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.

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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.

Naples – Centro Storico – Via Tribunali – Stuff to See

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via Tribunali with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2016 by gannet39

Although originally laid down by the Greeks, Via dei Tribunali was the Decumanus Maximus or main east-west street of the later Roman city too. The parallel street, Spaccanapoli was the southern decumanus and Via Sapienza the northern decumanus (please see the separate posts for these streets).

These were traversed by the Cardo Maximus, running north-south, corresponding to Via Duomo today, and several smaller side streets known as cardini.

 

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At the eastern end of Via Tribunali is Castel Capuano, one of three castles in the city. In the 1500s the law courts were located in the castle, which is how Via Tribunali got its name.

Over the entrance you can see the double-headed eagles of the coat of arms of Charles 1st of Spain.

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Walking west from the castle you come to the tiny Piazza Sisto Riario Sforza which contains a ‘guglia’, a decorative obelisk, designed by the renowned Cosimo Fanzago and dedicated to San Gennaro the patron saint of Naples.

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It was the prototype for Fanzago’s other guglias in Piazza del Gesù Nuovo and Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. Behind the guglia at the back of the square is the south side of the cathedral.

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Further along Via Tribunali you soon come to Piazza Girolamini on the right. I love the overgrown façade of the church in the square, Chiesa del Girolamini.

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I also really like the old junk shop that has had a couple of locations in this square over the years. It’s always good for quirky photo ops.

Junk shop

 

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Just to the right of the entrance to the shop is an original Banksy, although who knows how long it will last given all the graffiti activity in the area (see my Centro Storico Street Art post).

 

 

About halfway along Via Tribunali you come to Piazza San Gaetano which was once the crossroads at the heart of the ancient city. The Greek Agora and Roman Forum were located here. You can see the some of the archaeological remains by taking an underground tour with Napoli Sotteraneo, the entrance to which is in the square (see Centro Storico Sotteraneo post).

San Gaetano

In Piazza San Gaetano itself, the only remains of these old buildings are the two Roman pillars incorporated into the facade of Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore. You can see them either side of the church door in this picture (see my Churches in the Centro Storico post for pictures inside the church).

The statue of San Gaetano (pictured above) is another Cosimo Fazango creation.

Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore

Also in the square is the Chiesa di San Lorenzo Maggiore which I think must be the parish church for the old town, also known as Quartiere San Lorenzo. Archaeologists have located the Roman forum under the church.

Running south out of the square is Via San Gregorio Armeno. Also known as ‘la strada dei presepi’ or ‘crib street’, it’s lined with the shops of artisans who make figures for the famous Christmas nativity scenes.

Tribunali cross street

About three quarters of the way along Tribunali you will see the campanile of Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore alla Pietrasanta.

 

And slightly further on the entrance to the music conservatory which has seen better days.

 

 

There’s lots more to say about Via Tribunali so please think of this post as a work in progress rather than a definitive guide.

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The street ends at Piazza Bellini where there are bars with outside terraces should you want a pit stop (separate post here). If you are feeling hungry there are several famous pizzerias along Tribunali (reviews here).

Naples – food shopping in the Centro Storico

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples on January 24, 2016 by gannet39

There are several good food shops in the old town, especially along Spaccanapoli (aka Via Benedetto Croce):

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Antiche Delizie, 14 Via Pasquale Scura (the western continuation of Spaccanapoli although technically it’s in the Pignasecca area).

A deli selling cheese, charcuterie, anti-pasti and wines. They are said to sell the best Mozzarella in town and on Fridays they sell Caprignetti, a herb-stuffed goat’s cheese.

Timpani & Tempura, 17 Vico Quercia (a small alley running north off the western end of Via Benedetto Croce).

A small deli selling pasta, cheese, wine and ‘timbali’ (baked tarts), including classics such as Paccheri in Piedi (ricotta and fior di latte cheeses with San Marzano tomatoes) and Sartu (rice, peas, provola, meat balls and chicken livers) that have their origin in 18th century Neapolitan court cuisine.

Eder, 44 Via Benedetto Croce.

A grocery store selling local pastas and other specialities which are attractively displayed on the outside of the shop.

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They used to sell multi-coloured packets of penis pasta for the titillation of tacky tourists, but they seem to have cleaned up their act of late. It’s hard to imagine anyone actually ate the stuff.

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Gay Odin, 61 Via Benedetto Croce, www.gay-odin.it

One of nine branches of this famous cioccolateria (see my Via Toledo food post for more details). As well as selling artisan chocolate products that make great gifts, this particular branch is reputed to be the best gelateria in town.

