Archive for the Centro Storico Category

Naples – Centro Storico – Street Art

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples with tags , on February 9, 2016 by gannet39

Naples is a hot spot for street art and graffiti. Most of the best stuff is found on Via Tribunali, Spaccanapoli and their side streets, particularly around the university district.

Artists come from everywhere to display their art, like Banksy for instance.

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CRL is on a similar tip.

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But this is my favourite one by CRL.

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CLET is a French artist who lives in Florence. I’ve seen his work in Genoa and Madrid as well.

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KAF

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CYOP

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CYOP & KAF

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Zolta

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Diego Miedo



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Some political stencils.

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And some not.

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Some graff.

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Some posters.

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Unknown artists

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Naples – Centro Storico – Porta Gennaro

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Porta Gennaro with tags , , on February 8, 2016 by gannet39

Porta Gennaro is the on the northern boundary of San Lorenzo, the quarter of Naples that corresponds to the Centro Storico. Via Foria separates San Lorenzo from Sanita which I wrote about in my previous post. The Archaeological Museum is nearby…

…and there’s an excellent pizzeria here:

Pizzeria Lombardi (A), 12/14 Via Foria, www.pizzerialombardi.it

There are quite a few reasons I like Lombardi but in a nutshell the pizza is great, the service is good and you can sit outside if you wish.

I’m not sure how they make their pizza base but it’s different to elsewhere, lighter and softer somehow. My local teacher friend thought that it might be because they use sparkling water when they’re mixing the dough. It’s like no other pizza I’ve tasted.

I had their buffalo mozzarella Margherita which was great (A) although not particularly cheap at €9.

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… and a bottle of Peroni Rosso which was a new beer to me. It hit the spot perfectly (A).

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Everything feels more refined here for some reason. The friendly guy who served me spoke the best English I’ve ever encountered in a pizzeria (not that this matters).

I like their quirky décor too. Definitely in my top five pizzerias.

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Capasso (Intermediate B+), 2 Via Porta San Gennaro (in the shadow of the gate).

I was brought to this restaurant and pizzeria for lunch on a few occasions. Unfortunately I only eat salads for lunch and avoid any carbs because I can’t afford to be sleepy at work. The salads were very good though!

According to local food critic Lucinano Pignataro they are renowned for their pizza. I’ll have to come back and try one.

Naples – Centro Storico – Churches

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples with tags , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2016 by gannet39

I’m not a believer but even an atheist can still appreciate the beauty of the stunning religious art housed in Naples’ numerous churches and chapels.

According to this thread, there are around 440 churches in the 17 square kilometers of the old town. I’ve heard that this is a higher density than Rome which has 900 churches in total, so I’m not sure if this is true. Either way, it’s a lot! Here are a few of my favourites.

Duomo di San Gennaro, 149 Via Duomo, www.chiesadinapoli.it

Naples cathedral was founded in the 5th century but the current building was built between 1294 and 1323 in a French Gothic style.

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It has been renovated and reconstructed several times due to earthquakes. The western facade is Neo-Gothic whereas the decoration inside is mainly Baroque.

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To your left as you enter is the Basilica di Santa Restituta, also known as the Capella di Santa Restituta. It’s the oldest church in Naples (built in the 6th century) and located on the site of the original cathedral which itself was constructed over a Greek temple dedicated to Apollo. It was incorporated into the later Gothic cathedral as a chapel. Some early Christian art can be seen here.

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The main altar of the chapel reminds me of a theatre stage, which isn’t far from the truth.

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Some think the columns in the chapel come from the original Greek temple.

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You can view excavations under the chapel but I didn’t have time unfortunately.

Back in the main cathedral, off to the right of the nave is the Capella di San Gennaro, built between 1608 and 1637. It houses part of the Tesoro di San Gennaro, a collection of artworks donated or paid for by Popes, Kings, Emperors, rich and poor alike over seven centuries. It’s been calculated that the collection is more valuable than those of either the British or Russian royal families.

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The collection includes seventy life-size silver busts which would have been paraded during religious celebrations. They remind me of metallic androids so they must have made quite an impression on the city’s populace as they glinted in the sun out on the street.

