If you visit Naples once, you can’t just go back to your daily grind and put that extraordinary experience behind you. This city has a way of getting under your skin like no other place on earth can. Whenever you find yourself in Naples, you know that you will be spoilt for choice and that there are certain obvious options as for places to see and things to do. We have already provided you with a list of unusual and free sightseeing options, which you seemed to enjoy. That’s why we are back with a second snap guide to the beauty of Naples, focusing now on what to do and where to if you are on a budget. Are you here on a business trip and your firm was adamant about only paying for your work-related activities and is not willing to cough up one extra cent for your leisure time? Try our tips on things to do for free, but don’t forget to bring along your smartphone, so that you can use it to hunt for a new job online as you commute from one place to another.
1. Castel dell’Ovo: the symbol of Naples
Ok, actually Mount Vesuvius is more likely to be internationally perceived as the symbol of Naples, but this ancient castle was built on the spot where the first settlement was born in the VII Century BC, that later became the city of Naples. The peninsula of Megaride was originally an island, where Greek travellers from Cumae founded the first nucleus of the original Parthenope. The castle itself dates back to the XII century, when the Anjou family turned what had formerly been a roman villa and a monastery into a fortification. The name Castel dell’ovo – literally egg castle is tied to a colourful local legend, according to which the poet Virgil, who was also a renowned sorcerer, had a magical egg put in the foundations of the building. As long as the egg remains intact, the legend says, the castle will stand, but if the egg is ever broken, the castle will be destroyed and all sorts of catastrophic events will befall the city of Naples. The castle can be visited for free and it offers a unique view over the city and the gulf.
2. Visit Virgil’s tomb, which is not Virgil’s actual tomb
Since we are on the subject of Virgil, it should be pointed out that he deserves to be remembered for something more than his alleged belief in the protective magical powers of eggs. Such as his impressive body of literary work, for instance. If you wish to pay your respect to one of the most influential writers in human history, you can explore the park behind the Church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta, at the foot of the Posillipo hill. It should be pointed out that the Augustan era tomb you will find here is not, as it was once thought to be, the actual burial place of the poet Publius Vergilius Maro. We have no knowledge as to where his mortal remains were actually laid to rest, but what we do know is that he spent his happiest years in the city, that he loved it immensely and that, although it died in the Apulian city of Brindisi, it was his firm wish to be buried in his adored Parthenope. What you will experience is a beautiful and quiet spot, mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city, where a pre-christian burial place will make you ponder life, death and the meaningfulness of human effort. While you are in the area, it is also worth looking for the entrance to the so called Crypta Neapolitana, a long underground tunnel that was used to connect the city of Naples with the nearby Campi Flegrei in roman times.
3. Naple’s Duomo and the blood of St. Januarius
No visit to an Italian city is complete unless you have seen its Duomo. From Palermo to Milan, historically Italian city-life has expanded from a core made of council house, square and church and the church in question, more often than not, ended up being the local Duomo. Naples is no exception and its Duomo is a magnificent paleochristian cathedral, incorporating two separate churches as side chapels. The Duomo holds one of the most prized relics of the Roman Catholic religion: a vial allegedly containing the blood of St. Januarius. This relic is famous worldwide for the purported miracle of its liquefaction, which is supposed to happen during the course of a public ritual attended three times a year by thousands of people and drawing pilgrims and tourists as well as local faithfuls. St. Januarius is the saint patron of Naples and the object of a lively cult in the city. One of the two places of worship which are embedded as side chapels of the duomo, the Royal Chapel of St. Januarius’ treasure, contains a peerless collection of works of art and donations that have been received and preserved through the centuries by popes and kings. The entrance to this chapel and the museum therein requires a ticket.
4. Have a stroll through Piazza Plebiscito
This is the most popular square in Naples and with good reason. Not only it is vast and breathtakingly beautiful, it is also surrounded by four of the most famous buildings in the city. Looking around while standing in its center you will admire the Royal Palace, the Church of San Francesco di Paola, Palazzo Salerno and Palazzo della Foresteria. Piazza Plebiscito is located between the seaside and the central via Toledo: its fortunate position, together with its remarkable size, make it particularly suited to host large events such as shows, concerts and fairs. In the center of the square, you will notice two large bronze statues representing Carlo and Ferdinando de Bourbon on horseback. Since we are in Naples – and no corner of Naples is without its own special brand of magic – this square too has a legend attached to it. It is commonly believed that, if you manage to walk from the Royal Palace up to the statues with your eyes closed, you will be blessed with good luck and achieve your goals. The legend is not particularly clear as to what will happen to those who lose their bearings and end up walking blindly into one of the surrounding building, a passing tourist or moving traffic.
5. Lose yourself in a natural paradise: Capodimonte Park
Welcome to the green heart of Naples: Capodimonte Park. This was originally conceived as a hunting reservoir for king Charles de Bourbon, who had it built by the renowned architect Ferdinando Sanfelice in the XVIII Century. Capodimonte literally means top of the hill, as this location was originally just outside the city. Naples has since expanded and incorporated it, but you will still feel like you are miles away from the urban vibe of the metropolis, despite being in the very heart of it. Five main lanes constitute the architectural structure of this impressive garden and lead to notable buildings such as the church of St. Januarius and the Royal Palace (one of the two royal palaces of Naples), which currently houses the Capodimonte museum and the National Gallery. The current outlook of the park was achieved in the XIX century thanks to the celebrated botanist Genhardt, which transformed the original project into an English-styled garden and planted hundreds of trees, particularly chestnut trees, oaks, limetrees and pines.