Young people… down the squares!
Naples is famous for its folklore, its beautiful landcapes, for the warmth of its inhabitants, and for the wonderful historical-artistic patrimony which offers to its tourists a really evocative and special viewpoint, with its varied stratifications, which can be considered as the expression of those people who have followed on one another over the centuries. The squares of Naples are the very evidence of art, culture, events, and misdeeds, since they represent the history and the soul of the city, with their thousand faces and their stories. In Naples there are many squares, but our itinerary will just cover the squares where young people use to frequent most, the real meeting-points of the city, so that reconciling culture, art and fun. The first stop is at Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, in the heart of the ancient center, giving-off charm and mystery. In the center of this square there is the magnificent obelisk formed by many marbles, basreliefs, medallions and sculptures, erected here as a thanksgiving symbol, for the end of the fatal pestilence on 1556.
Palazzo Casacalenda, facing the spire, was built on 1776 by the architect Mario Gioffredo and strengthened by Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773) on an ancient factory showing its ironic facade, as well as its wonderful stairway. On the left side of the square, there is Palazzo Petrucci, with its wonderful marble portal gently carved with ornamental motives, with oak and acanthus leaves of the XVth century, immediately followed by the Basilica di San Domenico Maggiore, rising on the area previously occupied by a Romanesque church, the church of San Michele Arcangelo, whose lines are still visible in the right aisle. The Basilica, built on 1283 by will of the Angevins, is in Gothic style, and has suffered many adaptations over the centuries. On the right side of the square overlooks Palazzo Corigliano that was built around 1550 and it was partly destroyed by the earthquake in 1688, when the upper part of the building was completely rebuilt. Palazzo Corigliano flanks Palazzo de’Sangro, built on the XVIth century. The imposing facade of the building is what remains of its original structure, while the atrium is decorated with basreliefs by the sculptor Sammartino (1720-1793).
On the right side of the building in a narrow alley there is the cappella Sansevero (Sansevero chapel), so-called because it was built by will of the Sanseveros’ family and restored by will of the prince Raimondo de’ Sangro, alchemist and physicist. A cementery chapel surrounded by a mystery aura. Here there are the graves of de’ Sangros’ family memebers, and where we find the amazing work by Sammartino, which is the Cristo Velato (Veiled Christ), that reveals every anatomical detail below a veil, which is integral part of the sculpture. Besides, in a basement cavea, inside two closets, are kept the bodies of a man and a woman, still inexplicably presenting the whole circulatory apparatus in every single ramification. The legend tells that the “petrification” and the “metallization” phenomena were due to the witchcraft powers the prince had, and who tested this technique on two slaves. Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, is in the heart of the University area, and at every time of the day, and night is very crowded of young people, who at night use to meet here to have a beer, or to meet in one of the many little bars, where they can spend the night altogether.
From Piazza San Domenico Maggiore let’s move then towards Piazza Bellini (Bellini Square), easily reachable by the underground in Piazza Dante (Dante Square), near to Port’Alba, a well-known area, because of the many bookshops, where it is possible to find any kind of book, and at good prices.
In Piazza Bellini there is an open sky exposition of the Greek walls remains, dated-back to the IVth century B.C. and, near the bordering barrier, there is the monument to Vincenzo Bellini, a music composer who studied in Naples. Near the square there is the Conservatory of San Pietro a Maiella (Saint Peter in Maiella Conservatory), with its wonderful church, still reflecting the original medieval style and that is worthy to be visited. Crossing Via San Sebastiano, famous for its musical instruments shops, we reach then the famous Piazza del Gesù, one of the most evocative of the city. At the centre of the square there is the spire of the virgin, high about 40 meters, and built on 1747, in rococò style and surrounded by nobles’ buildings, and by the wonderful Church of Santa Chiara (Saint Claire’s church). The church, typical expression of the Gothic-Provenzal style, was built by will of Sancia of Majorca, Roberto d’Angiò’s wife. The building, readapted during the Baroque period, was bombed during the second world war, then it was rebuilt in its original Gothic shapes, eliminating the still visible baroch shapes. After visiting the church let’s move to the chiostro delle Clarisse, attached to the church monastery. This work is in rococò style, with its wonderful garden, covered with delicate majolicae. The Church of Gesù Nuovo, overlooks the piazza. This church was built at the end of the Sixteenth century maintaining the facade of the Sanseverino’s building. Sanseverinos’ were princes of Salerno, and the building represents a massive example of the neapolitan baroque style, with wonderful works by the bergamask Cosimo Fanzago(1591-1678).
