Month: June 2010

Madrid, Spain

A- Overview:

As a tourist destination, Madrid is filled with fascinating areas to explore. There are the wide, gracefully tree lined major avenues and boulevards, the trendy and cosmopolitan buildings, and, in contrast, the old areas that twist and wind with quaint streets and cozy cafes. Together, these combine to provide many days of discovery of the treasured past and the exciting present of Madrid.

Madrid is located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula and has served as the capital of Spain since 1562. Its southern and elevated location allows for warm, dry summers and cool winters, providing excellent traveling weather all year round.

One cannot help but notice a prominent green expanse on the map of Madrid. Parque Del Retiro is more than a nature walk. In fact, many visitors return several times during their stay for the wide variety of entertainment provided by street performers, boaters, skaters, and puppeteers.

The city offers many interesting museums, with the world-famous Prado National Museum leading the way. Housed in an 18th-century building, the Prado features the works of Rubens, Goya, El Greco, Bosch, Velazquez, Titian and many others. Madrid’s most famous contemporary art museum is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Its centerpiece is Picasso’s enormous antiwar masterpiece, Guernica. The highly acclaimed works of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection are displayed at the Villahermosa Palace.

The historic quarters of Madrid are filled with interesting sights and structures. Columns, arches, churches, fountains, even an Egyptian Temple await the traveler. The Madrid Card is a wise purchase, as it combines a transportation pass with free entry to various museums and attractions, among other discounts.

Madrid has hills and mountains in abundance for the climber and hiker. There are twenty local golf courses, some of which welcome nonmembers. Parque de Nieve is the amateur athlete’s dream. This is an indoor, artificial slope that can be configured with different terrains. There are separate areas for skiing, snowboarding and tubing, as well as an ice wall for climbers. Bicycling is also a popular sport, and bike trails are available. Spain’s national sport is futbol (soccer), and Madrid boasts three home teams. The season runs from September to June. A close second in the hearts of Madrilenos and Spaniards is the corrida (bullfight), for which the season is from March to October.

Madrid has impressive venues and well-regarded companies providing ballet, contemporary dance, orchestral concerts, opera, and theatrical productions. Shopping in Madrid is a delight. The shopping area of Serrano, just east of Paseo de la Castellana, is where shoppers will discover boutiques, home-decorating stores and stylish shops, including Chanel and Armani. Calle Ribera de Curtidores located in the heart of the Rastro market, has the largest concentration of antique shops in Madrid. The streets around Puerta del Sol form a more traditional (less exclusive) shopping area, where you can still find shops that have been in business since the 1800s.

Long lunches will be a necessity, as the rich variety of sights and sounds of this fabulous city require time for assimilation and reflection. Fortunately, to relax is to be Spanish. People sleep late. Shops seem to open and close of their own accord. Hundreds of restaurants, cafes and bars line the streets, not for the purpose of continuous eating and drinking, but because sociability and enjoyment of life as a community are cultural necessities. Lunch is more than a meal; in the right company, it can become an all-day activity.

Madrid by day is a social city, but the fun doesn’t end with the sunset. It is nearly impossible to describe Madrid’s unending list of evening activities. Nightspots in Madrid generally stay open until 4AM, giving visitors plenty of time to explore the excellent restaurants, tapas bars, open-air cafes, jazz and night clubs.

Most travelers arrive in Madrid with plans to stay for a day or two before striking out for other parts of Spain. Many, however, stay longer once they realize the infinite possibilities Madrid offers for fine cuisine, great sightseeing and shopping, outstanding sports venues, and a vacation to remember.

B- City Information:

Country: The Kingdom of Spain

Capital: Madrid

Time:
Spain uses Central European Time (CET). Hence, clocks are one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Currency:
Currency is the Euro (EUR). The notes are in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 euro. The denominations of coins are 2 euro, 1 euro, 50 euro cent, 20 euro cent, 10 euro cent, 5 euro cent, 2 euro cent, and 1 euro cent.

Weather: Spain has a temperate climate. The interior has clear, hot summers, while the coast is more moderate and cloudy. The interior generally has cloudy, cold winters, versus partly cloudy and cool along the coast.

Electricity:
Spain uses 220 volts AC and the continental-style plug. If your appliance has a 110/220-volt switch, all you will need is a plug adapter. Otherwise a current converter is required. Pay attention to sockets in bathrooms and on trains marked “Shavers Only!” While these put out 110 volts, they will burn out with a more powerful appliance.

Tipping:
Europe doesn’t have the same tipping customs as in the United States. Pay attention to menus and bills in restaurants; gratuity may already be included. If not, then a safe bet in Spain is 10% in restaurants. Porters should be tipped in smarter hotels.

Getting Around:
The Spanish rail company, RENFE, has a complicated listing of its three color-coded varieties of train services. On top of that, there are a growing number of private super high-speed lines. A good way to avoid lines and figure out the schedules is to buy tickets at travel offices. Spain accepts both InterRail and Eurail passes, but supplements are required for reserved seating and on the fastest trains.

Buses are reliable and comfortable; often they are the only way to reach small villages. Prices are steady at 1000 ptas per 100k (60 mi.). Bus service is drastically cut on Sundays and holidays.

Spaniards drive on the right. Major roads are good and traffic is calm (except for cities) overall. Speed limits are 60k/h (36mph) in built-up areas, 90-100 (54-60 mph) on other roads, and 120k/h (72mph) on highways.

Public transportation in cities is cheap and efficient. Routes change periodically, so get a free map at any station, as well as tickets. Help desks are open in some places; trust these before any handout. The buses and metros generally run from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Night buses are available, but taxis are faster and safer, as well as surprisingly cheap.

C- Attractions/Things To Do:

Royal Palace
Plaza de Oriente
248-7404
This massive 2,000 room Renaissance building is a fine example of classic Italian baroque style. While Charles III completed the palace in 1714, the square itself was designed by Joseph Bonaparte after his brother Napoleon conquered Spain. However, Napoleon’s final defeat cut short the French plan for a street inspired by the Champs Elysées. Madrid’s impressive opera house, completed in 1818 by Cuatodio Moreno, also makes for an interesting visit. The palace is open everyday, and tours are available to guide tourists though 50 rooms of art.

Museo del Prado
Paseo del Prado
420-3662
Built in 1785, the National Museum stands as one of the most beautiful neoclassic buildings in Madrid. Charles III commissioned Juan de Villanueva to begin construction on a museum of natural history in 1785. After the building served a stint as an arsenal during the wars against Napoleon, Ferdinand VII inaugurated it in 1819 as Madrid’s Museum of Art, consisting entirely of Spanish paintings. The Museum is now one of the elite art museums in the world with its collections of Goya, El Greco, Velázquez, Rubens, Titian, Tinoretto, Van Dyck, Hieronymus, Dürer, Veronese, Brueghel, Ribera, and Bosch. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza
Paseo del Prado, 8
420-3944
Inaugurated in 1993, this museum houses over 700 masterpieces of a private collection in the Villahermosa Palace. Open 10AM to 7PM, but closed on Mondays.

Centro de Arte Reina Sofia: National Museum Reina Sofía of Modern Art
Santa Isabel, 52.
67-5062
This contemporary building completes the “Arts Triangle of Prado” by focusing on modern masters including Joan Miro, Picasso, and Dali. The Museum is open 10AM to 9PM, but closed on Tuesdays.

