Once upon a time, there was a huge fountain in the centre of this mammoth piazza, built in honour of the city’s new water supply – the Serino aqueduct. The fountain is long gone, but from the centre of the piazza you can catch a glimpse of the glass and steel dome of Galleria Umberto I to one side, and Vesuvius towering over the bay to the other.
In the evening golden hour (about one hour before dusk), the views of Vesuvius can be spectacular.
In the morning, the vistas of Castel Sant’Elmo and the San Martino Charterhouse peering down from Vomero Hill are equally as stunning.
After taking in the views, cross the piazza to Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace of Naples. The palace was built by the Spanish Viceroys. Eight statues of eight rulers of Naples from eight different monarchies peer down at you from marble niches that were added to the palace by Umberto I (King of Italy) almost 300 years after the Spaniards laid the palace’s first cornerstone.
Find the centre of the Palazzo (hint – look for the huge arched centre portal with the iron gate) and ‘turn yourself around’.
Facing the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola on the other side, align yourself with the centre of the two bronze equestrian statues that sit in front of the church, Ferdinand IV (I of the Two Sicilies) to the left, his father Charles VII (III of Spain) on the right. Now close your eyes, and try your hand at a local game known as passare bendati tra i due cavalli di Piazza Plebiscito – walk between the two horses of Piazza Plebiscito blindfolded.
This is an amuse-bouche for a new book! Bonnie Alberts, Barbara Zaragoza, Erin Romano and Penny have created the Napoli Unplugged Guide to Naples! Visit partenopepress.com and facebook.com/NUGuideToNaples to find out more.
Dear friends, please join me in congratulating Barbara Zaragoza and Penny Ewles-Bergeron (contributors who have submitted copious high-quality notes over the years to ItalianNotebook on Naples) as well as Bonnie Alberts and Erin Romano. Knowing them and their love for Naples, I have no doubt this will be a great one! – ed.