Spaccanapoli

A one-day guided tour in the heart of Naples, discovering its glorious history and traditions, tasting its flavors, admiring its monuments and the artworks of its craftsmen

Spaccanapoli

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Spaccanapoli

A one-day guided tour in the heart of Naples, discovering its glorious history and traditions, tasting its flavors, admiring its monuments and the artworks of its craftsmen
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This itinerary takes place in the heart of the Greek-Roman section of Naples, throughout “Spaccanapoli” (literally split Napoli), the ancient inferior Decumano, which is one of the main road that cuts the historical center of Naples from east to west by 2600 years.

Participants will admire, along with the monuments evidence of the glorious city’s past, the workshops of master artisans. Today, the latter are still keeping alive the popular tradition.

The tour will begin in a pastry shop, birthplace of the traditional sfogliatella. Visitors then will cross the lanes made of lava stone up to San Gregorio Armeno, the mythical crossroad where they will admire how a traditional Christmas nativity scene is produced. In addition to this, they will visit an artisan who will teach them how to create a flower composition.

The itinerary proceeds with a visit to the medieval Archaeological Complex of San Lorenzo and to the cloister of the Convent annex to the Chapel of San Gregorio. From the top, participants will admire Naples and all its beauty. After lunch, held in a typical trattoria, stop at the Chapel of San Severo, where the guide will especially focus on the veiled Christ. Later on, the itinerary includes a visit to an artisan company, la liuteria Calace, which produces violins.

Please note: the itinerary is 3 km long with a low difficulty

  • Activity’s itinerary
  • Activity materials
  • Schedule and participation
Schedule Activity description
9:00 am Meeting point in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. Meet the English speaking guide and brief explanation of the program
9:30 am The group will start walking across the narrow lanes of Port’Alba, until the first artisan visited : the well-known pastry shop, called “Scaturchio”, where participants will attend a demonstration on how to prepare the sfogliatella, the “Ministerial” cake and babà. During the production of this cakes, the visitors will enjoy eating a warm sfogliatella with a good cup of coffee
10:45 am Visit of the Monastery of San Gregorio Armeno (1577). The visit (inside and outside) will focus on the baroque cloister and the terrace. From the terrace, participants will be able to admire Naples from the top, understanding the topography of this city, with the inferior decumano still present as 2600 years ago. Participants will exit the Monastery passing through the annex Church of San Gregorio Armeno (1579), where they will admire Luca Giordano’s painting. The guide will lecture on the architectural and historical features, following the theme of the tour, which is the relationship between art and history
11:15 am The itinerary proceeds with a visit of the Archaeological Center of San Lorenzo Maggiore (1330), location where the famous writer Francesco Petrarca used to live during a period of his life. The guide will lecture on the most relevant archaeological features, as well as the historical link connected with the recently discovered evidences
11:45 am San Gregorio Armeno’s lane. The guide will briefly introduce the main historical and architectural features of this section of Naples.
Visit the workshop of the Capuano’s brothers, worldwide known master in the creation of Christmas nativity scenes since 1800. The art of making the “presepe” (nativity scene) has always been a philosophy of life for the “Napoletani” (people of Naples). During Christmas holidays, each family is used to prepare a nativity setting made of cork, with ceramic shepherds, animals, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. The Capuano’s brothers are true professionals in this art. They are famous for an artwork which reproduce Saint Pio’s life, in Monte Rotondo, as well as a nativity scene spread over 80 square meters, commissioned by the King of Spain, Juan Carlos.
During the 45 minutes visit, the brothers will lecture on the nativity scene tradition (10 minutes), followed by a demonstration on how to create a nativity setting from scratch (only the structure). They will show the different materials as well as the techniques used during the process. The demonstration is not interactive, due to the specialization required to perform this art
12:20 pm The itinerary proceeds with a stop by another artisan workshop, Ferrigno. The masters Giuseppe and Marco Ferrigno will show how to create the shepherds, used to decorate a nativity setting. They will explain how to use ancient materials such as terracotta, wood and silk to create characters and scenes reproduced in the Christmas setting during the 1800’s. New York, Paris and Malmoe are just a few places where it is possible to find the masterpieces of these two incredible artists. They will show the different materials as well as the techniques used during the process. The demonstration is not interactive, due to the specialization required to perform this art
1:30 pm Lunch at the traditional trattoria “Gino Sorbillo”, located in the heart of the city. Founded in 1935 and totally renovated in 2000, this business is run by the 19 out of 21 sons of the Sorbillo’s family (third generation).

The menu will feature the original Neapolitan pizza Margherita. The guide and the chef will explain the secrets needed to prepare the best pizza Margherita with tomato pulp, fresh mozzarella, basil and a wooden oven where the pizzaioli (pizza makers) work the dough.

