Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Rome !

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Napoli ❣️❣️

Here I am, at Milan airport, waiting for my connection to Napoli! So much have I been looking forward to returning to my beloved Italy.  It has been almost a year since I wrote my last blog; family circumstances have prevented me from devoting time to it, but, today, I have a good reason to start again. I would like to take you to Naples, the Amalfi coast and Rome, and I hope you will enjoy this trip as much as I did. This time, I have planned very little, so it will be, very much, a spontaneous trip 😊.

I would really like to dedicate this article to my dear mother, who was always the first to read my blogs before they were published. I will miss her feedback after writing this article, just like the WhatsApp messages we used to exchange during my travels. Napoli had been on my wish list for a long time, and, quite frankly, I let “well meant” negative advice hold me back, but this time (stubborn as I am) I ignored it.

Napoli and the Vesuvius

I have arrived in Napoli, and my first impression during the drive from the airport to the city center is chaotic and crowded. In fact, a memory of another country comes up right away: India.

And when I say chaotic, I don’t mean a bit messy but really frenzied. 😊 The traffic is one big mass of honking cars and scooters, and not five minutes go by without a siren blaring, but I can feel it….. this is going to be fun!

Piazza Bellini

Piazza Bellini

Piazza Bellini

My flat is located in Piazza Bellini’s historic center, and, on arrival, I’m a bit shocked when I stand in front of an old, badly maintained, graffiti-decorated wooden door with crowds of drinking and hash-smoking young people. Do I really have to be here?

But once behind the big wooden door, I am surprised by a beautiful courtyard with a lift to the flat. This lift was a second challenge: you know – those lifts from old movies with a facade made of fencing and two swinging doors behind it. It holds a maximum of 2 people and rattles and creaks dangerously as it goes up, but I reach my destination! The flat meets all expectations, with nice furnishings and a comfortable bed… so let the adventure begin!

The next day proves that this flat is a perfect base to see this fascinating city. All major sights are within walking distance; i.e., if you don’t mind walking 20 km.😉

Cristo Velato 

Just a few steps away, in the Capella Sansevero, is the first item on my bucket list, the “Cristo Velato.” I have long been fascinated by this magnificent, life-size, marble sculpture of the dead Jesus Christ, covered with a transparent veil cut from the same block of marble as the statue. It is truly unimaginable how the sculptor, Giuseppe Sanmartino, able to create the impression of a veil over the dead body.

Chiostro di Santa Chiara 

Not far from the Capella Sansevero is the second item on my bucket list, the Chiostro di Santa Chiara. This monumental complex, in the heart of the historic center, was built circa 1310. A small oasis with orange and lemon trees in the middle of the city, the cloister is beautiful, with tiled benches, columns and frescoes under the gallery. 

 Chiesa de Gesù Nuovo 

Opposite the entrance to the Chiostro is the Chiesa (church) de Gesù Nuovo, with its very special façade of grey Piperno stones. In my humble opinion, this façade is special, but not particularly beautiful. The interior, on the other hand, is magnificent and well worth a look (and the entrance is free).

Guglia dell’immacolata 

In Piazza de Gesu Nuovo stands the Guglia dell’immacolata, a huge, 30-metre-high column with Mary looking down on us from above. If you are a fan of old Italian films, you might recognize this square from the films Matrimonio all’Italiana and L’Oro di Napoli, both starring the actress, Sophia Loren.

 

And while you’re here, walk a short distance to Metroo Pizza. Here, you can buy the tastiest pizza at a very reasonable price. Also, try the Neapolitan Pizza Fritta. Yes, that’s right…a deep-fried pizza! It’s like a crispy-coated calzone; it took me a bit to get used to the idea, but it’s delicious.

 

Pio Monte della Misericordia 

And we keep going, because there is still so much to see. Our next stop is Pio Monte della Misericordia, and, of course I cannot skip it, because inside, there is a masterpiece by Carvaggio.