Plaza Mayor
Many travelers miss this square. Don’t be one of them! This is perhaps the most architecturally and historically significant spot in Madrid. Philip III built this perfectly preserved arcaded square between 1617 and 1619 as the public meeting place of his new capital and to increase the prestige of his country. A statue of the king stands in the center. Renaissance styling dominates the surrounding buildings. Here kings were crowned, the Inquisition worked is terrors, men fought bulls, guilds held meetings, celebrants held festivals, and protestors held demonstrations. The square still serves the public today. It fills with stages for theater and music are set up during the summer and serves as a bazaar in preparation for the winter holiday season.

Parque del Retiro
Madrid’s biggest and most famous park was founded in 1631. Visitors often find themselves returning here for the fountains, statues, and great paths through 330 acres of trees and gardens. Rental rowboats are available on the picturesque lake. Street theater is an ever-changing attraction. The park is also home of the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), a beautiful metal and glass building built in 1887 to shelter exotic plants from the winter weather.

Soccer
Sports fans can catch a match at the Estadio Bernabeu, the stadium in the North section of the city. Real Madrid and the national Spanish team play here.

D- Family Fun Attractions:

Royal Palace
Plaza de Oriente
248-7404
This massive 2,000 room Renaissance building is a fine example of classic Italian baroque style. While Charles III completed the palace in 1714, the square itself was designed by Joseph Bonaparte after his brother Napoleon conquered Spain. However, Napoleon’s final defeat cut short the French plan for a street inspired by the Champs Elysées. Madrid’s impressive opera house, completed in 1818 by Cuatodio Moreno, also makes for an interesting visit. The palace is open everyday, and tours are available to guide tourists though 50 rooms of art.

Plaza Mayor
Many travelers miss this square. Don’t be one of them! This is perhaps the most architecturally and historically significant spot in Madrid. Philip III built this perfectly preserved arcaded square between 1617 and 1619 as the public meeting place of his new capital and to increase the prestige of his country. A statue of the king stands in the center. Renaissance styling dominates the surrounding buildings. Here kings were crowned, the Inquisition worked is terrors, men fought bulls, guilds held meetings, celebrants held festivals, and protestors held demonstrations. The square still serves the public today. It fills with stages for theater and music are set up during the summer and serves as a bazaar in preparation for the winter holiday season.

Parque del Retiro
Madrid’s biggest and most famous park was founded in 1631. Visitors often find themselves returning here for the fountains, statues, and great paths through 330 acres of trees and gardens. Rental rowboats are available on the picturesque lake. Street theater is an ever-changing attraction. The park is also home of the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), a beautiful metal and glass building built in 1887 to shelter exotic plants from the winter weather.

Soccer
Sports fans can catch a match at the Estadio Bernabeu, the stadium in the North section of the city. Real Madrid and the national Spanish team play here.

E- Events & Enterainment:

January – New Years Day
Like the rest of the world, New Year’s is one of the biggest celebrations in Madrid. Up to 40 million people crowd into the Puerta del Sol and try to eat 12 grapes in sync to the big clock striking midnight. Those that successfully munch down their handful of grapes can expect good luck for the coming year. After midnight, the city blooms into a huge party that never seems to stop.

January 5th
Like the rest of Spain, the people of Madrid celebrate the procession of the three Magi. The Magi stand as the Spanish alternative to Santa Claus by bringing gifts to children the next morning.

May 15th
Fiesta de San Isidro is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of Madrid. This is one the best times to come to Madrid, as the city offers numerous concerts, theatre, and other forms of public entertainment. The best bullfights of the season are held at this time.

July and August
Veranos de la Villa, (Summer in the Village) is held during this time in the town hall for a series of cultural events.

August 6th-15th
Popular customs are displayed with traditional costumes and dances during the festival Verbena de la Paloma.

September
The concert-houses and theaters wind up the season this month with their best performances

November
Madrid holds its annual International Jazz-Festival. Also held this month are the traditional Fiestas de la Almudena.

December
Plaza Mayor becomes the location for the traditional festival and judging of Christmas cribs.

Krakow, Poland

A- Overview:
Ask a Pole which city a visitor should choose first, and the answer will no doubt be Krakow. At the pinnacle of Polish culture and heritage, Krakow enchants visitors from the moment they arrive.
Krakow was the Capital of Poland until the end of the 16th century. During its 500-year reign, Krakow accumulated some of the most eclectic, romantic, and strikingly beautiful architecture in Europe. It is still, unquestionably, the Polish capital of culture, as confirmed by its recent designation as a European City of Culture.

Look carefully at those buildings in the square. Thanks to a surprise appearance by the Red Army at the end of World War II, Krakow escaped the Reich’s planned destruction. An examination of the doorways and arches will reveal their 800 year-old history.

There always seems to be something else to explore. There are over 40 churches in the city center alone, ancient fortifications, and the Wawel Castle, often described as the personification of Poland.

Krakow possesses a laid-back old-world mentality. Most people begin their visit in the “rynek”. As the largest city square in Europe, the rynek is always filled with activity. Poles and visitors alike wander the shady cafes, visit the 13th century market place, buy flowers, watch the street performers, and simply stroll around.

Dozens of Museums await discovery in one of the largest University cities in Europe.

Hundreds of cafes and restaurants open early and serve late, so no one needs to worry about feeling hungry. Krakow bustles with commerce. Every shop overflows with products and offers a shopper’s paradise. During summer months the rynek becomes an open market place for antiques and collectibles.

While Krakow alone could consume an entire vacation, it also serves as a perfect base for many day trips and excursions. North of Krakow is Skala National Park, a terrific place to take in the natural beauty of the area. To the south, is the mountain city of Zakopane, a prime destination for skiing in the winter, and a busy place for hiking in the summer. An hour away lies the city of Czestohowa, the location of the Black Madonna and destination of countless pilgrimages from around the world.

Many visitors, however, become enamored of Krakow’s romantic streets and atmosphere and prefer to extend their stay right there. Slow and easy: that’s the Cracovian way.

B- City Information:

Country: Republic of Poland

Capital: Warsaw

Time: Poland uses Central European Time (CET). Hence, clocks are one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Currency: Poland joined the European Union in May of 2004. However, while negotiations continue to finalize the agreements, the currency remains based on the zloty and not the euro. . 1 zloty = 100 groszy

Weather:
The Arctic wind and Southern Sahara wind converge over Poland, allowing sudden shifts in weather from day to day. Spring and autumn illustrate this phenomenon best. Often a rainy day is followed by sun, and later even by snow. Never fear, though. Temperatures rarely dip into the 40s during these seasons. Blue skies and warm nights characterize summer, and besides the occasional afternoon shower, are very consistent. Expect high 70s to high 80s. Winter usually brings snow in late November, with thicker drifts to the South. Temperatures hang around 15 degrees, but can be much colder in the mountains. Contrary to popular belief, Poland rarely has “Russian” winters.

Custom Regulations:
Everyone entering Poland must have a valid passport. US citizens do not need visas for stays up to three months.

Banking Hours:
Banks are generally open between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Some are open to 6 p.m.

Electricity:
Poland uses 220 volts AC and the continental-style plug. If your appliance has a 120/240-volt switch, all you will need is a plug adapter. Otherwise a current converter is required.

Tipping:
Tipping is a new and undefined custom in Poland. Unless you agreed with the driver on a price earlier, taxi fairs should be rounded up. Bartenders and waiters in cafes and don’t expect a tip, but some people choose to leave the change. Not all Poles do it, but waiters in restaurants would appreciate 10-15%.

Getting Around:
Poles drive on the right. American licenses are valid for one year.

