The neapolitan Ragù (proun. [raˈɡu]) is certainly one of the fundamental dishes from Napoli’s cooking tradition. It is the typical dish to be eaten on Sunday. It isn’t simply “carne c’ ‘a pummarola” (meat & tomato sauce), like Neapolitan theatrical actor and director Eduardo de Filippo said the Ragù takes much time to be perfect…much time. It has to be cooked for many hours to reach that characteristic solidity and strong taste, it has to “pippiare” how the Neapolitans say. In fact, tradionally the Ragù is prepared during saturday night to be ready for the lunch of Sunday, with a slow heat in a pan of clay and with a wooden spoon.
THE RAGU’ TODAY
But nowdays, in the lighter preparation, also four-five hours are sufficient. The fundamental ingredients of the Ragù are the tomato sauce, added in onions browned after softly frying them with extra-virgin oil. In Naples the Ragù has to be directly prepared with beef meat , which is the perfect second course together with the ziti or candele spezzate pasta. If you taste the Ragù, forget the good manners, the “scarpetta” is a must, so tast last sauce in the dish with a piece of bread! A simple dish but with an unique taste.
‘O rraù is not a recipe, but an ancestral symbol, a ritual that goes from gastronomy to the most authentic bond that unites the Neapolitan people with its own food.
Carlos Corrales Almeida visited us a few days ago and decided to share his experience on his travel blog napoliautentica.com, a project born from love for a city and the need to give a different point of view than usual on Naples and on how to live it as a tourist. This is the direct link https://bit.ly/2JJeour Recommended for all Spanish-speaking friends (and not only!). We also report on this other beautiful project by Carlos: Napoli street photography, photos of Naples, streets, people and everyday life.
History, stunning sea-scapes, amazing cuisine and pizzas, laid-back Italian life; Naples is famous for many things, and you can add wine to the list. The city is home to numerous wine bars and enoteca, popular with locals, tourists and a mixed crowd. We pick the top wine bars to visit when in Naples.
Blind Pig – Hideout Drinkery
An unconventional retro style bar in Naples’ hidden alley and you know how much we love retro style! Enjoy the excellent music selection and craft beers, wines, cocktails and spirits. The whole staff is friendly and this really cool spot is just perfect to relax and to drink like a Napoletano. It is also possible to eat delicious dishes to go with your drinks. The Blind Pig is waiting for you!
A popular bar with both locals and tourists, Enoteca Belledonne is a definite must try when visiting Naples. Situated in Chiaia, this bar offers a range of both food and drink specializing in both local and international wines. Dishes include bruschetta and spaghetti with meatballs. Surrounded by many small boutiques and restaurants, this is located in one of Naples’ up and coming areas and is worth a visit if you get the chance.
Nea is one of Naples’ most unique bars. An art gallery by day, Nea is dedicated to contemporary works and features paintings and sculptures by international artists dating from the second half of the twentieth century. However, this space is also home to a wine bar that serves delicious wine indoors and outdoors. With numerous magazines and catalogues placed on the tables visitors can relax and enjoy some peace and quiet after a hectic day. The artistic setting makes this a fabulous place to unwind after a busy day.
At the entrance of the room of Wine Boat you will find a boat-shaped counter, climb to the 2nd floor where you will find the air-conditioned room with tables for wine tasting. A wine lover and a Sunday drinker will welcome you to Quartieri Spagnoli of Naples for a trip through Campania. Crew will make you discover wonderful wines like Falanghina, Fiano, Greco of Tufo, Aglianico, Taurasi, …
This midcentury bookshop doubles as buzzing cocktail and wine bar, its wine-red interiors drawing a predominantly young, international crowd. Sip a well-crafted negroni while browsing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves…or the cute peeps in the crowd. Oh Berisio…so charming place!
it is true, in this case we are not in a real wine shop, but in a gastronomy, but it is practically impossible not to mention the point of sale of Salvatore Cautero among the best for its careful and careful selection of wines. It is the only Neapolitan gastronomy with a showcase dedicated to wines and champagne so rich. Therefore, in addition to exhibiting high quality products of gastronomy, Salvatore will also be able to show you the perfect wine.
This is truly a magical place for wine lovers, remains hidden from the eyes of tourists and for this reason it is up to us Neapolitans to make it known. The wines of the enoteca del Grottino are many, all of which are prized and mostly of Campania origin. Highly recommend tasting them accompanied by traditional dishes. The prices are slightly high, but given the excellent quality and the value of the wines it is more than understandable.
Everyone goes crazy for pizza. This could be the international slogan for what is the most famous Italian dish in the world. Many try to copy the original Neapolitan but to taste a real pizza here where it all started is priceless.
