A dazzling tour along Mediterranean, Aegean coasts: Naples

Özge Şengelen

Reflecting the true spirit of Italy with its historical streets, churches, castles and the warmth of Mediterranean culture, Naples will fascinate you with its colorful paths along the Mediterranean coast

We could not enter the center of Neapolitan music, Naples, which is considered the birthplace of pizza and Pulcinella – a classical character in Neapolitan puppetry, one could say the Karagöz of the Italian theater – with any place other than Santa Lucia. Located across the Gulf of Naples and in the east of Sicily, the Santa Lucia region was named after a saint who was born on the island of Sicily in the third century A.D.

“Oh, how beautiful to be on the ship! Come aboard passengers, come on! Saint Lucy! Saint Lucy! O sweet Naples, upon blessed soil, Where to smile desired its creation, You are the kingdom of harmony, Saint Lucy! Saint Lucy!”

In this anonymous song titled “Santa Lucia,” a boatman traveling from the Santa Lucia region to Naples is fascinated by the scenery. While we were descending from the hill toward the city center, accompanied by the Santa Lucia song, singed by Alfie Boe, the vast Mediterranean landscape that greeted us both fascinated us and was enough to warm our hearts.

When we moved toward its center, it was as if this cosmopolitan city had taken a piece of the romance of Venice, the luxury of Milan, the historical texture of Rome, and the art of Florence.

Naples, founded on the skirts of Mount Vesuvius on the southern coast of Italy, is a colorful city that reflects the true spirit of Italy with its historical streets, churches, squares and castles.

An aerial view shows Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
An aerial view shows Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)

It makes you feel the warmth of Mediterranean culture with its houses with laundry hanging from its balconies, people talking loudly, and children running through its streets.

One of the most important features of Naples for me is that it is the homeland of my favorite Neapolitan pizza, Margherita. Of course, there is a story behind the name given to this pizza.

Queen of Italy Margherita of Savoy visits Naples in 1889. During this visit, Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito presents her with a pizza consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, symbolizing the colors of the Italian flag.

The queen likes the pizza so much that she sends Esposito a letter explaining how delicious the pizza was. So, thus the pizza is called “Margherita” and it enters the world cuisine. You can see this letter at Pizzeria Brandi, where Esposito was the chef.

You can reach Sardinia Island, Sicily, many Mediterranean Islands, Capri, Tunisia, from the port in Naples, where every street opens to a completely different world.

Naples Cathedral, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Naples Cathedral, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Naples Cathedral

I think it would be unfair if I didn’t start the story of Naples with the Naples Cathedral. Frankly, when I think about the many cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe, this was one of the ones that impressed me the most.

Also known as Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary or Duomo di Napoli, the cathedral was built in the 13th century, and dedicated to San Gennaro, in honor of the city’s patron saint.

Apart from the exterior of the cathedral that fascinates me, the extraordinary legend I heard about is also very interesting. The church houses a vial of the blood of St. Januarius, which is brought out three times a year, when the dried blood usually liquefies. If the blood fails to liquefy, then legend has it that disaster will befall Naples.

Piazza del Plebiscito

You can start your tour of the city from the main square, Piazza del Plebiscito, where the heart of the city beats. You can reach many must-see structures in the city on foot from the square.

The square, where the Church of San Francesco di Paola, which I liken to the Pantheon in Rome, is located, is one of the most lively places in the city. There are also many statues in Piazza del Plebiscito, which is a very large public square.

The Royal Palace, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Piazza del Plebiscito, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Royal Palace

The Royal Palace, which is one of the buildings that attract a lot of attention with its historical texture and artistic stance, has a main facade opening to Piazza del Plebiscito with a length of 169 meters (554 feet).

The history of the palace, which includes many rooms such as the Court Theater, the Throne Room, the Mariacristina Room of Savoy and the Royal Chapel, dates back to the 17th century. The palace, which was started to be built in the 1600s, was used as a royal residence by Charles of Bourbon in 1734. The palace, which has undergone restoration work many times throughout history, draws attention with its magnificent stance today.

Known as one of the most fascinating museums in Naples, the Royal Palace hosts tapestries, decorative objects, objects from the Spanish and Bourbon periods, important paintings and frescoes by the artists of the period. There is also a library in the palace dedicated to Victor Emmanuel III, one of the most important libraries in Southern Italy and one of the first in the world. Apart from these, you can also see the hanging gardens in the palace that offer wonderful views of the Belvedere Courtyard, the Coaches Court, the Hall of Honor, the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.

Castel dell'Ovo, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Galleria Umberto I, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Castel dell’Ovo

Also known as “Egg Castle,” Castel dell’Ovo, one of the most important historical buildings of Naples, used to be located on an island during the Roman Empire period. In the following years, the island merged with the land and took its current form.

You can go to this beautiful castle, just to watch a unique Mediterranean view.

Galleria Umberto I

As I said at the beginning, Naples is a city that has many different characteristics of different Italian cities all together. When you enter Galleria Umberto I, a public shopping gallery, you will see that Naples has taken a part of Milan’s luxurious and magnificent image. Galleria Umberto I, one of the best examples of 19th-century architecture, is the address of public luxury shopping like Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

You can find stores of world-famous brands in Galleria Umberto I, which is very similar in structure to Vittorio Emanuele, which is known as one of the oldest shopping centers in the world. At the same time, you can eat delicious desserts in the cafes and take a coffee break.

During your little coffee break, you can think about how such a huge glass ceiling design was made in the 1800s. Even if you don’t need shopping, you should definitely add this to your visiting list, which may be of interest to you with its magnificent architecture.

Via dei Tribunali, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Castel Nuovo, in Naples, Italy. (Shutterstock Photo)
Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo was built by the order of Charles I of Anjou. The castle has a strategic location close to the port. The reason why it was built here was to protect the Neapolitan rulers.

The castle, which has five round towers, fascinates people with its magnificent architecture and frescoes. You will find that the castles in Naples have a wonderful common feature: They all have a magnificent Mediterranean view, and Nuova Castle is no different.

Exhibitions and concerts are held in the castle, which is located in the heart of the city and has become the icon of the city. It also includes the city museum.

Via dei Tribunali

Of course, you will not want to return from Naples without eating the famous Neapolitan pizza. Here is a street where you can eat the best pizzas. You will surely eat the best pizza you have ever eaten in your life in one of the many pizza restaurants here at Via dei Tribunali. Frankly, it was such an experience for me.

Via dei Tribunali, the most famous street in Naples, is also home to historical buildings. Naples Cathedral and San Lorenzo Maggiore Basilica are some of the important structures you can visit on this street.

Although Naples is one of the cosmopolitan cities of Italy, it is a wonderful city with a unique identity. I don’t know if it’s my passion for the sea, I left a corner of my mind in Naples when I returned home. Naples will remain in my mind as a coastal city worth visiting in all seasons, with the smell of iodine that stays in my nose for a long time, the warmth of the Mediterranean and its dazzling historical texture.

Courtesy: Dailysabah