All cities have well-planned public transit systems, and Krakow takes the lead. Get a city map for current routes. Poland works on a punch-ticket system. Get tickets at kiosks or from the bus/tram driver for a small fee. Punch the ticket immediately upon boarding in one of the several machines near the doors. A ticket must be punched for each item of luggage, even large backpacks.

Taxi ranks are packed, and Krakow has some of the cheapest rates in all of Poland.

Trains While the main train station in Kraków (Kraków Glówny) is one of the most elegant and clean stations in Poland, it has an unusual layout. In order to reach the tracks from the ticket windows it is necessary to exit the building and walk north. Remember that the access through to the tracks is via an underground tunnel.

Buses generally run between the same places as trains, but are slower. Exception: while the train requires 4 hours between Kraków and Zakopane, the bus ride lasts only two. It may be necessary to take a bus in order to visit some towns in the East.

C- Attractions/Things To Do:

Wawal Castle
It will seem like no time once you wander the half-mile to Wawel hill and the royal castle sitting on top. Everyone goes to the castle during his or her visit in Krakow. And why shouldn’t you? First traces of inhabitance on the hill date back to 50,000BC. In the 10th century Krakow already stood as an important base of power. It became the capital shortly thereafter. Admission is free to the castle and cathedral. However, it is necessary to purchase a ticket for the museum, tombs, and the Lost Wawel exhibit. Everything is free on Sunday. Get there early.
Wawel Cathedral
Also known as St. Stanislas Cathedral, this eclectically styled building may not resemble a house of God from the outside, but its Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic interior are striking. The Cathedral houses many tombs of Polish kings, queens, and heroes. Also inside are accesses to the royal tombs and Sigismund’s Bell. Visitors who want more detailed information can purchase the guidebook for a few cents. Pope John Paul II was ordained into the priesthood here in 1946.

The Cathedral Museum (Muzeum Katedralne)
2 Wzgórze Wawelskie
0-12-422-26-43.
More artifacts from the Cathedral, including some of Pope John Paul II’s personal objects. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.

Sigismund’s Bell
The wooden staircase may seem a little antiquated, but that is because it has been in place for many years and will remain so for many more generations. The bell is too large to ring on a regular basis. The last time it rang was during the Pope’s visit. The tower offers wonderful views of the old city and an interesting perspective of the suburb Nowa Huta. Touch the hammer of the bell for good luck. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.

Royal Tombs
These are not to be confused with the coffins in the Cathedral. You know you’ve reached the tombs by the cold subterranean air. Inside are several well known personages: St, Stanislas (the Patron Saint of Poland), Queen Hedwig (Jadwiga), and several historically important figures, including Pilsudski. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.

Royal Museum
Wander through the living quarters of the various kings and queens. The throne room is the grandest of these rooms. Be sure to look at the ceiling, which is covered with carved faces of members of the general public. Other rooms display furniture, paintings, and huge tapestries in various states of restoration. Often there are medieval-style bands playing thoughout the exhibit.

Treasury and Armory
The museum houses over 1000 artifacts that no self-respecting Renaissance man would want to be without. The exhibits include weapons, armor, and the spoils of various “explorations.” Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday 9.30 – 3PM, Friday 9:30 – 4PM, Sun 10:00 – 3PM. Like many museums in Eastern Europe, the treasury and armory is closed Monday.

Lost Wawel
An exhibit exploring the unearthed ruins of the original structures on the hill. Begin with the models illustrating the development of Krakow, and end up taking the elevated walkway around the first church in Krakow, the 10th century Rotunda of the Virgin Mary. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 9:30 – 3PM, Fri 9:30 – 4PM, Sunday 10:00 – 3PM. Closed on Tuesdays.

The National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe):
Budynek Glówny (Main building)
1, 3-Maja Ave.
(0-12)634-33-77
This large, building houses the much more interesting Gallery of Decorative Art, The Gallery of 20th-Century Polish Art, and displays arms and uniforms of Poland.

Gallery of Painting at the Cloth Hall (Galeria Sukiennice)
1/3 Rynek Gówny
(0-12)422-11-66
Just to the side of the East entrance of the Cloth Hall is a heavy iron-studded door. Pass through and climb up the winding marble staircase to view some of the best 18th and 19th century large-scale paintings. Admission is free on Sunday.

The House of Jan Matejko (Dom Jana Matejki)
ul. Florianska 47
(0-12)422-59-26
Few people outside Poland are familiar with this artist and writer, but this biographical museum allows for another opportunity to view classic Polish art and architecture.

The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow (Muzeum Historyczne m. Krakowa)
35 Rynek Gówny Sq.
(0-12)422-99-22
Head down the long hallway and take the stairway on your left. This museum offers the best opportunity to understand the complex but fascinating history of the development of Krakow. A combination of original paintings, weapons, furniture, and detailed models make it so easy to understand that you won’t even need the English translations.

The Museum of Polish Aviation (Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego)
al. Jana Pawa II 17
(0-12)412-78-55
You won’t find this museum in any guidebook. In fact, few of the natives even know of its existence. It is only a 15 minute tram ride from the center, but the complicated path to the entrance can be confusing, so be sure to check your map. The Museum houses hundreds of original aircraft, from pre-war (WWI!) observers to a field full of MIGs to a one-of-a-kind jet-powered cropduster.

Czartoryski Museum
ul. Úw. Jana 19
(0-12) 422-55-66
Poland was a powerful and wealthy kingdom that held its own for centuries against the Prussians, Swedes, and Turks. The proof lies in this museum, with displays of ornate personal items, weapons, a huge room with Egyptian and Roman artifacts, Rembrandt’s “Good Samaritan” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine.” Open 10 – 3:30. Friday until 6. Closed on Monday. Admission is free on Sunday.

Archidiocesian Museum (Muzeum Archidiecezjalne)
ul. Kanonicza 19
(0-12)421-89-63
Have you already seen all the churches in Krakow? Well, take a break and visit where the Pope lived, twice. Before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyua lived here first as a young priest, and later in a much grander room after he became bishop. This is not to be missed during your pilgrimage. Open 10 – 3PM. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Jewish Museum – Old Synagogue (Muzeum Judaistyczne – Stara Synagoga)
ul. Szeroka 24
(0-12)422-09-62
Located in Kazimierz, this 500 year-old synagogue includes both displays of ceremonial objects, personal effects, and the period of Nazi oppression. Miraculously, the synagogue survived the occupation.

Jagiellonian University Museum
ul. Jagielloñska 15
(0-12)422-05-49
This is one of the original buildings of the University founded by King Kazimierz in 1364. Nicolas Copernicus enrolled here in 1492 and, ironically, began his own studies of the Earth’s rotation. The museum houses many of his astronomical devices and the World’s oldest globe to depict the American continents. Open 11 to 5PM. Closed Sunday.

Wieliczka Salt Mine (Kopalnia Wieliczka)
ul. Danilowicza 10
(0-12)278-73-02 (0-12)278-73-66
Approximately 12 miles from the center of Krakow, this mine has been in continuous use for over 800 years. Tours through this UNESCO world heritage monument last 3 hours, allowing visitors to see the salt sculptures that miners have carved over the years. The tour also includes a visit to the underground lake, the room used by the Germans during WWII to build aircraft, and the 600 seat capacity ballroom.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oswiecimiu)
ul. Wiezniów Oswiecimia 20
32-620 Oswiecim
(0-33)843-20-22
This museum is one hour from Krakow, with frequent tour groups and trains leaving everyday. This is no doubt a once in a lifetime experience that changes many people’s lives. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979, and the final scene in “Shindler’s List,” it was the site of 3 million murders between 1941 and 1945. Admission is always free, but you may pay for a tour guide if you prefer. A bus takes you between the original Auschwitz prison and the huge Birkenau concentration camp. Until a few years ago, no one under 13 was allowed admittance. Parents, however, are still cautioned. The museum is open everyday from 8AM, but closing times vary from 3PM in the winter to 7PM in June, July, and August.

