Friday, November 28, 2014
   
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Bay of beauty and contrasts

Story and pictures by ROBIN NOWACKI

MY much travelled mother told me as a boy that she thought Italy’s Bay of Naples to be the most beautiful part of the world she had visited. So it was with great anticipation this year that I boarded the British Airways flight from the UK bound for Naples. I was not to be disappointed!

What awaited me was a rich tapestry of spectacular seascapes dotted with idyllic islands all dominated by a majestic active volcano, fascinating labyrinths of medieval streets - some in towns clinging to the edge of high cliffs, and perhaps the finest and most famous of all ancient Roman ruins.

To the north of the Bay is the City of Naples - so vibrant and ebullient that one can almost taste the atmosphere in its crowded and at times chaotic streets. Founded by the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC, the layers of Naples’ very long history are reflected in distinct and differing districts.

The grand aspirations of the 19th and early 20th centuries are reflected in the architectural splendor of the many fine buildings situated in and around the Piazza del Plebiscito, not least the Galleria Umberto 1, a glass-roofed shopping arcade - one of the largest in the world when built in 1887 - with a mosaic of the zodiac on the marble floor and a central dome rising to 184 feet.

From here the streets of Naples run down to the sea and the old Molo Beverello port area, dominated by the towering fortifications of the majestic medieval Castle (Castel) Nuovo, and busy with passenger ferries heading for Capri and other islands in the Bay.

Just a five minute bus ride from here, close to the port area known as Calata di Massa, is the quite wonderful Centro Storico, the real old core of Naples, a fascinating warren of narrow streets retaining the grid pattern laid down by the ancient Greeks and added to by the Romans.

Here modern day to day life continues at a busy pace alongside a wealth of historic structures such as the Duomo and Museum St Gennaro. Many interesting and unusual shops are to be found and bargain prices on handbags and other accessories can be haggled from the numerous street vendors.

To read the rest of Robin Nowacki's feature on Naples and see all the pictures, pick up a copy of Northern Ireland Travel News...

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