To experience the true essence of Naples, you need to explore the Centro Storico, an unforgettable neighborhood that is the heart of old Naples. This is the Naples of peeling building facades and hanging laundry, with small alleyways fragrant with fresh flowers laid at the many shrines to the Blessed Virgin. Here the cheapest pizzerias in town feed the locals like kings, and the raucous street carnival of Neapolitan daily life is punctuated with oases of spiritual calm. All the contradictions of Naples—splendor and squalor, palace and slum, triumph and tragedy—meet here and sing a full-throated chorale. But the Centro Storico is not simply picturesque. It also contains some of Naples's most important sights, including a striking conglomeration of churches—Lombard, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical. There are the majolica-adorned cloister of Santa Chiara; the sumptuous Church of the Gesù Nuovo; two opera-set piazzas; the city duomo (where the Festa di San Gennaro is celebrated every September); the Museo Cappella Sansevero; the greatest painting in Naples—Caravaggio's Seven Acts of Mercy altarpiece—on view at the museum complex of Pio Monte; and Via Gregorio Armeno, where shops devoted to Presepe crèche (Nativity scene statues) make every day a rehearsal for Christmas. And even though this was the medieval center of the city, the city's flagship museum of modern art, the Museo Madre, is here and night owls will find that many of Naples's most cutting-edge clubs and bars are hidden among its nooks and alleys. For soccer fanatics, there is even a shrine to Diego Maradona.
This area is best explored by starting out at its heart, the Piazza del Gesù Nuovo (approachable from all directions but easily reachable from Via Toledo by heading eastward from Piazza Carità through the pedestrianized Piazza Monteoliveto and then up Calata Trinità Maggiore), then heading east along the Spaccanapoli street to the Duomo, then back along Via dei Tribunali.
POINTS OF INTEREST
A stunning architectural contrast to the plain Romanesque frontage of other nearby churches, the oddly faceted stone facade of this…Learn More >
San Giuseppe dei Ruffi
Every morning at 8 am (and midday on Sunday), the Perpetue Adoratrici (Sacramentine nuns) beautifully sing early mass beneath Francesco…Learn More >
San Severo al Pendino
Erected in the 16th century atop a previous church, this building has evolved many times—from the church of San Severo…Learn More >