Those who have read my previous articles on Italy know that (among others), I am a big fan of Caravaggio. These “among others” should be mentioned, because he has heavy competition from Micheangelo Buonarroti, Raffaello di Sanzio and Sandro Botticelli. 😊

In the Pio Monte della Misericordia, you can see – above the altar – one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, Le sette opere della misericordia.  This painting depicts the purpose of the Misericordia, which is to help the needy in Naples. It remains fascinating to see how he plays with light and shadow. But there is more Caravaggio in Naples. The Palazzo Reale is also currently hosting a temporary exhibition of his work.

Piazza Reale 

Even if you are not a fan of Caravaggio, I still recommend going to see this palace with its beautiful facade and courtyard. Once inside, you will be overwhelmed by the huge, marble staircase, which captures the imagination, as does the private theatre and the large library.

Palazzo Reale Napoli

Teatro di San Carlo 

To the left of the Palazzo Reale is the Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest and most famous opera theatre in all of Italy, and I strongly recommend you take the tour. There are six floors of lodges in this theatre, and it can accommodate 3,000 people. The auditorium is the first to be built in a horseshoe shape, and the acoustics are great, partially due to the painted canvas on the ceiling (a true work of art in itself). Unfortunately, my photos do not do this theatre justice, so I would say go and see it for yourself.😉

 Piazza de Plebiscito 

The Palazzo Reale is located on the largest and most beautiful square in the city. In the middle, you can see the Basilica Reale San Francesco di Paola which, in my opinion, has a lot in common with Rome’s St Peter’s Square and the dome of the Pantheon. Every year, one of my favourite singers, Gigi d’Alessio, gives a wonderful concert, but I’m too early, so this one will stay on my bucket list for a while…but you don’t hear me complain, because I recently enjoyed a concert by my absolute number one singer, Eros Ramazzotti . For those who love this kind of music, here are the two together in Piazza de Plesbiscito

San Gregorio Armeno 

We walk back towards San Gregorio Armeno street, where it is Christmas all year round. This street is an experience in itself. It sells all kinds of figures for the nativity scene – not only the traditional holy figures, but also especially famous Neapolitan figures, footballers, pizza bakers, animals and so on. For the most beautiful figures, your best bet is to go to the shop at number 18.

The making of these nativity figures goes back centuries, and the craftsmanship has, in most cases, been passed on from grandfather to father and now to today’s young artists because artists they are!

Another thing you see everywhere are the red peppers or red horns against the evil eye. Neapolitans use this charm for everything they need good luck for, such as buying a lottery ticket, or they hang it on a car’s rear-view mirror as protection against traffic accidents (very wise, in my opinion!). Sometimes, I am really a not smart….. I should have brought a dozen of those cones with me!

Galleria Umberto I

No…we are far from done with Napoli, and I can already see it happening: I am a bit too excited, so we will have to postpone the Amalfi Coast and Rome for next time, because this article will be far too long. For now, however, we will first check out the Galleria Umberto I, which is directly opposite the Teatro do San Carlo. This beautiful mall is very similar to its sister, the Galleria Vittorio Emanule II in Milan. Both have an impressive dome of glass and steel and exude true luxury.

I

Santa Maria delle Anime 

Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco (“The Souls of Purgatory”) is a very special church, indeed. Even before you enter, you are welcomed at the entrance by a number of skulls. By the way – this is a common in Naples as skulls play an important role here. 💀 In the crypt under this church, you are “stared at” by more than two thousand skulls. These skulls belonged mainly to Neapolitans who died during the plague outbreak in 1650 and to poor residents whose families could not afford a grave. You will also find a charnel skull of the young girl, Lucia, who drowned with her lover. She is now the protector of brides, and you can see this in the huge number of offerings, such as stuffed animals, flowers, prayer cards, etc.

Pulcinella

Diagonally opposite Santa Maria delle Anime, at the corner of Vico de Fico al Purgatorio, is the bronze statue of Pulcinella, a figure from the Commedia dell’Art, a form of theatre where all the actors wear masks. He wears a pointed hat, a black mask and a white suit. For Neapolitans, he symbolizes zest for life and energy. And if you want some extra luck after the red horns, rub Pulcinella’s nose!