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This one is modelling a bishop’s mitre encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

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This was just a lightning visit, there’s lots more to see.

Capella Sansevero, 19/21 Via Francesco De Sanctis, www.museosansevero.it

Tucked away on a back street between Via Tribunali and Spaccanapoli, this chapel is for me the jewel in the crown of Naples’ many stunning churches. Sadly no photographs are allowed inside so please click on the links to see pictures from the web.

Capella Sansevero was the private chapel of the noble Sansevero family. It was renovated and redesigned by Raimondo di Sangro, seventh Prince of Sansevero (1710 – 1771) who was by turns a soldier, writer, inventor, scientist, alchemist, Freemason and speaker of several languages. It’s also said that he was a Rosicrucian, a secret religious order with a preference for empiricism in opposition to the dogma of the Catholic Church. He was excommunicated by the church but this was later revoked.

Although he was undoubtedly a genius, there are many gory stories associated with him. It was rumoured that he had people killed so that he could conduct experiments on their bodies. Indeed two incredibly detailed anatomical models can be seen in the cellar of the church. Popular belief had it that the models were of his servant and a pregnant woman, into whose veins he injected an artificial substance that caused the blood to solidify in the veins. However recent research has shown that the models are in fact artificial.

Several beautiful marble carvings cover the walls of the main chapel. On the floor in the centre of the chapel is the stunning ‘Veiled Christ‘ by Giuseppe Sanmartino. It depicts the dead Christ lying on a couch covered by a transparent veil under which the signs of his suffering can be seen on his face and body. The realism of the statue is incredible and it’s rightly considered to be one of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Some pictures here.

Di Sangro spent the last years of his life working on his chapel and before his passing he destroyed many of his notes. After his death, most of his remaining writings and laboratory equipment were burnt by his relatives who were in fear of their own excommunication by the Church as a result of his activities. All this of course only added to the mystery surrounding this intriguing character.

Entrance cost €7 in 2015.

San Domenico Maggiore, 8 Piazza San Domenico Maggiore

San Domenico is one of the most beautiful churches in Naples, built between 1283 and 1324.

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Originally Gothic, it was given a Baroque makeover in 1670, then restored back to Gothic again in the 19th century.

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The church and the square of the same name were the centre of the court of the Aragonese kings who ruled Naples. Their coffins are on the balcony that runs around the church.

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Examples of inlaid marble, known as Pietra Dura can be seen everywhere. Polished colored stones are cut and fitted together to create images. The same technique was also used for the mausoleum in the Taj Mahal.

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And of course there are lions.

Again a flying visit so this is just a brief survey.

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Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore, 76 Piazza San Gaetano,

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This baroque church was built over a 1st century Greek temple near the crossroads that mark the heart of the Greek and Roman city. Two corinthian columns from the temple have been tacked on to the church facade as you can see in the photo above.

Inside San Paolo Maggiore

The main altar (1775-1776) was designed by Ferdinando Fuga who also designed the Ospedale L’Albergo Reale dei Poveri which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Altar at San Paolo Maggiore

To the left of the altar is the Chapel of Firrao di Sant’Agata built in the 17th century. Gazing upwards you can just imagine you’re ascending to heaven.

Chapel basilica in San Paolo Maggiore

Chiesa di San Giovanni a Carbonara, 5 Via Carbonara, en.wikipedia.org

Due to it’s location just outside the city walls this was where rubbish was burnt in the Middle Ages, hence the name Carbonara.

It was founded in 1343 but the current Gothic facade was designed in the early 18th century by Ferdinando Sanfelice who was also responsible for San Lorenzo Maggiore (and also noted for his ‘hawk wing’ staircases, see my Sanita post).

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I haven’t been inside the church (not sure if it’s possible) but I quite like the ornate doorway with small statues that look like they’re crying pollution.

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In the lunette (literally ‘little moon’, the space above a door set in a rounded arch) is a fresco by the Lombard artist Leonardo da Besozzo.

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To be continued…

Naples – Centro Storico – Piazza Monteoliveto

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Piazza Monteoliveto with tags , , on January 29, 2016 by gannet39

Piazza Monteoliveto is a medium-sized square sandwiched between Via Toledo and Via Sant’ Anna dei Lombardi. As it’s slightly off the beaten track it’s often ignored by tourists and is mainly populated by skiving students from the nearby university.

