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Naples, a bustling city of a million people, can be a challenge for visitors because of its hilly terrain and its twisty, often congested streets. Although spread out, Naples invites walking; the bus system, funiculars, and subways are also options for dealing with weary legs.The city stretches along the Bay of Naples from Piazz
Naples, a bustling city of a million people, can be a challenge for visitors because of its hilly terrain and its twisty, often congested streets. Although spread out, Naples invites walking; the bus system, funiculars, and subways are also options for dealing with wear
Naples, a bustling city of a million people, can be a challenge for visitors because of its hilly terrain and its twisty
Naples, a bustling city of a million people, can be a challenge for visitors because of its hilly terrain and its twisty, often congested streets. Although spread out, Naples invites walking; the bus system, funiculars, and subways are also options for dealing with weary legs.
The city stretches along the Bay of Naples from Piazza Garibaldi in the east to Mergellina in the west, with its back to the Vomero Hill. From Stazione Centrale, on Piazza Garibaldi, Corso Umberto I (known as the Rettifilo) heads southwest to the monumental city center—commonly known as Toledo—around the piazzas Bovio, Municipio, and Trieste e Trento; here is the major urban set piece composed of the Palazzo Reale, Teatro San Carlo, and Galleria Umberto Primo.
To the north are the historic districts of old Naples, most notably the Centro Storico, I Vergini, and La Sanità; to the south, the port. Farther west along the bay are the more fashionable neighborhoods of Santa Lucia and Chiaia, and finally the waterfront district of Mergellina and the hill of Posillipo. The residential area of Vomero sits on the steep hills rising above Chiaia and downtown.
At the center of it all is picturesque Spaccanapoli—the heart of the Centro Storico. This partly pedestrianized promenade rather confusingly changes its name as it runs its way through the heart of old Naples—it's labeled as Via Benedetto Croce and Via San Biagio dei Librai, among others. Tying much of this geographic layout together is the "spine" of the city, Via Toledo—Naples's major north–south axis, which begins at Piazza Trieste e Trento and heads up all the way to Capodimonte; it's basically one straight road with four different names (five if you count the official name of Via Roma, which is how the locals refer to it).
Via Toledo links Piazza Trieste e Trento with Piazza Dante. Going farther north you get into Via Pessina for about 100 yards, which takes you up to the megajunction with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. North of that, you head up to the peak of Capodimonte by traveling along Via Santa Teresa degli Scalzi and then Corso Amedeo di Savoia.
To make things a bit more confusing, parts of Via Toledo are pedestrianized—that means no buses or scooters, thankfully—from just south of Piazza Carità (where Via Toledo/Roma intersects with Via Diaz) all the way to Piazza Trieste e Trento.
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Chiaia, Santa Lucia, and Nearby
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, La Sanità, and Capodimonte
Originally named by the Greeks after the Mermaid Parthenope (who slew herself after being rejected by Odysseus, at least in the poet Virgil’s version), it's...
Originally named by the Greeks after the Mermaid Parthenope (who slew herself after being rejected by Odysseus, at least in the poet Virgil’s version), it's only fitting that Naples should have established one of Europe's first public aquariums in 1874. At the time—when, not so incidentally, the public imagination was being stirred by Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid—technological innovations came into place to funnel seawater directly from the bay into the aquarium tanks, which showcase fish and marine plants from the Bay of Naples, with a tank devoted to tropical fish. Officially named the Stazione Zoologica, founded by the German scientist Anton Dhorn, and housed in a Stile Liberty building designed by Adolf von Hildebrandt, the aquarium quickly became the wonder of Naples for children and art-exhausted adults. Reopened in 2021 after a six-year major overhaul, the foundation added the Museo Darwin-Dohrn (Da-DoM) a few steps away in the leafy Villa Comunale—the 19th-century naturalist and Dohrn were regular correspondents. The highlight is the skeleton of a sperm whale washed up in Ischia in 2018, in a room opening up to the bay.
Known to locals as Maschio Angioino, in reference to its Angevin builders, this imposing castle is now used more for marital than military purposes—a portion...
Known to locals as Maschio Angioino, in reference to its Angevin builders, this imposing castle is now used more for marital than military purposes—a portion of it serves as a government registry office. A white four-tiered triumphal entrance arch, ordered by Alfonso of Aragon after he entered the city in 1443 to seize power from the increasingly beleaguered Angevin Giovanna II, upstages the building's looming Angevin stonework. At the arch's top, as if justifying Alfonso's claim to the throne, the Archangel Michael raises his right arm to slay a demon.
Across the courtyard within the castle, up a staircase, is the Sala Grande, also known as the Sala dei Baroni, which has a stunning vaulted ceiling 92 feet high. In 1486, local barons hatched a plot against Alfonso's son, King Ferrante, who reacted by inviting them to this hall for a wedding banquet, which promptly turned into a mass arrest. (Ferrante is also said to have kept a crocodile in the castle as his pet executioner.) You can also visit the Sala dell'Armeria, where a glass floor reveals recent excavations of Roman baths from the Augustan period, with resin plaster casts of the skeletons also found here (the originals are in storage in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale). In the next room on the left, the Cappella Palatina, revolving exhibitions (some free) adorn the walls along with a few tiny remaining fragments of the famous Giotto pictures described by Petrarch.
Before climbing to the castle's first-floor gallery, with its beautiful Renaissance-era masterpieces, check out the magnificent 16th-century Cappella delle Anime del Purgatorio and its richly decorated gold-plated altar.
At the back of the courtyard are giant photographs of three Roman ships, wood amazingly intact, unearthed during recent digging of the nearby metro station and now hidden away for restoration. A few tour itineraries are offered, including one of the underground prisons and the terrace with its unrivaled views of Piazza Muncipio's Roman excavations.
Atop a rocky promontory with a fabulous view of the entire city and majestic salons that would please any monarch, the Certosa di San Martino...
Atop a rocky promontory with a fabulous view of the entire city and majestic salons that would please any monarch, the Certosa di San Martino is a monastery that seems more like a palace. The certosa, or charter house, had been started in 1325, but by the 18th century, it had grown so sumptuous that Ferdinand IV was threatening to halt the religious order's government subsidy. Although the Angevin heritage can be seen in the pointed arches and cross-vaulted ceiling of the Certosa Church, over the years dour Gothic was traded in for varicolor Neapolitan Baroque.
The sacristy leads into the Cappella del Tesoro, with Luca Giordano's ceiling fresco of Judith holding aloft Holofernes's head and paintings by Jusepe de Ribera (the Pietà over the altar is one of his masterpieces). The polychrome marble work of the architect and sculptor Cosimo Fanzago (1591–1678) is at its finest here, and he displays a gamut of sculptural skills in the Chiostro Grande (Great Cloister). Fanzago's ceremonial portals at each corner of the cloister are among the most spectacular of all Baroque creations, aswirl with Michelangelo-esque ornament. The nearby Museo dell’Opera, not always open, contains sociology-theme rooms that add up to a chronological tour of the city. One room has 13 gouaches of Vesuvius, and another has paintings depicting the Plague. The Quarto del Priore (Prior's Quarters), the residence of the only monk allowed contact with the outside world, is an extravaganza of salons filled with frescoes, majolica-tile floors, and paintings, plus extensive gardens where scenic pergolati (roofed balconies) overlook the bay.
Entering from the Quarto del Priore side, you come upon two splendid gilded coaches and then the "Vessels of the King" naval museum, with a 20-meter (65-foot) boat occupying a whole room. Beyond this lie two rooms with Early Renaissance masterpieces; subsequent rooms hold works by later artists, including the tireless Luca Giordano. Past the library, with its heavenly majolica-tile floor, comes the Sezione Presepiale, the world’s greatest collection of Christmas cribs. Pride of place goes to the Presepe (Nativity scene) of Michele Cuciniello. Equally amazing in its own way is a crib inside an eggshell.
Piazzale San Martino 8, Naples, Campania, 80129, Italy
The beautifully restored 17th-century Basilica di Pietrasanta, a Cosimo Fanzago Baroque masterpiece built on the site of the Roman Temple of Diana, hosts regular multimedia...