Here is a personal selection of the best pizzerias in the historic center of Naples for you to try. One rule: these are all less than 10 minutes walk from our holiday home!
Gino e Toto Sorbillo
The international success and the notoriety of the media do not prevent Gino Sorbillo and his brother Toto from maintaining the point and continuing to become the spokesman of the same excellence as always. The long wait to sit at the table, here, is rewarded by the care of the service and the offer: author’s round pizzas, the result of a meticulous selection of ingredients that favors the organic. The undisputed queen is still the classic Margherita, demonstrating how the simplest of recipes, if performed with technique and skill, can become and remain the number one.
Even the former president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, could not resist the temptation of the exquisite flavors of the Di Matteo pizzeria. A pizzeria that was born in 1932 and that gradually gained popularity throughout Naples and then throughout the world. A restaurant that besides preparing the real Neapolitan pizza, will give you the opportunity to taste the best Neapolitan street-food. Do not miss the Margherita Faccia Gialla with buffalo mozzarella and yellow tomatoes and of course her majesty la frittatina.
Among the names that have made the history of Neapolitan pizza, La Figlia del Presidente brings out the charm of Neapolitan folklore thanks to an impeccable pizza, a soft and melting honeycomb, embellished with local flavors. Also try the ripieno al forno.
Also known as the Sacred Temple of Pizza, the Da Michele pizzeria is another of the Neapolitan symbols, which have made history since the second half of the nineteenth century. The secret of this pizzeria lies behind the exclusive use of fresh products and in the more traditional leavening phase of pasta. You won’t even be spoiled for choice having only two simple types of pizza: Marinara or Margherita.
Here you can breathe the air of popular friggitoria, an adventure that began back in 1860. The mood mentions neorealism, with the women of the house in checkered aprons, at work between the counter and fryers and the men who serve at the tables with the shirt and friendliness of the landlord who has guests for dinner. The authenticity of contemporary Naples in front of the old court and at the corner of Forcella. The protagonist is a fried pizza that is a cloud generously filled with fresh ingredients balanced with the wisdom of experience. A few tables, but pizza fritta is a real street food, to be enjoyed standing or walking.
Napoli Pizza Village now in its ninth edition in 2019, returns to the Via Caracciolo waterfront.
The Napoli Pizza Village 2019, after a record edition held last year which counted 1,047,000 presences with over 122,000 pizzas baked by the 50 pizzerias present, will be held from 13 to 22 September, every evening from 6pm to midnight.
Napoli Pizza Village , which also held a stop abroad in October, more precisely in New York City in the United States of America, is a popular festival that aspires to represent an effective moment of global promotion of the territory through one of the symbols par excellence of Italy in the world: pizza.
The 30 thousand square meter village provides for the presence of 50 of the most famous pizzerias and hundreds of pizza makers from all over the world, ready to churn out over 100 thousand pizzas over 10 days.
Access to the Napoli Pizza Village 2019 area is free, as are the events included on the billboard. In every evening starting from 21.30 live concerts are scheduled: 14 September Arisa / 15 September Achille Lauro / 17 September E. Bennato – C. Malgioglio / 18 September Dolcenera / 19 September Boomdabash / 20 September E. Nigiotti – Bianca Atzei / 21 September Mahmood / 22 September Anastasio.
Do not miss pizza classes for adults and other events, such as the prestigious World Championship of Pizzaiuolo – Trophy Caputo.
Who wants can buy the menu ticket online or directly at the box office: the ticket, at a cost of 12 euros, includes the possibility of choosing the pizzeria where you can taste pizza and soft drink, including dessert and coffee. For celiacs there is a stand with Gluten Free products set up in the center of the village, in Rotonda Diaz. It is possible to compose a real menu for celiacs including pizza, beer and gluten-free desserts, without any price change.
For the little ones there is NPV Kids, an educational path that will allow children to discover the history of pizza margherita and learn about the nutritional properties of pizza and its role in the Mediterranean Diet. The young aspiring pizza chefs, moreover, will be able to participate in amusing laboratories in which it will be possible to learn how to realize an authentic Neapolitan pizza, under the guide of a Neapolitan Master Pizzaiolo.
It’s one of Italy’s most amazing attractions. An entire Roman town, buried under ash and lava by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD then excavated so you can wander around. If you get the chance to go, take it. It’s just south of Naples and can be done as an easy day trip by local train.
What to see
Pompeii was one of the largest and most shining cities built during the roman era, as you can see how) the ruins are everywhere. Thanks to its large production and export of oil and wines, Pompeii became a very rich city and tourist destination for the Roman patricians. You never know what Pompeii would have become. In ’79 AD, Vesuvius, which no one knew was a volcano yet because it looked like a common mountain, destroyed the town with a violent eruption.
