24 hours in Naples: Wandering the streets

Let me be perfectly honest.  I had low expectations for Naples.   Plenty of people I spoke to with extensive travel experience didn’t speak highly of the place, warned me about rampant pickpocketing and described the city as a congested and dirty place not worthy of more than a passing visit (if a stop at all).  I should know better than to listen to others, but these were people who’ve seen a lot more of the world than I have.   Because of the archaeological museum (and the pizza!), we were always going to stop here, but our time in the city was much more enjoyable than I expected.  Truth be told, I really, really liked Naples.

With only twenty four hours, a good part of our visit was spent wandering the historic centre of the city.   If we weren’t in the museum or I wasn’t eating pizza, we were doing some urban exploring.  Here are some of the sights we took in on a long day in Naples.

Between our centrally located hotel (Monteoliveto B&B, can’t recommend it enough!) and the archaeological museum, we first walked past Piazza Dante and Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II.  This public square usually had a group of kids playing soccer each time we walked past:

Piazza Dante and Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II

I really started to fall for Naples while walking the narrow streets in the centro storico (historical centre).  I think it’s fair to say these streets, and those of the Trastevere neighbourhood in Rome, were where I felt most like I was in Italy.  I loved the worn patina of the buildings and the life spilling out of each of the windows.

The pastel colours of the buildings, the cobblestones of the main streets, the high pitched sound of the passing scooters, the scent of a busy metropolis in the heat and humidity… Naples is an all out assault on your senses:

Naples, Italy

In the heart of the historic centre we walked past a number of beautiful churches.  On Via Tribunali, the Chiesa dei Girolamini caught my eye:

Chiesa dei Girolamini

Just around the corner we next came across the Duomo di Napoli.  It is known by a number of names including Cattedrale di San Gennaro after the patron saint of Naples.   Its facade dominates the Via Duomo:

Duomo di Napoli

We took a few minutes to wander inside this beautiful church…

Duomo di Napoli

Inside, there is a separate chapel that tells the fascinating story of the “Blood Miracle”.  This church holds what is claimed to be a vial of the dried blood of Saint Januarius.  Three times a year it is brought out and in a ceremony the dried blood liquifies.  On occasions where the blood does not liquify, the belief is that a tragic event will happen to Naples.

From the Duomo, we started to wander back to our hotel prior to heading out to dinner and en route back passed through the Piazza del Gesù Nuovo:

Piazza del Gesù Nuovo

A day in Naples would not be complete without taking in the Italian tradition of an evening stroll, or passeggiata.  We joined the people of Naples for this tradition on a beautiful night along the Via Toledo as we walked toward the bay.

Passeggiata on via Toledo

Perhaps the most impressive public square in Naples, the Piazza del Plebiscito, was blocked off and under some construction during our stay there.  The architecture was still impressive even when viewed through the barriers:

Piazza del Plebiscito

Before turning around and taking our passeggiata back toward our hotel to end the evening, we walked past the Church of San Ferdinando.  You can see the throng of people out for a walk just to the left of the church on the southern end of the Via Toledo.

Church of San Ferdinando

A few pizzas, a museum, a nice dinner, and a walking tour of the centre of Naples – not a bad way to spend the first half day in the city.

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