The beautifully restored 17th-century Basilica di Pietrasanta, a Cosimo Fanzago Baroque masterpiece built on the site of the Roman Temple of Diana, hosts regular multimedia exhibitions, but the star attraction here is the underground visit to a section of Naples’s oldest aqueduct. Four tours a day descend 40 meters below the busy Via dei Tribunali to large lavishly illuminated cisterns hewed from excavated tuff two millennia ago, still filled with running water (thanks to a collaboration with the city’s waterworks). A quarter-mile stroll east through the tunnels takes you to where up to a thousand Neapolitans at a time huddled when the air-raid sirens sounded during World War II, often returning to the surface to find their houses destroyed by Allied or German bombs. Nowadays there’s a lift—the only archaeological elevator in Naples—to whisk you back up to the 21st century.
The first thing Mayor Luigi de Magistris did after his 2011 election was to banish traffic from the city's seafront. Strolling, skating, or biking along...
The first thing Mayor Luigi de Magistris did after his 2011 election was to banish traffic from the city's seafront. Strolling, skating, or biking along Via Caracciolo and Via Partenope with Capri, Mt. Vesuvius, and the Castel dell'Ovo in your sights is a favorite Neapolitan pastime.
Also known as MANN, this legendary museum has experienced something of a rebirth in recent years. Its unrivaled collections include world-renowned archaeological finds that put...
Also known as MANN, this legendary museum has experienced something of a rebirth in recent years. Its unrivaled collections include world-renowned archaeological finds that put most other museums to shame, from some of the best mosaics and paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum to the legendary Farnese collection of ancient sculpture. The core masterpiece collection is almost always open to visitors, while seasonal exhibitions feature intriguing cultural events, collaborations, and contemporary artists. Some of the newer rooms, covering archaeological discoveries in the Greco-Roman settlements and necropolises in and around Naples, have helpful informational panels in English.
The dazzling funerary chapel of the Sangro di Sansevero princes combines noble swagger, overwhelming color, and a touch of the macabre—which expresses Naples perfectly. The...
The dazzling funerary chapel of the Sangro di Sansevero princes combines noble swagger, overwhelming color, and a touch of the macabre—which expresses Naples perfectly. The chapel was begun in 1590 by Prince Giovan Francesco di Sangro to fulfill a vow to the Virgin if he were cured of a dire illness. The seventh Sangro di Sansevero prince, Raimondo, had the building modified in the mid-18th century and is generally credited for its current Baroque styling, the noteworthy elements of which include the splendid marble-inlay floor.
Via Francesco de Sanctis 19, Naples, Campania, 80134, Italy
The grandiose, 18th-century, neoclassical, Bourbon royal palace houses fine and decorative art in 124 rooms. The main galleries on the first floor are devoted to...
The grandiose, 18th-century, neoclassical, Bourbon royal palace houses fine and decorative art in 124 rooms. The main galleries on the first floor are devoted to the Farnese collection, as well as work from the 13th to the 18th century, including many pieces by Dutch masters, as well as an El Greco and 12 Titian paintings. On the second floor look for stunning paintings by Simone Martini (circa 1284–1344) and Caravaggio (1573–1610).
A leading Naples showpiece created as an expression of Bourbon power and values, the Palazzo Reale dates from 1600. Renovated and redecorated by successive rulers...
A leading Naples showpiece created as an expression of Bourbon power and values, the Palazzo Reale dates from 1600. Renovated and redecorated by successive rulers and once lorded over by a dim-witted king who liked to shoot his hunting guns at the birds in his tapestries, it is filled with salons designed in the most lavish 18th-century Neapolitan style. The Spanish viceroys originally commissioned the palace, ordering the Swiss architect Domenico Fontana to build a suitable new residence for King Philip III, should he ever visit Naples. He died in 1621 before ever doing so. The palace saw its greatest moment of splendor in the 18th century, when Charles III of Bourbon became the first permanent resident. The flamboyant Naples-born architect Luigi Vanvitelli redesigned the facade, and Ferdinando Fuga, under Ferdinand IV, created the Royal Apartments, sumptuously furnished and full of precious paintings, tapestries, porcelains, and other objets d'art.
To access these 30 rooms, climb the monumental Scalone d'Onore (Staircase). On the right is the Court Theater, built by Fuga for Charles III and his private opera company. Damaged during World War II, it was restored in the 1950s; note the resplendent royal box. Pass through three regal antechambers to Room VI, the Throne Room, the ponderous titular object dating to sometime after 1850.