Gay Odin Cioccolateria

And along Via Tribunali…

Limone, Piazza San Gaetano (the square in front of Basilica di San Paolo Maggiore).

You can get free tastings of their organic limoncello which is made on site.

Lacryma Christi Enoteca, 12 Via San Pietro a Maiella (the western end of Tribunali).

The ‘Tears of Christ’ wine shop has an extensive selection of Italian wines and spirits. They are my second choice for wine shopping after L’Enoteca del Grottino below but first choice for spirits.

Tears of Christ booze shop

And along the eastern continuation of Via Sapienza…

L’Enoteca del Grottino, 17 Piazzetta San Giuseppe dei Ruffi (next to Via Duomo).

This enoteca has the best selection of Campanian wines that I know of in town. You can pick up your favourite wines for two or three times less than the price on restaurant menus. They also sometimes sell top quality linguine and spaghetti from Gragnano.

Naples – Centro Storico – Porta Capuana

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Porta Capuana with tags , on January 23, 2016 by gannet39

Porta Capuana is the ancient gate of the north-west road leading out of the old Roman city towards Capua. You’ll find it where Via Carbonara meets Via Casanova. I usually go through it on my way to Via Tribunali in the old town. Google map here.

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The area as you go through the gate seems to be a meeting place for different nationalities of maids on different days of the week. Sometimes I walk through and everyone is Russian and another day everyone is Filipino.

Through the arch there’s a decaying shrine to an old pope with plants growing out of it. It was being renovated when I last walked by in 2015.

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Across the street from the gate you can still see part of the old city wall and a tower which have been converted into homes.

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There’s a nice cake shop nearby…

Carraturo Pasticceria (A), 97 Via Cassanova (on the corner with Corso Garibaldi), www.carraturo.it

Carraturo

A famous pasticceria (since 1837) selling several varietes of Neopolitan cakes including the famous rum-soaked baba, which is more delicate here than elsewhere (B+).

Carraturo interior

They also sell both varieties of sfogliatelle; frolla (smooth) and ricci (‘curly’). If you’re lucky with your timing they’ll be hot out of the oven (B+).

Coffee and a frolla

In the day time I think you’ll get better hot sfogliatelle at Annatasio just down the road (see post on Garibaldi – places to eat) but this place is pretty good too.

I had a larger version here called a Coda di Arragosta (lobster tail). It was good but a bit too brittle in my humble opinion (B).

Coda di Aragosta

And it’s open until 9pm making it a good place for me to stop off for a digestivo on the way back to my hotel in Piazza Garibaldi.

Amaro

Naples – Centro Storico – Via Mezzocannone

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via Mezzocannone with tags , , , on January 18, 2016 by gannet39

Via Mezzocannone is in the university district, running south off Spaccanapoli from Piazzetta Nilo down to Corso Umberto. If you’re coming from Corso Umberto you want to turn next right after you see this female sphinx.

 

Half way up the hill on the left are a couple of good restaurants that get mentions in several guides. They are both on different floors of the same building on Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore which looks like the second left on my Google map but it’s a flight of stairs with no access for motor vehicles.

Taverna dell ‘Arte (Intermediate B+) 1a Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore, Tel. 081 5527528.

This is another hidden gem serving exquisite ancient Neapolitan recipes. I would recommend you go just for the nice ambience and very friendly service. The food is generally very good too although there is the odd dish that doesn’t quite cut it for me.

You’ll need to reserve as it only seats about thirty. The tables for small groups outside under the foliage are very pleasant but the interior is warm and welcoming too.

On my last visit in June 2011, five of us started with a complimentary bruschetta with pesto (A).

Pesto bruschetta

Also the excellent house antipasti misto which consisted of ‘tittoli’ or triangular pieces of fried polenta (A) and…

Polenta

… some very thickly cut cured ham (A), mozzarella on slices of plum tomatoes (A) and sundried tomatoes (B).

Antipasti

Sadly the following cold cannellini bean soup was garlicy but otherwise tasteless and dissatisfying (C). As a general rule of thumb, I think it’s probably best to avoid anything calling itself a soup in Italy!

Bean soup

The pasta dish of Rigatoni with Mozzarella and Eggplant (‘eggopants’ on the menu!!) was good (B).

Eggopants

However the following dish of meatballs in tomato sauce didn’t do much for me due to the inclusion of raisins and the odd chewy piece of fat that hadn’t been minced properly (C).

Veal meatballs

The final Basil ‘ice cream’ was ok (C) but I’d describe it more as a palate-cleansing sorbet rather than a dessert.

