Weird & Wonderful Naples


Okay, so you’ve checked out the list of what to do in Naples, and you’re thinking that even though you’ll probably hit most of the big items on that list you’d also like to throw in some oddball stuff as well. You know, the stuff that will make your friends back home raise an eyebrow when you’re telling vacation stories. Well, this list of weird things to see in Naples should satisfy you, then.

>> Believe it or not, a few of the sights on this list of weird attractions in Naples are also on my list of must-see attractions in Naples!

Weird & Wonderful Naples

  • weirdnaples3Ospedale delle Bambole, or Doll’s Hospital – This tiny shop smells like your grandmother’s attic and is crammed floor to ceiling with antique dolls and doll parts (which is alternately cool and creepy). The family is now on its 4th generation of doll repair.

  • “Bodyworlds” Basement of Capella di Sansevero – While the sculpted Veiled Christ in the main chapel is exquisite in the most beautiful way, the two glass-encased bodies a few feet away down a short staircase are more than a little weird.
  • weirdnaples51“Secret Cabinet” at the National Archaeological Museum – The museum’s so-called “secret cabinet” is so well-known that it’s hardly a secret anymore, but it definitely adds interest to your museum tour. It’s where they keep all the ancient Roman erotica (or at least the stuff we consider erotica), behind a padlocked metal gate.

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  • Does your church have Roman ruins in the basement? – While it may not be unusual in Italy for Roman ruins to be underneath (or sometimes built into) the foundations of every other building, the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore has a half-excavated Roman market in its basement which you can walk through. You can even walk into the various old storefronts. Incredibly cool.
  • weirdnaples1Statue of a Lactacting Male (Kind Of) – A quick look at the statue of a reclining bearded man in the Piazzetta Nilo wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but if you look again you’ll notice there’s a baby who appears to be suckling at said bearded man’s chest. Word is that the Greek statue was unearthed in the 12th century but was missing a head. A 17th century restorer thought that putting a bearded male head on the headless statue would be nice, to represent the River Nile, completely ignoring the fact that the body was that of a woman meant to represent the city of Naples nourishing her children.

  • The Legend of the Magical Egg – You might think the Castel dell’Ovo, or Egg Castle, would be shaped like an egg to get such a name. It’s not. Instead, the name comes from a legend that the poet Virgil (renowned as a bit of a magician) put a magic egg into the castle’s foundation to give it strength.
  • weirdnaples2The Obelisks of Naples – Other cities have plundered obelisks from Egypt to erect in their main squares, thereby showing their power. In Naples, they went a different route. Throughout the old center you’ll find ornately-decorated Baroque obelisks commissioned by local families, the government at the time, or various churches to – yes – show their power.

  • How many pizza places in Naples have pictures of Bill Clinton eating there? – I counted two, but given our former President’s penchant for eating it’s quite likely there are more. How many can you find?
  • weirdnaples4Year-Round Christmas Alley – No matter what time of year you visit Naples, you can pick up a figurine for your nativity scene or a bauble for your Christmas tree on Via San Gregorio Armeno. Why? Naples has long been home to a collection of craftspeople making terra cotta figures for the traditional nativities which are so popular in Italy at Christmastime. (And if that’s not enough for you, the Museo Nazionale di San Martino in Naples has nativities dating back to the 18th century.)

all photos by Jessica Spiegel & may not be used without permission


8 thoughts on “Weird & Wonderful Naples

  • Jessica Post author

    OMG, shrine to a strand of Maradona’s hair? How did I miss that?!? Next time I’ll definitely have that on my list. How fabulous…

    🙂

  • Madeline

    Good list! I haven’t seen the lactating male – will have to add that to the itinerary next time :o)

    When I was an exchange student I asked my host family to show me the strangest part of Naples, something that most tourists would never see. It was a case of careful what you wish for – what they showed me was something I couldn’t write about in my blog, but I’ll write it here (feel free to delete my comment if it’s not appropriate ;o)…): we drove to an area of town, and started driving up a hill. Okay, there were prostitutes on the sidewalk, big deal, I thought. But my host sister said, pay attention, they get more expensive as you go up the hill. At the bottom were prostitute-looking women. Then something changed, and I didn’t know what. Look at their feet, I was told. (okay, they’re huge, hence: men). But they have fake, um, parts. The next section was still for big feet but their parts were surgically enhanced, so to speak….. And at the top there were women again.

    This was in 1991 and I haven’t tried to find it again on more recent visits, so I have no idea whether the hill is still there. When I was double-checking all my facts for my post on Naples it obviously didn’t come up in my internet research. But I’d be curious to know!

  • Jessica Post author

    That’s hilarious, Madeline! I was told the Spanish Quarter was well-known for prostitutes, and my guide (a woman who’d grown up in Naples) said, “Even I don’t go up there.” So I stayed away from it myself.

    🙂

  • Kim

    After stumbling upon your site, I just wanted to say I loved the articles on Naples. I had been debating back and forth on whether to stay in Naples for a couple of days when I am in Italy next year. I keep getting feedback that it is ‘gritty’ etc and that Sorrento would be the better option. I do plan to visit Sorrento but only as a day trip since I have been there before. Reading what you had to say about Naples helped me decide on staying there for a few days and seeing other parts of Italy I didn’t really get a chance to see the times I have been there.

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