 17th century cloister and an important museum of eapolitan history, costumes, and works of art. We leave San Martino on the opposite side, and going down Via Angelini, Via Bonito, Viale Michelangelo and Via S. Rosa, we come to the Museo Nazionale, where we shall linger long amongst the statues, mosaics, bronzes, furnishings, and pottery of what is considered one of the most important archaeological museums in the world.
We are now in the picturesque quarter, known as Spaccanapoli, and leave the Museum by Via E. Pessina which leads to the semicircular Piazza Dante, with the Foro Carolino (1757) designed by Vanvitelli. Through the Baroque Port'Alba, we come to the Gothic church of S. Pietro a Maiella, in the street of the same name. A little further on, to the left, in Via dei Tribunali, we see the 15th century Cappella Powano and the Baroque church of S.Maria Maggiore. From here, we walk down to a charming square where we find the Gothic apse of San Domenico Maggiore (1289-1324), one of the most important churches in Naples, whose facade gives on to an inner courtyard; in its 27 chapels are preserved outstanding works of art by Caravaggio and Luca Giordano, an Annunciation by Titian, 14th century frescoes, and, on the ceiling of the sacristy frescoes by Solimena. From Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, in which stands a curious Baroque memorial and which is surrounded by Renaissance and Baroque holdings, we follow Via B. Croce to the church of S. Chiara. Originally built in Provencal Gothic style, rendered Baroque in the 18th century, but recently restored to its former Gothic state, it is considered the most important church in Naples from a historical point of view. It contains splendid 14th century tombs In Tuscan artists. The Choir of the Poor. Clares contains an impressive cycle of 14° century frescoes. The Cloister of the Franciscans is similarly interesting, and en-chanting indeed is the majolica-lined Cloister of the nuns, enclosing a rustic garden laid out in the 18° century by D.A. Vaccaro.
Immediately to the right of S.Chiara, is the Piazza Oberdan (or Piazza del Gesu), in which stands the Guglia della Concezione (a Baroque spire) and the Church of Gesu with a rusticated facade of the 16° century and, in the interior, frescoes by Solimena, Giordano, and Stanzione. Through the picturesque Calata Trinita Maggiore, and Via Monteoliveto where, on the left, we pass the Renaissance Palazzo Gravina, we come to the church of Monteoliveto (or Sant'Anna dei Lombardi), a veritable museum of Renaissance sculpture. Among the works to be noted arc a Pieta by Guido Mazzoni, a Creche by Rossellino, an Annunciation by Benedetto da Maiano, and, in the sacristy, a handsome fresco of the school of Piero della Francesca, 16° century inlaid woodwork, and frescoes by Vasari. Returning to Via Monte oliveto, we come to the church of S. Maria La Nova, richly adorned with painting and sculpture. We now go down the spacious Via Medina which, unfortunately, is marred by a hideous skyscraper built after the War.
To the left, stands the church of SS. Giuseppe e Cristoforo, further on, to the right, the 17° century church of S. Giorgio (lei Genovest, and then S. Maria Incoronam, a church whose original Gothic structure is partly visible along the side; inside, frescoes by 14° century Neapolitan masters. On the other side of the street is the church of the Pieta dei Turchini, with paintings of the 17th century Neapolitan school. Continuing along Via Medina with its beautiful buildings, we return to Piazza Municipio. We have not yet indicated where to cat lunch, but we suggest a restaurant near the Piazza del Municipio, to avoid any waste of time. Having had our lunch, we presume it to be well into the afternoon.
If we have not lingered too long, there is still time for a marvelous excursion to CUMA and the Phlegraean Fields. Taking the Via Domiziana, after Mergellina, we reach the ruins of ancient Cumac, with the Arco Felice (Arch of the Sibyl), near Lake Avernus, which the ancients considered the gateway to hell.
We return by the coastal road along the stupendous Bay of Pozzuoli, passing through Baia, Cap, Miseno, and Pozzuoli, from where we see the tiny island of Nisida, to the delightful promontory of Marechiaro. The evening may be spent in any one of these fascinating places. On the morning of the second day, we shall immediately o start out by going up the long, straight Via Roma (which the Neapolitans still call Via Toledo), to the Palazzo (Reggia) di Capodimonte (1738), which stands in the midst of a charming park. The Palace houses what may be considered the most beautiful museum in Italy, for its remarkable collection, not only or paintings (the Pinacoteca Nationale, see The Ten Capitals of Italian Painting), but also of furniture, tapestries, arms,porcelains, etc., for the delightful decoration of its more than 100 rooms, and for the beauty of the surrounding scenery.
