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Naples

Naples is my favorite city in Europe. She is home to countless treasures, many of which lie beyond the knowledge of guides and are known only to the city’s inhabitants. It is easy to lose yourself among the immense palaces, towering monasteries, and marble churches overflowing with gold. Every time I visit, I find something new, especially in the neighborhoods of the old city. Take Sanita, the poorest area of Naples, where Sanfelice’s rococo palaces are now home to modest families who keep them alive, and perhaps bit dusty. More than any other city, Naples is home an incredible mixture of past and present. With its catacombs and tunnels, underground Naples is a reminder that the dead are never far from the living.

 

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Stucco saints emerge from the walls of Saint Martin’s Charterhouse, one of the city’s grandest monasteries, now a museum, which dominates the city from the hilltop.

 

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In the middle of the cloister of Saint Martin’s Charterhouse is a small cemetery for monks. This skull of a saint crowned with flowers acts as a reminder that the dead are always present.

 

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In the catacombs of the church of Saint Maria of Sanity, in the poorest neighborhood of Naples, is a necropolis for part of the Neapolitan gentry. The dead were decapitated; their bodies were buried while their heads were mummified and fixed to the walls. An skeleton was then painted which was sometimes depicted with clothes that reflected the social status of the dead. Here, time has worn away the skull, but the painting remains.

 

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Student graffiti covers many of the palaces in the old city.

 

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A palace that was once home to the city’s highest aristocracy now houses many modest families. Here a bust of one of the former owners stands proudly, keeping watch over the clothing line of the current occupant.

 

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A typical Neapolitan street: narrow, flanked by immense palaces, and dominated by towers connecting two monasteries.

 

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In the monastery of Saint Gregory of the Armenians is a remarkable statue of a saint dressed as an eighteenth century woman standing next to a silver bust depicting the monastery’s patron saint.

 

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The Mother Superior standing next to an extraordinary baroque fountain in the main courtyard of the monastery of Saint Gregory of the Armenians. A small woman, endowed with an immense personality, a being of light and kindness.

 

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The Capodimonte Palace, the former hunting retreat of King Charles III, sits atop a hill at the gates of Naples. My great-aunt Helen of France once called the palace home. It was also the site of my parent’s engagement as well as my cousin Marguerite’s baptism.

 

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An evening view of the Ovo Castle, an enormous medieval complex rising from the middle of the sea.

 

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Mount Vesuvius is an integral part of the city’s landscape and history. The Neapolitans are still wary of the destruction this active giant can unleash at any moment.

 

 


by  Prince Michael of Greece