A Saturday in Napoli

My second day in Naples was also a really good day. It was a long whirlwind day full of museums, sites, and lots of delicious food. Without much in the way of lines or crowds at most of the places I went, it was amazing just how much I did today. Compared to the pace it takes to go to some of the more touristy sites in Rome, it was pretty crazy just how much I was able to see and do.

I started my day with a pastry for breakfast, a sfogliatella at Pasticceria Attanasio. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it’s their specialty, and was delicious. Definitely worth a stop to grab one for breakfast as you’re walking somewhere.

From there I headed to the Naples National Archeological Museum. This was a Saturday morning just after 9:30am at a museum that is often listed among the best in Italy, and I was able to walk right up to the ticket window, wait for one person to finish, then fight through a student group to get in. I went from approaching the building to inside the museum in under 5 minutes, a nice change from the big museums in Rome. Tons of very well preserved (and/or partially restored) sculpture from between the late BCE to early CE era. Interesting seeing a lot of sculptures that were made around 100 CE that were Roman reproductions of Greek sculptures from a few centuries early. But some great marble and bronze work. The Farnese Collection was probably my favorite area, but there were other solid collections as well. Unfortunately the Egyptian Wing was closed during my visit. If you go, definitely stop by the “Secret Room”, it’s entertaining. But this museum as a whole was excellent, and worth a visit.

Red limestone looks pretty cool. And this is a copy... from the 1st century copying the 4th century BCE
Red limestone looks pretty cool. And this is a copy… from the 1st century copying the 4th century BCE
The Marble (as in versus The Rock)
The Marble (as in versus The Rock)
The Farnese Bull. A massive and impressive sculpture, originally carved out a single block of marble!
The Farnese Bull. A massive and impressive sculpture, originally carved out a single block of marble!
Original mosaic taken from the floor of a home in Pompeii
Original mosaic taken from the floor of a home in Pompeii
Closer shot showing the detail of the small mosaic tiles.
Closer shot showing the detail of the small mosaic tiles.
From the "Secret Room" at the museum
From the “Secret Room” at the museum

After stopping on my way for a double espresso, I headed to Cappella Sansevero, a beautiful chapel with some sculpture in it. One thing I instantly liked about this place is how strongly they enforced their “No Photo” policy. If someone’s camera went up, about 4 people would start shouting at once and someone would run over to the would-be photographer. That’s the kind of doggedness I was wanting at the Sistine Chapel. So I don’t have any photos from here. The ceiling painting was very nice, and used an effect to make it look like there was more sculpted pieces to the ceiling but done in painting. The most famous piece in here is the big centerpiece, the Veiled Christ. However make sure you look up in the corner to the other veiled sculpture the Veiled Truth. I was actually more taken by that piece. As there isn’t a lot to see volume wise, the €7 entry fee can seem a bit steep. If you’ve never seen a veiled marble sculpture before though, I do recommend it. They are amazing to see. I vividly recall the first time I saw one, the Veiled Rebecca at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, India. It truly is a beautiful and fascinating approach to marble, that should be seen in person.

Afterwards I went to the Naples Underground… or at least I thought I did. My intention was to do so, but essentially across the street from that is something else labeled the Naples Underground, the tour of an old Roman marketplace Beneath San Lorenzo Maggiore, not the main Naples Underground. This spot did not have English guides, and cost €9 to enter. It was pretty interesting, but felt a bit expensive for what it was. I also ended up feeling a little duped since it wasn’t the thing I thought I was going on, but that’s ultimately my own fault. Should have been tipped off when I was told they didn’t do English tours. Anyways, it was cool, the underground remains of a Roman marketplace. A number of rooms with varying functions could be seen. If you’re more budget-minded, I’d say you can skip this, unless you’re a huge fan of underground sites, then check it out. It was pretty cool, but i was out in about 25 minutes.

Part of the Roman Market underground
Part of the Roman Market underground

After that, I found where the actual Naples Underground tour I wanted was. It’s across and just down the street, at the end of an alley with a sign saying “Napoli Sotterranea” as opposed to the first one that you basically enter San Lorenzo Maggiore and then go down from there. I found out the next English language tour was starting in about 20 minutes. So I went to get a quick bite to eat, a pizza rossa from Di Matteo for €1. Ate that, and then headed for the tour.

Pizza Rossa. This is how they give it to you. The one Italian pizza you can eat with your hands.
Pizza Rossa. This is how they give it to you. The one Italian pizza you can eat with your hands.

The Naples Underground, or Napoli Sotterranea is a great tour and a good value that I definitely recommend. There is one part of the underground tour that you should avoid if you’re claustrophobic, but you are given ample warning and the tour is set up to make it easy for people to opt out.

This tour is actually two tours in one. A tour beneath a large Roman theatre that a section of Naples has been build around and on top of. As well as a tour of the underground area itself. In all I was there almost two hours, each part of the tour is around 45 minutes. And at €10, €8 for students I thought it was reasonably priced as well, since it’s all guided.

There’s a massive Roman Theatre that was in what is now a busy and crowded section of Naples. Due to limitations on where people could build, they just built on top of it, so the tour shows a few small sections where you can see what remains of it, below ground. The tour was pretty interesting in terms of Naples history. Between needing to build residences only inside the walls, and then damage from bombings in World War II it gives you an idea of how the city looks the way it does. Pretty fascinating.

The larger underground part of the tour was also an interesting mix of older and newer history. Ancient underwater systems from Roman times and then more recently upgraded into World War II bomb shelters. A really fascinating tour, highly recommended. I didn’t take many pictures, but it’s a great tour.

Part of the old theatre. Being used to also show nativity art (which is more varied in Naples)
Part of the old theatre. Being used to also show nativity art (which is more varied in Naples)
In the underground.
In the underground.
A candle for the really dark narrow part.
A candle for the really dark narrow part.

After that was done, I was hungry. So headed off for a pizza at Sorbillo. It was 3:30pm now, so didn’t have to wait long to get a table. I ordered a Pizza Mondial, it had capers, onions, oregano, and olives on top of the usual tomato and cheese. It was very tasty. Though I was surprised that these olives had pits, so fair warning to always check in Italy.

IMG_2435

After eating the pizza I decided to wander around the city more, check out some piazzas I hadn’t been to yet and have a few treats along the way. I did stop for an espresso at Cafe Mexico (the sign just says Mexico) near Piazza Dante and it was excellent, probably the best I had, so try it if you’re in town.

I also had a gelato later in the afternoon from Gay-Odin, I saw several sites tell me it was the best in Naples, and they are especially known for their chocolate. I will say the chocolate was very good, but the other two favors I got (pistachio and caramel) were just okay. Definitely didn’t stack up to the amazing place I went in Rome. Though I would consider going back and just getting three different flavor varieties of chocolate, I imagine that would be excellent.

IMG_2446

Here are a few more pictures from walking around in the afternoon:

L1010561

L1010562

Piazza Dante
Piazza Dante
Piazza Bellini. Ruins and Restaurants.
Piazza Bellini. Ruins and Restaurants.

L1010570

1 Comment

  1. I couldn’t get enough Roman history when I was in Italy. It’s been an obsession of mine since playing Centurion: Defends of Rome on my parent’s PC in middle school. Between pizza and Roman ruins, you are doing this trip properly! Your gelato quality bar is super high too I can tell. Great post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *