May 17, 2013 / Art & Archaeology
Naples, Campania

spaccanapoli1No trip to Naples is complete without a walk along what locals simply call Spaccanapoli (literally, Naples splitter). Actually, it is probably the easiest way to take in quite a bit of what this amazing city has to offer, short of driving (most inadvisable!).

Along its length sit worthwhile sights: Santa Chiara and its amazing cloister, San Domenico Maggiore with its incredible mix of Gothic and baroque styles, the San Severo Chapel with Sammartino’s Veiled Christ marble statue, and Via San Gregorio Armeno, a side street where traditional presepio (nativity scene) figurine making is still alive and well.

All in all a nice afternoon’s walk which puts you in direct contact with daily life in the city, as well as… WAIT! 45 minutes into the walk and you realize that you have been heading in the same direction the whole time. As in NO BENDS IN THE STREET! Not even a sliver of a comforting degree or two, even slightly! Even the buildings are straight!! Compared to most other streets in Naples which are most definitely NOT straight, or at least not for more than 20 feet, this one is nothing but! Disoriented, dizziness begins to set in.

Not to worry! You are walking along the decumanus inferior, the southernmost of the three East-West running main avenues which were standard layout of ancient Greek settlements and Roman military encampments. Phew! Not an unsettling chance occurrence then, it is reassuring to know that this is 3000+ year old deliberate Italian urban planning at its finest. And there are some who think that’s an oxymoron… HA!



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

16 Responses to “Spaccanapoli”

  1. Joan Schmelzle

    Have to say here that I certainly enjoyed my walks along Spacanapoli when I was in Naples last December. I think I was out there on different parts on two different days. One day I enjoyed one of the traditional “clowns” leading a group of probably second graders down the street from Santa Chiara, singing at the top of their lungs. He stopped to do a dance with a store clerk and now and then bopped passersby with his stick, a very soft one. No one could not smile to see this. I do like Naples despite my adventures on the bus where I knew someone had been in my purse while I was jammed against a pole before I could get it in front of me, but my two cameras were OK. When I got off I found a coin purse in my pocket. The disappointed thief had put it back when all he found was my rosary. Ah well!

  2. What timing! Last week I was working on putting list of things to see/do in Naples. Spaccanapoli is on my list, among things.

    Thanks GB!

  3. Pru Bell-Davies

    Thank you GB – Spaccanapoli – the start of many adventures in my favourite city…may I add to your list Gesu Nuovo, the cafes of Piazza Bellini, the gardens in the convent of San Gregorio Armeno, the art galleries of Pio Monte della Misericordia and Girolamini….and Oh so many more fascinating locations a stone’s throw from this wonderful buzzing ancient thoroughfare.



  5. sherry willome

    We are planning a day trip from Rome to Pompeii and then the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. Our tour driver was fine with this. Then I asked to go to the Cappella Sansevero chapel to see the Veiled Christ, and they balked. Said it was too dangerous. I am getting such conflicting advice about this. We could walk from the Museum – (9 minutes or so). Is that safe??
    Please help!

    • We stayed at a Hotel Piazza Bellini ( a couple years ago. It is a 7 minute walk from the chapel (Via de Sanctis Francesco, 19
      80134 Napoli, Italy). I’d say in the daytime there was not problem walking anywhere. This is the college student part of town, so it’s a little wilder but not criminal (there’s lots of graffiti there). We loved this hotel and will stay there again. They call taxis for you and get a discount rate. They also found gluten free pizza for us.

      At night, many parts of Naples can be scary for us Americans. Even though I lived there for four years (decades ago), you have to adjust your mindset when visiting to be a little overly cautious and protective. It is still worth every bit of effort to visit if you go to Italy. You haven’t lived until you spent some time in Naples.

      Also, you can always take a taxi anywhere you want to go. There are lines of them at the train station where you get off.

      To be honest, you will probably be exhausted after Pompeii anyway. It is easily takes 2 days to see it all, so if you are like us, you will be whizzing through the place trying to get it all in a single day. The museum is nice and cool inside and not too big, so you can see it in a few hours.

      Since you are coming from Rome, you can actually transfer at the Garibaldi train station to the Circumvesuvana line ( (its on a different level at the station) and take a train directly to Pompeii. Then go back to the Garibaldi train station and take a taxi to the chapel and back. You will find a driver who will take you there and come back for you if you like. Of course he will charge you for sitting outside and waiting for you. ;)

  6. Ah, thank you for allowing me to return to Napoli’s Spaccanapoli if only for just a moment. Spaccanapoli is exactly what I look for when I’m in Italy meaning a working class neighborhood with restaurants and markets geared to that sensibility. Spaccanapoli’s street life has to be witnessed to be believed, I remember years ago during my first visit to the neighborhood being delightfully overwhelmed at an outdoor cafe by cooking scents, ringing church bells, religious processions, people in animated conversation, playing children weaving through the crowds, religious shrines on seemingly every wall, etc, etc.(such wonderful noise!!); no northern “cool” here. Thank you GB!

  7. Grazie GB, I’m adding this passeggiata to my list of MUST DO’S – even though some say Napoli can be more dangerous than Palermo. Oxymoron?Perhaps, but a most glorious one.

  8. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, GB, for your note on one of my favorite cities in all the world!
    If I have 2 free days from touring here in Umbria, I head for Rome.
    If I can manage three or more, Napoli here I come! Spaccanapoli: the world is here.

  9. Vincent Rasole

    I was in this area in January 2013 when I visited the Church of “Gesu Nuovo” and altar of St Giuseppe Moscati(St Joseph Moscati, who was born in Benevento and declared a Saint by Pope John Paul II
    on October 27, 1987.

  10. francesco costa

    visto che fascino ha la mia città? ti attira e ti respinge come un’amante che sa anche essere cattiva, ma in fondo è generosa! a volte non la sopporti più, ma la verità è che non puoi farne a meno e alla fine tornerai sempre da lei. un abbraccio, caro gb, e buon lavoro, f.

  11. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    John Gian Banchero has stated my sentiments so well,just what I love about Naples. This Sept. I will have Three days with which to enjoy being a napoletani. We will walk the street,laugh and eat, leaving much better off than when we arrived.

  12. Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    For Sherry Willome who commented above.

    Please don’t believe even 10% of the negative things that get said and written about Naples. It’s a wonderful, bustling, noisy, dynamic place with the most generous people in the world. We lived there 7 years without any problem and I’d return in a heartbeat. Act and dress as you would in any city where there is a concentration of tourists – it will make you feel more comfortable to leave expensive watches or jewellery behind. I am shocked your tour guide seemed reluctant to take on the walk from the Archaeological Museum to the chapel. You can, of course, walk there using a map. As with any visit, check opening times online and plan to have enough time to rendezvous with your tour guide afterwards. I’m sure you will have a fantastic visit and I’m only sorry you won’t see more of Napoli. Plan to go back!
    P.S. Here’s one trick – buy a copy of the Naples newspaper ‘Il Mattino’ and carry it, title showing, very casually under your arm. You’ll look like you have a local connection whatever language you speak and that can only be cool. :-)

    • Gian Banchero

      Peggy; That’s a good idea about carrying a copy of “Il Mattino” to fit in. For years I’ve used a cloth shopping bag with a baguette sticking out of it so foks will think I’m shopping and not a tourist carrying bulky expensive objects hard to hide, such as a camera or a just bought valuable object.

  13. I am a 100% Neapolitan ( now in USA!) at spaccanapoli was my high school and where I ate the best pizza and most fun…I love Napoli with all my heart and i wish I was still living there…I just used to put my money in the buts in the winter and in my bra in the summer,that’s all!


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