Naples between culture and museums


If you are planning a trip dedicated to culture and good food, Naples is certainly the destination for you; after a first gastronomic tour of which we recommend the stages here, and after the visit of the Capodimonte Museum, the destinations not to be missed are these and we tell them to you with the heart:

San Severo Chapel Museum 

Neapolitan incarnation of Dr. Faust, Prince Raimondo di Sangro is certainly to be counted as the son of mysterious Naples. Grand Master mason, writer, alchemist, inventor, devout and curious scholar, the figure of Raimondo di Sangro is hovered by legends fueled by himself. Eccentric personality and intellectual Enlightenment, the prince dedicates himself to “anatomical machines”, a testimony kept in the chapel of San Severo: two skeletons (a man and a woman) that reproduce in detail the arteriovenous system, created in the mid-eighteenth century by Giuseppe Palermo, a doctor from Palermo. The prince would have obtained the metalization of blood vessels thanks to the injection of mercury, found diabolical that leaves rumors of an alleged implementation when the two bodies were still alive. In reality, the exemplary reconstruction is due to the use of beeswax and dyes.Neapolitan incarnation of Dr. Faust, Prince Raimondo di Sangro is certainly to be counted as the son of mysterious Naples. Grand Master mason, writer, alchemist, inventor, devout and curious scholar, the figure of Raimondo di Sangro is hovered by legends fueled by himself. 

Star of the Chapel of San Severo, the “Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino, a marble work dated 1753, commissioned by the Prince Raimondo di Sangro, who puts his hand on the umpteenth legend around the sculptural masterpiece. Followed by the fame of a well-known alchemist, the prince would have taught the sculptor the calcification of the fabric in marble crystals, it was believed then that the incredible transparency of the shroud was the result of an alchemical marbling process; subsequent studies have instead confirmed that the work was carved from a single block of marble. The illusion of that lightness and the intangibility of the fabric, made Antonio Canova fall in love that he declared:

“I would be willing to give ten years of my life just to be the author of this similar wonder”.

Napoli, Cappella Sansevero

Royal Palace of Naples

Dwelling of the Bourbon dynasty from 1734 to 1861, the Royal Palace of Naples is a symbol of the magnificence and beauty of an unparalleled Italian heritage. Located on the beautiful Piazza del Plebiscito, it contains within it a grand staircase defined by Montesquieu as the most beautiful in Europe.

The monumental staircase was designed by the architect Gaetano Genovese during the renovation of the building after the fire of 1837 and completed by Francesco Gavaudan in 1858. It preserves the ancient piperno staircase, built by Francesco Antonio Picchiatti at the time of the viceroy count of Onate between 1651 and 1666.

The walls are covered with pink marble: portovenere, Trapani lumachino, mondragone, red of Vitulano, breccia rosata of Sicily, on a base of breccia from Gargano. They are alternated with Carrara marble bas-reliefs, with ornaments and figures: on the right “The victory between the genius of fame and Value”, by Salvatore Irdi; on the left “The glory among the symbols of Justice, War, Science, Art and Industry”, by Francesco Liberti.

On the sides, there are four niches with monumental plaster sculptures: the Fortress of Antonio Calì and the Justice of Gennaro Calì; the Clemenza by Tito Angelini and the Prudence by Tommaso Scolari. The pavilion vault is decorated with white stuccoes on a white-gray background, with coats of arms of the kingdom of Naples and Sicily.

The First Anteroom of the Palace is dominated by Baroque ceiling, the doors are large decorated pictures, painted in tempera on a gold background and date back to 1774; the Throne Room, from the Empire style and Napoleonic furnishings, presents an imperious seat destined for authority and dates back to the XVIII century, the eagle resting on it is of the Savoy era.

Interesting and bizarre is the Retrostanza with nineteenth-century Neapolitan furniture, in neo-baroque style where the protagonist is the rotating lectern of the library of Queen Maria Carolina (1791), a piece of curious machinery, prototype of the monastic libraries, which allows consulting several volumes simultaneously on the tops of the wall units using a crank.

Made on the occasion of the wedding between Ferdinand I and Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorraine, the very velvety “court theater”, where he takes the gold of the stage and stuccoes and the purple-red of the hall.