The Forum Located in the archaeological site of Pompeii was the economic, political and religious city center. It was the place where all public debates and religious events were carried out, and it was the real heart of the city. At the beginning, it was a not a very large area, and there were few shops showing their merchandise. During the second century BC, people of Pompeii decided to give a more appropriate structure to the Forum on the basis of the task it held. The area was enlarged, some coverings were added for the shops, arcades were added to protect walking people from the rain, and public buildings were built along the sides of the square. The decoration of the Forum of Pompeii was completed with the replacement of the old tuff flooring with a more beautiful one made of travertine, the remains of which are still visible today. Once at the center of the square, the ruins of the Temple of Apollo attracts the eye. It is the most important ancient religious site of Pompeii. The statues of the goddess found close to the Temple of Apollo, were transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The Lupanar People of Pompeii, as good pagans, loved the pleasures of the flesh and didn’t have any problem showing off their passions. Many houses of Pompeii, had a secret room in which slaves of rich masters whored themselves. You could buy a little bit of company by paying from two to eight “assi” (currency of Pompeii at that time), an accessible amount for almost everyone, considering that the average price for a glass of wine was of one “asse”. The Lupanar (from Lupo meaning wolf, because “wolf” in Latin means “prostitute”) is the only building in Pompeii built specifically for this purpose. The brothel, located in the ruins of Pompeii, was distributed on two floors, each one reserved for a certain type of customer. The ground floor made by five bedrooms, a hallway and a bathroom, was for lower class customers. The first floor, however, was reserved for the upper class customers. Its own entrance and balcony roof gave access to the rooms, and it was also decorated with a refined taste. On the walls, you can still see the little pictures drawning voracious lovers in different erotic positions, ideal for lazy lovers looking for some inspiration. At the entrance of the Lupanare, as in most modern coffee shops, there was the chance to buy condoms to use with charming slaves of the brothel.
The house of the Faun The owner of the “House of the Faun”, inside the archaeological site of Pompeii, would definitely have been one of the most envied men in the city. The ruins of the house suggest a huge complex, with rooms, environments, and areas dedicated to different tasks. The property owner’s identity could not be traced back by remains. The structure has been called the “House of the Faun” for the bronze statue of the dancing faun, who was at the center of one of the main halls. The “House of the Faun” was a sort of a modern residence, in which there was also a kind of mall. The structure, in fact, consists of two large connected areas, each one with a separated entrance, connected by a series of shops rented to traders. In addition to the shops, the “House of the Faun” also had a good number of rooms, but nobody knows if they were for private use, or rented. The structure was built with very modern construction techniques: some lead plates were placed under the walls plaster to protect the environment from moisture. In Rome, there is no trace of such majestic houses, while in the archeological site of Pompeii there are facilities such as “The Villa of the Mysteries,”, “The House of Pansa”, and “House of the Labyrinth”. They are all smaller than the “House of the Faun” but just as important in order to understand the richness and greatness of the Roman ruling class of Pompeii.
The Amphitheater Located at the end of Via dell’Abbondanza, in the archeological site of Pompeii, is the oldest stone building of its kind that has ever been discovered. In fact, its construction dates back to 80 BC, while the first amphitheater of Rome, the one of Statilio Tauro, was built in 29 BC. One peculiarity of the amphitheater found in the excavations of Pompeii is that the structure had no basement under the floor of the arena, as the same construction of the imperial age used to have. At the top of the Amphitheatre you can see the large holes used to shore up the roof of the arena, in order to protect the spectators from the sun beating, wind, and rain. In this way, the shows could take place at any time of the year, without having to worry about the seasons. The terraces of the Amphitheatre of the archaeological excavations of Pompeii were divided into three orders, and one of these was reserved, with no doubt, for women. This timeless place has been the scene of one of the most exciting rock history concerts. In 1971, in fact, Pink Floyd recorded their “Live at Pompeii” concert without an audience, which became one of the most memorable moments in the music history.
The Villa of the Mysteries This is an ancient roman house, located slightly outside the city and the archaeological site. It is not possible to verify the owner of this great building, also in this case, but some ruins suggest that the owners could have been some rich Roman patrician. Some people argue that the villa belonged to Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, since there was a statue found in the ruins representing her. The Villa of the Mysteries takes its name from a series of paintings discovered in a room of the house, which some experts are still trying to determine the meaning. All schools of thought agree that the frescoes represent a young woman who is initiated into a cult. The dispute is about the kind of ritual that was initiated on the woman. Some argue that it is a Dionysian rite, while others simply believe that the woman is prepared for marriage. Whatever ritual to which the frescos of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii refer , these images instil into visitors a strong subjection . The villa had many rooms, all decorated with great elegance and many of which were for dinners and social events. Even in the Villa of the Mysteries, bodies were found of people who were doing normal daily activities ,when they were blown over by the violence of the Vesuvius lava.