Basil sorbet

The wines were great though; a wonderful white (A) made with Pallagrello grapes (by Terre del Principe) and a hearty Aglianico red (by Terradorra) (B+).

To finish a refreshing liqueur (A) made from Mele Annurka (local apples with their own IGT) which is also known locally as Rossolio. See my Sarno post for more info.

The bill was kindly reduced by €10 and came to about €30 a head for four people. I wish I didn’t have to slate some of the food because the people are so nice and the atmosphere is great. I remember it being better the first time I went in 2006 (I especially remember their sublime stuffed zucchini flowers) so hopefully this last visit was just a blip.

Osteria La Chitarra (Low Intermediate B), 1a Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore (under Taverna dell ‘Arte), www.osterialachitarra.it

I’ve went to ‘The Guitar’ a couple of times in March 2015. It’s a friendly place but they don’t speak any English and it’s not as refined as its overhead neighbour.

I can definitely recommend their excellent Risotto alla Pescatore (A).

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Also their Pacchieri Allardiati (B+). The sauce is made from cherry tomatoes sautéed in prosciutto lard and served with grated Pecorino.

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I also liked their Costatella Amollicata, a boneless pork chop in a sauce of capers, breadcrumbs, garlic and white wine (B+). The tomato salad is great too (B+).

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Their wine list is short and reasonable (€11 to €19) and mainly features big names except for one of their more expensive whites (€18) called Kata by Cantine Olivella. This was a new one on me and I quite liked it (B+). This wine is 100% made from Catalanesca grapes (introduced by the Aragonese in 1450) which are grown in the Monte Somma IGP, at the food of Mount Vesuvius.

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Conversley the cheapest red on the menu, the Mastro Mastroberardino, was definitely the worst (C+) wine I’ve ever drunk from this famous Cantina. It made me recall the words of a restaurant owner in Pompei who once told me that Mastroberardino was ‘just a name’, thereby implying that there were much better wines to be had. Well lesson learned with this red, although I do still like their white wines.

To finish the Pecorino Vecchio and Cacciota di Bagnoli (B), the latter a local cheese, are both good (B).

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And you can’t go wrong with Fragole con Limon and a shot of their delicious homemade limocello (B+).

I like this place because the food is simple and good and the people who run it are nice. It’s not haute cuisine, just solid everyday fare, and the interior is a little dark and gloomy, but I keep going back.

After your meal you can continue up the stairs and walk along Vico San Giovanni Maggiore (turn left at the end) to go for a drink in Largo de San Giovanne Maggiore Pignatelli .

(Or from the other direction, if you come down the hill with Spaccanapoli behind you, the main university building will be on your left. Take the second right along Via Enrico de Marinis and you will quickly come to Largo Pignatelli on the left, in front of the Università “L’Orientale”).

This semi-secret little square buzzes in the evenings as it’s served by a brace of small cheap student bars which allow you to drink outside in the square. The best of these is Keste (B) at #27 www.keste.it which serves food (untried) and has live music late on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s one of my favourite spots for an evening drink.

Naples – Centro Storico – Porta Alba & Piazza Dante

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Piazza Dante, Porta Alba with tags , , , on January 10, 2016 by gannet39

Connecting Piazza Bellini to Piazza Dante and Via Toledo is the Port Alba gate.

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Underneath the gate there’s a very nice place to eat:

Pizzeria Ristorante Port d’Alba (A), 18 Via Port’ Alba, Tel. 081 459713,

This is apparently the oldest pizzeria in town (since 1738) although I’ve never tried a pizza here so I can’t comment on how good it is.

The restaurant is a bit pricey due to its prime location but the food is excellent and you can sit outside under the arch. It’s open seven days a week which makes it a good choice for a Sunday.

My favourite order is their huge signature dish, Linguine alla Santa Lucia which is to die for (A+). It involves several varieties of bivalves served with linguine in a sauce of cherry tomatoes, whole cloves of garlic and parsley, with a whole fresh fish which the waiter will debone for you at the table.

Linguine alla Santa Lucia

It can be pricey, between €26 and €40 in my experience, but if you negotiate a smaller fish you can keep the price down. Generally in Naples it’s best to ask the price of things that are not marked on the menu to avoid any nasty shocks. Seafood can be expensive.

A cheaper but also very delicious option at is the Linguine al Cartaccio (A). Again this is linguine with prawns, clams, mussels and cherry tomatoes all wrapped up in a paper parcel and baked in the oven.

They have a good selection of wines from the major Campanian cantinas such as Dei Feudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberadino, as well as several others. Again, make sure you check the price before accepting suggestions.