There’s quite a nice fountain in the square, the Fontana di Monteoliveto, which has some freaky features.

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It’s also a good place for a quick snack…

Pizzeria Giuliano (Elementary B+). 33 Calata Trinità Maggiore, www.pizzeriagiuliano.com

According to Time Out, this small pizzeria (standing room only) sells the best pizzette (mini pizza) in town. I don’t disagree (B). Think I paid about €2 with a beer.

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There are a couple of nice looking restaurants in the square which I’d like to try next time I’m in town, so I’ll have some more to add to this post.

Naples – Centro Storico – places to eat on Via Spaccanapoli

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via Spaccanapoli with tags , , on January 28, 2016 by gannet39

Palazzo Petrucci (Advanced B+), 4 Piazza San Domenico Maggiore (the large square at the western end of Spaccanapoli), www.palazzopetrucci.it

A relative new kid (since 2007) on a very old block, upmarket Petrocchi with its modern innovative attitude makes a welcome change to the same old classical Neapolitan fare that the majority of local restaurants churn out. It’s formal and quite expensive but I thought the experience was worth the money. They also have a pizzeria in the same square.

I’ve been to the restaurant twice and really enjoyed it each time. The second time I had their cheaper €70 tasting menu (they have a another one for €100). Unfortunately I’ve lost the menu so can’t tell you exactly what some of these dishes were, but they were all good (at least B-).

I don’t usually comment on bread baskets but their Grissini are very moreish (A) and the size of thighbones! Their Taralli are excellent too (B+).

To begin, fresh prawns with a cream cheese, an unusual combo for me (B-).

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Then squid in an artichoke sauce I think (B).

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After this, Spaghettone con Acqua Pazza, Wasabi e battuto de Gallinella di Mare (thick spaghetti with a tomato and parsley ‘crazy water‘ broth, Japanese horseradish and chunks of Red Gurnard) was let down by being a bit too salty and served on a cold plate (B-).

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My favourite dish was the Triglia, Ortaggi. Cicoli e Salsa di Mandorle Tostate’ (red mullet, vegetables including red cabbage, baby tomato, almond sauce, courgette, parsley and micro herbs, rendered pork fat and toasted almond sauce) which scored an A for flavour and an A+ for presentation with ingredients dotted all over the plate creating a very attractive visual effect.

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I tried a few of their desserts.

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And a few of their digestivos. The limoncello (B+) and the nocillo (A) were particularly good, the amaro less so (B).

The service was exemplary, especially from the wine waiters, and standards are generally very high.

Pizzeria Vesi (Low Intermediate B), 115 Via San Biagio Dei Librai (one of the eastern continuations of Spaccanapoli/Benedetto Croce), www.vesi.it, open Sunday

I tried their unusual Margherita ‘DOC’ (B+) which is made with no tomato sauce, just fresh San Marzano tomatoes and Grana Padano (cheaper than Parmesan) scattered on the top. Total cost with a Nastro for €10.50.

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Service ranged between average and unfriendly (the young guy with the scowl) and is the reason I probably won’t go back. However they do have an outside terrace on the street.

Antica Pizzeria Dell’Angelo (Intermediate B=), 16 Piazzetta Nilo (halfway along Spaccanapoli), www.pizzeriadellangelo.com

Another pizzeria with a terrace outside (quite unusual) so a good place for a pit stop on a hot day. Their USP is the ‘cornicione ripenio’ where the crust around the edge of the pizza is stuffed with such fillings as cream, ricotta or a puree of five other cheeses.

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Needing a change I went with the waiter’s suggestion of the Aristocratica with prosciutto, provola, olio d’oliva, formaggio (?), basilico, funghi with a crust stuffed with mousse di prosciutto (yuck). Can’t say I liked it unfortunately (C), so it’s back to Margheritas for me. There are other more normal options here as well so I’m not writing them off completely.

