Most travelers using the Metropolitana to visit Naples are disappointed that it does not stop in the heart of the downtown area. However there is a roundabout way of doing this: the Funicolare.
The stop at Piazza Amedeo connects to the only Funicolare that leads downtown.
Turning left out of the station, the Funicolare Chiaia is about a block away. At the last stop, a left turn from the station leads to Via Cimarosa. Turning right, the Funicolare Centrale is about a block and a half away. The four stations along the line have undergone a major renovation, giving the line a nice early 20th Century look.
The last stop drops off at one of the better known Neapolitan streets suffering a split personality: Via Roma/Toledo.
Via Toledo (have to pick one to be less cumbersome) is a shopping paradise. Clothing boutiques jostle with shoe, knick-knack and countless other stores for shoppers’ attention.
A right turn out of the station ends at Piazza Trieste e Trento. Several sites are easily accessible from there: the Royal Palace, Piazza Plebiscito, the San Carlo Theater and the Galleria Umberto I.
The Royal Palace was begun around 1600 by D. Fontana (who left his signature at the base of a column of the façade). In 1888, King Umberto I had the niches in the façade filled with statues of the best known kings from all the dynasties that ruled over Naples.
The inner courtyard is accessible from the left of the palace or from the front. The Museo dell’Apartamento Storico di Palazzo Reale is accessible from there (entrance fee is L8,000). This part of the palace has the largest section of rooms that escaped the bombings in World War II. This includes a small theater, surrounded by statues made of papier-mâché and gesso (a plaster covering), the throne room and a ballroom (not much in the way of furniture, one would think a king could afford more chairs). Off of the ballroom is the Cappella Reale (Royal Chapel). The altar is particularly impressive, festooned with semi-precious stones in gilt frames. Also on display are the ritual items once belonging to the chapel and the Banca di Napoli’s antique presepe.
The rest of the palace is occupied by government offices and the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emmanuele III.
The palace’s small garden is located in the back, complete with snack bar. As with most gardens, it is a popular place to stroll and relax. The very back of the garden overlooks the port and the new castle, and seems to be a popular spot for smooching (although the couple I came across seemed to be in the midst of game seven of the Stanley Cup Tonsil Hockey Championship Series).
Around the left side of the palace is the Teatro di San Carlo. Inaugurated in 1737, the interior was rebuilt in 1816 after a major fire. Rossini was a director here and had several of his pieces premiered in this theater. Tickets for operas can be purchased at ITT, and the theater is open for visitors as well.
Across the street is the entrance to one of the modern shopping mall’s grandparents: the Galleria Umberto I. The galleria was built nine years after the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan, and has a few shops and cafes in the arcade. Most notable is the giant glass dome, which is over 180 feet tall.
A quick stroll down the street leads to the waterfront and Piazza Municipio, still guarded by the Castel Nuovo (New Castle), also known as the Maschio (Male) Angioino. The construction was started in 1279 under Charles I of Anjou, and upon completion in 1284, was called “Chastiau Neuf” (New Castle) to distinguish it from the older castles in the area.
As with most public buildings here, most of the castle is taken up with government offices (seats of power appear to have remained in the same spot for centuries), but small portions are open to visitors.
The entrance to the castle is dominated by the Arco di Trionfo di Alfonso, built in the 15th Century to commemorate the triumphal entrance into Naples of Alfonso the Magnanimous (1443). In the courtyard, an external staircase leads to the Sala dei Baroni, the site of the arrest in 1486 of the lords who conspired against Ferrante I.
The Cappella Palatina also overlooks the courtyard. This is the only surviving part of the Angevin castle, most of it having been rebuilt in 1443 after various wars, sieges and fires.
Across Piazza Municipio, Via Agostino Depretis offers restaurants and Bancomats. At Piazza G. Bovio, the street changes names (fancy that) to Corso Umberto I, lined with clothing and shoe stores. Corso Umberto I ends at Piazza Garibaldi, the location of the main train station (but that is another story).
Last edited on June 5, 2004