In the Ambassadors’ Room, choice Gobelin tapestries grace the beige fabric walls and the ceiling honors Spanish military victories, painted by local artist Belisario Corenzio (1610–20). Room IX was bedroom to Charles's queen, Maria Cristina. The brilliantly gold private oratory has beautiful paintings by Francesco Liani (1760).
The Great Captain's Room has ceiling frescoes by Battistello Caracciolo (1610–16); all velvet, fire, and smoke, they reveal the influence of Caravaggio’s visit to the city. A wall-mounted, jolly series by Federico Zuccari depicts 12 proverbs.
Room XIII was Joachim Murat's writing room when he was king of Naples; brought with him from France, some of the furniture is courtesy of Adam Weisweiler, cabinetmaker to Marie Antoinette. The huge Room XXII, painted in green and gold with kitschy faux tapestries, is known as the Hercules Hall, because it once housed the Farnese Hercules, an epic sculpture of the mythological Greek hero. Pride of place now goes to the Sèvres porcelain.
The Palatine Chapel, also known as the Royal Chapel, redone by Gaetano Genovese in the 1830s, is gussied up with an excess of gold, although it has a stunning multicolor marble intarsia altar transported from a now-destroyed chapel in Capodimonte (Dionisio Lazzari, 1678). Also here is a Nativity scene with pieces sculpted by Giuseppe Sammartino and others. Another wing holds the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III. Starting out from Farnese bits and pieces, it was enriched with the papyri from Herculaneum found in 1752 and opened to the public in 1804. The sumptuous rooms can still be viewed, and there's a tasteful terrace that looks onto Castel Nuovo.
The newly opened Galleria del Tempo is a multimedia trip through the history of Naples, in the Bourbon stables.
Located at the top of Posillipo's hill, this small yet magical complex has a 1st-century villa and two amphitheaters; access is though the Grotta di...
Located at the top of Posillipo's hill, this small yet magical complex has a 1st-century villa and two amphitheaters; access is though the Grotta di Seiano, a 2,500-foot tunnel cut though the tufa rock over two millenia ago. Free guided tours (in Italian, book ahead) are given at 9:30 and 10:30, weekdays, with more detailed tours given at weekends. Evening concerts are often held here in the summer.
One of the Centro Storico's defining sites, this octagonal church was built around the corner from the Duomo for a charitable institution seven noblemen founded...
One of the Centro Storico's defining sites, this octagonal church was built around the corner from the Duomo for a charitable institution seven noblemen founded in 1601. The institution's aim was to carry out acts of Christian charity like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, nursing the sick, sheltering pilgrims, visiting prisoners, and burying the indigent dead—acts immortalized in the history of art by Caravaggio's famous altarpiece depicting the Sette Opere della Misericordia (Seven Acts of Mercy). Pride of place is given to the great Caravaggio above the altar.
Located 16 miles northeast of the city, the palace known as the Reggia shows how Bourbon royals lived in the mid-18th century. Architect Luigi Vanvitelli...
Located 16 miles northeast of the city, the palace known as the Reggia shows how Bourbon royals lived in the mid-18th century. Architect Luigi Vanvitelli devoted 20 years to its construction under Bourbon ruler Charles III, whose son, Ferdinand IV (1751–1825), moved in when it was completed in 1774. Both king and architect were inspired by Versailles, and the rectangular palace was conceived on a massive scale, with four interconnecting courtyards, 1,200 rooms, and a vast park. Though the palace is not as well maintained as its French counterpart, the main staircase puts the one at Versailles to shame, and the royal apartments are sumptuous. It was here, in what Eisenhower called "a castle near Naples," that the Allied High Command had its headquarters in World War II, and here that German forces in Italy surrendered in April 1945. There's a museum of items relating to the palace and the region. Most enjoyable are the gardens and parks, particularly the Cascades, adorned with sculptures of the goddess Diana and her maidens, and the landscaped English Garden at the far end. A shuttle bus will help you cover the 3-km (2-mile) path from the palace to the end of the gardens. You can also rent a bicycle just inside the park. Take the frequent—but slow—train service from Stazione Centrale. The palace is just across from the station. By car, leave the Naples-Caserta motorway at Caserta Sud and follow signs to the Reggia. Park in the underground lot opposite the palace.
