Day 8 – Friday 29 December

Piazza Bovio After breakfast this morning at Ciro's I walked along the Corso Umberto from Piazza Garibaldi to Piazza Bovio (called Piazza Borse by the locals because the Bourse (stock exchange) is situated there). The fountain in the middle is again being moved (for the umpteenth time in its existence) to make way for a new metro station. On a street to the right there's a well-known pizzeria: L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Reputedly one of the city's oldest, it has been family-run for generations; the current padroni – Don Antonio and Don Luigi Condurro – were even delivered there. The two "Dons" make only two kinds of pizza. One, la margherita, has tomato sauce, fior di latte (cow's milk) mozzarella and basil. The other has neither cheese nor basil. If you want other toppings, you have to bring them yourself.

The Duomo

Further along on the Corso on the right is the via Duomo, site of the famous cathedral, the Duomo, dedicated to San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. Three times a year a container of his dried blood liquefies here, on the 19 September, the Saturday preceding the first Sunday in May and on the 16 December. The same thing happens to the dried blood of Saint Patricia, which is in the Santa Chiara convent, I think, on 25 August and every Tuesday morning, and used to happen to a few other saints in Naples (San Giovanni, San Stefano, San Pantaleone) and in Ravenna, on the nearby Amalfi coast, but one doesn't hear much about those nowadays. At one time Naples was known as L'Urbs sanguinum, the City of Bloods, on account of the three thousand-odd Christian martyrs whose relics were stored here.

Further up Via Duomo a temple dedicated to Mithras was excavated. This religion was an early rival of Christianity, and indeed the source of many of its beliefs.

A street on the left before the Duomo takes you to the Piazzetta del Grande Archivio, which contains an unusual-looking monument (though Naples is not exactly short of unusual-looking monuments) to Philippo IIII, an ancient boarded-up chapel, a handsome six-storey palazzo and the Archivio di Stato itself. The archive is housed in a former Benedictine convent – St. Benedict himself is said to have planted a tree in its grounds and his life is celebrated in a sequence of frescoes dating from the 16th century.

A walk across the Decumani – the ancient Greek street network – took me to a decent restaurant near Piazza Dante, one of several in around here and the nearby Piazza Bellini. I spent the rest of the afternoon in the second-hand bookshops and antique shops around the Piazza Bellini (below).

To previous day Greek walls at Piazza Bellini Next day