The Cave Canem mosaic Maybe you have seen it at the entrance of some villas in Italy or in the world? The Cave Canem (Beware of the Dog in Latin) is one of the world’s most famous mosaics, and it’s right here, in the House of the Tragic Poet. It has been recently restored in order to bring back its ancient splendour, after years of neglect, with a device that protects it from rain and wind, but does not prevent the view. The House of the Tragic Poet is a typical house with atrium and takes its name from a mosaic placed at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The Garden of the Fugitives It is the most heartbreaking testimony of the end of Pompeii, for sure, with the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. During the excavations of 1961-62 and 1973-74, the bodies were found of 13 victims of the eruption, surprised by lava and lapillus while they were running away towards Porta Nocera. Men, women, and children, of one or more family groups, were asphyxiated by the gases and then slowly covered with ashes. The ones you see today in the Garden of the fugitives are perfect reproductions in plaster, which enable us to understand the last moments of life of these inhabitants of Pompeii.
Getting to Pompeii
The most common ways of getting to Herculaneum from Napoli are:
Train: Visitors need to take a local train to get to Pompeii. The Circumvesuviana line goes from Napoli (Piazza Garibaldi station) to Pompeii (Pompei Scavi station). It takes 35 mins to get there and the prices 3.20€. No prior booking is necessary or possible, just turn up, buy a ticket at the Circumvesuviana ticket office, go through the automatic ticket gates onto the platform and hop on the next train. The final destination of the Circumvesuviana train is Sorrento. Don’t confuse Pompei Scavi (Villa di Misteri) with the other Pompei station on another Circumvesuviana route, or Trenitalia’s mainline Pompeii station which serves the new town.
Car rental: Although this is a good option for families or groups of friends, you must keep in mind the price of petrol, parking and tolls. We would recommend this option only for those thinking of renting a car for additional days to visit other attractions nearby.
The ruins are open every day of the year, usually 09:00-19:30 April-October, 09:00-17:00 November-March, but check opening times and entrance fee at www.pompeiisites.org or www.pompeionline.net. Allow more time than you think you need. You can easily spend all day there, there’s lots to see.
Adults: 15€ EU Citizens (18 – 25): 9€ EU Citizens (less than 18) and (over 65): free entrance.
Next to the ticket office at the entrance, there is a free baggage check. Bags or backpacks larger than 30x30x15 cm cannot be brought into.
The biggest difference between Pompeii and Herculaneum is size: the ruins of Pompeii cover about 44 square hectaures, while Herculaneum covers just 4.
Pompeii was an important city and trade center, while Herculaneum was a small resort town without the large public buildings (forum, amphitheater, theaters, gym) found in Pompeii.
However, Herculaneum is in a much better state of preservation due to the deep layer of ash and dust that covered the site, filling the buildings without damaging them. Pompeii was heavily battered by falling rocks and hot air that knocked down upper floors of buildings and incinerated wood, both of which are still intact at Herculaneum.
All things considered, if you only have time to see one site, choose Pompeii. Herculaneum is a good alternative if you don’t want to do too much walking or if the temperatures are particularly scorching, as it has more shade than Pompeii.
We do not recommend visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum in one day, as it is simply too tiring.
One of the questions our guests often ask to us is “But if we are tired of eating pizza… where can we eat some tasty in the historic center?“ There are many trattorias that offer ragù, spaghetti with seafood, Genovese and many other goodies of the Neapolitan culinary tradition just a few steps from our apartment. These are traditional dishes at very low prices: it is difficult to exceed 20 euros. These are our favorites. One rule: these are all less than 10 minutes walk from our holiday home!
ANTICA OSTERIA PISANO
Since 1947 a small Neapolitan gastronomic legend. Antica osteria Pisano offers not only the traditional and delicious flavors of classic Neapolitan cuisine but also innovative dishes proposed by the resident chef. Where: Piazzetta Crocelle ai Mannesi 1. Tel.: +39 081 554 83 25 Open for lunch and dinner. Closed on Sundays.
ANTICA TRATTORIA DA CARMINE
The trattoria is located right on Via dei Tribunali which we can define as the “tasty road” in Naples. Unlike most places in the historic center, this is a medium-sized restaurant. Compared to a classic trattoria, “Da Carmine” presents definitely much more choice. It is interesting to note how one moves from humble, albeit delicious, pasta and potatoes with provola to more elaborate and expensive fish dishes. Where: Via dei Tribunali 330 Tel.: +39 081 29 43 83 Open only for lunch on Tuesday and Sunday, for lunch and for dinner on other days. Closed on Mondays.