Gambrinus coffee

He is a member of the Cultural Association of Historical Places of Italy, the “sciantose” gathered before a concert at his tables to sip the historic coffee, the “always on a diet” Princess Sissi ordered the delicate violet ice cream, the curious nobility Neapolitan outlined its contours as a literary salon, and great artists and writers such as Wilde, Sartre and D’Annunzio let themselves be inspired by the opposite beauty of the Royal Palace and Piazza Plebiscito: it is the Gran Caffe Gambrinus of Naples. An elegant café from the end of the 19th century, the Gambrinus welcomes you with a marvelous poem by the Marquis Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno Porfirogenito Gagliardi De Curtis of Byzantium [2] (briefly Antonio de Curtis), known as the great comedian Toto’:


‘A sera quanno ‘o sole 

se nne trase 

e dà ‘a cunzegna a luna

p’ ‘a nuttata,

Ile dice dinto ‘a recchia 

“I’ vaco ‘a casa:


tutt’ ‘e nnamurate”.

Bourbon Gallery

Of all the Naples Underground routes, the most complete is certainly that of the “Bourbon Gallery”. Prepared staff and member of the Association of volunteers (I was accompanied to the group led by Gianluca Lamon) will take you below the city level up to 40 meters deep, bring a sweater with you even in summer because the temperature drops and it’s quite wet; the tunnel dug by hand with chisel, picks and hammers, was built in 1853 under the direction of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, in order to create a haven in case of danger during the revolutionary uprisings of 1848. During the Second World War, the former cisterns were used as a wartime shelter for the citizens, who took refuge in these underground stone streets during the German bombings. Today it is possible to see the various historical finds including pitali, potties, baby carriages, games and the first coffee makers, because the true Neapolitan, to relive the moments of serious difficulty and anxiety, could not renounce the coffee ritual, as if the magic propitiatory action was amulet against misfortunes, panacea for all ills, convivial meeting and the fraternal embrace of those who live the same misery. But it was an anomalous coffee, made of chicory and chickpeas, which recalled only the color of coffee.

After the war, the gallery became a Municipal Judicial Deposit, pieces of taxis and seized motorbikes form a strange puzzle, a means of transporting the new work invented by the brilliant Neapolitan who is not sitting on his hands: the ice transporter. A small cart tied to a scooter with a saddle is the medium of Neapolitan intelligence.

You can choose the type of route, from standard to adventure, it is really worth going into the darkness of the stone caves that will force you to pass along the wall, with only a torch and lots of courage, but always in the company of your tour guide!

Just in Naples, during the cleaning of the cave and of the cisterns, an inscription on the walls carried a name that belonged to an elderly Neapolitan gentleman, called to retrace that descent after 70 years. The men who accompanied him tell us that the man was looking upwards for his writing, forgetting his stature as a child and that he stopped his gaze at the memory of those objects found, with tears of pain in his eyes.

The path of the Borbonic Gallery is not only passage in the meanders of history, but it is a very hard path towards the depth of one’s conscience.

Caffè Libreria Berisio

Should I imagine a magnetic, magical way in which I would like to walk night and day, it would have 90% bookshops and 10% pastry shops. In Naples it exists, but alas each of these shops has closed, failed, disappeared in the destruction of the intellect, in the darkness of a country that evidently loves culture, which bears the stamp of Luciano De Crescenzo, Antonio De Curtis and the great Neapolitan intellectuals, but that times have made them dark, making them fail. Only one has resisted, turning then into a trendy place, a place where you can enjoy excellent drinks, with the noble goal of selling also unique pieces, vintage books, little gems, leafing through them between a chat with friends and the other. Fascinating setting, a predominance of reds, speak easy lights, shelves that touch the ceiling, grand pianos lit by old-fashioned lamps, a unique place to have an aperitif before dinner, then strolling along the closed windows with the rusty signs but still worthy of their presence, and end up under the statue of Dante who watches, perhaps a little saddened.

Mercato di Pugliano, Ercolano

If you are a fashion addict and you love vintage, the reason that will take you to this place every weekend available to you is the Pugliano market! A destination for stylists who come from all over the world and a place of worship for cinema and TV costume designers, the Mercato di Pugliano offers period costumes, signed vintage, 80s denim, a vast selection of used and sought-after furs, bags in crocodile 40s at very affordable prices. You will be called in a loud voice by local merchants, who once used to sell their goods on stalls, while now they cram it in small shops where you will have to rummage, patience in hand, but you will be more than satisfied because the deal, if you know how to treat, it’s around the corner!

A tip: leave home with an empty suitcase.

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