Naples: a city of many faces

There is no city in Italy and in Europe more rich and mysterious than Naples for the fascinating and unbelievable stories that are told.

Sea, sun, Vesuvius and a gentle landscape. It is no coincidence that over the centuries Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, French and Spanish have decided to settle right in Naples; and it is for this intertwining of populations and cultures that the city is even now so beautiful and charming.

The origins of the city of Naples are firmly rooted in the myth of the Siren Parthenope. The story begins on the island of Megaride where the original nucleus of the city called Parthenope originated. According to the ancient sources, this small settlement lay near the tomb of the young siren who had lived in the seas around the Sorrento peninsula. Legend says that Parthenope, devastated at her inability to make Ulysses fall in love with her, was washed up on Megaride. It was only later that the first Greeks settled there. Legend says that Parthenope, devastated at her inability to make Ulysses fall in love with her, was washed up on Megaride. It was only later that the first Greeks settled there.

The fate of the city is linked to an egg, that Virgil, a magician and benefactor of Naples would hidden somewhere in the Castel dell’Ovo: if it ever got broken, disaster would strike. After Virgil the Magician a lot of other mysterious and fascinating characters have linked their names to this city, whose historic center, the largest in Europe, in 1995 was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

If we look from above, Naples seems to be divided in two by a road, Spaccanapoli, that runs parallel to the sea. It fascinates thanks to the vibrancy of its squares and narrow streets, but also for the Neapolitan language, very effective and characteristic like no other in the world.

The alleys of Naples may have, at times, a bit austere side, in contrast to the vibrancy of its population, but it is right here that are hidden some real jewels, such as the Chapel of San Severo, the result of plans set in motion by Prince Raimondo di Sangro, master of alchemy and dark arts. In the chapel the people can admire one of the most beautiful and mysterious artwork in the world, the Veiled Christ: marble sculpture of the dead Christ, covered in a marble veil so thin that seems transparent and fine details of the body beneath are clear. Prince of San Severo was a man who loved astonishing and he was perfectly successful in doing that with the Veiled Christ, to the point of leaving, even today, many visitors with the question if it is a true veil or a “simple” marble.

But Naples holds many more surprises, both to tourists and to locals. Very often, the locals love rediscovering those places, which you cannot find in “classical cards” because less well-known and touristic, but that are part of a so magic, mysterious and legendary city and characterize an entire population.

Emblem of Neapolitan legends and traditions is the Fontanelle Cemetery, which was used in 1656 e 1837 to bury the bodies of the poorest members of the population, victims of the great plague of those years. From that moment, a spontaneous almost pagan cult of affection for, and devotion to, the remains of these unnamed dead developed in Naples. Devotees paid visits to the skulls, cleaned them, “adopted” them in a way, even giving the skulls back their “living” names. An entire cult sprang up, devoted to caring for the skulls, talking to them, asking for favors or bringing them flowers.

So Naples is not only a breathtaking view, but is a city full of mystery and historical emblematic characters, Neapolitan and not. The last mystery regards to the Count Vlad III Tepes, Prince of Wallachia, infamous as “Vlad the Impaler,” a ruthless tyrant who ruled 16th Century Romania with an iron fist and who served as the inspiration for the iconic vampire Dracula. Now, some believe his final resting place may be in Neaples’ cloister “Santa Maria la Nova”. This news has had strong media coverage and has led many to go in search of the secret and of the tomb in Naples.

Naples, in the final sum, remains, deep in its roots, even with all the difficulties and contradictions inherent to all big metropolitan cities, an extraordinary place to live, admire, enjoy with all the senses and where the people living in can discover more and more often new mysterious faces of an old city.

  • cappella san severo2
  • cappella san severo3
  • cimitero delle fontanelle
  • cimitero delle fontanelle2
  • dracula
  • dracula2
  • cappella san severo