LA CANTINA DI VIA SAPIENZA
Since 1900 typical Neapolitan cuisine where you can taste the best local specialties. Just mention its famous eggplant parmigiana but without forgetting the gnocchi alla sorrentina, the mezzani alla genovese, the pasta with potatoes and provola which alternate from day to day in a menu that is never the same, offering variations of first courses according to the day of the week . Among the main dish to include the cod and fried anchovies for gourmets! Where: Via della Sapienza 40 Tel.: +39 081 45 90 78 Open for lunch only. Closed on Sundays.
LA TAVERNA A SANTA CHIARA
A typical restaurant overlooking the cloister of the monastery of the same name in the historic center of Naples, which has made a true trademark of the skilful combination of traditional cuisine and modern forays. The management, familiar and friendly but at the same time attentive to the innovations of the sector, allows those who choose to stop in the restaurant to discover the true food and wine soul of the city. Do not miss the pasta and peas. Where: Via Santa Chiara 6 Tel .: +39 081 048 49 08 Open for lunch and dinner. Closed on Mondays.
OSTERIA DA CARMELA
The Osteria was established in 1967 under the Bellini theater, one of the most famous in the city. The first course are the canonical ones: magnificent pasta and chickpeas and linguine with sauté. Among the main dishes, the Genovese meat, the spinach and ricotta crocché, the fish balls, the luciana octopus. To do at the moment grilled meat, or sea bass with acqua pazza with potatoes. Where: Via Conte di Ruvo, 12 Tel.: +39 081 549 97 38 Open for lunch and dinner every day.
OSTERIA LA CHITARRA
This place is really a treasure chest of memory, a place of the heart. Here there are signs of the rare and hard to find history of Naples. A dozen tables arranged to optimize the number of seatings, terracotta flooring, warm walls, photos, postcards and above all a guitar on the wall. From cotica to pasta and beans, the coroniello, the selection of meats and cheeses, the wines have been the passion of the managers for almost 25 years. Where: Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore 1/bis Tel.: +39 081 552 91 03 Open for dinner. Closed on Sundays.
Typical restaurant of Neapolitan cuisine and seafood specialties, where you can enjoy classic dishes interpreted artfully by talented chefs who compose dishes such as pasta and beans at sea. Where: Vico Cinquesanti 29 Tel.: +39 081 29 50 68 Open for lunch and dinner every day.
About two thousand years ago, an eruption of the Naples volcano put an end to four Roman cities, including the famous Pompeii. The intense emotion that you feel when visiting the area comes from the respect for the immense force of nature, but also from the intimate contact with the civilization of that time.
Even though Naples is a volcanic city – not just in geological terms, but also in terms of its character – you never have to worry too much when visiting its volcano. If Vesuvius were to start erupting – as it has done many times since that year 79 in which it destroyed and buried the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia – you could get to safety in time, because this is perhaps the volcano under closest surveillance in the world. There are warning plans, and plans for the potential evacuation of the local populations. But you still have the thrilling feeling at walking on the back of a sort of gigantic live animal, which today is asleep but alive, in a relationship with the omnipotence of nature, which is much greater than us, and which is not easy to describe in words.
Climbing Vesuvius is not a real adventure. In fact, it’s not even a real climb, because you can get there by bus – in just half an hour from Pompeii, if it’s from the Roman city that your visit to the area begins – and simply walk uphill to the summit. The spectacle of the crater, huge and a little threatening, even now that it is a little quiet, will already be in itself a good reason to convince you, but the real wonder is another one: the panoramic view of theGulf of Naples and of the city on the sea. It’s like dominating the gulf from a low-altitude airplane or a helicopter. Priceless.
The Pompeii ruins’ area in which you find yourself is part of theVesuvius National Park, which was established about twenty years ago; you have to take into account the cost of an entrance ticket, but on the other hand you have the certainty of finding yourself in a well-kept landscape.
It is marked very clearly where it is best not to venture, and the main path leading to the crater (there are other paths in the park, not all of which are that easy to walk) is comfortable and its boundaries are clearly indicated. Speaking of nature, do you recognize the broom that are at odds with the harsh landscape and give signs of life? Their flowering period – sudden spots of a particular yellow, sharp on the dry ground – is spring-summer.
