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24 hours in Naples

January the 6th 2022

Day 1 | Guided tour of the San Carlo Theater, Visit to the historic Aquarium, a walk in Via Chiaia, Piazza dei Martiri, Via dei Mille

Naples has a special place in my heart. It’s the city where I lived the most beautiful and lighthearted years of my childhood and I always go back  willingly to discover new spots and see my closest friends.

With the excuse of a birthday to be celebrated with the family, we will treat ourselves to a lunch with an amazing view of Mount Vesuvius.

This time we  go by car. After leaving the car in a garage near the B&B, in the very central Via Toledo, we go and get something to eat at Tutino‘s. Their deep fried, large, fluffy pizza is a real treat.

Although anticovid restrictions are still in force, the streets in the center are very crowded. Below San Carlo Theatre, there is a small group of people waiting to enter for a guided tour. We grab the tickets and join the group.

Teatro San Carlo Napoli
San Carlo Theatre Naples

San Carlo Theater is a real gem. Founded in 1737 by the will of Charles III of Bourbon and built in just 8 months, it is the oldest opera house in the world that is still active today and the first Italian theater to establish a dance school. Given its size, structure and antiquity it was a model for later theaters in Europe.

Palco Reale Teatro San Carlo Napoli
The Royal Box can accommodate up to 10 people
Teatro San Carlo Napoli particolare del soffitto
Ceiling details

After the visit, we walk along via Chiaia, one of the most famous shopping streets, we cross Piazza dei Martiri and via Calabritto. We are headed to the historic Aquarium. I haven’t been back since I was a child, it has been completely renovated and today it is an important research center.

Napoli ingresso stazione zoologica Anton Dohrn

The Naples Aquarium, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, is the first public aquarium opened in Italy and one of the oldest in the world. It was inaugurated in January 1874 and, to date, it is the only example of a nineteenth-century aquarium that still retains the original tanks. It welcomes a very special selection of Mediterranean sea flora and fauna, and specifically of the Gulf of Naples’ ecosystem and biodiversity.

Acquario di Napoli
The aquarium's original tanks

We walk back along my childhood spots,  S. Pasquale district, the historic Liceo Umberto where my grandfather studied, via dei Mille, via Filangieri with its very elegant boutiques.

Our B&B Maison Toledo 210 is truly special, it’s an apartment with windows overlooking the inside of the historic Galleria Umberto I built at the end of the 19th century and dedicated to King Umberto I of Italy, as a tribute for his generous presence during the cholera epidemic of 1884.

The Galleria has also hosted the sciuscià for over 50 years. Borrowed from English shoeshine, the word meant poor Neapolitan children who worked as shoeshiners under the US occupation of the city during the II World War. Having your shoes shined inside the gallery was a custom allowed to chic Neapolitan men. Today this service has disappeared, the last sciuscià, Antonio Vespa, known as Zì Tonino, died in 2018.


Galleria Umberto I Napoli esterno
Galleria Umberto I Naples facade
Galleria Umberto I Napoli interno
Galleria Umberto I Naples internal view

Day 2|  A walk along the seafront, stop at the historic Gambrinus café, Visit to Underground Naples, Lunch in Posillipo

The next morning, after breakfast, we walk along Lungomare Caracciolo. The weather is wonderful. We arrive at Borgo Marinaro and Castel dell’Ovo. On the way back we stop for a coffee at the historic Caffè Gambrinus. The Gran Caffè Gambrinus is one of the top ten cafés in Italy and is part of the Italian Historical Shops Association.

Historical figures such as Gabriele D’Annunzio,  Benedetto Croce, Matilde Serao, Eduardo Scarpetta, Totò and the De Filippos, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Jean Paul Sartre, used to spend time here.  The rooms are furnished in beaux-arts style with stuccos, statues and paintings from the end of the 19th century made by Neapolitan artists.

The practice of  caffè sospeso rose here consisting of leaving a paid coffee for people in need. Still, a giant coffee maker is positioned at the entrance where receipts can be left.

Caffè Gambrinus Naples
Caffè Gambrinus Napoli
Caffè Gambrinus Naples
Caffè Gambrinus Napoli
Caffè Gambrinus Naples
Caffè Gambrinus Napoli
Caffè Gambrinus Naples

We then reach the entrance for the visit to Underground Naples.

Everyone knows the exceptional beauties, culture and art of Naples, but few know the history of the subsoil. At a depth of forty meters under the noisy and characteristic streets of the historic center, there is a world apart.

The ancient Greeks opened the first underground quarries to obtain the blocks of tuff needed to build the walls and temples of Neapolis. In Roman times, the underground network had an impressive development: the Romans equipped the city with a complex network of aqueducts fed by underground conduits from the Serino springs, 70 km away from the center of Naples. At the beginning of the 16th century the old aqueduct and the many rain cisterns were no longer able to satisfy the water needs of the city and a new aqueduct was built.

The very first mapping of the subsoil was made by my great-grandfather, Engineer Guglielmo Melisurgo who, in 1889 took “a nice wool sweater, shorts, a candle and a stick” and accompanied by a well cleaner he began the exploration of cavities and tunnels.

His study was crucial to organize the evacuation plans during the the II World War bombings. The basements were in fact used as air-raid shelters, cavities were illuminated and arranged to accommodate thousands of people who rushed down the stairs at the sound of the sirens. Remains of furniture, graffiti and  items in excellent conditions still bear witness to the times lived in the depths of the city.

Cartello Napoli sotterranea
Napoli sotterranea cunicoli
Underground Naples access
Napoli sotterranea cunicoli
The narrow tunnels of Underground Naples
Graffiti Napoli Sotterranea
Graffiti made by refugees during World War II bombings

Our Neapolitan trip ends in Posillipo, at Reginella restaurant, with superb spaghetti with seafood and an amazing view of the Gulf and Mount Vesuvius, fully satisfying the wish that drove our trip.

Golfo di Napoli visto da Posillipo
spaghetti ai frutti di mare

“I’m leaving. I will not forget either the via Toledo or all the other districts of Naples; in my eyes it is, without any comparison, the most beautiful city in the universe.” Stendhal  – Rome, Naples and Florence 1817