Peculiarities and misterious places to discover in Napoli and Campania

This project aims to show to the guests and participants of the Universiade Napoli 2019 a side of our city and our region that is not always visible at first sight. So, we collected the most interesting and hidden sides of Naples and Campania, to show them beyond clichés.
Illuminated by the ray of mystery, Naples will caught the attention of everyone who wants to deepen the knowledge of one of the most fascinating Italian cities.

The project was carried out by Immacolata Levrano, Sara D'Agrosa and Simona Carosella (Extracurricular interns of "L'Orientale" University)

The Dolls Hospital is an ancient workshop in the historical centre of Naples that restores toys, in particular dolls. These ones are literally «treated and assisted» as real patients. The inventor was Luigi Grassi, a Neapolitan scenographer who opened his workshop in the second half of the 19th century in San Biagio dei Librai street, the heart of Naples. The tradition has been going on for four generations: the little workshop is now a museum, located in the courtyard of Palazzo Marigliano (very close to the ancient workshop location).
Getting into the museum, the visitor has the feeling to stay in a real Hospital with all dedicated wards: restroom, First Aid, veterinary surgery for stuffed animals, donations, dressing rooms, restoration, ophthalmology, orthopaedics.

                                                                              Where: Via San Biagio Dei Librai, 39, 80138 Napoli NA

Palazzo Mannajuolo is an historical building, located in Via Filangieri, a street in Chiaia district. It is an excellent example of liberty architecture with neo-baroque influences. It cannot be doubted that the staircase is the most important and fascinating part of the building: the majestic helicoidal marble staircase catches the visitor’s eye, involving him in a beautiful head-turning game. Its white spiral-shaped body is laterally enveloped by an ornamental wrought iron balustrade that reflects the baroque style.

Where: Via Gaetano Filangieri, 80132 Napoli NA

The Spinacorona Fountain is placed in Via Giuseppina Guacci Nobile, in the heart of Naples. Commonly, it is known as «the fountain of breasts» because in Neapolitan language “breast” is not just an anatomical part but it represents abundance, prosperity, well-being, happiness and health. In Naples, the Spinacorona Fountain is one of the rare examples of transition from the Medieval to the baroque style. It represents the Greek Siren Parthenope who is extinguishing Vesuvius fires with the water of her breasts. It would seem that Neapolitans prayed to the Siren to placate the Vesuvius rage. In addition, the ancient epigraph “Dum Vesuvii Syrena Incendia Mulcet” (the Siren’s beauty extinguishes the fire of Vesuvius) proves that the city of Naples was under Parthenope’s protection.

                                                                              Where: Via Giuseppina Guacci Nobile, 80138 Napoli NA

The only documented work by street artist Banksy in Italy is located in Piazza Gerolomini in Naples, close to Via dei Tribunali one of the most famous narrow streets of the historical center.

Where: Piazza Gerolomini, 84090 Napoli NA

The Fontanelle Cemetery is an ossuary located in a cave in the tuff hillside in the Materdei section of the city. The remains were interred and then joined in 1656 by thousands of anonymous corpses, victims of the great plague of that year. The last great "deposit" of the indigent dead seems to have been in the wake of the cholera epidemic of 1837. A spontaneous cult of devotion to the remains of these unnamed dead developed in Naples. Cult devotees would bring flowers and gifts as offerings for their chosen crania, and address them by name. In return for this doting care, the deceased would grant favours to their devotees, who would petition the skulls for assistance in a variety of forms – through dreams, direct conversation or by writing their requests on small slips of paper, which would be rolled up and inserted into the skulls’ eye sockets. They claimed to receive messages from the deceased in their dreams, and would then “adopt” whichever skull they believed had belonged to the spirit that had contacted them, becoming in effect a kind of caretaker of not just the remains but also the soul of the dead person. They would clean and care for their skulls, even constructing engraved marble shrines for them. These boxes might enclose a single skull, or multiples if the same person adopted more than one.

