Beautiful Italy sitting in the square

Posillipo district

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Posillipo is, undoubtedly, the most famous hill in Naples and also the most celebrated for its beauty.

The name by itself explains its virtues: Pausilypon means “the resting of the anguishes”.

Walking along Via Posillipo from Mergellina begins the curves and the noble palaces, Palazzo Donn’Anna, further on the church of S. Maria del Faro. Going up towards the highest part of the hill, the view gets lost in a breathtaking panorama, of a, now, residential district.

Off Capo Posillipo (in front of Villa Rosebery, the current Neapolitan residence of the President of the Republic) lie the remains of an ancient, submerged, seaside villa that stretching out into the sea thanks to artificial constructions; some columns of its arcades have recently been recovered.

In Marechiaro, facing the beach, there are probably the remains of a Domus. The cave of Seiano, recently reopened to the public, connects Coroglio to the bay of Trentaremi, a beautiful inlet on the Posillipo coast. Above this bay, there are the remains of a large Roman theatre.

On the tip of Capo Posillipo, the Virgiliano Park renovated and deeply renovated in 2002, offers terraces from which you can enjoy sensational views of the two gulfs (the Naples one and the Pozzuoli one) and Nisida, and some peace, clean air and sports opportunities.

The streets at the top of the hill (via Manzoni, via Stazio, via Orazio) are definitely more residential and metropolitan, but no less evocative and panoramic.

La Gaiola

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La Gaiola is one of the smallest islands of the Gulf of Naples, located in front of Posillipo, in the centre of the Submerged Park of Gaiola, a 42 hectares of sea protected area.

The name Gaiola means small cave.

The Island consists of two small islands, joined together by a bridge, a few meter saway from each other. One of them has always been uninhabited, while a house has been built on the second one, but it has actually been inhabited for the last hundred years.

The Island takes its name from the cavities that characterize the coast of Posillipo, hence the original name “Caviola”, later transformed into the current “Gaiola”. In ancient times the Island was called Euplea, in honour of Venus Euplea, the goddess protecting the sailors. On its tood the villa of Publio Vedio Pollione, now one of the many under water ruins, who used to feed to morays his slaves still alive. The villa occupied a very large area with buildings, gardens, vineyards and arcades and through a gallery, called Grotta di Seiano (a monumental underground gallery 770 meters long), you could reach the beach of Coroglio (Bagnoli district) and the Roman ports of Pozzuoli, Portus Julius and Miseno.

The Island may seem like a perfect destination for relaxation, but local legends and traditions tell else, namely that this is land is cursed.

The legends, mysteries and beliefs that have always surrounded it make this place with its picturesque islet a dreary and scary place.

 

Villa della Gaiola curse

A well-known story dating back to the years around 1920, when the island’s owner, a certain Hans Braun, was found murdered. Shortly after, his wife drowned in the sea whiles he was going on the islet of Gaiola, which at the time was connected by a zip line. All the other following owners of the villa, who were mainly Germans, for one reason or another, went drowned in debts or in poverty or died.

Eventually, the Villa became Campania Region property.

Donn'Anna Palace

Palazzo Donn’Anna is probably one of the most celebrated and photographed historical palaces of Naples. There are many factors that contribute to make unique and unrepeatable this beautiful building that dominates the initial part of Via Posillipo: the majesty of the structure – most of which overlook the sea – and its unfinished nature as well as giving even more charm to the structure contributes to increasing the aura of fear and respect that hovers around it; as well as the stories of ghosts and the deafening nocturnal noises coming from the many caves and cavities overlooking the sea and are invaded by the it. The building was ordered in 1642 by Anna Carafa, the powerful wife of the Spanish viceroy Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, Duke of Medina, and built by Cosimo Fanzago as a replacement for a pre-existing structure. It remained unfinished due to the death of the client. Dozens of ghost stories have sprung up over the years; some believe that the ghosts are the lovers of Queen Giovanna, who used to spend the nights with beautiful fishermen and kill them at dawn,  throwing them through one of the palace’s windows. Other legends tell about Donna Anna Carafa rivals who used to disappear into thin air, who are said were imprisoned within the walls of the palace, whose cries still echo all around today.

Borgo Marechiaro

It is a small fishing borough overlooking the sea where you can still breathe a unique atmosphere with piled up nets and old wooden gullies.

The name of the borough derives from the Latin mare planum (where the sea is calm), which then became in Neapolitan dialect ‘mare’ (sea) ‘chiaro’ (clear), and then Marechiaro.

