Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

International House

Welcome to Naples


Welcome to Naples

napoliRooted in legend the origins of Naples are shrouded by mystery. It is believed that the city was founded on the spot were the siren Parthenope died, thus the origin of the city's ancient name. It is generally accepted though, that the earliest colonisers were of Greek origins (thus the name of Neapolis, the new city as opposed to Palepolis, the old city) and that the earliest settlement was on the isle of Megaride (where, currently, Castel dell'Ovo stands) between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C.

The new city was laid out in the Greek and Roman fashion with "cardus" (a narrow street running from North to South) and "decumanus" (wider, running from East to West) road system, as can be seen nowadays walking down Via dei Tribunali and Via Benedetto Croce (Upper decumanus) and Via San Biagio dei Librai, (Lower decumanus). The city of Naples, with its gentle climate, fertile soil and magnificent scenery, attracted a great deal of interest; thus, the city had to weather many dominations, not always benevolent. Most can be traced nowadays through superb archeological sites.

napoliThere are few remnants of the Roman period in central Naples, but many can be seen in the nearby towns of Pozuoli, Herculaneum and Pompei (the most visited site in Europe). There is suggestion that Emperor Constantine founded the oldest basilica of Naples, the recently restored chapel of Santa Restituta, located not far from the Cathedral (Il Duomo). The first Christian cemetery of Southern Italy was built in Naples and can be visited at the catacombs of Saint Gaudioso. The Normans conquered Naples in the ninth century. Castel Capuano (currently the Court House) and the Castel dell'Ovo (Egg's Castle), the royal palace of Roger II are the major testimony of that period.

In 1224 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, founded in Naples the first publicly funded university and in 1266, Charles I of the Anjou family, transferred from Palermo to Naples the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. In 1279 the construction of Castel Nuovo began, perhaps one of the most impressive medieval castle that can be visited today.

In the 16th century, Naples became the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty. The construction of residences for the aristocracy both in the ancient city centre and outside the city walls provided the city with a good equilibrium, with both luxury buildings, and less ostentatious ones being built to cope with the demand for housing: the Orsini, Marigliano and Corigliano Palaces are all examples of civil Renaissance buildings.

To the Bourbon dynasty we owe the construction of major buildings such as the Teatro San Carlo (Opera house) inaugurated in 1737, the Royal Palace of Capodimonte, and the impressive Royal Hostel for the Poor (Palazzo di Fuga).

Undoubtedly, the many foreign dominations, contributed to the cosmopolitan character of the city. For the better or the worse, modern Naples maintains this character and features an almost unique blending of natural beauties, high-end culture, magnificent buildings, museums, churches, spectacular gardens found in the most unexpected places, and most peculiar people. A mixture with no peer in the whole world! It is contended that Naples is the best open-air museum in the world and there is ample evidence to support this contention. There are, obviously, good reasons as to why Naples was included by the UNESCO in the World's Heritage list.

But Naples allure goes way beyond its history, culture and architectural masterpieces. Its lively atmosphere, its very special food and drinks its music and the very attitude of its people make the city a most special place that everybody should visit at least once in a lifetime!