Time to visit the real Napoli, the Napoli of Elena Ferrante, the crowded and busy Naples. The Naples of motorcycles EVERYWHERE!
VISITING VIA DEI TRIBUNALI
An easy starting point is from the train station—or Metro station, but first making a stop for a “sfogliatella” at Attanasio. It is the best in Naples, they prepare them right there, therefore you have them really freshly made. Sfogliatelle are good for a max of 6-8 hours, that is why it is important to eat them fresh from the oven.
Once properly fed, proceed to Via dei Tribunali. This is the decumanus major (decumanus was an east-west-oriented road), one of the most important streets in the historic center of Naples declared in 1995 UNESCO heritage of humanity and corresponds to today’s Via dei Tribunali still entirely following the ancient Greek road axis.
A stop to see the Church called Pio Monte della Misericordia for Caravaggio’s “Seven Works of Mercy” is a must!
Caravaggio was a kind-of-guy, and Naples must have been his town all right! In Naples, he stayed twice, during a troubled period of his life when a death sentence for homicide weighed on him. Loved and hated by his contemporaries, condemned to almost two centuries of oblivion to be rediscovered only in the mid-twentieth century, Caravaggio is now considered one of the most important painters in the world, among the initiators of the Baroque and forerunner of modern painting. Today the city hosts three of its masterpieces.
However, it is suggested to head to the Museo Cappella Sansevero, just a few blocks ahead.
THE SANSEVERO CHAPEL MUSEUM
This a real jewel. It is so surprising to enter this baroque chapel in the heart of Naples with a unique atmosphere of beauty and mystery.
Among the various masterpieces stands out the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, 1753 circa. An incredible marble sculpture of a dead Christ covered by a thin and delicate “veil,” chiseled to the smallest detail, such as the embroidery and fringe of the veil; the details of the swollen vein still pulsating on the forehead, the wounds of the nails on the feet and on the thin hands, and the sunken side finally relaxed in the freedom of death.
Other masterpieces adorn the small chapel, for me stood out the mother of the commissioner—Prince of Sansevero—who died while giving birth, the Prince never knew her hence the veiled woman with her face turned away; and his father that spent little time with his son, until late in life when he freed himself of a few vices. He is, in fact, seeing freeing himself of a heavy net. The line to visit this Chapel builds very fast, best to be there early. Tickets can be bought online at Cappella Sansevero.
This is one busy spot of Naples if you want to pause quietly visit the magnificent Santa Chiara religious complex. Famous is the cloister of the Clarisses, with the unique addition of majolica tiles in Rococò style. The brash color floral decoration makes this cloister, with octagonal columns in pergola-like structure, likely unique and would seem to clash with the introspective world of cloistered nuns. The cloister arcades are also decorated by frescoes, unfortunately much degraded.
Then shop for taralli at Taralleria Napoletana, in via San Biagio dei librai, 3. What are Taralli:
In Naples, towards the end of the eighteenth century, the bakers did not even dream of throwing away the “sfriddo”, i.e., the cuttings, of the pasta with which they had just prepared the bread to bake. To these leftovers of leavened dough, they added a bit of “nzogna” (the lard, or the pork fat) and a lot of pepper, and with their skilled hands, they reduced the pasta to two strips. Then they twisted them together, gave this braid a bun shape, and off into the oven, along with the bread.
At Taralleria you can watch while they make them and chose among many flavors.
A curious stop would be at the Doll Hospital! The Doll Hospital, run by Tiziana Grassi, a descendant of Luigi Grassi, is a museum/shop spread over 180 square meters and houses a century-old collection of dolls, puppets, vintage toys and shepherds, classified by type, provenance and historical period. Interesting guided tours (in English too) to discover tricks and mysteries of the construction and restoration of a doll.
Here you can also donate or buy dolls, puppets, and stuffed animals and, of course, if you have a doll or a puppet to put back, or to dress with new clothes, you can bring it here to the hospital, and a staff of craftsmen will modify them will repair according to your wishes.
It is a lovely stop where you can once again amaze at the creativity and ability of Napolitani to invent a new profession for themselves.Ospedale delle Bambole, Palazzo Marigliano, Via S.Biagio dei Librai, 39
Here you are walking the street called Spaccanapoli the straight and narrow main street that traverses the old, historic center of the city. The name is a popular usage and means, literally, “Naples splitter”. The name is derived from the fact that it is very long and from above it seems to divide that part of the city.
Museo di Capodimonte is an art museum located in the Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo. The museum is the prime repository of Neapolitan painting and decorative art, with several important works from other Italian schools of painting, and some important ancient Roman sculptures. It is one of the largest museums in Italy. Surrounded by immense green lawns is yet another surprising face of Naples.
The Caravaggio Naples temporary exhibition, open until July 14, 2019, explores the Neapolitan period of Caravaggio and the legacy left in the Neapolitan city.