Having finished our visit of the Museum, which is sure to last an hour or more, we descend, through the Porter Grande and the Salita di Capodimonte, to Via Cristallini. Leaving the Picturesque Via delle Vergini to our right, and following the streets which take their names from the churches of S. Maria dei Miracoli and S. Maria degli Angioli, we come to the Botanical Gardens, which we cross to reach Piazza Carlo III, where stands the large Ospizio di San Gennaro dei Poveri. We continue along the extremely lively Via Foria (on the left, the church of S. Antonio Abate with 14th century paintings) to Via Cirillo, which takes us to the beautiful Gothic church of S. Giovanni a Carbonara with important monuments and 15th century frescoes.
On the same street, we come to one of the most scenic spots in Naples, with the Florentine Renaissance church of S. Caterina a Formello, and the Porta Capuana, through which we must pass, in order to admire its magnificent exterior by Giuliano da Sangallo. Returning to Piazza Capuana, we walk round the imposing Castel Capuano (12th century) which was the residence of the Aragonese kings and now houses the Court of Justice. Following Via dei Tribunali, we come, on the right, to the Cathedral with an insignificant modern facade in which, however, are preserved three 15th century portals. The interior is solemn and richly decorated with frescoes by Lanfranco and Domenichino in the Chapel of San Gennaro, and 14th century frescoes and a mosaic floor of the 13th century in the Gothic Chapel of Cardinal Minutolo. In the crypt below the cloir of the church, there is the Carafa Chapel (16th century), the finest piece of Renaissance art in Naples. From the left aisle, we enter Santa Restituta. Turning to the right when coming out of the Cathedral, we soon reach the church of S. Maria di Donnaregina, which, in our opin. ion, is the most beautiful church in Naples, with its majestic Gothic vaults, the impressive 14th century fresco-cycle by Pietro Cavallini, and the marble Tomb of Queen Mary of Hungary (1326) by Tino da Camaino.
Returning to Via dei Tribunali, we have, to the right, first the restrained Baroque church of S. Filippo Neri, with a sumptuous interior, and then the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, with a Gothic portal and a magnificent interior with a single nave, adorned with marble tombs and mostly medieval frescoes. Almost directly opposite is the church of San Paolo Maggiore. We continue a short way down Via dei Tribunali to Via Nilo, which leads us to the tiny church of S. Angel, a Nilo (or Cappella Brancaccio), in Via Mezzocannone on the far side of Piazza San Domenico. The interior houses the superb Tomb of Cardinal Brancaccio by Donatello and Michelozzo, and fine 15th century paintings. Through Via San Biagio dci Librai and Vico San Severino we now come to the Renaissance church of SS. Severino c Sossio, with numerous paintings and sculpture. In the nearby Convent (since 1945, the State Archives), is a beautiful Cloister. A few steps more and we reach the Palazzo Cuomo, built in Tuscan Renaissance style, which houses the Civic Museum with a fine collection of pictures, furniture, china and weapons.
We now come to the straight Corso Umberto I and, having crossed the circular Piazza Nicola Amore, we reach the picturesque Piazza del Mercato, where the Angevins, out of hatred, beheaded the young Conradin of Swabia in 1268. In the centre of the square stands the church of Croce del Mercato, while on the one side, is the small church of S. Eligio, with its Gothic portal and, on the other, the great Baroque church of S. Maria del Carmine. We may end our tour of the works of art and monuments of Naples by strolling along Via Marina past the harbour, back to Piazza Municipio.
Should there still be time, we might take a boat over to Capri, or to the radiant peninsula of Sorrento to spend the evening.
Most of the third day of our itinerary should be devoted to visiting the towns destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.: HERCULANEUM, five miles from Naples, and POMPEII, further along the same coastal road, in a stupendous setting at the foot of Vesuvius. We shall not even attempt to describe the two buried towns but merely mention that numerous guides are available and that various guidebooks are for sale at the entrances.
After having visited the excavations at Pompeii, we may have lunch before taking the Amostrada to Salerno which, after an inland stretch across the peninsula which separates the Bay of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno, returns to the coast (18 miles from Pompeii). SALERNO. An ancient town, probably founded by the Etruscans, Salerno became a Roman colony and was later under both Byzantine, Longobard, and Norman rule. From the latter period dates the superb Cathedral, whose original Romanesque style is still preserved in the beautiful Atrium surrounded by 28 Roman columns. We enter the church through a magnificent bronze Door (1099) which leads into the central nave, where there are two 12th century Pulpits, decorated with mosaics, the Tomb of Margherita di Durazzo and the mosaics in the Chapel of Pope Gregory VII. The Cathedral Museum contains excellent paintings and a rich Treasury, including the famous 12th century Altar-frontal carved in ivory.If it is not yet dark, we may still take a ride along the breathtaking Amalfi Drive, perhaps as far as AMALFI itself (1 miles), where we can spend the night.