D- Family Fun Attractions:

Wawal Castle
It will seem like no time once you wander the half-mile to Wawel hill and the royal castle sitting on top. Everyone goes to the castle during his or her visit in Krakow. And why shouldn’t you? First traces of inhabitance on the hill date back to 50,000BC. In the 10th century Krakow already stood as an important base of power and became the capital shortly there after. Admission is free to the castle and cathedral. However, it is necessary to purchase a ticket for the museum, tombs, and the Lost Wawel exhibit. Everything is free on Sunday. Get there early.
Wawel Cathedral
Also known as St. Stanislas Cathedral, this eclectically styled building may not resemble a house of God from the outside, but its Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic interior suddenly strike visitors. The Cathedral houses many tombs of various Polish kings, queens, and heroes. Also inside are accesses to the royal tombs and Sigismund’s Bell. Visitors who want more detailed information can purchase the guidebook (50¢). Pope John Paul II was ordained into the priesthood here in 1946.

Sigismund’s Bell
Don’t be afraid of the rickety wooden staircase. It’s been there longer than you, and will remain for many generations. The bell is too large to ring on a regular basis. The last time was during the Pope’s visit. The tower offers wonderful views of the old city and an interesting perspective of the suburb Nowa Huta. Touch the hammer of the bell for good luck. Open 9AM-3PM. Noon-3PM Sundays.

Royal Museum
Wander through the living quarters of the various kings and queens. The throne room is the grandest of these rooms. Be sure to look at the ceiling, which is covered with carved faces of the general public. Other rooms display furniture, paintings, and huge tapestries in various states of restoration. Keep your ears open, as often there are medieval-style bands playing though out the exhibit.

Treasury and Armory
The museum houses over 1000 artifacts that no self-respecting Renaissance man would leave at home. The exhibits include weapons, armor, and the spoils of various “explorations.” Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday 9.30 – 3PM, Friday 9:30 – 4PM, Sun 10:00 – 3PM. Like many museums in Eastern Europe, the treasury and armory is closed Monday.

Lost Wawel
An exhibit exploring the unearthed ruins of the original structures on the hill. Begin with the models illustrating the development of Krakow, and end up taking the elevated walkway around the first church in Krakow, the 10th century Rotunda of the Virgin Mary. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 9:30 – 3PM, Fri 9:30 – 4PM, Sunday 10:00 – 3PM. Closed on Tuesdays.

The National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe )
Budynek Glówny (Main building)
1, 3-Maja Ave.
(0-12)634-33-77
This large, uninspiring building houses the much more interesting Gallery of Decorative Art, The Gallery of 20th-Century Polish Art, and displays arms and uniforms in Poland.

The Historical Museum of the City of Cracow (Muzeum Historyczne m. Krakowa )
35 Rynek Gówny Sq.
(0-12)422-99-22
Don’t be fooled by the heavy remodeling in the entrance. Head down the long hallway and take the stairway on your left. This museum offers the best opportunity to understand the complex but fascinating history of the development of Krakow. A combination of original paintings, weapons, furniture, and detailed models make it so easy to understand that you won’t even need the English translations.

The Museum of Polish Aviation (Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego)
al. Jana Pawa II 17
(0-12)412-78-55
You won’t find this museum in any guidebook. In fact, few of the natives even know of its existence. It’s only a 15 minute tram ride from the center, but the complicated path to the entrance doesn’t help, so be sure to check your map. The Museum houses hundreds of original aircraft, from pre-war (WWI!) observers to a field full of MIGs to a one-of-a-kind jet-powered cropduster. The museum is going under intense English translation, but if your really lucky, you’ll get a personal tour by the museum director.

Jagiellonian University Museum
ul. Jagielloñska 15
(0-12)422-05-49
This is one of the original buildings of the University founded by King Kazimierz in 1364. Nicolas Copernicus enrolled here in 1492 and, ironically, began his own studies of the Earth’s rotation. The museum houses many of his astronomical devices and the World’s oldest globe to depict the American continents. Open 11 to 5PM. Closed Sunday.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
ul. Danilowicza 10
(0-12)278-73-02 (0-12)278-73-66
Approximately 12 miles from the center of Krakow, this mine has been in continuous use for over 800 years. Tours through this UNESCO world heritage monument last 3 hours, allowing visitors to see the salt sculptures that miners have carved over the various years. The tour also includes a visit to the underground lake, the room used by the Germans during WWII to build aircraft, and the 600 seat capacity ballroom. Don’t believe that EVERYTHING is made out of salt? Go ahead and lick.

Las Wolski (Zoo)
A short ride into the National forest instantly erases any evidence that you are in a major industrial area. The Zoo is a Krakow favorite on the weekend, but never too crowded. Admission is roughly one dollar. Expect to find the doors closed at sundown. Old Communist style bars and cages allow visitors to get REALLY close to the animals.

E- Events & Entainment:

April:
The Lajkonik Festivity
Every first Thursday following Corpus Christi a man dons a hobbyhorse costume and leads a parade through the streets of Kraków. Legend has it, that a soldier defeated a Turk several hundred years ago, and in celebration, he put on his opponent’s outfit and pranced through the streets. The current tradition dates back to 1904, and continues strongly today.
June 23 & 24:
Floating of the Wreaths
Every year during the name days of John and Wanda, Cracovians gather along the banks of the river near the castle. In a carnival atmosphere, people release wreaths into the water during a fireworks display.

December:
The Crib Exhibition
On December 1st, Krakow begins preparation for Christmas by erecting small huts throughout the square. Various shopkeepers, who sell beautiful ornaments and other small gifts, rent these little shacks. However, the real treat is the competition between crib designers. Most are traditionally modeled after the historic buildings of Kraków, and the best are bought by the city.

Naples, Italy

A- Overview:
Naples is a city of warmth and enthusiasm. Its ambience is passionate and intense. In fact, Naples retains a reputation as the most vibrant city in Italy.

Naples stretches out along the scenic Bay of Naples from Piazza Garibaldi in the east to Mergellina in the west. At its back is lofty Vomero Hill. From Stazione Centrale, on Piazza Garibaldi, Corso Umberto I (known as the “Rettifilo”), a walking tour would head southwest to the monumental city center, around the piazzas Bovio, Municipio, and Trieste e Trento to the Palazzo Reale, Teatro San Carlo, and Galleria Umberto Primo. Central Naples is best explored on foot, as traffic jams of all sorts are commonplace. It is wise to take a bus or cable car (funicular) to a general area and then proceed on foot.

To the north are the historic districts of old Naples, to the south lies the port. Farther west along the bay are the fashionable neighborhoods of Santa Lucia and Chiaia, and finally the waterfront district of Mergellina. The residential area of Vomero sits on the steep hills rising above Chiaia and downtown. At the center is the picturesque quarter of Spaccanapoli, the heart of the historic center.

The area surrounding Naples has a Greco-Roman history. The Greeks set out to Hellenize Italy’s southern regions in the 6th and 7th centuries BCE by settling at Cumae. Later, the Romans inhabited the area. Both groups left ruins of archeological significance. The area west of Naples is known as the Campi Flegrei: literally, the fields of fire. These were described by the ancient Greeks as the entrance to Hades and were immortalized in literature as the “Elysian Fields”, a paradise for the deserving dead. Italy’s two major seismic faults intersect at that point, and the whole area floats freely on a mass of molten lava very close to the surface.