The Fragolini, baby strawberries with lemon juice and/or sugar, are a good choice for dessert, although again they don’t feature on the menu. And of course you need a cold (“very very freddo!”) Limoncello to go with this.

Fragolini and Limoncello

It may take a while to get served as the waiters have a fair bit of ground to cover. I particularly like Salavatore, one of the older waiters, who is a bit of a character and speaks good restaurant English. He’s good for a laugh and shares my dislike of accordion players, so a top man as far as I’m concerned.

Salavatore

Walk through Porta Alba to get to Piazza Dante.

Piazza Dante

On the other of the square you’ll see this excellent coffee shop on Via Toledo:

Caffe’ Mexico (Intermediate A), 86 Piazza Dante

This has a rep amongst many locals as having the best espresso in town. They’re a small chain but this is the original.

Cafe Mexico

I love the 60’s retro fittings, the futuristic coffee machine and the white-suited and braided baristas.

Vermouths

Coffee machine

When I was in there taking these photos, there was also a traffic policeman and a soldier having coffee. I tried to get a picture of all three of them together but the policeman clocked me as you can see! They do like a uniform in Italy.

Uniforms

The coffee on sale here is very good too, probably because the beans are roasted on the premises.

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I like to buy some to take home.

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Off the north end of Dante at 1 Via Enrico Pessina, you’ll find the very beautiful but virtually empty Art Nouveau Galleria Principe di Napoli, built in 1839.

Galleria Principe long view

The only business here seems to be Caffe Letterario at #6-7, a small coffee bar that sells quirky local postcards and books. It’s worth a look in inside for something a bit different to send to the folks at home.

The archaeological museum is just across the road from here (see this post).

Galleria Principe side view

Naples – Centro Storico – Piazza Bellini

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Piazza Bellini with tags on January 9, 2016 by gannet39

Piazza Bellini at the end of Via Tribunali has some nice bars with outdoor terraces where you can meet for an aperitivo before heading off to eat in any of several different directions.

Campari in Bellini

Later in the evening it’s a good place for a digestivo too if you don’t mind the crowds of noisy students from the universities nearby.

You can see some remains of the original Greek city walls in the piazza as well.

Ruins in Piazza Bellini

Nearby is one of my favourite restaurants in the city…

La Stanza del Gusto (Intermediate A), 100 Via Costantinopoli, www.lastanzadelgusto.com

I like the modern approach La Stanza takes as it makes for a nice change from all the other restaurants that churn out the same Neapolitan standards. It’s a bit more expensive than it should be but that hasn’t stopped me going a few times.

You can sit outside but arrive early to snag a table. Personally I find the inside more comfortable and I adore their collection of old formica tables. Service is good, especially from the female servers.

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Once I tried their tasting menu; seven courses for €65.

In 2015 these were ricotta with deep fried pasta and sago (B)…

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…courgette and home smoked ricciola (amberjack) millefoille (A)…

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and my favourite, pulpo arrostito or grilled octopus (A), with a caponata of aubergine and cherry tomatoes (B-).

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Other dishes were an interesting cold aubergine soup with cucumber ice cream (both B).

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Marinaded tuna with mozzarella and fresh tomato (B+).

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Homemade Bucatini pasta tossed in Gransardo, a Sardinian cheese, over an organic tomato sauce (A).

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To finish a selection of Sardinian cheeses including Gorgonzola (B) and Pecorino Sardo (C) served with honey (A) and raspberry jam (A+).

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And some cake and ice cream in clear plastic boxes to finish (B).

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Another dessert I can recommend is their Biramisu (B+), which is a tiramisu made with stout!

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My favourite though is the Melanzane al Cioccolato, or strips of roasted aubergine rolled around sweet ricotta and topped with chocolate sauce and served with crystalised ginger (A).

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They would go well with a glass of my favourite Passito di Pantelleria called Ben Ryè (made from Zibbibo grapes on an island south west of Sicily www.donnafugata.it). It’s expensive but excellent (A).

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In terms of white wine, both their Pietracupa Fiano (B) and Greco di Tufo from Benito Ferrara are good (B+). They also have their own craft beer called Ma Perche (B).

So overall La Stanza del Gusto is a little overpriced but it makes a really nice change when you’ve been eating the same kind of food for a long time. This is about as hipster as Naples gets.

Photos uploaded January and March 2016.

Naples – Pendino – Porta Nolana

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Pendino, Porta Nolana with tags , on March 29, 2015 by gannet39

The best place nearby to escape ugly Piazza Garibaldi and get some real local colour is the even more manic Mercado di Porta Nolana, the main outdoor market in Naples (at Via Diomede Marvasi which is first left off Corso Umberto).