The menu features:

  • n°1 pizza (different toppings are included)
  • beer or wine (1 liter every 4 people)
3:00 pm After lunch, brief visit to the San Severo’s Chapel. Raimondo di Sangro, eccentric artist, has erected this mystical monument in 1700. He has recreated inside the Chapel original decorations with a group of sculptures, frescoes like the Veiled Christ. He is also famous for the creation and conservation of two perfectly functioning cardiovascular human groups. This is a very unique place of cult and mystery
3:45 pm Visit the cabinet-maker (ebanista), an artisan workshop which produces and sells violins “Raffaele Calace”. The Calace “Liuteria” lute-making workshop, was founded in 1825 by Nicola Calace, in the island of Procida near Naples, where Nicola was confined for political reasons. He started the Art of lute-making, producing appreciated guitars. When he died, the tradition was continued by his son Antonio, who after moving to Naples, started making unique, precious mandolins, which can nowadays be admired in private collections
5:00 pm The group will walk towards the meeting point. End of the excursion
  • casual wear
  • long pants (for churches)
  • rubber sole shoes
  • other (no jewelry and/or expensive video cameras and cameras)

On demand


Points of interest

Scaturchio

A pasticceria/stand-up coffee bar with the (deservedly) most highly touted sfogliatelle in the city. Try both kinds: Pasta riccia is the one with the familiar layered pastry. Pasta frolla is a less familiar but equally popular version with a rich, short pastry. As at any good Neapolitan pastry shop, the sfogliatelle are kept warm in special glass display cases. They will show how to make the famous “Ministeriale”. This is medallion made of chocolate, filled with cream liquor. It was invented when Italy was unified. That’s why now it is called “la regale gola” (literally regal mouth)

The Church/Monastery of San Gregorio Armeno

The church/monastery of San Gregorio Armeno is in the center of the historic center of Naples and has given its name to the street on which it is situated. In common parlance, that street is referred to as the street of the “figurari”, in reference to those who craft the popular figures and sets used in the typical Neapolitan Christmas nativity scene, the Christmas Crib. The street is marked by the tower of the church belfry that actually spans the street, itself (see photo). It is from the 1700s and was built onto an earlier walkway above the street.

The church was founded shortly after the iconoclast decrees of the eighth century caused a number of religious orders to flee the Byzantine empire and seek refuge elsewhere. Those dedicated to Gregory, bishop of Armenia  (257-332), founded their place of worship in Naples on the site of an older Roman temple of  Ceres. In 1025 it was joined with two other adjacent chapels into a single complex as a Benedectine monastic order. The monastery still functions as such, retaining its high walls and maintaining a spectacular inner courtyard  characterized by a central fountain with statues of  Christ and the Samaritan by Matteo Bottigliero from 1733.

The Archaeological Center of San Lorenzo Maggiore

Excavations beneath the Church and Monastery of San Lorenzo have brought to light a complex and layered archeological history.  About half of the original Roman market has been excavated and may be seen by entering through the marked portal next to the entrance to the church, itself, then passing through the courtyard and going down a flight of stairs.  The site has been open for only about 5 years and is the result of  25 years of painstaking excavation.

Also, as a result of the excavation, the great hall and three naves of a sixth century paleo-Christian church built by the Bishop John II have been uncovered. and beneath the Sala Capitolare of the church a medieval structure has been found that apparently was one of the small “city halls” of the city. It was razed around the turn of the millennium and portions of it are built into the foundations of the newer church of San Lorenzo on top. It all rests on the original marketplace of the city from the fourth century before Christ. The market and streets were used as late as the fifth century AD, at which time they fell victim to a massive mudslide. The subsequent construction of the early Christian church on the site effectively closed them forever.

The marketplace is the only large-scale Greco-Roman site excavated in the downtown area. The site and the surrounding area of the historic center of Naples are on the UNESCO World Heritage list; that is, it is a site that must be preserved, at all costs.

The Veiled Christ

Amongst the most famous and suggestive works of art in the world, il Cristo Velato ( The Veiled Christ ) was sculpted in 1753 by Neapolitan Giuseppe Sammartino on commission for Raimondo di Sangro, VII Prince of Sansevero. The expressive spiritual wealth of the sculpture is visible through the folds of the veil covering the flesh of the Redeemer. In its presence, one feels he is observing the true body of Christ.

Canova, the great sculptor of the 1800s, defined it as “An awesome work, second only, perhaps, to Michelangelo’s Pietà”. He added that he would have given away ten years of his life to have been the author of this masterpiece.

Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero

The VII Prince of Sansevero was born in 1710 into a noble and ancient family, dated back to times ol Charlemagne, first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Raimondo was a friend and close aide to King Charles IV of Naples, for whom he invented a water-proof cape to protect him from the rain while haunting.

A brave soldier, in 1744 he distinguished himself at the command of a regiment during the battle of Velletri against the Austrians. During his military command, he invented a harquebus which could fire with both wind and power, built a cannon out of lightweight materials which had a longer range than the standard ones of the time, wrote a military treatise on the employment of infantry for which he had a praise from Frederick II of Prussia.

His real interests, however, were always in the studies of alchemy, mechanics and sciences in general. He invented an hydraulic device which could pump water to any height; an eternal flame using some chemical compound of his invention preventing the flame from running out; a carriage with wooden horses which, driven by an internal mechanic system, could travel both on the land and on the water; a printing press which could print various colors in one single impression.

The Prince was both a candid and brilliant man who correctly spoke all the european languages as well as Arab and Hebrew. He was a friend of many illustrious men of his era, like Genovesi, and knew the greatest european scientific scholars to whom he used to write about the progresses of his researches and the results of his discoveries. He was at the head of the neapolitan masonic lodge until he was excommunicated by the Church; but Pope Benedict XIV soon revoked it realizing that the accusations of heresy against him were just the product of slander and envy from the Prince’s detractors.

The last years of his life were completely dedicated to embellishing the Chapel with marble works from the greatest artists of the time, including Corradini, Queirolo and Sammartino who sculpted the various statues. But Raimondo did not just limit himself to commissioning the works; he also personally selected the marbles, suggested techniques and subjects for each work and decided the location of the masterpieces, with the aim of making the Chapel the center of the neapolitan Baroque sculpture, and to leave behind him a cryptic and allegorical message, according to the mystery so present in all his life. He died in 1771.

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