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The fast beating heart of Naples

‘See Naples and then die’ – inspired words written by Goethe in his diary when he visited Italy in the 18th century. Those who have been, know that it doesn't get much better than this. The Centro Storico has changed little since those days: a maze of narrow streets packed with churches, small shops, cafés, pizzeria's and bars where it always seems to be time for drink.

A messy, noisy and somewhat dilapidated maze perhaps, but that's part of its charm: Naples is not neat and tidy. A rough and tumble port city with an impressive history reflected in the many churches, monasteries and chapels clad in Carrara marble and golf leaf, and baroque palazzi adorned with art by Caravaggio, Carracci and Cavallino. Throw in a passion for great food and drink with a dash of typical Neapolitan temperament and it quickly becomes clear: a visit to Napels is much more than a city trip, it's an experience.

The Spaccanapoli crosses the heart of the city
The Spaccanapoli crosses the heart of the city

Naples

Centro Storico: wandering encouraged

Take a look at the map of Naples’ historic city core, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you will immediately notice the large number of crosses. The area of approximately two square kilometres concentrates an incredible number of churches. There is one on practically every street, centred around the 13th century Duomo. The cathedral's interior is much more opulent than the somewhat sober exterior suggests. Nearby stands the Pio Monte della Misericordia, which displays The Seven Works of Mercy, one of Caravaggio's masterpieces. But the city offers many other historic and cultural attractions, such as the medieval city gate Porta Capuana, an underground tunnel system from the Greek period and the Via San Gregorio Armeno, where nativity scene figurines are sold year-round. Don't even bother trying to navigate; it's pointless. Just let yourself get lost in the side streets of the Spaccanapoli, a long ribbon of streets that traverses the city centre and is as old as the road to Rome. This is the best way to stumble across a lovely square, a hidden courtyard or ancient fountain.
The old city is bursting with churches
Centro Storico has its own messy charm