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Churches and Castles in Naples

More Adventure travel tales in Italy:
Sightseeing in Rome
Ruins of Pompeii
Medieval Siena
Venice, City of Water
Other Southern European Tales:
Athens, Greece
Nafplion, Greece
Monemvasia, Greece
Olympia, Greece
Cappadocia, Turkey
Selçuk, Turkey

The Duomo in Naples

Naples is the third city in Italy, yet it is the most populated one. It lies beautifully at the Gulf of Naples and on the foot of the active volcano Vesuvius. The city is often in the news for its garbage problems, and other issues related to the over population. But the city certainly has its charm as well, which we have tried to find.

From Rome, where our plane from Africa returned us, we take the train through the beautiful Italian landscape south. The area is mountainous, with villages and cities built on the slopes. As we approach Naples, it becomes more densely populated, and not with the nice houses we saw earlier. Ugly flats are the trend here.

We do not arrive at Naples central station, but a metro line brings us there. Then we stop onto the huge Piazza Gibraldi. Not a particularly nice square, with many busses, taxis, and other cars. Along the sides there is a lot of merchandise on the streets. We suspect it’s the Camorra (local mafia) who is trying to sell sigarets, drugs, prostitutes, but mainly mobile phones and video cameras to us. We manage to find a decent little hotel in the area where we will stay.

Churches and nativity scenes

Sunday seems like a nice day to explore Naples. After walking a fair distance we reach the old center, with its many churches. The first one is the Duomo, the cathedral. A mass is being held here, but we can have a look around. The most impressive is the chapel of St Giovanni, the patron of the city. In the beautiful altar are supposed to be two barrels of his blood, which boils three times a year to protect the city for disasters. Not a bad thing with the Vesuvius close by, although it also seems like an excuse for have three celebrations a year.

The Duomo is not the only church in the historic center of Naples. In the maze of narrow streets there are many, beautiful as well as ugly ones, most of them decorated with some statues. Remarkable are also the many shops with what we first think are green doll houses. But upon closer look these are all nativity scenes, including complete cave formations, waterfalls, and the works. Christmas was only a month ago, but it’s the only thing these shops are selling.

Modern with castles

Castel Nuovo in NaplesWe approach the more modern part of town. This is also where the large monuments are located. There’s Castel Nuovo, with the three towers and a gate, the theatre, the royal palace, and, obviously, a large church. The last two are located on a the largest piazza (square) of the city. There are many people here, lots of children are playing with their new toy, a motorized scooter. We stay and watch for a while, until we decide to move on to Castel dell’Ovo, the castle of the egg.

Castel dell’Ovo is located on an island in the bay of Naples. The castle is a bit ugly, and is surrounded by a few narrow streets with fancy restaurants. Probably a nice area in summer, but a bit deserted now. There are a lot of cars though, strange that these are allowed on such a small island. After having a look over the Gulf with the Vesuvius in the background, we have a pizza on a terrace and head back for the center and our hotel.

Dropped anywhere in Naples, it takes some time to find the charm. But in the center, with its narrow streets and many church, it can certainly be found. A little further, the grotesk momuments of Naples are there as well, in close vicinity to the Gulf of Naples. These are the more expensive areas as well, though. So budget travellers will have to be prepared for the sleezy bits of Naples as well...

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