Ruins of Pompeii
Pompeii is today one of the largest excavation sites open to the public in the world, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As for its importance, then, it is absolutely unique in having preserved an entire Roman city in its everyday life, which was suddenly interrupted and has remained embalmed in a giant model on an urban scale. If you want to be methodical, you can start your visit from the museum, immediately becoming moved by the human figures of the inhabitants surprised by the eruption. They look like real people, but they are simply the casts – obtained by archaeologists pouring plaster into certain cavities where the presence of human bones was guessed – of people trapped by the ash rain that erupted from Vesuvius. Over the centuries the ash layer has solidified, the bodies have dissolved, but the cavity formed by their shapes has remained. It seems as if one is able to talk with people from two thousand years ago, and it’s indescribable.
Rather than by human solidarity, you are impressed by the historical-artistic side when you visit the homes of ancient Pompeii, such as the House of the Faun, that of the Vettii or that of the Golden Cupids, which take their names from the dominant subjects of their extraordinary frescoes or from their owners. Even before arriving at the houses, you may be walking across the public spaces of the ancient city: the Basilica where justice was served, the Forum where people gathered, the temples where the gods were worshiped and even the Lupanar – which in today’s language we would call the brothel – with its X-rated paintings.
What is impressive everywhere are the three dimensions: forget about the archaeological excavations found elsewhere in Europe, with their remains of reconstructed walls that are maximum one meter high. In Pompeii, the houses are still as tall as in the year 79. Unique is an understatement.
In the majestic stillness of the amphitheater – with the grass in the meadow that now colonizes the steps from where the ancient Pompeians watched the armed fights of gladiators – you could think of the Pink Floyd concertLive at Pompeii. But you cannot remember being there in person, because that show had no audience… It was only a private recording. The leader of the group, David Gilmour, came back here a few years ago to hold a real concert, the only show in the Pompeii amphitheater in the last nineteen centuries. More than rock memories, in any case, it is significant that this one in Pompeii seems to have been the most ancient permanent amphitheater ever built in the Roman age, so important and rich was the city.
Ruins of Herculaneum
Still under the Vesuvius, but about twenty kilometers to the west and much closer to Naples, you can find the Roman excavations of Herculaneum, less extensive but equally impressive, and as integrated into modern-day Ercolano. There would still be plenty to dig around, if in the area of archaeological interest there were not the houses of today’s inhabitants, obviously perfectly legitimately. Here the quality of the three-dimensional perception is even more spectacular than in Pompeii: on the paved roads you can walk like on any other non-archaeological road, the houses of two thousand years ago – particularly notable are the Houses of the Hotel, of the Mosaic Atrium and the Deer – seem to have been built yesterday, and sculptures and frescoes come naturally to greet you, in vivid shapes and colors. Pinch yourself to wake up: you’re not dreaming, and it’s not a Disneyland reconstruction. It’s all true.
Ruins of Stabia
You can also visit what remains of Stabiae, which, vice versa, is farther south from Pompeii and which has had a different story. The settlement was repopulated not long after the eruption of the year 79, and today the excavation area is isolated in the middle of modern Castellamare di Stabia. Five residences of the ancient Roman city have resurfaced: Villa Arianna and Villa San Marco, Villa Petraro and Villa Carmiano, underground, and the so-called “Second Complex”. Villa San Marco was built in the early imperial era and remodeled in the Claudian age: access, today from the spa area, leads to the three rooms of the “calidarium,” “tepidarium,” and “frigidarium,” from which you go to the porticoed garden with pool. Here it is as if the context was lacking, but the houses, the sophisticated walls, the mosaic floors, and above all the ancient Roman frescoes are of the same quality as those of Pompeii and Ercolano. If you have a taste for detail rather than the whole, then Stabia too is not to be missed.
Visit the magnificent Phlegraean Fields
The gigantic cone of Vesuvius dominates the whole area of Naples, but it is certainly not the only volcanic presence around the city. By public transport you can reach the Phlegraean Fields from Naples, an area just west of the regional capital toward Pozzuoli and the islands of Procida and Ischia, where volcanic activities appear smaller in size, and yet are just as evident, and even more spectacular.
The Vesuvius no longer has – as it had until the eruption of 1944 – a clearly visible plume of continuous smoke toward the sky. Here, however, from the crater of the Solfatara a practically continuous fumarole of sulfur dioxide and boiling mud spouts are still ejected. By the by, it is here that the volcanic shots of the Live at Pompeii video were shot.