From Naples, visitors can travel down the coast to Pompei and the Sorrento Peninsula, both of which can be reached by train. A boat trip to Sorrento gives the opportunity for a spectacular view of Naples from the sea. Other side trips that should not be missed are to the slopes of Vesuvius where once flourished the upscale, first century city of Pompeii; the archeological site at Herculaneum, and the lovely islands of Capri and Ischia. These tiny islands with their scenic beauty, picturesque villages, and crystal clear waters welcome more than two million visitors annually.

Neapolitan cuisine is famous worldwide, and ranks among the best in Italy. There is a strong emphasis on the freshest fish and seafood and local fruits and vegetables form the fertile volcanic soil of the region. Local wines of note are Lacryma Christi and Greco di Tufo. Limoncello is a delicately flavored lemon liqueur that is made all along the neighboring coast.

Dining in a Neapolitan restaurant is traditionally a festive occasion accompanied by a wide variety of savory pasta and thin crusted, tasty pizza dishes baked in wood-fired ovens. Although pizza, pasta, and seafood dishes are the symbols of Neapolitan cuisine, Naples is also known for its fine cheeses (including mozzarella), and its delicious ice cream and superb pastries. Numerous salamis and excellent locally produced prosciutto round out the wide array of culinary possibilities.

The finest shopping area lies around Piazza dei Martiri and along Via dei Mille, Via Calabritto, Via Toledo, and Via Chiaia. Along these streets can be found outlets fo Italy’s top designers, as well as local stores selling fine leather goods. There is more commercial shopping between Piazza Trieste e Trento and Piazza Dante. Jewelers abound near Via San Biagio as do the crafters of traditional nativity figurines.

Coral is much sought after by collectors. Much of the coral is now sent to Naples from Thailand, but it’s still shaped into fine jewelry at the workrooms at Torre del Greco, on the outskirts of Naples, off the Naples-Pompeii highway. Cameos are also made there.

In recent years, Naples has made world headlines for its cultural renaissance and its proactive stance against crime. The mayor received a national government grant of $30 million to make Naples safer and more to enhance its appearance, and has been aided by a group of concerned citizens who since 1984 have consistently collected funds for the upkeep of the city’s treasures and monuments. The result of this widespread project has been a resurgence of cultural activity among the city’s musicians, writers, moviemakers, artists, and playwrights. The Neapolitan art scene has been revitalized.

Film companies, following in the footsteps of Neapolitan directors such as Francesco Rossi and Gabriele Salvatore, are choosing to shoot in Naples once again. Neapolitan writers are gaining increasing recognition, especially Ermanno Rea for Mistero Napolitano and Gabriele Frasca for his poems. Naples is now becoming popular with a younger generation, especially those from countries to the north. They flood into the city and lend it a new vitality.

Naples, the birthplace of both Sophia Loren and Enrico Caruso, is host to the entire spectrum of entertainment offerings. Restaurants traditionally have musicians serenading their patrons, classical music and opera are high on the list at Teatro San Carlo with performances from October through May. Rock groups are born in Naples on a regular basis, yet at the same time, interest in traditional Neapolitan music is increasing. Founded by a group of young Neapolitans, the Falso Movimento troupe has brought new life to the city’s theatrical scene. The hippest night life is said to be at the bars and cafes on Piazza Bellini, near Piazza Dante.

In a word, Naples is a friendly place. It has the feel of coming home to a place of beauty and timelessness that is at the same time in a perpetual state of excitement and celebration of life.

B- City Information:
Population: 993,386

Time Zone: UTC/GMT +1 hour (+ 1 more hour from the end of March-the end of October for Daylight saving time). The time is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard or Eastern Daylight Time. When it is noon in New York City, it is 6PM in Naples.

Average Temperatures:

Month
High
Low

January
53F
40F

February
55F
41F

March
59F
44F

April
65F
48F

May
72F
54F

June
79F
61F

July
84F
65F

August
84F
65F

September
79F
61F

October
71F
54F

November
63F
48F

December
56F
44F

When to Visit:

Naples experiences late summer heat waves and vacationing crowds. . Any other time of year is less congested and has a more temperate climate. Summer is also the worst time for ascents to Vesuvius as the best visibility occurs around spring and fall In winter, the temperatures are and rain is rare. The best times are May-June and September-October. Due to the temperate climate, bougainvillea and other flowers can bloom through Christmas, and swimming is possible (though less popular from October-May) year-round. August, when much of the population is on the move, especially around Ferragosto, Vacations are usually taken around the time of the August 15 national holiday. In August, cities are deserted and many restaurants and shops are closed.

Holidays

National holidays include

New Year’s Day (January 1)

Epiphany (January 6)

Easter Sunday and Monday (dates vary)

Liberation Day (April 25)

Labor Day or May Day (May 1)

Festival of the Republic (June 2)

Assumption of Mary, better known as Ferragosto (August 15)

All Saints’ Day (November 1)

Immaculate Conception (December 8)

Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26)

In Naples, two annual celebrations are held at the Duomo on the first Sunday in May and on September 19 to celebrate the Festa di San Gennaro.

Telephones

The country code for Italy is 39. The area code for Naples is 081. For example, a call from New York City to Naples would be dialed as 011 + 39 + 081 + phone number.

When dialing an Italian number from abroad, do not drop the initial 0 from the local area code as in the past.

Directory & Operator Information

For general information in English, dial 176. To place international telephone calls via operator-assisted service, dial 170 or long-distance access numbers.

International Calls

The country code for the United States and Canada is 1; for Australia, 61; for New Zealand, 64; and for the United Kingdom, 44.

Smoking

In 2002, laws were enacted in Italy banning smoking in many public places, including bars and restaurants. Some smokers comply with the new rules; others don’t. Large restaurants are more likely to be smoke-free. If you are a smoker, check to see if there’s a “Vietato Fumare” (No Smoking) sign before lighting up. All FS trains have no-smoking cars: always specify when you make reservations.

Getting There

By Air

Domestic flights from Rome and other major Italian cities fly into Aeroporto Capodichino, Via Umberto Maddalena (tel. 081-7896259), 6km (3 3/4 miles) north of the city. A city ANM bus (no. 14) makes the 15-minute run between the airport and Naples’s Piazza Garibaldi in front of the main rail terminus. Flying time is 1 1/2 hours from Milan, 1 1/4 hours from Palermo or Venice, and 50 minutes from Rome.

By Train

Frequent trains connect Naples with the rest of Italy. One or two trains per hour arrive from Rome, taking 2 1/2 hours. It’s also possible to reach Naples from Milan in about 8 hours.

The city has two main rail terminals: Stazione Centrale, at Piazza Garibaldi, and Stazione Mergellina, at Piazza Piedigrotta. Most travelers will arrive at Stazione Central. For general rail information, call tel. 892021 toll-free in Italy.

Almost all trains to Naples stop at Stazione Centrale (Piazza Garibaldi, 848/888088.)

By Car

Driving to Naples is easy, but driving in Naples is a challenge. The Rome-Naples autostrada (A2) passes Caserta 29km (18 miles) north of Naples, and the Naples-Reggio di Calabria autostrada (A3) runs by Salerno, 53km (33 miles) north of Naples.

By ferry

From Sicily, you can take a ferry to Naples that’s run by Tirrenia Lines, Calata Marinai d’Italia, Porto di Palermo (tel. 199-123199 or 091-6021111) in the port area of Palermo.

