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The City of the Month: Naples

Nestled on the picturesque Bay of Naples in southern Italy, the city of Naples represents a captivating destination that enchants visitors with its rich history, vibrant culture, and mouthwatering cuisine. The city’s UNESCO-listed historic center, stunning architecture, and proximity to iconic landmarks, such as Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii, have made it a must-see for travelers around the world.

Let’s dive into the essence of this stunning city and discover what makes it so unique.

History and Heritage:

With a history stretching back over 2,800 years, Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Founded by the Greeks in 8th century BC, it later fell under the influence of the Romans, Byzantines, Normans, and Aragonese, leaving behind a fascinating blend of architectural styles and cultural influences.

From the well-preserved ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the majestic Castel Nuovo and the opulent Royal Palace of Naples, the city is a living testament to its storied past. Walking through the narrow streets of the historic center, known as Spaccanapoli, is like stepping back in time. Baroque churches, elegant palaces, and ancient Roman ruins coexist harmoniously, creating a unique tapestry of architectural styles. The city's most iconic landmark, the Castel Nuovo, stands proudly on the waterfront, serving as a reminder of Naples' medieval roots.

Naples, Castel Nuovo

Museums and Galleries:

Naples is home to numerous museums and galleries that showcase masterpieces from different periods.

The National Archaeological Museum houses an exceptional collection of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum including intricate mosaics and frescoes. With its rich and unique archaeological collections, this museum is one of the most ancient and important institutes in the world.

Art enthusiasts will find solace in the Museo di Capodimonte, which features pieces by renowned artists like Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael.

Every day tourists visit the most historic part of Naples, the Chapel of Sansevero, to contemplate Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ, one of the greatest sculptures of all time. Since the 18th century, travellers of all levels of distinction have come to be enraptured by and contemplate this hand-crafted miracle. One of its innumerable admirers was Antonio Canova, who swore he would have given ten years of his life to have been the sculptor of this incomparable marble.

Naples, National Archaeological Museum. Courtesy of

Giuseppe Sanmartino, Veiled Christ, 1753 - Detail

While Naples is certainly known for its rich history and cultural heritage, the city is also a thriving hub for contemporary art.

Located in the heart of Naples, MADRE Museum has become a haven for contemporary art lovers seeking a unique and thought-provoking experience. Its collection includes pieces by Anish Kappor, Jannis Kounellis, Daniel Bourne, and Mimmo Paladino.

Speaking of contemporary art, the renowned sculptor Jago has opened his museum in the baroque church of Sant'Aspreno ai Crociferi. Immediately, the Jago Museum has become a popular destination for merging past and contemporary art.

Among the must-visit places in Naples, the Lia Rumma Gallery definitely earns a spot. Since its establishment in 1971, the gallery’s mission is to address its research on contemporary art movements, both national and international (Arte Povera, Minimal Art, Conceptual Art), and their protagonists, whom Lia Rumma invites to exhibit in her Neapolitan space. Today, each display is carefully curated and able to offer new perspectives on major artists.

Naples, MADRE Museum

Jago, Aiace e Cassandra, 2022. Courtesy of Jago

Culinary Delights:

Naples is often hailed as the birthplace of pizza, even though its culinary offerings extend far beyond this iconic dish. The city's street markets, such as the vibrant Spaccanapoli, entice visitors with an abundance of fresh produce, local cheeses, and seafood. From the classic Neapolitan pizza, topped with buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, to delicious pasta dishes like pasta e patate (pasta and potatoes) and culinary specialities dedicated to the sea, like cuoppo, which contains a mixture of fried fish, visitors will encouter a variety of street food to enjoy while walking along the seaside.

Moreover, Neapolitan sweets are extremely renowned and desired all over the world. The most famous is the babà, king of the Neapolitan desserts, and its worthy queen, the sfogliatella with its curly and shortcrust form. It’s also know for inventing several well-known sweets that are often associated with holidays, such as the Christmas struffoli or Easter pastiera.

Typical Neapolitan dishes: cuoppo, sfogliatella, pizza

Charm and Chaos:

While Naples exudes a sense of timeless charm, it is also a city of vibrant chaos. Its narrow alleyways and bustling streets are lined with colorful buildings adorned with laundry hanging from wrought-iron balconies. Pulsating with energy, the city is renowned for its lively atmosphere, animated locals, and vibrant street life.

Exploring the Quartieri Spagnoli or wandering through the vibrant Mercato di Porta Nolana provides a glimpse into the daily rhythm and vivacity of Neapolitan life.

Neapolitans are renowned for their warmth, friendliness, and spirited nature. The locals' passion for life, love for their city, and genuine hospitality make any visit to Naples an unforgettable experience.

Naples, Quartieri Spagnoli

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