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Alternate uses: See Naples (disambiguation)

Naples (Italian Napoli, Neapolitan Napule, from Greek Νέα-Πόλις, latinised in Neapolis) is the largest town in southern Italy, capital of Campania region. The city has a population of about 1 million, and together with its suburbs the metropolitan area has 3 million inhabitants (Neapolitans). It is located just half way between the Vesuvius volcano and another unrelated volcanic area, the Campi Flegrei.

It is rich in historical, artistic and cultural traditions and gastronomy. Neapolitan is by its own right a particular language. The language is known in Naples as nnapulitano.

Gulf of Naples
Gulf of Naples


The city was probably founded by inhabitants of the Greek colony Cuma, around the eighth century B.C., just a few kilometres from the more ancient town Partenope. For this reason it was named Neapolis (from Greek, meaning New City). Its buildings, museums and even the language spoken by natives bear traces of all periods of its history, from its Greek birth, until the present days.

It was in Naples, in the 'Castel dell'Ovo' (Castle of the Egg), that Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was imprisoned after being deposed in 476. In the sixth century, Naples was conquered by the Byzantines during the attempt of Justinian I to recreate the Roman Empire, and was one of the last duchies to fall in Norman hands in 1039, as they founded the Kingdom of Sicily.

Frederick II Hohenstaufen founded its university in 1224. In 1266 Naples and the kingdom of Sicily were assigned by Pope Clement IV to Charles of Anjou, who moved the capital from Palermo to Naples. In 1284 the kingdom was split in two parts, with an Aragonese king ruling the island of Sicily and the Angevin king ruling the mainland portion; while both kingdoms officially called themselves the Kingdom of Sicily, the mainland portion was commonly referred to as the Kingdom of Naples. This kingdom was much larger than just the city; it covered about the southern third of the boot of the Italian peninsula.

The two parts would stay separate until 1816, when they would form the kingdom of Two Sicilies. The two kingdoms were united under Spanish rule 1501, until 1715, when Naples became Austrian until 1734. Under the enlightened Bourbon monarch Charles, king of both Sicilies (Utriusque Siciliarum) (later known as Charles III of Spain), gained independence. In 1799, a Jacobin revolution (backed by the French Army) gave birth to a short-lived republic (January - June 1799).

In 1861, the kingdom was conquered by the Garibaldines and was handed over to the king of Sardinia. In October 1860 a plebiscite sanctioned the end of the kingdom of Sicily and the birth of the state of Italy.

Castel dell'Ovo
Castel dell'Ovo

The opening of the funicular railway to Mount Vesuvius was occasion to the writing of the famous song Funiculì Funiculà, one more song in the centuries long tradition of Neapolitan songs. Many Neapolitan songs are also famous outside of Italy, as for example "'O Sole Mio", "Santa Lucia" and "Torna a Surriento".

On April 7, 1906 nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, devastating Boscotrecase and seriously damaging Ottaviano. In 1944 the activity closed with a spectacular and devastating eruption, images from this eruption were used in the film The War of the Worlds.

It is still well connected to Sicily and Palermo. Naples has an important port that connects it, for example, to Cagliari, Genoa and Palermo. Naples has good ferry connections to nearby islands and Sorrento, and fast rail connections to Rome and the south. It is famous for the light railway Circumvesuviana .

The mafia-like organised crime rooted in Naples is named camorra.

Food and Drink

Naples is by tradition the home of pizza, specifically it is the birthplace of the Pizza Margherita, which traditionally is made with mozzarella, tomato and fresh Basil leaves. La vera pizza (true pizza) should be made in a wood burning oven similar to a Tandoori oven . Other forms of pizza (such as those sold in Naples by streetside stalls) are known as pizzetta.

Neopolitans also claim that the best coffee in the world is made in their town thanks to special kind of Neapolitan air and water. Naples is also famous for its ice cream.

Tourist Attractions

Naples itself is less visited than some of the surrounding attractions. There are, however, many attractions within the city. La Villa Comunale (formerly a royal park) has recently been refurbished, it stretches along the see front and is a favoured by the locals for family walks on Sunday mornings. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli contains a large collection of Roman artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum; The Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte contains art collections including work by Michaelangelo, Raffaello and Botticelli. Naples is the home of the Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest active opera house in Europe, which opened its doors on November 4, 1737. There are also a number of churches, royal palaces and Castles within and around the city.

Under Naples

Guided tourse operate around the Stratification of Naples which shows the city through the layers laid down across history. Subterranean Naples consists of old Greco-Roman resevoirs dug out from the soft tufo stone on which, and from which, the city is built. You can visit approximately one kilometer of the many kilometers of tunnels under the city. There are also large catacombs in and around the city.

Around Naples

The islands of Procida, famously used as the set for much of il Postino, Capri and Ischia can all be reached quickly by Aliscafi (a twin-hulled ferry). Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are situated south of Naples. The Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum (destroyed in the A.D. 74 eruption of Vesuvius) are also nearby.

Famous Neapolitans

See also: Monarchs of Naples and Sicily

External links

  • Around Naples
  • City Council's website
  • Naples for tourists
  • Tourist board website
  • Satellite image of Naples and Vesuvius at NASA's Earth Observatory
  • Association of the Verrace Pizza Napoletana (The True Pizza Society)
  • Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli (National Archaeological Museum)

Last updated: 02-02-2005 23:12:59
Last updated: 02-20-2005 07:10:56