There are many reasons travelers don’t go to Naples, I’m told. Chief among them are crime, the Mafia, and garbage. All of them are linked, of course.
Yet many of us regard Naples as one of the top places to go in Italy. Yes, it’s a poor city, but many insiders hold the idea of “cucina povera” in high regard and it’s exactly what many people come to Italy to sample. Poverty shouldn’t be a reason not to go to a place. After all, the great food of Naples can be had for a song. Because poverty. And if you haven’t got a song there’s always pizza—and in Naples you can have the best.
But let’s say you’ve heard all the arguments and still want to skip Naples because of the unease that comes with being dropped in a city seething with life—and offering a cuisine that dances quite lewdly on your tongue. You are afraid of crime (in Italy), a fear which doesn’t necessarily strike you the same in Chicago.
So, I suggest…baby steps.
I suggest a stay on Vomero Hill, an upscale part of Naples where you’ll not only have plenty to see and do (and shop for), but you’ll also be looking down on all creation. Well, this part of creation anyway:
Do you know what is very interesting about staying on Vomero Hill? Nearly every hotel or B&B is rated very highly by visitors. It seems to be a non dud zone. You’ll find lodging recommendations at the bottom of this article, but it seems you could just about stay anywhere and do just fine.
What Can You See on Vomero Hill
Besides the view, there are a couple of attractions you might enjoy. Tops is San Martino Museum, housed in the Certosa di San Martino or Saint Martin’s Charterhouse, a large monastery complex dating from 1368.
It’s got a cheery if not welcoming cloister:
This is the Chiostro Grande, or large cloister, designed in 16th century Renaissance style. The skulls on the balustrade mark the boundaries of a little cemetery of Carthusian monks, who, while they were still living, held fast to a secluded life in their cells, leaving only for prayer services at the church. You can see some of the cells and the little revolving windows that allowed food to pass through on your wanderings trough this amazing piece of architecture.
Inside the Certosa is one of the world’s top presepi exhibits. The little nativity scenes you see all over at Christmas time rise to heights unfathomable in their Naples versions, often featuring unkempt locals eating pasta and doing the things peasants do while right outside the manger with the wise men looking on. Don’t miss it.
The monastery church will seem like a museum in itself. It’s decorated with works by important architects, sculptors and painters of the 17th century.
You’ll also see:
- 16th – 17th century frescoes, mosaics, and wood carvings.
- Paintings and sculptures from the 13th-19th centuries.
- Chiesa delle Donne, the church with Lanfranco frescoes and Baroque art.
- The monastery gardens with fruit trees, flowers, and fountains and magnificent views.
Between the Certosa and Castel Sant’Elmo, the smallest of Naples’ 4 castles, are fine views like the one below, showing old and new Naples:
But you may say, what if I could get even higher than that! Wouldn’t that be nice!
Well, you can. Architects Viceroy Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo and Pedro Luis Escriva, a military engineer from Valencia, made sure the castle was fitted with a terrace that ran around the entire perimeter. And since the castle sits at the peak of the hill, you’ve got an unobstructed view all around.
Get more information on the castle and surrounding museums by visiting the excellent Napoli Unplugged.
Here’s looking up the old Elmo:
If You Go
Museum Location: Largo San Martino 5, on the Vomero Hill
How to Get to the Museum: Take the funiculare, or inclined railway, from Via Toledo by Galleria Umberto to Vomero, then it’s about a five minute walk. The closest underground station is Piazza Vanvitelli on metro line 1, then bus V1 or a 10-15 minute walk up the hill.
Museum Hours: Thursdays – Tuesdays, 8:30 am until 7:30 pm (ticket office closes 6:30 pm), closed Wednesdays
Where to Stay in the Vomero
Here are a couple of suggestions, but nearly every hotel listed on the major sites is recommended by someone.
Parthenope Suite Rooms is close to the metro, has free wifi and there is also an airport shuttle if you need it.
Casa Esposito is very highly rated for well-equipped apartments in a good location.