Next on my destination list was Spaccanapoli. This is an ancient district which takes its name from the long narrow street that runs as straight as a die through the historic centre, cutting the city of Naples into two halves.
Here is a network of narrow cobbled streets and passageways, arranged in a regular grid system. This neighbourhood contains over 30 churches.
As dusk was about to fall we made our way through the busy streets towards Piazza del Gesù Nuovo. On one side of the square stands the Church and Franciscan Convent of Santa Chiara and its Belltower.
On the opposite side is the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo which has an ornate doorway and a rather unusual and imposing facade.
The spacious interior of the basilica, however, is decorated in an opulent baroque style and contains many noteworthy works of art.
In the square stands an ornate monument, the Obelisco dell’Immacolata.
At this point Paul had to go back to our car to buy more parking tickets, so meanwhile I took the opportunity to do some people watching and absorb some of the unique local cultural atmosphere. Naples has had a long colourful history and has always been a melting pot of different cultures and influences – Greek, French, German, Spanish and North African.
The square was buzzing as tourists rubbed shoulders with street vendors and locals alike. Cars and vespas beeped, brakes screeched and squealed, music blared, dogs barked, canaries tweeted, people shouted, church bells tolled. Small bands of boisterous young boys kicked footballs between parked cars. Proud parents pushed their babies in rattling buggies. Elegantly dressed ladies tottered over the cobblestones in their stilettos. Courting couples passionately held hands and embraced, students gathered in groups and chatted, teenagers giggled and flirted. A couple of old men argued vociferously whilst madly gesticulating. An old lady in black yelled down from her balcony, which was draped with washing lines, to her neighbour below. Yes the streets were filled with the daily vibrant cacophony of Neapolitan life.
When Paul eventually returned we continued our wander through Spaccanapoli. The streets were lined with many small individual shops with apartments above, standing side by side with bars, cafés and some private houses.
Interspersed were churches and grand palazzos of a forgotten era, with ornate gateways leading to concealed courtyards.
Blank walls were liberally adorned with graffiti.
We came across several groups of street musicians as we strolled along.
There was a myriad of shops selling everything under the sun, crafts, antiques, prints, posters, books, clothes, shoes, ceramics and musical instruments. Naturally there were also retailers selling souvenirs and trinkets.
The “corno” is an amulet that resembles a red horn or chilli pepper. Superstitious Neapolitans believe it can ward of the “malocchio” or “evil eye”, and protect against bad luck.
The figure of the “Pulcinella” has become adopted as a symbol of Naples and Southern Italy. He is one of the clown characters from the “Commedia dell’Arte”, dating back to the 16th century. The name “Pulcinella” was Anglicised to “Punchinella” who became better known in English as “Mr Punch”.
The bowler hatted figurines below represent Totò, a celebrated Italian comic actor who was born in Naples. You can also purchase little statuettes of many current celebrities such as the Pope, Berlusconi, famous football players, Batman, Obama, Prince William and his wife Catherine.
Naples is famous for its pizzas, or course, especially the “Margherita”. There are numerous pizzerias to choose from, some are sit down restaurants, others serve tasty pizzas and snacks to enjoy on the hoof.
However Naples is also renowned for its ice cream and wonderful cakes and pastries. There are some of the very best “pasticcerie” in Spaccanapoli that have a tempting range of decedent delectable offerings such as: “Sfogliatelle” – a crumbly puff pastry with a filling of sweet ricotta cheese. “Pastiera” – an orange-flavoured tart made ricotta, eggs and with wheat grains, especially popular at Easter-time. “Babà au Rhum” – a soft spongy cake soaked with syrup and rum.
There are also many food stores selling meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and emporiums with an array of other Italian gastronomic delights.
The street of San Gregorio Armeno is well known for its countless little shops and workshops making and selling figurines and decorative items to embellish Christmas nativity scenes or “presepi”. It has become known as “Nativity Alley”.
Finally we came across a church which had an interesting exhibition of nativity scenes.
Please see our next post – 217 – Exhibition of Neapolitan Nativity Scenes.
* public domain image
** photo CC BY-SA 2.0 by Raffaella – flickr
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
(except where photos have been rightfully accredited to the photographer / owner)
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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga and Itri