The fumaroles are not geysers, as you would think, but they are very close to them. Respect the warnings and do not enter the fenced areas: sulfur fumes, even if they are not poisonous, can make you dizzy if you get too close. The Solfatara is in fact in a quiescent state, but is still quite active, and is only one of the forty volcanoes that make up the Phlegraean Fields. In the big, extinct crater of the Astroni, which is now a natural oasis managed by the World Wildlife Fund, you can take guided tours or quiet walks in the greenery around small lakes, instead of around sulfur fumes, and in the area there are also natural thermal springs, like those in Agnano. The famous spas on the island of Ischia also belongs to the volcanic system of the Phlegraean Fields. The movement of the ground below you is too slow for a human being to be aware of it, but the measurements show a imperceptible continuous up and down of the Phlegraean Fields with respect to sea level. The scientific word for this phenomenon is bradyseism, and this too is a volcanic phenomenon. The temple of Serapis in Pozzuoli, which is more or less two thousand years old, and which is obviously lower than the city around it, is an obvious historical example.
Ruins of Baia
As if to confirm the parallel lives between volcanic activities and ancient civilizations, the archaeological remains of the Roman Baiae, south of Pozzuoli, are part of the Phlegraean Fields. Find the so-called temples of Diana and Venus in today’s village, next to the small port on the Gulf of Naples, and it is not too surprising to find that they were actually spa buildings, so important that only the dome of the Roman Pantheon was larger than these. Nor does it surprise you – since we are in the area of bradyseism – to learn that the ancient Baia is today submerged, protected as a marine park at a depth of five to seven meters. You can touch it only if you are armed with scuba gear, and go to visit villas and nymphaeum of twenty centuries ago under the guidance of local divers. Another less adventurous choice could be an excursion on a boat with a transparent bottom: it is like looking at the Roman city from a window on the water.
The town of Herculaneum suffered the same fate as Pompeii. The town was buried under Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic ashes and mud in 79 AD.
Hit before Pompeii, many inhabitants didn’t have time to escape and were engulfed in layers of debris, ashes and mud, dying instantly to be preserved for centuries.
What to see
At the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the city was the volcano’s first victim, and therefore the first wall of lava, ashes, debris and gases covered Herculaneum completely a little after midnight on 25 August. The previous day, it had been plunged in a cloud of debris leaving it without sunlight.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompeii. The city’s houses, baths, taverns, temples and figuresare undamaged; therefore, visitors will get a real sense of the splendour of this Roman city.
Wealthier than its neighbouring Pompeii, the town is full of beautiful buildings. The different floors of most of the buildings are still intact and it is possible to see the magnificent frescoes and mosaics covering the walls of palaces, public buildings and mansions.
On the far side of the city are the most luxurious villas overlooking the sea, notably the Villa dei Papiri, which was the luxurious retreat of Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.
In Herculaneum, archaeologists have also found the first Roman preserved skeletons from the first century, since prior to this period Romans would cremate the dead. The skeletons are on display in one of the city’s houses.
The town of Herculaneum has been magically conserved all these years. Objects like beds, and doors managed to remain under the layers of ash and mud without decaying.
Although it isn’t as well-known or as large as Pompeii, Herculaneum’s ruins are extremely impressive and gripping. Definitely worth visiting!
Today, the town of Ercolano lies extremely close to the ruins of Herculaneum, creating an interesting contrast.
Getting to Herculaneum
The most common ways of getting to Herculaneum from Napoli are:
Train: Visitors need to take a local train to get to Herculaneum. The Circumvesuviana line goes from Napoli (Piazza Garibaldi station) to Herculaneum (Ercolano Scavi station). It takes 20 mins to get there and the prices 2.20€.
Car rental: Although this is a good option for families or groups of friends, you must keep in mind the price of petrol, parking and tolls. We would recommend this option only for those thinking of renting a car for additional days to visit other attractions nearby.
1 November – 31 March: Every day from 8:30am – 5pm 1 April – 31 October: Every day 8:30am – 7:30pm
Adults: 13€ EU Citizens (18 – 25): 2€ EU Citizens (less than 18) and (over 65): free entrance
The tour of the churches of Naples would be endless! We have chosen 6, certainly among the most beautiful. Are you ready? Go!
Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo The church is the final resting place of much-loved local saint Giuseppe Moscati (1880–1927), a doctor who served the city’s poor. Adjacent to the right transept, the Sale di San Giuseppe Moscati (Rooms of St Joseph Moscati) include a recreation of the great man’s study, complete with the armchair in which he died. Scan the walls for ex-voti, gifts offered by the faithful for miracles purportedly received. The church itself received a miracle of sorts on 4 August 1943, when a bomb dropped on the site failed to explode. Its shell is aptly displayed beside the ex-voti. The church flanks the northern side of beautiful Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, a favourite late-night hang-out for students and lefties. At its centre soars Giuseppe Genuino’s lavish Guglia dell’Immacolata, an obelisk built between 1747 and 1750. On 8 December, the Feast of the Immacolata, a firefighter scrambles up to the top to place a wreath on the statue of the Virgin Mary.