Porta Nolana was once one of the gates into the old medieval city but its walls and towers were incorporated into houses a long time ago.

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The streets around the gate itself are great to wander round, just for taking in the atmosphere. Your ears are assailed by a cacophony of fishmongers, clam sellers, green grocers  and the occasional cheese monger, all shouting out their wares. Much of the seafood here is top quality and still very much alive. Please click on these photos to get the best view.

I’d like to try some of the cafes around the market at lunch time one day but in the past time has never been on my side. It’s always good to leave something for next time though.

 

Naples – Centro Storico – Via della Sapienza

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Via della Sapienza with tags , on March 29, 2015 by gannet39

Via della Sapienza (the ‘street of wisdom’), and its continuation via Anticaglia, was the northern decumanus of the old Roman city as it runs parallel to and north from Tribunali (the Decumanus Maximus) and Spaccanapoli (the southern decumanus). Please click on the names for separate posts.

Its sister streets are much more touristy and have more sights to see, but there are a couple of little gems along here too, and it’s an alternative if less direct but route through the old town.

Cantina Sapienza (Elementary A), 40/41 Via della Sapienza (between the cross streets Via Sole and Via Giudice, just before Piazza Miraglia), www.cantinadiviasapienza.it Tel. 081 459078, closed Sunday.

Cantina Sapienza

This is a great place for lunch or dinner when you are out exploring. Rather hard to find but well worth the effort. You won’t see it until you’re right on top of it as it’s set back from the edge of the street.

I adoretheir excellent home cooking which is great value for money. Try Scarola e Fagioli, (a bean soup-stew with croutons) and for your contorni (side dishes) you can try Di Tutto Un Po (a little of everything) for either €3 or €6 euros according to your hunger. Great for vegetarians and heavily patronised by the locals.

Naples – Centro Storico – Spaccanapoli – Stuff to See

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples with tags , , , , on June 17, 2011 by gannet39

Via Benedetto Croce, which is more popularly known as Spaccanapoli (literally ‘Naples splitter’), was one of the three main streets of the ancient city, the others being Via dei Tribunali and Via della Sapienza (please see separate posts).

They were originally laid down by the Greeks which must make them the some of the oldest streets in the world, at least 2,000 years old if not more. Walking along these ancient ways is like passing through an open air museum and in the evenings especially, when the dim street lamps are on, you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

Via Tribunali was the Decumanus Maximus or main east-west street of the later Roman city too whereas Spaccanapoli was the southern decumanus. Both are still the main streets through the old town today. They were traversed by the Cardo Maximus, a street running north-south, which today corresponds to a widened Via Duomo.

The tiny cross streets that make up the grid are called ‘cardini’. A small street can also be called a ‘vico’ or ‘vicolo’, also meaning alley. Some have had several name changes.

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Unexpected places hide up these back streets.

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About halfway along Spaccanapoli you come to Via Nilo which is named for the Alexandrian Egyptian community that once lived in the area. A beautiful statue of their god Nile can be found at the crossroads in Piazzetta Nilo.  He’s depicted as an old bearded man reclining on waves with a cornucopia (a ‘horn of plenty’ symbolizing abundance) Under his arm is the head of a Sphinx.

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At his feet there was once a crocodile head (symbolizing Egypt) and climbing his chest are the remains of three chubby children known as ‘putti’ (not to be confused with cherubs) possibly symbolizing tributaries of the River Nile. Unfortunately the statue has been damaged many times in its history so these features are hard to make out.

Opposite the statue is Bar Nilo which is famous for its shrine to Maradona, the former footballing god that restored glory to the city football club during his reign. It used to be on the street but has been brought inside. The sign below it warns that if you take a photo without having a coffee, your camera may explode in your hands!

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The poster next to it reads ‘And God created football then called Diego and told him to teach it’.

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Soon after you come to Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, a large square dominated by the Obelisco di San Domenico, another ‘guglia’ (a decorative spire) partly designed by Cosimo Fazango (also  responsible for the guglia of San Gennaro and the statue of San Gaetano, on Via Tribunali). It was commissioned in 1656 as an offering to St. Dominic in the hope it would ward off the plague that came that year.

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The square is named after the church overlooking it, Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore, more of which in my post on churches. The eastern side is dominated by the Istituto Universitario Orientale and in the evenings the square is full of students socialising.

Unlike Via Tribunali, much of Spaccanapoli is pedestrianised so you don’t have to worry about crazy drivers and can concentrate on avoiding footballs instead.

There are lots of places to eat around here, some of which I’ve reviewed in a separate post.

 

 

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