Walking through the Naples Historic District

March 24, 2016

The Church of Gesù Nuovo is located just outside the western boundary of the historic center of the city.

The square is a result of the expansion of the city to the west beginning in the early 16th century under the rule of Spanish viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo.

Church of Gesu Nuovo (Italian: "New Jesus")

Construction of the church began in 1584. The new church retained the unusual facade, originally built in 1470 for a palace.

On the four pillars which support the dome are frescos of the four Evangelists, carried out by Giovanni Lanfranco. The inside of the dome had also been decorated by Lanfranco, but this was destroyed in the earthquake of 1688.

When the Jesuits were expelled from Naples in 1767, the church passed to the Franciscan order. The Jesuits returned in 1821, only to be expelled again in 1848.

The Church of Santa Chiara

Very close is Santa Chiara, a religious complex that includes the Church of Santa Chiara, a monastery, tombs and an archeological museum.

Tomb of Robert of Anjou

Behind the main altar is the tomb of King of Naples Robert of Anjou (1277-1343), which was sculpted by Pacio and Giovanni Bertini in 1343.

Tucked behind the church is a 1st century AD Roman thermal bath complex, the most complete and intact example of a Roman era spa in Naples.

Roman swimming pool

Similar to those found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, the remains were discovered after the tragic bombings of Santa Chiara during WWII, but were not excavated until the 1980s.

Museum of the Works at the Santa Chiara Church

Previously occupied by the nuns' apartments, the museum houses information on the history of the church, archaeological findings and materials remaining after the fire that destroyed part of the church in 1943. It also has a collection of baroque presepii (nativity scenes).

Famous is the cloister of the Clarisses, transformed in 1742 by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro with the unique addition of majolica tiles in Rococò style.

Majolica (Italian tin-glazed pottery)

The brash color floral decoration makes this cloister, with octagonal columns in pergola-like structure, likely unique and would seem to clash with the introspective world of cloistered nuns.

Majolica (Italian tin-glazed pottery)

The cloister arcades are also decorated by frescoes, now much degraded.


Galleria Umberto I is a public shopping gallery located directly across from the San Carlo opera house.

Galleria Umberto I

The Galleria is a high and spacious cross-shaped structure, surmounted by a glass dome braced by 16 metal ribs. It has returned to being an active center of Neapolitan civic life after years of decay.

Galleria Umberto I

It was built between 1887–1891, and was the cornerstone in the decades-long rebuilding of Naples — called the risanamento (lit. "making healthy again") — that lasted until World War I.

Galleria Umberto I

The Galleria was named for Umberto I, King of Italy at the time of construction. It was meant to combine businesses, shops, cafes and social life — public space — with private space in the apartments on the third floor.

San Carlo Opera House

The Real Teatro di San Carlo (Royal Theatre of Saint Charles), its original name under the Bourbon monarchy but known today as simply the Teatro di San Carlo, is one of the oldest continuously active venue for public opera in the world, opening in 1737, only five years after the Manoel Theatre in Malta and decades before both the Milan's La Scala and Venice's La Fenice theatres.

The house once had a seating capacity of 3,285 but nowadays has been reduced to 1386 seats.

Given its size, structure and antiquity was the model for many theatres in Europe.

Piazza Trieste e Trento

Piazza Trieste e Trento took on its present name in 1919 in celebration of the Italian victory in World War I, while the current arrangement is affected by the urban transformations implemented until the end of the nineteenth century.

Piazza del Plebiscito and Basilica Reale San Francesco di Paola

Piazza Plebiscito is a large public square named for the plebiscite taken on October 2 in 1860 that brought Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy.


Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo (Italian: "New Castle"), is a medieval castle located in front of Piazza Municipio and the city hall (Palazzo San Giacomo).

Its scenic location and imposing size makes the castle, first erected in 1279, one of the main architectural landmarks of the city.

Castel dell'Ovo

The Castel dell'Ovo is the oldest standing fortification in Naples. The island of Megaride was where Greek colonists from Cumae founded the original nucleus of the city in the 6th century BC.

Mount Vesuvius

Its location affords it an excellent view of the Naples waterfront and the surrounding area. In the 1st century BC the Roman patrician Lucius Licinius Lucullus built the magnificent villa Castellum Lucullanum on the site.

Views from Castell dell'Ovo

Fortified by Valentinian III in the mid-5th century, it was the site to which the last western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was exiled in 476.

Eugippius founded a monastery on the site after 492.