Getting Around

Public Transportation: The Metropolitana (subway) line runs from Stazione Centrale in the east to Stazione Mergellina and even beyond to the suburb of Pozzuoli. Get off at Piazza Piedigrotta if you want to take the funicular to Vómero. The Metro uses the same tickets as buses and trams.

Trams and subways are the safest and fastest mode of transportation during rush hours.

The other urban subway system, Metropolitana Collinare, currently links the hill area of the Vomero and beyond with the National Archaeological Museum and Piazza Dante. Construction is under way to extend the route to Piazza Garibaldi. Subway information is available from FS at (848/888088).

Taxis

Negotiate the fare before setting out as cab drivers in Naples often disregard the meter and the shortest routes.

Funiculars take passengers up and down the steep hills of Naples. The same tickets are used for buses, the Metro and the funicular.

By Train

A network of suburban trains connects Naples with several points of interest. The line used most by visitors is the Circumvesuviana (081/7722444) which runs from Corso Garibaldi Station and stops at Stazione Centrale before continuing to Herculaneum (Ercolano), Pompeii, and Sorrento. Frequent local trains connect Naples with Caserta and Salerno. Travel time between Naples and Sorrento on the Circumvesuviana line is about 75 minutes. Benevento is on the main line between Naples and Foggia.

A second line, the Circumflegrea, runs from Piazza Montesanto Station in Naples toward the archaeological zone of Cumae, with three departures in the morning. The Ferrovia Cumana runs from Piazza Montesanto Station to Pozzuoli and Lucrino. For the archaeological zone of Baia, get the shuttle bus outside Lucrino station. Additional information is available from Circumflegrea and Cumana (081/5513328).

Business Hours

Banks and Post Offices

Banks are open weekdays 8:30 to 1:15 and 2:45 to 3:45.

Post offices are open Monday through Saturday 9 to 1; central and main district post offices stay open until 6 PM weekdays, 9 to 2 on Saturday.

Museums and Sights

The main museums, such as Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Museo di Capodimonte, Palazzo Reale, and San Martino are now open through to the evening. However, many smaller private museums are only open from 9 AM to 1 or 2 PM. The opening times of archaeological sites are subject to seasonal variations, with most sites closing an hour before sunset. When this book refers to summer hours, it means approximately Easter to October; winter hours run from November to Easter. Most museums are closed one day a week, often on Monday. Always check locally.

Electricity

The electrical current in Italy is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC); wall outlets take Continental-type plugs, with two or three round prongs. f your appliances are dual-voltage, you’ll need only an adapter. Do not use 110-volt outlets marked “For Shavers Only” for high-wattage appliances such as blow-dryers. Most laptops operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts and require only an adapter.

Emergencies

No matter where you are in Italy, dial 113 for all emergencies, or find somebody (your concierge, a passerby) who will call for you, as not all 113 operators speak English.

Italy has a national police force (carabinieri) as well as local police (polizia). Both are armed and have the power to arrest and investigate crimes. Always report the loss of your passport to either the carabinieri or the police, as well as to your embassy

Language

Most hotels have English speakers at their reception desks, and you can always find someone who speaks at least a little English. Remember that the Italian language is pronounced exactly as it is written. Try to master a few phrases in Italian for daily use.

Money

Prices in Italy are in line with those in the rest of Europe, with costs in its main cities comparable to those in other major capitals, such as Paris and Madrid Good value for the money can still be had in many places in Campania, especially in Naples.

ATMs

ATMs are the easiest way to get euros in Italy. Italian ATMs are reliable, and are commonly attached to a bank rather than in supermarkets, etc.. Do check with your bank to confirm you have an international personal identification number, to find out your maximum daily withdrawal allowance, and to learn what the bank fee is for withdrawing money. The word for ATM in Italian is bancomat.

Currency

January 1, 2002, saw the introduction of euro coins and notes. The former local currency, the franc, ceased to be legal tender in mid-February, 2002. All transactions are now made in euros.

Euro notes come in denominations of EUR500, EUR200, EUR100, EUR50, EUR20, EUR10 and EUR5. The euro is divided into 100 cents, and coins are available as EUR2 and EUR1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cents. The euro can be used in 11 other European countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

Value-Added Tax

Value-added tax (IVA, or VAT) is 20% on clothing, wine, and luxury goods. On consumer goods, it’s already included in the amount shown on the price tag, whereas on services it may not be.

Tipping

Tipping subsidizes low wages and shows appreciation for good service. In restaurants, a service charge of about 15% sometimes appears as a separate item on your check. A few restaurants state on the menu that cover and service charge are included. It is still customary to leave an additional 5%-10% tip for the waiter, depending on the service.

C- Attractions/Things To Do:

Attractions

Aquarium (Acquario)

Via Caracciolo 1

Transportation Bus: R3

081-5833111

Tues-Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 9am-7:30pm

The Aquarium is in a municipal park, Villa Comunale, between Via Caracciolo and the Riviera di Chiaia. Established by a German naturalist in the 1800s, it is the oldest aquarium in Europe. It displays about 200 species of marine plants and fish, all of which are found in the Bay of Naples.

Carthusian Monastery of San Martino (Certosa di San Martino) and National Museum of San Martino (Museo Nazionale di San Martino

Tues-Sat 8:30am-7:30pm; Sun 9am-7:30pm

Largo San Martino 5

Transportation Funicular: Centrale from Via Toledo or Montesanto

081-5781769

Located on the grounds of the Castel Sant’Elmo, this museum was founded in the 14th century as a Carthusian monastery. During the 17th century it was reconstructed by architects in the Neapolitan baroque style. The marble-clad church has a ceiling painting of the Ascension by Lanfranco in the nave, along with Twelve Prophets by Giuseppe Ribera. In the church treasury is Luca Giordano’s ceiling fresco of the Triumph of Judith (1704) and Ribera’s masterful Descent from the Cross.

Now a museum for the city of Naples, the church displays historic documents, ships’ replicas, china and porcelain, silver, Campagna paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries, military costumes and armor. The vast collection of presepi (Neapolitan Christmas crèches) have come from the workshops of Naples’s greatest craftsmen over the past 4 centuries.

Catacombe di San Gennaro

Tours daily 9:30, 10:15, 11, and 11:45

Via di Capodimonte 13

Transportation Bus: M4

081-7411071

A guided tour covers the two-story underground cemetery, dating from the 2nd century and containing many interesting frescoes and mosaics. You enter the catacombs on Via di Capodimonte (head down an alley going alongside the Madre del Buon Consiglio Church). These wide tunnels lined with early Christian burial niches grew around the tomb of an important pagan family, but they became a pilgrimage site when the bones of San Gennaro himself were transferred here in the 5th century. Along with several well-preserved 6th-century frescoes, there is a depiction of San Gennaro (A.D. 400s). The tour winds through the upper level of tunnels, passing through several small early basilicas carved from the tufa rock. The cemetery remained active until the 11th century, but most of the bones have since been blessed and reinterred in ossuaries on the lower levels (closed to the public). The catacombs survived the centuries intact, but the antique frescoes suffered some damage when the tunnels served as an air raid shelter during World War II.

Complesso Museale di Santa Chiara (Museum Complex of St. Clare)

Mon-Sat 9am-1pm and 2:30-5:30pm; Sun 9:30am-1pm

Via Santa Chiara 49C

Transportation Metro: Montesanto

Phone 081-5526280

You have to exit the church and walk down its left flank to enter the 14th-century Cloisters of the Order of the Clares (Chiostri dell’Ordine di Santa Chiara). In 1742, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro took the courtyard of these flowering cloisters and lined the four paths to its center with arbors that are supported by columns, each of which is plated with colorfully painted majolica tiles. Interspersed among the columns are tiled benches. In the museum, rooms off the cloisters are a scattering of Roman and medieval remains. On the piazza outside is one of Naples’s several baroque spires, the Guglia dell’Immacolata, a tall pile of statues and reliefs sculpted in 1750.