Piazza Bellini (and its cosy restaurants and bars)

We return briefly to Piazza Bellini, the square where “my” flat is located. This square is one of the cosiest squares in the city, and so this also has a downside as it remains pretty much raucous and noisy all night. So, there are two options: join in or wear earplugs!

In the middle of the square is the statue of the composer Vincento Bellini, and around this statue, you will find several cosy bars and restaurants. For example, have a nice apperetivo at the literary café Intra Moenia or the cosy Spazio Neo. For a good plate of pasta or a delicious pizza, go to Ristorante Bellini, where you will also be very friendly served. If you like fish, the Linguine al Cartoccio is highly recommended, and if you are not a fish eater, the Linguine alle Bellini is a great alternative.

Port’Alba

Port’Alba is a cosy little street connecting Piazza Bellini and Piazza Dante. On this little street, you will find mostly second-hand book shops and stalls. At the Libreria Berisio, you can buy books and drink a delicious cocktail. 

Piazza Dante 

This square houses the statue of Dante Alighieri, Italy’s most famous poet/writer and founder of the Italian language (I love him!).

Below this square, you will find the Dante metro station, which is part of the Stazioni dell’Arte. These so-called “art stations” feature many special works of art that are really worth seeing, so don’t walk past them. I find the next station, Toledo, the most beautiful but, of course, there is no arguing about taste.

Napoli en voetbal 

I think everyone knows that for the Italians, football is a very important game, but in Napoli, they are even more fanatical. The whole city is blue and white, and, in every neighbourhood, there are murals of footballers. The most depicted player is, of course, Diego Armando Maradona – especially in the Quartieri Spagnoli district, which has many paintings of the man with number 10, who, for many Neapolitans, was the city’s greatest hero. Quite frankly, I was a bit surprised that the whole city is already coloured blue/white to celebrate the championship won, when that decision is only in three weeks 😊. Now that’s what I call a positive attitude!

Castel dell’Ovo en Castel Nuovo

Well, I’ve done it again! This article is really getting too long, and before I start boring you completely, I’m going to finish it gradually. I will conclude with the two castles that adorn Napoli’s waterfront. To be honest, I only admired both the Castel Nuovo and the Castel dell’Ovo from the outside, because the weather was beautiful, so I was eager to be outside. And while admiring the Castel Nuovo from the park, I feasted on a delicious Arancino. These rice and ragout-filled balls are a truly delicious snack that originated in Sicily.

 

Arancino 

Arancini

Actually, I wanted to share the recipe for these arancini with you, but it is quite a laborious dish, so I decided to include an English spoken video in which the cook explains, step by step, how they are made. I think the chances of success are greater that way! 😉

Next time, I will take you to the breathtaking Amalfi coast, and, of course, to Rome, because my love for the eternal city is eternal…

ARRIVEDERCI !!!

 

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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5 Comments

  • CAROL LAWRENCE 11/04/2023 at 11:18 am Reply

    You description of the food are mouthwatering! Always so interesting to read and I look forward to the day when aí can follow in your footsteps. xxx

    • johanna 11/04/2023 at 11:25 am Reply

      Thank you Carol❣️ If you have the chance, go there. It is a very fascinating city ! Love, Joke

  • CAROL LAWRENCE 11/04/2023 at 11:19 am Reply

    Whoops… sorry for the typos

  • Joanna 11/04/2023 at 6:04 pm Reply

    Wow! Fantastic travelogue of an extraordinary city. So many people warn against going there but clearly it is well worth a visit! Our son Seb loved it. You have really opened my eyes to all that it has to offer. ( I might need to stay in a quieter square though). Looking forward to the rest of your trip. xxx

    • johanna 12/04/2023 at 2:29 pm Reply

      Thank you Joanna! This city is absolutely worth a visit. There is even much more to see but unfortunately, I did not have enough time but that gives me an excellent excuse to go back;) Lost of love, Joanna

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