Where: Via Fontanelle, 80, 80136 Napoli NA

The small lake «Bagno di Fasilides» is placed in Mostra d'Oltremare. It is the accurate reconstruction of the «Gondar Castle» and its lake. Gondar was the ancient capital of the Ethiopian Empire, where the final battle of the Italian Campaign in Eastern Africa took place.

Where: Viale John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 54, 80125 Napoli NA

Between history and legend, Dracula is one of the most mysterious and interesting figure of the literary world. Her daughter Maria was brought to Naples as a child and married a young and rich Neapolitan. According to the reconstruction of events, the Count Vlad Tepes Dracula didn’t die in battle, but first he was imprisoned by the Turkish, and then released and brought to Naples by her daughter. When he died, he was buried in the city, and the grave is located in the Church of Santa Maria la Nova. The grave was believed to belong to Maria’s father in law, but we can clearly see on the marble of the tombstone a dragon, which is the symbol of the Order he was part of.

Where: Piazza Santa Maria la Nova, 44, 80134 Napoli NA

The big devotion for Saint Januarius casted a shadow over the first bishop of the Neapolitan Christian community, Saint Aspreno. The church dedicated to him is today incorporated in the Borsa palace in the homonymous square. Healed directly by Saint Peter, Aspreno is the protector of who suffers from headache. Inside the church there is a little altar with a hole in the middle, and as the legend tells us, putting the head inside it, headache can be healed forever. Moreover, it is said that the pharmaceutical company Bayern decided to call the famous pill «aspirina» in honour of Aspreno.

Where: Via S. Aspreno, 2, 80133 Napoli NA

This is a little jewel of our city, hidden compared with the other beauties. The cloister, annex to the convent of the same name, is made by a portico with a missing piece and a beautiful terrace made by Luigi Vanvitelli. Today it’s part of the Department of Politial Science of Federico II University, and it represents a quiet and welcoming place for the students to meet and study together.

Where: Largo S. Marcellino, 80138 Napoli NA

Piazza del Gesù is one of the most beautiful and popular squares of the historical center of Naples, a gathering place for young people ad tourists. But, what makes the square so fascinating and mysterious?

When you come in the square, you will notice, at first, the marble obelisk dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was built by the will of Jesuit and, on the top, it presents the statue of the Virgin Mary, that origins a curious mystery: if you look at it from a specific perspective, especially during the sunrise or the sunset, you can note a sort of double face. From behind, the veil that shrouds the head of the Virgin seems to be a stylized face, with a low gaze, looking as dark hooded figure, holding in his hand a scythe.

Legend says that this could be an optical effect created to honor the Mexican Santa Muerte. Others think that this is a masonic mystery or that comes from a religious mold.

But mysteries don’t end here: the church façade has a unusual aspect, because of the protruding stones, in the shape of diamond, composing the so called “bugnato”, on whose side some mysterious symbols are engraved. There are different theories about it: one of these is the will to attract positive energy in the building and to bring out negative ones. But, one of the most fascinating theory is about the interpretation of these signs as musical notes. Indeed, some researchers believed that these signs are Aramaic letters, representing the seven musical notes. Reading from right to left, looking at the building from the Fonseca pedagogic high school and from the Genovesi high school, from the top down, and converting the engravings into notes, they compose a melody of about forty-five minutes.

Moreover, during the Second World War a bomb was dropped from an airplane, hit the central nave but remained unexploded miraculously.

Apart from all these mysteries, however, the church is one of the most important examples of the Neapolitan Baroque, richly decorated by the most important artists of the city. In the church, you can find also most of the furniture, documents, objects and the corpse of San Giuseppe Moscati, the Doctor of poor men, canonized by John Paul II in 1987.

Where: Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, 2, 80134 Napoli NA

Another loved church by Neapolitans is Santa Maria Francesca church, especially because of the “chair of fertility”. The church placed in the Spanish Quarters, carries with it an old tradition, that is both sacred and profane, a sort of catholic myth according to whom sitting on the chair within the church, that once belonged to the Saint, women could ask for the blessing miracle of the fertility. A lot of women in the entire Italy and in the world, affirm that they received the miracle of maternity after sitting on the chair. Why a chair? It is believed that it symbolizes a specific posture, symbol of holding still, stopping before the confusion generated by the passion, the chaos of the impulse, instincts and find yourself again.

