Naples is located in the region of Campania and is the third-largest Italian city after Rome and Milan. The city is a major cultural centre with various historical sites in its surroundings, like Pompeii and Herculaneum. Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world as the Greeks settled in the region in the second millennium BC. The city also offers spectacular views of the coast, the Mediterranean Sea and the legendary Mount Vesuvius.
With the abundance of pizzerias at every corner in the city, one cannot forget that Naples is the birthplace of one of the most favourite foods in the world, pizza. The best-tasting pizzerias in Naples are overflowing with crowds of people waiting to get a bite of the authentic, mouth-watering delicacy. I can strongly agree that these wood-oven, masterpieces were among the greatest pizzas I have ever had in my life. I can still taste the flavour of the juicy tomato sauce, oozing mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; the perfect Margherita pizza!
Football is a sport that flows through the veins of many Italians. It is part of their culture and passion and there is one player who will forever remain in the hearts of every Neapolitan fan. This player became a legend, a symbol of liberation and measured up to the title Dios, God. He is an adopted son of the city and fills the chests of every Neapolitan fan with pride. That man is Diego Maradona, the legendary Argentinean-born footballer.
Although his reign in SSC Napoli was from 1986-1990, the soccer legend is still worshipped in the city as shops continue to sell jerseys bearing the name Maradona above the number 10. In Maradona’s second season on the team in 1987, he helped Napoli claim the Serie A title and continued to give Napoli the most successful period in their history within his seven seasons on Napoli. Teams in the Italian south struggled to measure up to powerhouse, wealthy teams in the north like Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma. That all changed, however, when Diego Maradona stepped onto the pitch wearing the sky-blue jersey. With Maradona behind the wheel, Napoli won the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989, another Serie A Cup in 1990 and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1991. Now in the city streets, thirty years after his first triumph with the team, you can find massive murals and posters of Maradona and even shrines that worship Maradona as a patron saint.
There is no doubt that Naples is a city full of culture, history and fantastic pizza.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum is an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city stands eight kilometres from Naples, Italy; however, contrarily to Pompeii, Herculaneum was not destroyed by volcanic ash, but rather a day later from pyroclastic flows, which are fast-moving currents of hot gas and volcanic matter. Only a few centimetres of ash fell over Herculaneum, causing little damage. The city, however, endured six pyroclastic flows that solidified the city. This pyroclastic material rapidly buried the city from the bottom up and preserved it in roughly 20 metres of carbonized ash. This natural time capsule preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, furniture, doors, cloth and even food –carbonized loaves of bread were found inside some ovens.
For many years it was thought that the inhabitants of the city evacuated before the city was destroyed, but in recent years around 300 skeletons were discovered along the seashore. In 1981, 55 skeletons were discovered in the city, which can now be seen below three different arches as visitors exit the city. These inhabitants were most likely killed by the extremely high temperatures from the pyroclastic flows that reached up to 250°C.
Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii as it possesses an extensive array of luxurious homes with a more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The name Herculaneum is connected to the Greek god Hercules, which indicates that the city was originally Greek.
The city was forgotten for over 1,600 years until the digging of a deep well in 1709 revealed some statues. The city continued to be excavated in the 18th century; however, 75 percent of the city remains buried under the Italian towns of Erculano and Portici.
Herculaneum preserves, in great detail, the private life of the ancient Romans and an in-depth explanation of the past. Unfortunately, much like Pompeii, after the city was excavated it was exposed to the elements and the interruption of humans, causing it to deteriorate. The way of nature is absolutely remarkable in its ability to both destroy cities, but yet keep it perfectly preserved for hundreds of years.
Pompeii is one of Mother Nature’s greatest attempts to preserve history. It is an ancient Roman city about 23 km from Naples that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD along with Herculaneum, Stabia, Torre Annunziata and other communities. The city is about 8 km from Mount Vesuvius, covers approximately 67 hectares and was a major city in the region of Campania. The city was buried in about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice (volcanic rock) and is estimated to have had up to 11,500 inhabitants at the time of destruction.
The city was founded between the 6th and 7th Century BC by the Osci people and came under the domination of Rome in the 4th Century BC, giving the city extremely ancient roots. In 62 CE the city experienced an earthquake that damaged many buildings, which were not fully restored 17 years later went Mount Vesuvius erupted.
The city was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader uncovering 150 years later. The ash, pumice and volcanic debris covered the city more than 6 metres deep and perfectly preserved it in a time capsule. Archaeologists have even been able to see the exact position a person was in at the time of death by pouring cement into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash to make body casts. The objects and the buildings in the city have been preserved for more than a millennium because of the lack of air and moisture when the city was underground. The work to uncover Pompeii is extremely important as it marked the start of the modern science of archeology.
The burial and destruction of the city have allowed us to see the social, economic, religious and political life of the ancient Roman city. Unfortunately, since the city has been uncovered it is endangered by weather, tourists, vandalism and vegetation. In July 2008, the Italian government declared a one-year state of emergency for the site and appointed a special commissioner to look after Pompeii.
This ancient Roman city is a remarkable display of the force of nature and of a city permanently frozen in time.
The National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world with over 3,000 artifacts divided into eight thematic sections spaning on four levels. The museum is extremely important for its abundance of Roman artifacts and preservation of its heritage. Most of the Roman artifacts in the museum are from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum.
The building was constructed as cavalry barracks in 1585, then later a seat of the city’s university until the late 18th century when Bourbon king Charles VII made it into a museum. The core collection of the museum is from the Farnese Collection, inherited from the King’s mother, Elisabeth Farnese. The museum holds one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in Italy with 2,500 objects including sculptures, mummies, sarcophagi, papyri and ceramics. The museum even includes a Secret Room with an extensive collection of erotic and sexual items, mostly from Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 1848, the government proposed to destroy the artifacts, but the room remained restricted with limited access until April 2000 when it was made public.
The museum is a historical mashup of Greek, Roman, Renaissance and Egyptian history, booming with sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, glassware, ceramics, silverware, jewels and coins.
The Catacombs of San Gennaro are an underground world lying layers beneath the city of Naples. By walking only a few steps below the surface, you can travel back in time to the roots of Neapolitan faith. These catacombs are a massive burial ground with two levels extending 5,800 square metres. They date back to the second century AD when Greek and Roman law forbade burials in the city. The catacombs were dug out of Capodimonte Hill, which at the time was outside of Naples. In the fourth century AD, the catacombs were extended after the first patron saint of Naples’, St. Agrippinus, remains were placed in an altar of the underground basilica on the lower level of the catacombs. To this day, mass is still celebrated in St. Agrippinus’ basilica where worshippers can touch the saints’ remains through a hole in the altar. To the right of the basilica, in the entrance to the lower level of the catacombs, is a large baptismal font that was commisioned by Bishop Paul II. The ceiling of this level measures about six metres and there are around 3000 burials that have been discovered on both levels.
The upper level contains some of the earliest Christian paintings in southern Italy, a bishop’s crypt and the tomb of San Gennaro. From 413 to 431 the relics of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, were kept in the catacombs. The tomb is located under the Bishop’s Crypt with a sceptre lying on the burial site. Right above the tomb, The Bishop’s Crypt is decorated with the first 14 bishops of Naples and some of the earliest mosaics.
In the third century AD, Christians began to use the catacombs with the simplest tombs dug along the walls and in the ground. The wealthiest burial sites were arched and featured frescos and mosaics. The Catacombs of San Gennaro take you down the rabbit hole into an alternate world of faith, art, history life and death.
Tomb of San Gennaro
Altar with St. Agrippinus’ remains