In the land of pizza, sfogliatella, fried spaghetti, limoncello, in the land of fine art, frescos, architecture and artifacts, its refreshing to find something total unexpected–silk. We thought we had to go to China for that but behold, silk production was done right here in Naples (Napoli). Naples is located in Southern Italy in the Campania region close to Mount Vesuvius.
On our journey doing Marco Polo Family Ties, my sister and I went to explore Amalfi Coast to see if we can find a connection. And we did. (see previous blogs). However, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try the best pizza in the world, the birthplace of pizza, the Neapolitan pizza, made from tomatoes grown on the site of Mount Vesuvius, mozzarella made with the milk from water buffalo and fresh local basil.
Our day trip would have been a total disaster, if not for the two angels of Campania who literally took us by the hand, showed us where to get tickets, how to get tickets, where to get on and off and helped us navigate the subways and metros of Napoli.
I can still hear Laura’s concerned voice “are you going to be okay?” as they left us on a street corner, albeit with a map in hand and clear instructions on how to get to Centro Storico, which is the historic downtown. They had other plans and we took enough of their time already. We were doomed. Let’s say navigation is not our strongest suit. After a few wrong turns, we arrived.
Centro Storico is the Napoli we came to see. Full of baroque churches, underground Greco-Roman ruins, and street food.
Napoli’s historic city centre is the largest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring a plethora of historical and cultural sites. It is the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. First settled by Greeks around 2nd century BC (Late Bronze Age), it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. There is a lot of history here. In the 6th century BC, the city had a major role in the merging of Greek and Roman society. It was capital of the Duchy of Naples, then the Kingdom of Naples during Marco Polo’s time around 1282.
In no time at all, we felt like Italians.
We found ourselves lost in its ancient cobble street splendor. There were people everywhere just strolling and enjoying its vibe. There were merchants on the street corners, storefronts offering delicacies, tours of the underground and street musician adding to the atmosphere.
We loved it. Just walking and enjoying the sounds and sights. And then…the street food!!!
Another specialty is Limoncello. We took a tour from this third generation limoncello master who shared a few secrets with us., which we cannot reveal. Hush Hush.
Underground Napoli is full of ancient history and we wanted to take a tour underground. However, the lineups were too long, so we just decided to stroll the streets looking for a Marco Polo connection, when like a gift, we stumbled upon this beauty- La Chiesa Dell Arte Della Seta or The church of the Silk Art, also known as The church of Saints Filippo and Giacomo. Who would it thought!
This church was the place where the processing of silk happened. In it, you will see an important part of history that is not known to many people. In Naples, in this church of Saints Filippo and Giacomo (Saint Philip and Saint James) was an important silk production and processing centre.
We were very lucky at getting Massimo, our passionate and informative guide who is also the president of the Association Respiriamo Arte, who works on preserving heritage. http://www.respiriamoarte.it
We saw frescoes; the eighteenth-century Sacristy which houses the works of the masters of seventeenth-century wood carvers and examples of seventeenth-century silk art.
We went down through the bronze trapdoor into the crypt. There we saw the burial site of hundreds of people in a common grave who had worked here. In the inner courtyard, you can reach the archaeological remains where you can see evidence of the sixteenth-century and Roman Naples.
It was quite eerie and exciting and educational.
Another site not to be missed is National Archaeological Museum of Naples. It holds a large collection of Roman and Greek artifacts plus mosaics, and other precious things from Pompeii and Herculaneum, and a collection of objects from ancient Egypt such as mummified remains and death masks.