lunes, 11 de mayo de 2015

May 9 - Naples, Italy

Via San Gregorio Armeno
So on this street, it's Christmas all year round. That may sound amazing to all you Christmas lovers, but it's not like US Christmas with Santa and presents. Instead, here you can find traditional decorations from the area, which are like small nativity scene-type decorations; some of them are religious scenes from the bible set in Naples, though others are just scenes depicting locals in their natural habitat. You'll also see depictions of a white man wearing a white smock, white floppy hat, and a black mask; this character is Pulcinella, who is a character from the Commedia dell'Arte. His wise but nonsensical jester-like character is the stereotypical citizen from Naples. Ironically, after he became their sort of mascot, the citizens did become more like his personality!

When you are walking along the street that this cathedral is on, all the surrounding buildings are kind if run down...and then the plaza in front of the cathedral opens up and you see this big, beautiful building that has actually had a little TLC over the years, and it is jaw-dropping and actually seems out of place. The inside is equally as beautiful, though it's undergoing some restoration. You can definitely tell it's not in its prime anymore, but it's a lovely cathedral nonetheless.

Napoli Sotterranea
If you fancy going underground where you feel like someone has been conducting secret experiments creating monsters that take villagers randomly and kill them, this is the attraction for you! No, but seriously, it is really creepy; maybe I've just seen too much Supernatural, Stargate Universe, etc though? Well, anywho, there are tunnels that run underneath Naples (and several other villages in southern Italy) that were originally an aqueduct system built by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans to deliver water to all their cities from the mountains. After being functional aqueducts for hundreds of years, they were sealed off and converted into bomb shelters for World War II. Interestingly enough, with the help of this bomb shelter system and the strong will of the Napoleon people, the citizens liberated themselves from the Nazis using basic weapons against their organized military in 4 days in 1943, 2 years before the war ended; Naples is considered the first antifascist city of Italy because of this.

Naples used to have a large Greek theater in it. However, thanks to the government's decree that the city couldn't expand outside the designated city walls coupled with a rise in population, more housing was needed, and the only way to build more was either to tear down nonessential buildings to build more apartments or to build up. Well, they started to build their buildings taller, but when that wasn't enough, they decided to repurposed their amphitheater into apartments. However, they utilized as much of the existing structure as they could. For this reason, you can still see parts of the old amphitheater, and some of the apartments even have access to the old area that used to be under the stage where the actors would hang out. Neat, huh? Another interesting fact is that there was a royal who liked to perform, and he would lock spectators in and force them to clap and cheer him on. Well, during one of his performances, an earthquake struck, but he refused to let anyone leave, claiming it was the gods clapping for his great performance. Well, due to the manner it was constructed, which included the first seismic protective techniques, the amphitheater didn't fall down and everyone was actually more safe in there than their own homes! Pretty crazy, eh?

Santa Chiara
This church and monastery has quite an interesting history. Well, more recently at least. During WWII, it was bombed and much of the church burned. The entire roof with its intricately painted ceiling was destroyed, as well as all the paintings on the inside. However, the rest of the structure remained, so they cleaned it up, put a new roof on it, and it's now operational again. That's one thing we take for granted in the US: while we fought in the World Wars and many soldiers lost their lives, we didn't have the war reach our country. Many priceless buildings and works of art in Europe were completely destroyed during he wars. What an incredibly saddening loss. Oh, I also walked in on a wedding here too... #WeddingCrasher.

Gesú Nuovo
Based on the exterior of this building, you wouldn't suspect that it is a church on the inside. That is because it used to be a mansion for a rich family. Since then, it had been converted into a gorgeous church with inspiring paintings and works of art. Yet another amazing church with a curious history!

Santa Anna di Lombardi
This church (yes, I know...I have visited more churches than I think I've been to in my entire life!) is a bit tucked away and more of a homey church. It's not adorned with gold or frescos every which way you look, but it's simplicity is part of its elegance.

Castel Nuovo
I didn't tour this castle, I just visited it, but it's pretty legit and is on the seaside. It's from the 13th century and was ordered to be constructed when the capitol of the Kingdom of Naples moved from Palermo to Naples. Several historical events took place within the castle, including the resignation of a Pope and election of a new Pope!

Piazza Plebiscito
This large plaza is adorned with a grand building from the early 19th century. In the center, there is a church that is modled after the Pantheon in Rome. Stretching out on either side are colonnades, similar to those found in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. It's quite impressive and beautiful, though interesting how the two different structures were blended together. The extensive plaza allows visitors to thoroughly enjoy the magnitude and grandeur of the building. The plaza has also held concerts over the years to artist such as Elton John, Maroon 5, and Muse.

Castel dell'Ovo
While I didn't visit nor tour this castle, I did see it and it does have an interesting story I'd like to share. Legend has it the location where this castle is is where the siren Partenope washed ashore after plunging herself into the sea after she failed to lure Ulysses to his demise. This is also where got her first name: Partenope.

Metro Toledo
Supposedly this is one of the most beautiful metro stops in the world. From the moment you descend into the station, there are grand mosaics on the wall. Every part of the station is decorated. It's a wonder there hasn't been much (if any) graffiti on the art!

Naples is an interesting city to visit. It was once the best city in all of Europe, but has fallen very far. After a huge factory was relocated to northern Italy and 10,000 people lost their jobs in one day, it kind of crashed their economy. Because of this, the city has kind if crumbled a little. The old part of the city has plaster missing from a lot of the buildings, there is a serious need for some upkeep and paint jobs, the streets are filthy and need to have garbage picked up and some sweeping done, etc. You kind of feel like you're walking into a 2nd or 3rd world country, to be honest. It is kind of hard though; the buildings are all 700+ years old. My hostel in Naples wasn't like most hostels; this is because it is actually the home of a man, Giovanni, who has converted it into his business. It allows him to meet people from all over the world, share some of Naples' history and hidden treasures (as well as some homemade Italian food on occasion), and he loves doing it. It's kind of an ingenious business model if you love meeting new people and don't mind opening up your home!

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