The church of San Lorenzo features a very unmedieval facade of 18th-century splendor. Due to the effects and threats of earthquakes, the church was reinforced...
The church of San Lorenzo features a very unmedieval facade of 18th-century splendor. Due to the effects and threats of earthquakes, the church was reinforced and reshaped along Baroque lines in the 17th and 18th centuries. Begun by Robert d'Anjou in 1270 on the site of a previous 6th-century church, the church has a single, barnlike nave that reflects the Franciscans' desire for simple spaces with enough room to preach to large crowds. A grandiose triumphal arch announces the transept, and the main altar (1530) is the sculptor Giovanni da Nola's masterpiece; this is a copy of the original, now disappeared, pedestal. Also found here is the church's most important monument: the tomb of Catherine of Austria (circa 1323), by Tino da Camaino, among the first sculptors to introduce the Gothic style into Italy.
Via dei Tribunali 316, Naples, Campania, 80138, Italy
Long favored by the Aragonese kings, this church, simple and rather anonymous from the outside, houses some of the most important ensembles of Renaissance sculpture...
Long favored by the Aragonese kings, this church, simple and rather anonymous from the outside, houses some of the most important ensembles of Renaissance sculpture in southern Italy. Begun with the adjacent convent of the Olivetani and its four cloisters in 1411, it was given a Baroque makeover in the mid-17th century by Gennaro Sacco.
To the left of the Ligorio Altar is the Mastrogiudice Chapel, whose altar contains precious reliefs of the Annunciation and Scenes from the Life of Jesus (1489) by Benedetto da Maiano, a great name in Tuscan sculpture. On the other side of the entrance is the Piccolomini Chapel, with a Crucifixion by Giulio Mazzoni (circa 1550), a refined marble altar (circa 1475), a funerary monument to Maria d'Aragona by another prominent Florentine sculptor, Antonello Rossellino (circa 1475), and on the right, a rather sweet fresco of the Annunciation by an anonymous follower of Piero della Francesca.
Offering a stark and telling contrast to the opulence of the nearby Gesù Nuovo, Santa Chiara is the leading Angevin Gothic monument in Naples. The...
Offering a stark and telling contrast to the opulence of the nearby Gesù Nuovo, Santa Chiara is the leading Angevin Gothic monument in Naples. The fashionable house of worship for the 14th-century nobility and a favorite Angevin church from the start, the church of St. Clare was intended to be a great dynastic monument by Robert d'Anjou. His second wife, Sancia di Majorca, added the adjoining convent for the Poor Clares to a monastery of the Franciscan Minors so she could vicariously satisfy a lifelong desire for the cloistered seclusion of a convent. This was the first time the two sexes were combined in a single complex. Built in a Provençal Gothic style between 1310 and 1328 (probably by Gagliardo Primario) and dedicated in 1340, the church had its aspect radically altered, as did so many others, in the Baroque period. A six-day fire started by Allied bombs on August 4, 1943, put an end to all that, as well as to what might have been left of the important cycle of frescoes by Giotto and his Neapolitan workshop. The church's most important tomb towers behind the altar. Sculpted by Giovanni and Pacio Bertini of Florence (1343–45), it is, fittingly, the tomb of the founding king: the great Robert d'Anjou, known as the Wise. Nearby are the tombs of Carlo, duke of Calabria, and his wife, Marie de Valois, both by Tino da Camaino.
Around the left side of the church is the Chiostro delle Clarisse, the most famous cloister in Naples. Complemented by citrus trees, the benches and octagonal columns comprise a light-handed masterpiece of painted majolica designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, with a delightful profusion of landscapes and light yellow, azure, and green floral motifs realized by Donato and Giuseppe Massa and their studio (1742).
Designed by Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca and opened in 2012, this is the most impressive of the numerous Stazioni dell'Arte on the city's Metro...