The detail that has contributed most to the fame of this place is the so-called Fenestrella (the little window). Legend has it that the Neapolitan poet and writer Salvatore di Giacomo, looking at a fenestrella overlooking the sea, drew inspiration for the famous Neapolitan song ‘Marechiare’.

Still today the window exists, and there is always a fresh carnation on the sill, as well as a commemorative white marble plaque with the score of the song and the name of its author (who died in April 1934) engraved on it.

The Borgo, among its characteristics, also welcomes the famous Scoglione (the big cliff) e’ Marechiare, a charming cliff with free entry, easily accessible by boat.

Chiaia district

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The district was born from the ancient village of Chiaja, once between the hilly area, which reaches Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and the sea coastline.

Here, on the tuff island called Megaride, stands Castel dell’Ovo, for a long time house of the power that over the centuries succeeded each other from emperors to sovereigns, but also famous for being a prison for people such as the philosopher Tommaso Campanella, Carlo Poerio, Luigi Settembrini and Francesco de Sanctis, who have passed on stories and legends to us. In 1636, the viceroy Emanuele Zuniga y Fonseca, Count of Monterey, had built the Chiaja Bridge at the expense of the residents in order to join the two sides of the hill, near the ancient Chiaja Gate demolished by order of Ferdinand IV in 1782.

The demography of the district continued between the coastline and Piedigrotta, through via Cavallerizza and via Santa Maria in Portico, and then returned to the Torretta, near which a semi-swampy area divided the access to the beach. From this period onwards, the construction of noble palaces kept increasing. There are still two towers from the 16th century, near the Torretta and the present Sirignano district, to defend the coastline.

In 1697, the viceroy Duke of Medinaceli intervened decisively on the district, paving the street and ordering the planting of a double row of willows and thirteen fountains.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was Ferdinand IV who gave a change of identity to the district by giving the task to Carlo Vanvitelli, son of the most famous Luigi, with Felice Abbate as a botanical advisor, to build the ‘Villa Reale’.

On 11 July 1781, imitating the great French gardens of the Tuilleries, the Neapolitan ‘Tuglieria’ opened its gates as the most important park on the seafront in Europe. At the entrance, on the side of today’s Piazza Vittoria, two symmetrical buildings housed trendy cafes. The surveillance of the policemen allowed the ‘people’ to mix with the sovereigns and the court only if in decent clothing and attitudes. “The Villa Reale – declared Alexandre Dumas in 1835 – is with no doubt the most beautiful and above all the most aristocratic promenade in the world”.

In 1872 it was the futuristic intervention of Anton Dohrn that further connoted the villa with the construction of the Zoological Station with the oldest Aquarium in the Old Continent.

Towards the end of the 1800s the process of urban evolution of the coastline began, and from then on, it began to develop towards the interior. Life and trades around the sea were no longer considered the best of the city, but actually, the worst degradation was concentrated in it. From here the vast operation of reclamation began, called Risanamento (“Rehabilitation”), which until the first decades of the twentieth century reclaimed the entire front of the sea, giving us the most beautiful promenade in the world.

Piazza dei Martiri

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It is one of the most famous squares in Naples, both for its characteristic triangular shape and for its historic elegance. Its origins date back to Ferdinand II of Bourbon who, following the revolutionary uprisings of 1848, decided to dedicate the square to Our Lady of Peace.

Errico Alvino, who was commissioned to create a monument there, proposed a column with large ornaments. The unexpected death of Ferdinand II and the unabated anger of the rebels prevented the completion of the work, leaving the tall column of grey granite alone and bare.

In 1861 the matter was taken up by the then Mayor Andrea Colonna di Stigliano, who decided to complete the work in memory of the Neapolitan martyrs, filling it with details that are still visible today: an enormous marble column surmounted by a statue that praises the virtues of the Martyrs and the four lions around the base.

On the column, behind the lion standing, there is a plaque that reads: “To the glorious memory of the Neapolitan citizens, who, either fallen into their fists or on the gallows, laid claim for the people to the freedom to proclaim with solemn and eternal covenant the plebiscite of the XXI October MDCCCLX. The Town Hall consecrates”.

This monument was meant to symbolize the courage of the Neapolitan people, and each lion represents the Neapolitan uprising. The story tells that perhaps there should have been a fifth lion who should have represented the martyrdom of the Neapolitans who fought against the Savoy to defend the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.

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