Where: Vico Tre Re a Toledo, 13, 80132 Napoli NA

D’Averno lake in Pozzuoli, formed in one of the crater of several dormant volcanoes, is wrapped in an aura of mystery, result of the many tales transmitted since the Greek myth to the present days.

Legend says that around its banks there was the gate of hell, a hypothesis that was re-evaluated by Virgilio and then by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy: Plutone kidnapped the beautiful Proserpina in Sicily and brought her, through the lake, in the world of the dead where she became the queen of Hades. Virgilio supposed that, always in that area, there was the cave of the Cumanean Sybil. Actually, it was a sort of underground steam that connected Lucrino lake and the Averno’s banks, a military work by the will of Agrippa.

Are you ready to go to hell?

Where: Pozzuoli city (between Lucrino and Cuma)

There are a lot of ghosts haunting the city of Naples, as well as the stories connected to them. One of the most “nice” and atypical is undoubtedly the ghost of a child that seems to roam around the famous “Gran Caffè Gambrinus”, in Trieste e Trento square, who doesn’t scare anyone, but she inspires only sweetness.

She wears typical clothes of the Nineteenth century, and for this reason we could think that probably she lived or died in that period. It is said that she goes around the Gambrinus tables, looking to steal sweeties and delicacies, taking advantage of distraction of the Cafè clients.

According to the tradition, the child prefers especially nougats. For this reason, it is easier to find her during the period of All Saints’ Day and during New Year's Eve. Probably, there is an explanation: dried fruit is considered dead’s food and it is tradition leaving fruits on tables as a gift for dear departed. Moreover, it is no coincidence that typical Neapolitan nougats are composed by walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, perfect for the young and glutton ghost.

Unfortunately, the origin and the story of the baby will remain a secret.

However, don’t forget to leave her a sweet when you will take a coffee at Gambrinus!

Where: Via Chiaia, 1/2, 80132 Napoli NA

The city of Benevento hides one of the most fascinating mystery of the Campania region. In fact, Benevento is well-known because of the witches able to perform incantations and hexes or to prepare magic potions. It is no coincidence that the city had a different name in the past: Maleventum.

It is said that Benevento’s witches met under an enormous walnut tree, beside the Sabato river’s banks where they venerated devil in the form of dog or goat. It seems that witches were “normal” during the day and then the transformation took place during the night. They sprinkle themselves with an unguent and after that they can take flight on a dried sorghum broom. Among witches there were the so called janare, with a distinctive mark: they were born on the Christmas night and acquire the power at seven years old.

Probably, legend took its origin from Iside pagan worship, Egyptian moon goddness, to whom Diocleziono dedicated a temple. Moreover, according to the tradition, near the Sabato river a goatskin was hung on a sacred tree in honor of Wotan and to gain its favor, galloping around the tree, trying to tear shreds of the skin that they would have eaten then.

Where: Benevento

Not everyone knows that mummies were found in some Italian villages and cities, having peculiar features. A special case is the “Zi Vicienzo Camuso” mummy, from Bonito (AV).

It is said that the mummy was found in the hypogeum of the Annunziata church during the demolition works realized after the Irpinia and Sannio earthquake on 21th August 1962. Its discovery caused a lot of stir among the population because of the state of preservation. It seems that the mummy dating back to 1588. We have no news about it, suffice to say that the name was given by the population of Bonito.

But the mystery is linked to the discovery of the mummy: it is said that the same year, in Venezuela, an Italian engineer went to a medium for seance. During the séance, the medium start speaking in bonitese dialect and said: “I am… Beato from Bonito, 47 graces by means of Padre Pio”, indicating the entombment place and inviting the Italian engineer to contact the mayor of the city, in order to discover his corpse. The Italian engineer makes it possible and the body of “Zi Vicienzo” was found in the Annunziata Church: it was 1962.

