La Scala in Milan is the famous one, but San Carlo is more beautiful, and Naples is, after all, the most operatic of cities. The Neoclassical structure, designed by Antonio Niccolini, was built in a mere nine months after an 1816 fire destroyed the original. Many operas were composed for the house, including Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini's La Donna del Lago. In the theater, nearly 200 boxes are arranged on six levels, and the 1,115-square-meter
(12,000-square-foot) stage permits productions with horses, camels, and elephants, and even has a backdrop that can lift to reveal the Palazzo Reale Gardens. Above the rich red-and-gold auditorium is a ceiling fresco by Giuseppe Cammarano representing Apollo presenting poets to Athena. Performance standards are among Europe's highest—even the great Enrico Caruso was hissed here. If you're not attending an opera, you can still see the splendid theater on a 30-minute guided tour. Perhaps your experience will mirror that of the French author Stendhal, who wrote: "The first impression one gets is of being suddenly transported to the palace of an oriental emperor. There is nothing in Europe to compare with it, or even give the faintest idea of what it is like." English-language tours, which take place daily except on holidays, can be booked in advance on the theater's website.
Via San Carlo 101–103, Naples, 80133, Italy