Il Duomo

Daily 8am-12:30pm and 4:30-7pm

Via del Duomo 147

Transportation Metro: Piazza Cavour

081-449097

Free admission to the cathedral

The Cathedral of Naples was consecrated in 1315. It was Gothic in style, but has been altered over the centuries: the facade is from the 1800s. The Duomo has access to the 4th-century Basilica of St. Restituta, the earliest Christian basilica erected in Naples. The Chapel of San Gennaro (Cappella di San Gennaro), is entered from the south aisle of the Cathedral. The altar is said to contain the blood of St. Gennaro, patron saint of Naples. The church contains two vials of the saint’s blood, said to liquefy and boil three times annually (the first Sun in May, Sept 19, and Dec 16).

National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)

Mon and Wed-Sun 9am-7pm

Piazza Museo Nazionale 18-19

Transportation Metro: Piazza Cavour

081-440166

With its Roman and Greek sculpture, this museum contains one of Europe’s most valuable archaeological collections. Particularly notable are the Farnese acquisitions and the mosaics and sculpture excavated at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The building dates from the 16th century and was turned into a museum two centuries later by Charles and Ferdinand IV of Bourbon

The mezzanine galleries are devoted to mosaics excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum. These include scenes of cockfights, dragon-tailed satyrs, an aquarium, and Alexander Fighting the Persians. On the top floor, are some of the celebrated bronzes dug out of the Pompeii volcanic mud and the Herculaneum lava.

National Museum & Gallery of the Capodimonte (Museo e Gallerie Nazionale di Capodimonte)

Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm

Via Miano 2

Location In the Palazzo Capodimonte, Parco di Capodimonte (off Amedeo di Savoia)

Transportation Bus: 22 or 23

081-7499111

This museum and gallery, two of Italy’s finest, are housed in the 18th-century Capodimonte Palace, built in the time of Charles III and set in a park.

One of the picture gallery’s greatest possessions is Simone Martini’s Coronation, depicting the brother of Robert of Anjou being crowned king of Naples by the bishop of Toulouse. Another room is filled with the works of Renaissance masters, notably an Adoration of the Child, by Luca Signorelli; a Madonna and Child, by Perugino; a panel by Raphael; a Madonna and Child with Angels, by Botticelli; and, the most beautiful, Filippino Lippi’s Annunciation and Saints.

Another room is devoted to Flemish art. The State Apartments downstairs contain room after room devoted to gilded mermaids, Venetian sedan chairs, ivory carvings, a porcelain chinoiserie salon, tapestries, the Farnese armory, and a large glass and china collection.

New Castle (Castel Nuovo)

Mon-Sat 9am-7pm

Piazza del Municipio

Transportation Tram: 1 or 4. Bus: R2

081-7952003

The New Castle, housing municipal offices, was built in the late 13th century on orders from Charles I, king of Naples, as a royal residence for the House of Anjou. It was badly damaged and then reconstructed in the mid-15th century by the House of Aragón. The castle is distinguished by a trio of imposing round battle towers at its front; between two of the towers, guarding the entrance, is a triumphal arch designed by Francesco Laurana to commemorate the 1442 expulsion of the Angevins by the forces of Alphonso I. It’s a masterpiece of the Renaissance. The Palatine Chapel in the center is from the 14th century, and the city commission of Naples meets in the Barons’ Hall, designed by Segreta of Catalonia.

Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale)

Thurs-Tues 9am-8pm

Piazza del Plebiscito 1

Transportation Bus: 106 or 150

081-7944021

This palace was designed by Domenico Fontana in the 17th century, and the eight statues on the facade are of Neapolitan kings. Located in the heart of the city, the square on which the palace stands is one of Naples’s most architecturally interesting, with a long colonnade and a church, San Francesco di Paolo, in the style of the Pantheon in Rome.

San Domenico Maggiore

Daily 8:30am-noon and 5-7:30pm

Piazza San Domenico Maggiore 8A

Transportation Bus: 24, 42, E1, R1, R3, R4, or V10

081-459188

This massive Gothic structure was built from 1289 to 1324 and then was rebuilt in the Renaissance and early baroque eras. The first chapel on the right aisle is a Renaissance masterpiece of design and sculpture by Tuscans Antonio and Romolo da Settignano. The third chapel on the right contains frescoes from 1309 by Roman master Pietro Cavallini (a contemporary of Giotto). The seventh chapel on the right is the Crucifixion Chapel (Cappella del Crocifisso), with some Renaissance tombs and a copy of the 12th-century Crucifixion painting that spoke to St. Thomas Aquinas. Next door, the Sacristy has a bright ceiling fresco by Francesco Solimena (1706) and small caskets containing the ashes of Aragonese rulers and important courtiers.

San Lorenzo Maggiore

Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm; Sun 9am-1:30pm

Piazza San Gaetano Via Tribunali 316

Transportation Bus: 105, 105r, or E1

081-290580, 081-454948 for scavi (ruins)

The greatest of Naples’s layered churches was built in 1265 for Charles I over a 6th-century basilica, which lay over many ancient remains. The interior is pure Gothic, with tall pointed arches and an apse off which radiate nine chapels. This is where, in 1334, Boccaccio first saw Robert of Anjou’s daughter, Maria, who became “Fiammetta” in his writings

San Lorenzo preserves the best and most extensive remains of the ancient Greek and Roman cities currently open to the public. The church foundations are actually the walls of Neapolis’s basilican law courts. In the cloisters are excavated shards of the Roman city’s treasury and marketplace. In the crypt are the rough remains of a Roman-era shop-lined street, a Greek temple, and a medieval building.

Santa Chiara

Daily 7am-12:30pm and 4:30-8pm

Via Benedetto Croce

Transportation Metro: Montesanto

081-5526280

On a palazzo-flanked street, this church was built on orders from Robert the Wise, king of Naples, in the early 14th century. It became the church for the House of Anjou. Although World War II bombers heavily blasted it, it has been restored somewhat to its original look, a Gothic style favored by the Provencal architects. The light-filled interior is lined with chapels, each of which contains leftover bits of sculpture or fresco from the medieval church. Behind the High Altar is the towering multilevel tomb of Robert the Wise d’Angio, sculpted by Giovanni and Pacio Bertini in 1343. To its right, is Tino di Camaino’s tomb of Charles, duke of Calabria; and on the left is the 1399 monument to Mary of Durazza.

Nearby Attractions

Ruins of Pompeii

Take the Circumvesuviana commuter train (downstairs at the main Naples train station) to the Ercolano stop

The ancient city of Pompeii was buried by Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic eruption on the morning of August 23, AD 79. The foremost building in Pompeii is the Basilica, which served as the law court and stock exchange. There is also the Foro, or Forum, which is surrounded by the main temples as well as commercial and government buildings. It was there that elections were held and speeches and official announcements made. Try to get to Pompeii early in the day to avoid the crowds and the hot sun.

Herculaneum

Take the Circumvesuviana commuter train (downstairs at the main Naples train station) to the Ercolano stop

Admission includes tickets for Oplontis, Pompeii, and 2 other sites over a 3 day period.