Crossing all Via Toledo we reach the well-known Piazza del Plebiscito (the Plebiscite Square), the biggest square in Naples. The present outline is due whether to the building of the stately Palazzo Reale, on the seventeenth century, or to the building of its wide hemicycle in 1817 of lateral buildings and of the stately basilica of San Francesco di Paola, by will of Ferdinando Ist of Bourbon, as a symbol of thanks for the reconquest of the kingdom after the definitive defeat of Napoleone. In order to reach the last square of the tour, we cross Via Chiaia, the real heart of the city shopping, where there are plenty of shops suitable for everybody’s tastes, and where is nice to spend the afternoon doing shopping, and then having an aperitive in the bars of the neapolitan movida. The square is a crossroad of well-known streets, where to do shopping, where you can find haute couture boutiques, and the very famous Marinella, where you can’t miss buying a tailormade tie. The square has a triangle plan, and it is characterised by an atmosphere of monumentality, because of the surronding buildings, such as: palazzo Partanna and Palazzo Calabritto, both dated-back on the XVIIIth century, palazzo Nunziante of the XIXth century, and the monument situated at the centre, the so-called Monumento ai Martiri, costituted by a pillar already existing during the Bourbons’ period, on which was places the statue of Emanuele Gaggiano (1837-1905), representing the Virtù dei Martiri (the Martys’ Virtue).
At its foundation there are four big lions, each of them has a precise symbolic meaning: the dying lion, representing the fallen republicans of 1799; the lion pierced-through by a sword, honoring the fallen carbonaris of 1820, while the two fiercest lions represent the fallen liberal garibaldinis of 1848 and 1860. On Saturdays in the morning, the piazza entertain young people meetings, who are arranging the night, while sipping a coffee, or having aperitives.
Itinerary for people less young: around theatres
A tour to “discover” Neapolitan theatres, to admire their architectural styles, and to get acquainted with its history made of performances, victories, curiosities, actors, actresses. Most theatres stretch along an imaginary axle flanking Via Toledo, this once street was the magnificent centre of the greatest part of performance rooms, of different kind, which animated Neapolitan nights.
The tour starts from Bellini theatre, the most beautiful theatre of the city, (as its name in Neapolitan means: nice, cute) and dedicated to the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini, with its wonderful facade the theatre welcomes spectators. It opened on November 19, 1864, not fare reopened it, only eight years later, in the actual position, after a fire destroyed it in the evening of April 14, 1869. The new Bellini opened on February 6, 1878 and rebuilt not far away from the old one in Via Ruvo. The project made by the architect Carlo Sorgente, was thought to be a typical Italian theatre, rich in decorations, where on the stage, with a semi circular plan, five classes of boxes and a gallery lean-out.
It is worth going there to see a performance, so as to admire the harmony and the pomp of rooms, as well as to give a look at the “teatrino della sala prove” (little theatre for rehearsals) or “Auditorium.” Here there is an exhibition of beautiful posters of old theatre performances, patiently collected by the actor Tato Russo, who has been managing the theatre since 1988. In the Bellini theatre famous actors, such as Raffaele Viviani and Eduardo Scarpetta, trod the boards.
From Bellini theatre, let’s move to Teatro Nuovo. This theatre has very noble origins, and for more than two centuries the rich neapolitan middle class use to attend this theatre. Today the eighteenth century structure, projected by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, is no more existing, since the theatre underwent some changes. Let’s not forget then that this theatre was a real jewel, a little theatre where the relationship between spectators and actors was immediate, since the stage was very close to balconies, crammed with people. The stalls were just eighty palms wide and there were five raws of thirteen boxes each overlooked the stalls, and the inside decorations were wonderful. On the Teatro Nuovo stage, performed many prose companies, but it is thanks to the opera performances that the theatre gained its fame, and on July 2nd, 1776 the royal family attend twice to the theatre to enjoy a comic opera. On September 1929 this stage welcomed a young successful comedy actor, the mythical Totò, acting the part of Caio Silio. On June 1930 landed on this stage De Filippo Brothers: Edoardo, Peppino and Titina, and many other actors will perform here dover the years, such as Vincenzo Scarpetta and Raffaele Viviani. On January 12, 1935 the theatre was destroied in a fire and disappeared from the public memories, for many years up to 1985, when two young theatre actors decided to make the theatre live again, turning it into a place of research of the new theatrical language
After Montecalvario, the itinerary continues to the Teatro Mercadante ancient theatre returned to the public after years of forced closing. Its birth dates-back again to the second half of the Eighteenth century, with the name of Teatro del Fondo, because the required money to build it up againg, was collected from a regal box, called “Fondo” (Fund), and the building-up begun on, under Ferdinando IV, so as to have other premises for theatre performances, worthy of the royal pomp. The theatre project was entrusted to Francesco Securo, military architect and student of Ferdinando Fuga, and the theater architecture shows an outside squared shape, and an inside spherical one.