Antica Osteria Pisano (Low Intermediate B), 1 Piazette al Mannesi (on the crossroads of Via Duomo and Via Viaccaria Vecchia, at the eastern end of Spaccanapoli), www.osteriapisano.it

One guide describes this as a friendly family restaurant but they must have been having bad days on the two occasions I went. Enzo the owner didn’t even say hello when I came in and just ignored me. His wife Nunzia is a bit nicer but doesn’t seem very happy.

Thankfully the food is great. The Sciatelle alla Vongole was excellent (A).

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The Spigola all Acqua Pazza (A) cooked al cartoccio (baked in a foil parcel) at my request.

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The recommended Falanghina was okay (B) however they don’t have a fridge in which to chill the wine. That’s fine, but an ice bucket should be supplied as a matter of course, but I had to ask for it. The homemade Limoncello was good though (A).

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It’s a small place seating 32 inside and 12 outside on their terrace. The food is good value with primos and meat secondos costing €5-8 and sea food secondos €8-12 (in 2015).

I probably would go back just for the food, if there was nowhere else nearby to go.

Naples – Centro Storico – pizzerias on Via Tribunali

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via Tribunali with tags , , , on January 27, 2016 by gannet39

Via Tribunali and Spaccanapoli (see separate food post) have the greatest concentration of pizzerias in Naples, as you’d probably expect in such a touristy area. There are several shops along Tribunali, all good, but some are better than others…

Pizzeria Sorbillo (Elementary A+), 32 Via Tribunali, www.sorbillo.it

This classic Neapolitan pizzeria is my favourite place in town to eat pizza. They’ve been dishing it out since 1935 and are rightly featured in nearly every guide you can think of. If you can I’d go straight up the stairs to the less frenetic first floor with its dim lighting, wooden beams and soundtrack of Neapolitan songs. Try and bag the table by the balcony for the cool breeze and view of the street below.

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There are thirty varieties of pizza on the menu, twenty one of which are named after the Sorbillo grandchildren, all pizza makers in their own right. I like to have the classic Margherita for €3.30 which is so big it hangs over the side of the already large plate. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had in Naples and I’ve certainly had a few. Paulaner is the house beer which doesn’t seem very patriotic but it hits the spot.

Sorbillo Margherita

To finish I recommend one of their tiny chocolate mousses and a frozen Limoncello. There are other digestivos in the freezer. Come here first and then compare the rest.

Mousse

Pizzeria I Decumani (Intermediate B+), 58 Via dei Tribunali

There’s always a crowd waiting outside this popular pizzeria so I usually go elsewhere. I have had a Margherita to take away and it was fine but nothing out of the ordinary (B).

However one Sunday, with nowhere else on my hit list being open, I decided to queue for an indoor table. I was told the wait would be 20 minutes, but it was 40 minutes till I finally got to sit down.

Rather than pizza I decided to try their renowned Fritturine (vegetables fried in batter). if memory serves me correctly this involved stuffed courgette flowers (A), strips of courgette (A), pumpkin (A), eggplant (B), ‘tittoli’ (deep-fried polenta triangles) (B), plain ‘pizzelle’ (dough balls) (C), pizzelle with seaweed (B) and ‘arancini’ (rice balls) (B). They were all good but are really meant to be shared as it’s quite a hefty portion for one person.

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The service is friendly and efficient and the interior is new and modern but Decumani isn’t worth the wait in my opinion, despite its popularity. I’d prefer to go to Sorbillo instead if it’s open.

Pizzeria Di Matteo (Elementary B), 94 Via dei Tribunali, www.pizzeriadimatteo.com

A basic place with okay pizzas so there’s no reason not to try it. The reason they are so popular and famous however is just down to random luck. Back in 1996, President Clinton was in town for the G7 summit. As he was walking down Tribunali with his entourage he felt thirsty and asked his security to get him a coke. Di Matteo was the nearest shop. The media picked up on this so Di Matteo became known as the ‘pizzeria of the president’.

Di Matteo

In 1996 one of the brothers opened up his own pizzeria which he called ‘Dal Presidente’ (see next review) and in turn his son and daughter opened their own places nearby, respectively ‘Dal Figlio del Presidente’ and ‘Dal Figlia del Presidente’ (untried).

Once you’re inside, turn left onto the stuffy cramped downstairs then right and straight upstairs for the main room where you can sit beside an open window. It’s the usual paper tablecloths and plastic cup scenario, nothing special.