Monastero di Santa Chiara Vast, Gothic and cleverly deceptive, the mighty Basilica di Santa Chiara stands at the heart of this tranquil monastery complex. The church was severely damaged in WWII: what you see today is a 20th-century recreation of Gagliardo Primario’s 14th-century original. Adjoining it are the basilica’s cloisters, adorned with brightly coloured 17th-century majolica tiles and frescoes.
Chiesa di San Giovanni a Carbonara Sumptuous sculpture and Technicolor frescoes makes this Gothic church worth a detour. Andrea de Firenze, Tuscan sculptors and northern-Italian artists collaborated on the Gothic-Renaissance mausoleum of King Ladislas, soaring 18m behind the main altar. Behind it, the circular Cappella Caracciolo del Sole uplifts with its vivid 15th-century frescoes and Leonardo da Besozzo’s tomb for Giovanni Caracciolo, the ambitious lover of King Ladislas’ sister Queen Joan II of Naples.
Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore The basilica at this richly layered religious complex is deemed one of Naples’ finest medieval buildings. Aside from Ferdinando Sanfelice’s facade, the Cappella al Rosario and the Cappellone di Sant’Antonio, its baroque makeover was stripped away last century to reveal its austere, Gothic elegance. Beneath the basilica is a sprawl of extraordinary Graeco-Roman ruins, accessible on a one-hour guided tour. To better understand the ruins, start your explorations in the Museo dell’Opera di San Lorenzo Maggiore, which includes a model of the area as it appeared in ancient times. The ruins themselves will see you walking past ancient bakeries, wineries, laundries and barrel-vaulted rooms that once formed part of the city’s two-storey macellum (market). Above them, the basilica itself was commenced in 1270 by French architects, who built the apse. Local architects took over the following century, recycling ancient columns in the nave. Catherine of Austria, who died in 1323, is buried here in a beautiful mosaiced tomb. Legend has it that this was where Boccaccio first fell for Mary of Anjou, the inspiration for his character Fiammetta, while the poet Petrarch called the adjoining convent home in 1345.
Chiesa di Sant’Anna dei Lombardi This magnificent church is testament to the close links that once existed between the Neapolitan Aragonese and the Florentine Medici dynasty. One particular highlight is Guido Mazzoni’s spectacular Pietà. Dating from 1492, the terracotta ensemble is made up of eight life-size terracotta figures surrounding the lifeless body of Christ. Originally the figures were painted, but even without colour they still make quite an impression. Also impressive is baroque painter Francesco Solimena’s arresting depiction of St Christopher. The sacristyis a work of art in itself. The walls are graced with gloriously inlaid wood panels by Giovanni da Verona, while the ceiling bursts with 16th-century frescoes by Giorgio Vasari depicting the Allegories and Symbols of Faith.
Duomo di Napoli Whether you go for Giovanni Lanfranco’s fresco in the Cappella di San Gennaro (Chapel of St Janarius), the 4th-century mosaics in the baptistry, or the thrice-annual miracle of San Gennaro, do not miss Naples’ cathedral. Kick-started by Charles I of Anjou in 1272 and consecrated in 1315, it was largely destroyed in a 1456 earthquake. It has had copious nips and tucks over the subsequent centuries. Among these is the gleaming neo-Gothic facade, only completed in 1905. Step inside and you’ll immediately notice the central nave’s gilded coffered ceiling, studded with late-mannerist art. The high sections of the nave and the transept are the work of baroque overachiever Luca Giordano. Off the right side of the nave, the Cappella di San Gennaro (also known as the Chapel of the Treasury) was designed by Theatine priest and architect Francesco Grimaldi, and completed in 1646. The most sought-after artists of the period worked on the chapel, creating one of Naples’ greatest baroque legacies. Highlights here include Jusepe de Ribera’s gripping canvas St Gennaro Escaping the Furnace Unscathed and Giovanni Lanfranco’s dizzying dome fresco. Hidden away in a strongbox behind the altar is a 14th-century silver bust in which sit the skull of San Gennaro and the two phials that hold his miraculously liquefying blood. The next chapel eastwards contains an urn with the saint’s bones and a cupboard full of femurs, tibias and fibulas. Below the high altar is the Cappella Carafa, a Renaissance chapel built to house yet more of the saint’s remains. Off the left aisle lies the 4th-century Basilica di Santa Restituta, the subject of an almost complete makeover after the earthquake of 1688. From it you can access the Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte. Western Europe’s oldest baptistry, it’s encrusted with fragments of glittering 4th-century mosaics. The Duomo’s subterranean archaeological zone, which includes fascinating remains of Greek and Roman buildings and roads, remains closed indefinitely.
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