The itinerary continues towards Via Toledo near the Teatro Augusteo inaugurated on 1929. It has an immense stalls, a vast gallery and four orders of stages, contemporarily planned by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi in collaboration with the architect Andrea Foschini, simoultaneously to the building-up of the Central funicular. The theatre was built with modern criteriae, even if the inside stages and balcony date-back to the eighteenth century style. This theatre was a famous scenery for mundane meetings, and especially at first nights, when there were very elegant women showing-off jewels and sumptuous evening dresses, while waiting for their favourit actors.
From the Teatro Augusteo let’s continue towards Via Toledo flanking the beautiful Galleria Umberto I, where there is the famous, but not yet opened to visits Salone Margherita, to reach then Piazza Trieste e Trento, called by neapolitan as Piazza San Ferdinando, after the name of the homonym church. From Piazza Trieste e Trento, let’s walk through Via Chiaia, to reach the Teatro Sannazzaro, inaugurated on December 26, 1847, on the architectural project entrusted to Fortunato Niccolini, and whose works coordination was entrusted to Antonio and Gennaro Francesconi. This theatre had very important characters, such as Eduardo Scarpetta, where a large audience clapped his performances Nicola Maldacea, who from that stage flew u becoming a famous actor and actors such as Ruggero Ruggeri, Gennaro Pantalena Mariella Gioia, who performed movies by d’Annunzio, Roberto Bracco, Ernesto Murolo, and others. Because of the cinema advent, the theatre suffered a period of crisis and it is only thanks to Nino Veglia, and to is wife Luisa Conte, and to a group of friends, that the theatre regained its popularity, giving the city of Naples a lot of feelings, with its sincere popular character, like all neapolitans are, “unique”.
Itinerary for children
Naples offers many possibilities of having good time also for children. A very good place to visit is near Anton Dohrn Zoological Station, situated inside, the town villa. This is a great zoological station founded during the second half of the nineteenth century from the naturalist and German zoologist Anton Dohrn, in order to spread the knowledge of the flora and the fauna of the sea. This is the oldest European structure of the kind. Children will have the opportunity to visit a huge room where there are 23 tubs of exhibition prepared with natural volcanic stones, and mainly lihtened from above with natural light. Those tubs entertain two hundred kind species, among animals and sea vegetables, mainly coming from the Gulf of Naples. One of the most interesting aspects of the Neapolitan aquarium is the particular care given to sea turtles, found in the Gulf of Naples, which, besides being welcomed here, are also cured if ill, or wounded, and then they are set free again. A fascinating visit near the Museum of Palaeontology will lead your children back to millennia of years ago, where thousand of finds coming from Italy and from abroad are guarded.
The skeleton of a dinosaur of the late giurassic era is arranged in a room, which takes its name after the dinosaur, but there is also the skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur which is one of the main attractions of the museum. The collection of fish fossils is of extraordinary importance, the fossils are from three deposits in Campania, and the room of extinguished reptiles. Inside the museum there is a find belonging to an individual not yet completely developed, and nevertheless it is one of the most impressive “guests” of the museum. Entering the rooms, your children will be offered the possibility to discover the fascinating histories linked to these animals and the various reasons which have caused their extintion.
From prehistory to the future with a visit near the Fondazione IDIS – Citta della Scienza, where there is a very qualified staff, who will make your children live a wonderful adventure in the world of science and technology, characterised by interactivity, offering a series of activities (such as: General Visit, Hands and mind, The children’s workshop, The adventure of evolution), which will increase the curiosity and creativeness your children, at all ages.