Naples, Italy

Naples is stretched around the Bay of Naples and lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. As a reminder of the force of the great volcano, the unearthed ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum pay tribute to the destruction Vesuvius has brought to southern Italy, and are just a short trip from the capital city of Campania. The city of Naples is blessed by great beauty and history but the hard conditions of modern life are in stark contrast to the scenic grandeur of this coastal region. This former capital of the Two Sicilies is still the center of commerce for southern Italy. It is a major seaport that produces textiles, fine glassware, and airplanes and automobiles as well as great wines. Its markets are open every day and visitors to the region can purchase the consumer goods of produced in Campania.

Naples is a pretty big city (the third largest in Italy) which has a population of 1,200,000 people, roughly the size of San Diego, California. Crime is high in this crowded city, in part because it is one of the poorer regions of Italy. The center of Naples is a clutter area of churches, convents, and palaces. Within blocks, tourists can visit medieval buildings and view Renaissance architecture. A few blocks away, there are relics of the Roman era near modern slums with brightly colored laundry hanging in the sun. Again, the tourist sees the contrasts of great and common, heroic and sinister, awesome and aweful, in this energetic city. Some of the major attractions in Naples are the Duomo of San Genarro , the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the Gesł Nuovo, and the Catacombs of San Genarro.

The Duomo of San Genarro is open every day of the year except, September 19th, the day of the San Genarro festival. It is located on Via Duomo. The Duomo was built some time from 1294 to 1323. Down the side of the nave (the central aisle) are monuments to many former rulers and has paintings by Renaissance artists. Inside the Duomo you will find grizzly remnants from the Roman era--it contains the remains of San Genarro, the protector of Naples, who was martyred in the AD 305. It has his head and vials with his preserved solid blood in it. There is a myth that 3 times a year it liquefies and if it doesn't liquefy Naples will have bad luck.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the world's greatest museums. It houses the relics of Pompeii and Herculeaneum--many are delicate pieces that survived the volcano's tremendous blast. The museum also owns the Farnese collection which was assembled by one of the prominent families of Italy and contains excellent examples of classical sculpture. One of the items they have at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale is a mosaic of the Battle of Issus between Alexander the Great and Darius, King of Persia. Another great work they have is ancient Roman reproduction of a Greek statue of Hercules made by Lysippus.

There are many historic churches to visit in Naples. The Gesł Nuovo is open every day of the year but January 31st and November 16th. It is located on Piazza del Gesł Nuovo. The victim of a major earthquake two centuries ago, the interesting 16th Century facade invites the faithful into a richly decorated church run by Jesuit priests. Nearby is the gothic gem, San Domenico Maggiore, where great Renaissance artwork is stored,. A short stroll away is Santa Chiara which holds the bodies of medieval royalty. A tour book of Naples will point out many other churches from different eras that can be visited and enjoyed.

The catacombs of San Genarro are open yearly but do charge admission. They are located on Via di Capodimonte 16. The catacombs (underground burial grounds which were also used as hiding places by early Christians) were the original resting place of San Genarro (whose head and blood are now housed in the Duomo of San Genarro). A trip into these dank environs take you through two layers of catacomb that were decorated with mosaics and paintings in the 2nd Century A.D.

For tourists visiting Naples, great side trips include a voyage to the Isle of Capri and a drive up the Amalfi Coast.

It is the food of Naples and Campania that Americans think of when they think of Italian food. Pizza comes from the region with the traditional versions known as "Napolitana" including tomatoes, garlic, basil and anchovies and "Margheurite" with tomatoes, herbs and basil. Cannoli and biscotti are southern Italian specialties. We enjoy regional cheeses including Provolone, Mozorella and Ricotta from the small towns near Naples.

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