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"View of Naples," Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1748, Musée du Louvre, Paris

INTRODUCTION TO NAPLES

Naples (Italian Napoli; ancient Neapolis) located in Southern Italy, and is the capital of the Campania Region. An important seaport, Naples is built on the slopes and at the base of a range of hills bordering the Bay of Naples. Looming ominously over the city is the volcano Mount Vesuvius, responsible for the destruction of ancient Pompeii. To the south of Vesuvius and running roughly east-to west is the Sorrento Peninsula, with the Isle of Capri situated off the end like a period at the bottom of an exclamation point.  To the east are the Apennine mountains, which form a natural barrier between the eastern and western halves of Italy.  To the north is the Campi Flegrei area whose southern edge is a small peninsula pointing towards the Isle of Procida and, slightly further out, the Isle of Ischia.

ECONOMY

Naples has a large harbor for passenger and merchant vessels and several smaller harbors that accommodate fishing and pleasure craft. Among the chief industries are tourism, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of chemicals, foodstuffs, gloves, iron and steel, and machinery. The city is noted for it's colorful street life, it's food (spaghetti and pizza were developed here), and it's songs, notably in the bel canto style.

POINTS OF INTEREST AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS

Naples is the site of numerous castles and other places of interest. On a rocky islet connected to the city by a causeway stands the 12th-century Castel dell'Ovo, the site of which was occupied by the villa of the Roman general Lucullus. Other Neapolitan castles are the 13th-Century Castel Nuovo, situated on the harbor, and the 14th-Century Castel Sant'Elmo, on a hill overlooking the city. The former royal palace in Naples, the Palazzo Reale, was built in the early 17th-Century; it houses the notable National Library, which has a large and valuable collection of books and manuscripts.

Near the palace is the Teatro San Carlo (1737, rebuilt 1816), famed for its opera productions, its acoustics (which are slightly better than the famed La Scala in Milan,) and one of the largest theaters in Europe. The National Museum in Naples is renowned for it's vast collection of Greco-Roman paintings and sculpture found in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and elsewhere in the vicinity of the city.  The museum also contains the celebrated Farnese collection of paintings. The city is the site of a university; Naples also has a naval institute, a school of foreign languages, a music conservatory, and an academy of the fine arts.

Of the many ecclesiastical buildings in the city, the best known is the Cathedral of San Gennaro, (begun 13th Century, with many later additions, including a 19th- century façade.) The cathedral contains a tomb of St. Januarius, the patron saint of the city; crowds fill the cathedral in May and September to witness what is believed to be the miraculous liquefaction of his blood. The Church of San Domenico Maggiore has a beautiful interior and is rich in sculpture and frescoes. Beside it stands the former Dominican monastery, in which Saint Thomas Aquinas once lived and taught.

Last edited on December 31, 2005

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