The most common use of the Metropolitana is as a link to the Stazione Centrale at Piazza Garibaldi, to connect with trains leaving Naples. Most people have in mind such destinations as Rome, Pompeii, and Sorrento.
While such destinations are one of the best reasons to get stationed here, not everybody can afford them every weekend. What about right here in town? The Metropolitana offers several opportunities for discovery, and the price of the ride is quite reasonable.
First stop: Mergellina. One of the most popular quarters of Naples, the train station opens up on Piazza Piedigrotta. The piazza is surrounded by impressive 19th Century apartment buildings (some of which are rather creepy looking), and provides easy access to several attractions.
A right turn out of the train station, between the Railway Bridge and the tunnel leading to Fuorigrotta, leads to Virgil’s Tomb and a little known wonder of the ancient world, the Crypta Neapolitana. Both are located in a small park, which opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. every day.
Virgil’s Tomb is a small, unimpressive-looking structure located at the top of the park. Virgil loved Naples and wrote most of the “Aeneid” here. The poet died in Brindisi in 19 B.C., and wanted to be buried in his villa at Posillipo. Located right below the tomb is the entrance to an ancient marvel: the Crypta Neapolitana, an ancient tunnel built during the reign of Augustus, connecting ancient Neapolis to Pozzuoli and Baiae. Unfortunately, the tunnel is closed for renovations (parts are blocked by collapses that happened during the 1920s). The tunnel is over 700 meters in length and between 4 to 6 meters wide. Halfway up the park is the tomb of the philosopher and poet Giacomo Leopardi, who died in Naples in 1837.
Continuing to the right of the train station, at the waterfront are located ferries and hydrofoils to the islands and Sorrento. The port area is also a favorite spot for Neapolitans to take a stroll in the summer, offering a grand view of the Bay of Naples.
Heading straight out from the train station, down Via Piedigrotta, is the Villa Comunale, Naples’ main park. Via Piedigrotta contains several small shops with a variety of wares, from beautiful tiles for kitchen and bathroom to a shop dealing exclusively in fresh, homemade pasta.
The Villa Comunale was built between 1778-80 on orders of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples. The park stretches approximately 1 km down the waterfront. Located in the park is the Aquarium, one of the oldest institutes of its kind. The building was completed in 1874, and houses a collection of exclusively Neapolitan marine life. The Aquarium is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Entrance is L3,000 for adults and L1,500 for children.
Across the street from the Aquarium, on Riviera di Chiaia, is the Museo Principe di Aragona Pignatelli Cortes (referred to as the Pignatelli Museum), which houses a decorative porcelain collection, as well as 18th and 19th Century carriages, furniture and art. The museum currently has a collection of experimental photography from the 80s, which will be on display until May 31. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. entrance is L4,000.
Riviera di Chiaia is chock full of bars and restaurants, including two Chinese eateries. Just past the Pignatelli Museum is Piazza S. Pasquale. Via C. Poerio forks off Riviera di Chiaia from there. This narrow street contains several antique stores and clothing shops. The street ends at Piazza dei Martiri, a good spot to stop for some caffe. The monument here commemorates the four uprisings in Naples against the Bourbon Kings, with the four lions symbolising the outcomes of each uprising by their attitudes (the one with the spear in his gut can’t have been a good outcome).
For the Rodeo Drive of Naples, a right turn down Via Calabritto is all it takes. This street has the top designer stores, including Versace, Gucci, Cacharel and more (also included are designer prices, not for the faint-hearted).
For those who really enjoy a long stroll, continuing down the waterfront is the small port of Santa Lucia, with the Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle) at the end of its jetty. The ancient fortress is said to have been built by Virgil (also credited for founding Naples and being a great wizard), who balanced it on an egg. It was actually built by the Normans, expanded under the Angevin Kings and completed under the Spanish. Restaurants (where you get to sample the inhabitants of the Aquarium) now take up the port, once home to fishermen.
The site’s history does stretch further back, however. The island held the villa of the Roman general and philosopher Lucullus; in the 5th Century it was the final home of Romulus Augustus, last western Roman emperor exiled there by the Goths, who are said to have spared him because of his youth and simple-mindedness. Columns from Lucullus’ villa can still be seen in the castle’s dungeons.
Because the castle is still home to several government offices, most of the castle is closed to visitors. Certain sections are open to the public, and the castle usually maintains the same hours as museums (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
Last edited on June 5, 2004