Back to Campania - Naples and Positano October 2014
LA MIA BELLA NAPOLI
Twelve months feels like a long time when your heart is in Italy but home is Australia. I've had an amazing year in between visits with my work in education being satisfying and rewarding, my sons are getting older and my 18 year old is in his final year of high school. He's also looking past Australia's ocean-fringed borders and toward Europe - wanting to take on that journey that so many have done before him (including me) with the backpack and the tight budget.
My 2014 trip was covering my favourite places. Rome. Venice. Paris. Naples. Positano and even a flash trip to London. Sam was my companion again only this time he was a year older and about 10cm taller than me. Funnily enough...with all the tourists they see and twelve months intervening...we were remembered by the hotel staff in Rome, by our pensione owner in Positano and even by two waitresses at a café outside the Pantheon. It was astonishing.
Naples always holds onto my heart. This trip, again, was no exception however this time, instead of ticking off a list of must sees, my son Sam and I just walked slowly, chose carefully and absorbed 3000 years of history on our own terms.
Me, bay of Naples, Vesuvius - I feel home
Day 1 - hopped out of our car service from Positano, into our hotel and then around the corner to Piazza Plebescito. I've walked through the piazza many times but never stopped to admore the Basilica di San Franceso di Paola. This photo is Sam (right) standing in front. Inside it resembles the Pantheon in Rome as it is circular and filled with light. No photos allowed inside but it is as beautiful as the Pantheon - but zero crowds. Sam, myself and a security guard and that was it.
Vesuvius from the Lungomare (Santa Lucia) district of Naples taken from the intersection of Via Palepoli and Via Nazario Sauro
Same position as above photo...but I turned around and this is what I saw. Taxis only allowed. Very quiet, upscale part of Naples with gorgeous Regency architecture (a glimpse of Castel dell Ovo far left)
Further along the Lungomare (about one minute walk from above photo). The fountain is called Immocalatella Fontana and was built by Michelangel Naccherino and Pietro Bernini - (father of the famous Bernini of the Vatican sculptures) in 1601. Yes it is THAT old.
Behind it is Castel dell Ovo - the oldest part of this castle dates from the 9th century. Yes - 9th century - try and get your head around that...
The fountain and Vesuvius - a late afternoon glow across the beauty of the bay.
Gateway to Naples' historic centre - Porta Alba and its famous vintage bookstores
The elegant Piazza Bellini. Great place to stop for a drink, people watch and also ponder on the fact that you're sitting right on top of ancient Partenope - the ancient Greek city - and the excavations are about five steps from that table above where the fence is (on the left side)
The historic centre of Naples - narrow streets, locals, good food, atmosphere
From the street...what do you see? A church with some nice plants, a fence, a few people?
Now HERE is something incredible.
It's a church called Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco (what a mouthful) but you MUST visit here. Founded in 1604 it is attached to the Neapolitan worship of the dead. Steps to the underground lead to a crypt full of bones, including those of the virgin bride Lucia who died of consumption before her wedding day in the 1700s. See the pole on the far left...there is a grate beside it - peer into that grate and you will glimpse this underworld. For better views pay for the tour - it's 7 euro and all in Italian but you'll see Lucia and the rest of the crypt dwellers. Intensely and solely a Neapolitan experience.
What IS Naples? Is it the chaos and madness depicted in media? Is it the crime, rubbish and pickpockets splashed all over travel forums? For me, Naples is none of this. It is simply a 3000 year old city that has grown, evolved and adapted to the 21st century. It maintains its dignity but with a rebellious streak. Like your punk teenage nephew at a family Christmas.
See my photos below...this is my Naples - and yours too. Please come and see.
Naples is loaded with landmarks. In between rushing from the Molo Beverello port to Napoli Centrale to take the train to Pompeii, I'm sure many visitors have seen this castle and wondered what it is:
It's Castel Nuovo (New Castle), so called to distinguish it from two of Naples' other castles (Castel dell Ovo and Capuano). It was built to house the royal court of the Angevins and Charles I of Anjou began construction in 1279. It was rebuilt by Alfonso of Aragon in 1443 and the only original part of the 1279 structure is the Chapel.
View of the Molo Beverello port and across the Bay to Vesuvius from one of the castle's terraces
At present the zone around the left side of the castle is a construction site - building an extension to Metro Line 1. The excavation has uncovered an ancient Roman port, so work is proceeding very slowly while archaeologists conserve what is found.
The castle is well worth a visit. It costs only 4 euro - kids under 18 are free. Go inside the courtyard and up the grand staircase on your left. Inside you'll find the Sala de Baroni (Baron's Hall) which my son remarked looked like something from Harry Potter.
Inside the Baron's Hall. In 1486 there was a conspiracy against Ferdinand 1 of Aragon. The Barons who plotted against him were arrested and subsequently executed in here. This ceiling (above) is 92 feet high.
Part of the castle has an ancient necropolis dating back to Roman times. The floor is glass and you can walk over the excavations and ancient remains.
The interior courtyard with the grand staircase on the left which leads to the Baron's Hall
An incredible sight - so often missed in the hurry to get to somewhere else. Definitely worth your time.