Apr.-Oct., daily 8:30-7:30, (ticket office closes at 6); Nov.-Mar., daily 8:30-5, (ticket office closes at 3:30).

Corso Ercolano, a 5-min walk downhill from the Ercolano Circumvesuviana station, Ercolano, Italy

081/8575347

In AD 79 the gigantic eruption of Vesuvius (which also destroyed Pompeii) buried the town under a tide of volcanic mud. The semi-liquid mass seeped into the crevices and openings of every building. It covered household objects and enveloped textiles and wood. It preserved them in the process in airtight safety for future generations to explore.

Some excavation began in the 18th century, but systematic digs were not begun until the 1920s. Today, less than half of Herculaneum has been excavated; with present-day Ercolano and the Resina Quarter (the area’s largest secondhand-clothing market) sitting on top of the site, progress is limited. From the ramp leading down to Herculaneum’s neatly laid-out streets and well-preserved buildings, one can get a good overall view of the site, as well as an idea of the amount of volcanic debris that had to be removed to bring it to light. The experience leaves the visitor wishing that more archeological discovery could be undertaken in the area.

Capri

From Naples, take a short ferry or hydrofoil ride to the fabulous island of Capri, known as the playground of the rich and famous. Upon arrival at the dock, take the tramway up to the small town of Capri. The famous Piazzetta square in the center of town is a good place to shop or enjoy something to eat or drink. A walking tour of the town reveals the magnificent garden terraces, historic churches and villas. At the nearby town of Anacapri, a chair lift travels to the top of one of the highest peaks on the island for a panoramic view of the Bay of Naples.

D- Family Fun Attractions:

Castel dell’Ovo

Via Caracciolo – Borgo Marinaro

Naples, 80133 Italy

081/2400055

The oldest castle in Naples, the Castel dell’Ovo sits on the most picturesque point of the bay, standing guard over the city it protects. Occupying the isle of Megaris, it was originally the site of an ancient Roman villa. Children enjoy exploring the grounds and enacting imaginary scenarios of armies, pirate ships, and conquests.

Aquarium (Acquario)

Via Caracciolo 1

Transportation Bus: R3

081-5833111

Tues-Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 9am-7:30pm

The Aquarium is in a municipal park, Villa Comunale, between Via Caracciolo and the Riviera di Chiaia. Established by a German naturalist in the 1800s, it is the oldest aquarium in Europe. It displays about 200 species of marine plants and fish, all of which are found in the Bay of Naples.

Acquaflash

Via S. Nullo

Naples, 80014

Tel: +39 0818047122

This water park, is a few kilometres away from Naples and can be easily reached by the motorway, on the Licola exit. It has a number of swimming pools, waterslides, a solarium, gardens, rest areas and other facilities which make it a great place to spend a hot summers day. The opening hours vary according to the season so visitors are advised to telephone in advance.

Edenlandia

Viale Kennedy

Naples, 80125

Tel: +39 0812399693 +39 0812391348

5pm-midnight Mon-Fri; 10am-midnight Sat-Sun

Admission charged

Edenlandia is a theme park spread out over several acres in which adults and children can spend fun-filled days and evenings. There are games offering prizes, 25 rides, 15 refreshment stands, , a theatre, virtual reality, a roller coaster experience and more. It is easily accessible by car, and the parking facilities are excellent – take either the Agnano or the Fuorigrotta exit off the Naples ring road. Via public transport: either take bus (ANM line) C2, C3 or 152 which stops outside the park,or the Cumana railway and get off at Edenlandia.

Magic World

Via S. Nullo

Naples, 80014

Tel: +39 081804 7122

This amusement park recently opened and is close to the Licola exit on the Naples bypass. It takes less than 20 minutes to get to from the city centre by car. It has a huge carpark, many exciting rides, public conveniences and snack bars. It is open all year round (it is best to phone for the opening hours)

E- Events & Entainment:

May

International Music Weeks

Music Festival, Naples

A classical music festival known as International Music Weeks takes place throughout May in Naples. Concerts are held at the Teatro San Carlo, the Teatro Mercadante, and in the neoclassical Villa Pignatelli. For information, contact the Teatro San Carlo box office (PHONE: 081/7972331 or 081/7972412).

May

Maggio dei Monumenti (May of Monuments) is sponsored by the Council of Naples, with events occurring every weekend during the month. Each year the theme is slightly different. Included is a a series of guided walks through the historic district, even through the city’s underground passages. Chamber music recitals, concerts, operettas, performances of classic Neapolitan songs, and even soccer matches and horse races add to the celebration.

End of June, beginning of July

Neapolis Rock Festival

Italsider di Bagnoli Via Coroglio 49

Naples, 80124

Tel: +39 0812404276

This annual music show has now been running for five years and has become very popular amongst rock music fans. It usually takes place at the end of June or the beginning of July, in the areas around Italsider di Bagnoli, and lasts for about a week.

Arts and Entertainment

Opera

Teatro San Carlo

Via San Carlo 98, across from the Galleria Umberto

081-7972111

Teatro San Carlo is one of the largest opera houses in Italy, with some of the best acoustics. Built in only 6 months for King Charles’s birthday in November 1737, it has been restored in a gilded, neoclassical style. Grand-scale productions are presented on the 12,000 sq. foot main stage. October through May, the box office is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 3pm; June through September Monday to Friday 10am to 4:30pm (closed in August).

Tasso

Via Tasso, 169

Naples, 80127

Tel: +39 081669480

Small, elegant theatre in the residential zone of Chiaia but close to the night life district.

The program varies with famous cultural works and interesting productions by small, local companies.

Teatro Augusteo

Piazzetta Duca D’Aosta

Naples, 80132

Tel: +39 081414243 +39 081405660

This Parthenopean theatre is situated very near the Via Toledo and the city centre, and is easily accessible on the funicular (ANM line Piazza Duca d’Aosta – Piazza Fuga).

Its stage regularly hosts celebrities from the world of cinema and television in a variety of performances: classical and modern, comedy, musicals etc. The interior of the theatre was recently enlarged, and it now has a capacity of 1600.

Teatro Diana

Via L. Giordano, 64

Naples, 80127

Tel: +39 0815567527

11am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-8pm daily.

This well known Vomerese theatre, was built in 1922, but opened to the public in March 1933.

Due to the successful performances, in a short time it was one of the most important theatres in Naples. In 1945 the roof was destroyed by bombs, and rebuilt by Gino Avena, one of the top architects of that time. In 1973 it was completely destroyed and rebuilt in only 6 months.

For the past 25 years, the Diana theatre has welcomed the best Italian actors: Vittorio Gassman, Adalberto Lionello, Enrica Blanc, Mariangela Melato, Aroldo Tieri, Giuliana Jodice, Pupella Maggio, Luca De Filippo, Rossella Falk, Nino Manfredi, etc.

Currently, this Neapolitan theatre has the highest number of subscribers and a growing audience which every day manages to fill 1800 seats.

Teatro Sannazzaro

Via Chiaia, 157

Naples, 80121

Tel: +39 081403827

Historical 18th century theatre, in the heart of Naples’ old town, characterised by marvellous, rococo style architecture.

The building has a large seating area with velour seats and a long series with boxes and mini boxes among which the central royal box stands out for its regal elegance. This theatre was the centre of theatrical activity for the famous Neapolitan comical actress, Luisa Conte and her company, much loved by the locals, for around 20 years. Since the actress’s death, her place has been taken by the great young actress Lara Sansone who, together with the Sanazzaro theatre company, now brings to the stage the Neapolitan comedies of times gone by, a comedy which mirrors the heart of Naples’ historical centre.