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Naples | © ML5909/Pixabay
Naples | © ML5909/Pixabay

The Most Non-Touristy Experiences in Naples

Picture of Emma Law
Contributing Writer
Updated: 6 December 2017

So you’ve admired the impressive marble sculptures at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, gazed across the city skyline from the Certosa di San Martino and followed in the footsteps of Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love to eat pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. What else does Naples have to offer? Find out with this list of non-touristy things to see and do in Italy’s third-largest city.

Cimitero delle Fontanelle

Come face-to-face with Napoli’s previous residents at the Fontanelle Cemetery in the Materdei neighbourhood. Thousands of anonymous remains, many of them plague victims, were laid to rest in these volcanic caves from the 17th century onwards. The site even spawned a cult with devotees dedicated to caring for the unnamed remains until the cemetery was closed in 1969.

Cimitero delle Fontanelle, Via Fontanelle, 80, Napoli, Italy, +39 081 795 6160

Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco

The Neapolitan cult of the dead continues at the Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco – one look at its baroque façade and morbid iconography, and it’s obvious this church is different than the rest. Built in 1616, the church is split across two levels. The street-level church contains a number of fascinating death-related artworks, while the underground hypogeum was once a burial place for the city’s pezzentelle – the poorest residents without family or a home. Look out for the skull of Lucia, a young bride who supposedly died in a shipwreck along with her husband.

Purgatorio ad Arco, Via dei Tribunali, 39, Napoli, Italy, +39 333 383 2561

The Facade of the Church of Purgatorio ad Arco | © Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/WikiCommons

The Facade of the Church of Purgatorio ad Arco | © Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/WikiCommons

Il Chiostro dei Santi Marcellino e Festo

The Church of the Monastery of Saints Marcellino and Festo, formed when two adjacent female monasteries were united in the 16th century, is lavishly decorated with gilded stucco, colourful frescoes and carved woodwork. However, save for special occasions when the church doors are opened, it’s only accessible with a reservation. Fortunately, part of the complex is now occupied by the Museum of Paleontology, so for a €2.50 entrance ticket, visitors can at least see the church’s rectangular cloister filled with lush green palms and trickling water features.

Museo di Paleontologia, Largo S. Marcellino, 10, Napoli, Italy, +39 081 253 7516

Il Chiostro dei Santi Marcellino e Festo | © Baku/WikiCommons

Il Chiostro dei Santi Marcellino e Festo | © Baku/WikiCommons

Castello Aragonese di Baia

Built in the late 15th century by the Aragonese, the Castle of Baia is perched on a rocky outcrop of the Bay of Pozzuoli, about 15 miles outside of Naples. Originally built to defend against possible invasion from the French, the castle now displays local archeological treasures found in the volcanic Campi Flegrei area. Admission is free between Tuesday and Friday and only €4 on weekends, but check the website for the latest information, as parts of the museum are sometimes closed. Last entrance is at 1pm.

Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, Via Castello, 39, Bacoli, Italy, +39 081 523 3797

Il crocifisso ferito

In 1923, a fire broke out in the Church of San Carlo all’Arena and sent a marble crucifix crashing to the floor. The sculpture, carved by Michelangelo Naccherino in 1599, was painstakingly pieced back together and returned to the church. Known ever since as il crocifisso ferito, or ‘the wounded crucifix’, the statue is all the more moving for its injuries.

Chiesa di San Carlo all’Arena, Via Foria, 24, Napoli, Italy

Il Crocifisso, carved by Michelangelo Naccherino | © Carlo Raso/Flickr

Il Crocifisso, carved by Michelangelo Naccherino | © Carlo Raso/Flickr

Palazzo Donn’Anna

Palazzo Donn’Anna isn’t open to the public, but its eerie beauty and place in local folklore make it well worth a look anyway. Overlooking the sea, the villa was built in the 17th century for Anna Carafa, the princess of Stigliano in southern Italy, by her husband Ramiro Guzman, the Spanish viceroy of Naples. One story goes that Anna was killed during a revolt against the royals, while Ramiro fled to Madrid, leaving her ghost to haunt the palace for eternity.

Palazzo Donn’Anna, Largo Donn’Anna, Napoli, Italy, +39 081 575 3808

Palazzo Donn'Anna | © Armando Mancini/Flickr

Palazzo Donn’Anna | © Armando Mancini/Flickr

Palazzo della Borsa

The monumental building of the Chamber of Commerce was built in 1895 and housed the stock exchange until it was moved to Milan in 1992. Many locals are unaware that the grandiose neo-Renaissance trading floor, lined with marble columns and lunettes depicting Hermes and Dionysus, can still be visited. The trading boards used pre-digitalisation, featuring Alitalia and electricity company ENEL, are particularly charming.

Palazzo della Borsa, Napoli, Italy

The interior of Palazzo della Borsa | © IlSistemone/WikiCommons

The interior of Palazzo della Borsa | © IlSistemone/WikiCommons

Villa Doria d’Angri

Built in the 1830s in the Posillipo area of the city, Villa Doria d’Angri affords stunning views across the Port of Naples and beyond. In its prime, the villa’s terraces featured lush hanging gardens with fountains and exotic plants. Much of the extravagant interiors have also been lost to time, but some of the original Pompeian-style frescoes survive in a few rooms. The building is now owned by the Parthenope University of Naples and houses a naval museum.

Villa Doria d’Angri, Via Francesco Petrarca, 80, Napoli, Italy,

The interiors at Villa Doria d’Angri | © Devil90/WikiCommons

The interiors at Villa Doria d’Angri | © Devil90/WikiCommons

S.S.C. Napoli

The Stadio San Paolo might seat 60,000 people, but taking in a football match is pretty much off the radar of most tourists in Naples. It’s been almost 30 years since S.S.C Napoli won a scudetto, but the city’s passion for the beautiful game remains strong. Get to know the calcio-loving locals at a partita.

Stadio San Paolo, Piazzale Vincenzo Tecchio, Napoli, Italy, +39 081 509 5344

Palazzo dello Spagnolo

Dating back to 1738, the Palazzo dello Spagnolo was designed by Ferdinando Sanfelice and is perhaps the most important example of Neapolitan baroque civil architecture. The star of the show is undoubtedly the building’s extraordinary monumental staircase – its five archways and double-ramped stairwell were also featured in the films Processo alla città (The City Stands Trial) and Giudizio Universal (The Last Judgement).

Palazzo dello Spagnolo, Via Vergini, 19, Napoli, Italy+39 081 795 1111

Palazzo dello Spagnolo | © Mentnafunangann/WikiCommons

Palazzo dello Spagnolo | © Mentnafunangann/WikiCommons

Isola della Gaiola

The Isola della Gaiola is a small but perfectly formed island – well, two islets, actually – that affords stunning panoramic views across the Gulf of Naples. Yet, the island remains deserted with locals telling stories of a curse that befalls anyone who dares visit this secluded spot. Today, the island is part of the Gaiola Underwater Park and is a scenic destination for snorkeling and diving, with archeological ruins and many species of wildlife to admire.

Isola di Gaiola, Napoli, Italy,

Visit Isola della Gaiola if you dare | © Antonio Manfredonio/Flickr31418_1cec912c26_k

Visit Isola della Gaiola if you dare | © Antonio Manfredonio/Flickr