Even now, mummy represents an icon for Bonito’s population, who asks him for miracles.

                                                                      Where: Bonito (AV)

It is a ruin of an ancient and abandoned mill, in Varcaturo, near Naples, and locals call it “o mulino a viento” (windmill). It is better known as “Torre degli Incurabili” (incurable tower), it is not just a building used to grind the grain.

Dating back 1700, it was used as a mill, but the it changed its function. It became a lazaret, from which took the name, and then became a mental hospital. Torre degli Incurabili is linked to a lot of esoteric tales. In fact, the mill has a peculiar octagonal structure and it is decorated with geometrical figures, and it is closed by a pyramidal structure.

Moreover, it is said that the mill is populated not only by ghosts but also by strange creatures.

Where: Vicinale Torre degli Incurabili, 80014 Varcaturo NA

In the beautiful Villa D’Ayala in Valsa (SA), there is one of the most amazing places of Campania. Inside the park, dating from XVIII century, beyond enchanted pathways, there is the little Verzura Theatre. It is made of boxwood hedges, and among them there are marble human busts.

The evocative theatre is not the only beautiful thing of the Villa: in the park there are plenty of statues, some of them in what are called the «monsters cave», because of the terrifying figures in it. A walk through the Italian gardens and a visit at the castle will make everyone come into a beautiful and enchanting atmosphere.

Where:   Piazza della Rimembranza, 84020 Valva SA

In the d’Ansanto valley (AV) there is the fascinating Malvizza district. Here we can see an amazing vulcanic phenomenon, mud’s bubbles. Especially after rain, the mud bubbles in little craters, creating something similiar to a solfatara. According to the ancient people of Sannio, in this area lived the Godess of Hell Mefite. Malvizza district has been mentioned also by the great authors of the past, such as Plinio, Cicerone and Virgilio.

Where: Montecalvo Irpino (AV)

In Foresta, a fraction of Tora and Piccilli, a little city near Caserta, there is a track of some of the more ancient human footsteps ever found in Europe. Before knowing of their origin, the people of the land believed that the footsteps belonged to the Devil, that burned his feet while trying to drink at the near spring. They were called «ciampate» that is the dialectal form of «footsteps», and the name recalls the idea of something big and horrible. Only a few years ago, thanks to some scientists of the place, we came to know the truth about the footsteps.

Where: Via S. Andrea, 12, 81044 Foresta CE

Furore fiordo is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, crossed by the Schiato stream that glides from the Agerola upland. These deep inlets and cliffs are typical of Northen Europe, but in this case the fiordo shows Mediterranean features. In 1997 it was listed as part of Unesco’s World Heritage. In addition, Furore is one of the most beautiful Italian villages. Once, it hosted the ancient paper factories and the milling of wheat was one of the most important economical activities.

The Italian directors Fellini and Roberto Rossellini and the famous Italian actress Anna Magnani so much loved the Fiordo: for that reason, a lot of films took place in this amazing location.

Where: Furore (SA)

Vivara Island is very small and it comes from the circular crater of a extinct submerged volcano.

Originally, Vivara was linked to Procida Island by a crag, after replaced by a bridge of 362 metres. The small island is a naturalistic paradise: there you can see the Mediterranean scrub and enjoy a panoramic viewpoint of Capri, Ischia, Procida and Naples with Vesuvius on the background.

In spring and summer the island is a fixed destination for nightingales, rock thrushes, wheatears, marsh and melodious warblers, bluethroats.

Around the island the sea bottom has different depths and undersea meadows are very common.

Where: Procida Island (NA)

The Infreschi Bay was elected the most beautiful Italian beach in 2014. it is considered a jewel of the Cilento National Park. It is a corner of paradise and a natural port for tourists, expecially during summer. In the waters of the bay there is an incredible presence of dolphins, attracted by the great quantity of fish.

Where: Via Bolivar, 1, 84059 Marina di Camerota SA