Designed by Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca and opened in 2012, this is the most impressive of the numerous Stazioni dell'Arte on the city's Metro Linea 1. First archaeological remains, then mosaics by William Kentridge, lead to a 165-foot escalator descending below Robert Wilson's glittering oval Crater de Luz. A 560-foot corridor, connecting the station to the Quartieri Spagnoli, is lined with light-boxes depicting Razza Umana (Human Race) by Oliviero Toscani. Lauded by both CNN and Britain's Telegraph, it also won a prestigious ITA Tunneling Award in 2015. Information on guided tours, and detailed descriptions of artworks in the Linea 1 and 6 stations can be found on the station's website.
Dominican friars commissioned this Baroque, Greek cross–shape basilica, replete with majolica-tiled dome, in the early 17th century. The church acts as a small museum of...
Dominican friars commissioned this Baroque, Greek cross–shape basilica, replete with majolica-tiled dome, in the early 17th century. The church acts as a small museum of the era's Counter-Reformation art—the most flagrantly devotional school of Catholic art—and includes no less than five Luca Giordano altarpieces. Note Giovan Vincenzo Forli's 17th-century Circumcision on the left. Elsewhere, the richly decorated elevated presbytery, complete with a double staircase, provides a note of color in the mostly gray-and-white decoration. The stairs to the right of the crypt provide access to the Catacombe di San Gaudioso, with visits every hour 10 am--1 pm, which includes a visit to the Presepe Favoloso, an elaborate Nativity scene donated to the church by renowned artisans the Scuotto brothers in 2021.
Via della Sanità 124, Naples, Campania, 80136, Italy
The oldest castle in Naples, the 12th-century Castel dell'Ovo dangles over the Porto Santa Lucia on a thin promontory. Built atop the ruins of an...
The oldest castle in Naples, the 12th-century Castel dell'Ovo dangles over the Porto Santa Lucia on a thin promontory. Built atop the ruins of an ancient Roman villa, the castle these days shares its views with some of the city's top hotels. Its gigantic rooms, rock tunnels, and belvederes over the bay are among the most striking sights that Naples has to offer. Some rooms are given over to temporary art and photography shows.
You enter the castle through its main entrance, below its forbidding trio of cannons. On the right is a large picture of the castle in Renaissance times. Turn left and look through the battlements to the intimate Borgo Marinaro below. An elevator on the right ascends to the castle top, or you can also continue along the walkway overlooking the ramparts. The roof's Sala della Terrazze offers a postcard-come-true view of Capri. This is a peaceful spot for strolling and enjoying the views.
As for the castle's name, the poet Virgil is supposed to have hidden inside the villa an egg that had protective powers as long as it remained intact. The belief was taken so seriously that to quell the people's panic after Naples suffered an earthquake, an invasion, and a plague in quick succession, its monarch felt compelled to produce an intact egg, solemnly declaring it to be the Virgilian original.
Perched on the Vomero, this massive castle is almost the size of a small town. Built by the Angevins in the 14th century to dominate...
Perched on the Vomero, this massive castle is almost the size of a small town. Built by the Angevins in the 14th century to dominate the port and the old city, it was remodeled by the Spanish in 1537. The parapets, configured in the form of a six-pointed star, provide fabulous views. The whole bay lies on one side; on another, the city spreads out like a map, its every dome and turret clearly visible; to the east is slumbering Vesuvius. Once a major military outpost, the castle these days hosts occasional cultural events. Its prison, the Carcere alto di Castel Sant'Elmo, is the site of the Museo del Novecento Napoli, which traces Naples's 20th-century artistic output, from the Futurist period through the 1980s.
These catacombs—designed for Christian burial—date back at least as far as the 2nd century AD. This was where St. Gennaro's body was brought from Pozzuoli...
These catacombs—designed for Christian burial—date back at least as far as the 2nd century AD. This was where St. Gennaro's body was brought from Pozzuoli in the 5th century, after which the catacombs became a key pilgrimage center. The 45-minute guided tour of the two-level site takes you down a series of vestibules with frescoed niche tombs. Looming over the site is the imposing bulk of the early-20th-century Madre del Buon Consiglio church, whose form was apparently inspired by St. Peter's in Rome. Under the general site name of Catacombe di Napoli, these catacombs are now linked ticketwise with the Catacombe di San Gaudioso, in the Sanità district.
Via Capodimonte 13, Naples, Campania, 80136, Italy