Di Matteo Bufalina DOC

As usual I wanted to do my taste test on their basic Margherita but they make them here with Fior di Latte rather than Mozzarella di Bufala (boo!). As I crave Mozzarella I went instead for the Bufalina DOC at €6 with cherry tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. It was okay but again you can get a bigger and better pizza for half the price up the road at Sorbrillo. One to come to when you can’t get in anywhere else.

Pizzeria del Presidente (Low Intermediate B-), 120 Via dei Tribunali, www.dalpresidentepizzeria.it

As mentioned above, this is run by the brother of the guy who owns Di Matteo, and it’s of a similar ilk. It’s undeniably popular as there’s always a crowd waiting outside but there are other places I prefer. They often have the radio on in the kitchen playing loud (but quite good) dance music so it’s not a place for a quiet meal.

Queue

I came once on Republic Day and there was a roadblock of people waiting to get in so I just ordered a takeout for €3 to devour folded up in quarters in a nearby square. It was ok (B-) but I don’t think they had the oven temperature quite right and the mozzarella hadn’t melted properly, although the underside was very well done.

I went again on another evening when it was less busy and managed to get a seat so I tried their Pizza Fritta which is too sloppy to take away.

You can choose the filling which can include provola, ricotta, cooked ham, ‘ciccoli’ (pork pieces rendered from lard), salami and tomato, and there’s also a sausage, provola and friarielli (broccoli rabe) option which I haven’t tried. Theirs is supposedly a good example of this genre of pizza but I felt it had very little flavour and it left me feeling a bit queasy if I’m honest (B-).

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I asked for a Limoncello to finish but was given a Meloncello instead, a bastard creation that I absolutely loath so I left it untouched (D). The waitress, otherwise very nice, still charged me for it and I couldn’t be bothered to dispute it.

Again, this pizzeria is fine, but given the quality of the competition, any of the other options on this street would be a better choice I think.

Naples – Centro Storico – Via Tribunali – Napoli Sotteranea

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via Tribunali with tags on January 26, 2016 by gannet39

As you’re facing San Paolo Maggiore in Piazza San Gaetono you will see the entrance to Napoli Sotteranea just to the left of the church. In 2011 I paid €9 for a ninety minute tour of the ancient underground city.

Napoli Sotteranea, 68 Piazza San Gaetono, Tel. 081 296 944, www.napolisotterranea.org

Entrance

In the hot season it’s probably an idea to wear an extra layer as it can get cold down there, although it didn’t bother this Norwegian too much in May.

Tour by candlelight

The local volcanic rock Tufo is very easy to cut and build with so generations of builders hollowed out the earth underneath to build the city above. My guide told me that later concrete constructions have been known to collapse into the cavities below!

The original Greek aqueduct, later improved by the Romans, ran all the way from Mount Vesuvius and at 200km was the longest and oldest ever built in antiquity.

Dry aquaduct

It was still working up until 1844 when it was closed as a result of a cholera epidemic. Unfortunately the porous nature of Tufo allowed the disease to enter the water supply.

Still working aquaduct

You can still see water flowing into some of the ancient cisterns on the tour.

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Some of these galleries were later enlarged to be air raid shelters in WWII.

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The stairwell in this picture leads up to a convent several floors above.

Nuns staircase

Our guide Roberto also took us to see the remains of the Roman theatre, some of which were only rediscovered quite recently in the basements of nearby houses which were still being used on an everyday basis.

Roman theatre

The archaeologists pieced together the original layout by asking local residents if they could chip away the plaster on their walls and excavate their floors. Imagine your house having walls and foundations that are over two thousand years old!

This is the wall of the Roman theatre where the mad Emperor Nero used to perform.

Roman walls in perfect condition

In the pictures you can see the entrances both inside and outside a ‘basso’, the name for these typical Neapolitan ground floor abodes.

Modern entrance

Some people had trap doors under their beds that led to a whole city below!

Theatre in your wine cellar

I recommend the Sotteranea as an interesting and exciting experience. There was one claustrophobic moment squeezing through a long narrow tunnel but it wasn’t that bad and there’s an alternative route should you want to avoid that situation.

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