Does the perfect city break destination exist? Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine it. Cloudless sky above and an amazing city around you, with numerous historical sights and narrow streets running between cafe gardens and delicious bistros? Or maybe while thinking of holidays you immediately hear the sound of the sea, cries of seagulls, and smell fresh fruit and aromatic pizza in the air? If this is what your dream vacation looks like, be sure to go to Naples! Museums, beaches, palaces, amazing tours and restaurants serving regional cuisine are sure to steal your heart away.
And once you are finally there and you wish to discover the rich history and culture of Naples, there are several museums in the city that must be included on your “to do” list. Which ones are the most interesting? Check out our article to get the answer!
Thanks to its remarkable collection, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) ranks among the most important archaeological museums not only in Europe, but also in the whole world! Every enthusiast of history - especially ancient history - should visit it. On display, among other things, you will find numerous sculptures from antiquity - including the Heracles of Pharnesia, the Atlas of Pharnesia and the Venus Kallipygos (which literally means "Venus with beautiful buttocks"), dating to the 2nd century.
Also noteworthy is a collection of gemstones decorated with miniature reliefs, popular during the Roman Empire. Among the most interesting is the beautiful, intricately carved Tazza Farnese, an agate gemma with a diameter of 20 cm.
The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, however, is most famous for its extraordinary collection of artifacts from Pompeii - an ancient city destroyed by a volcanic eruption. At the Museo Archeologico Nazionale one can admire, among other things, beautiful mosaics, such as the Battle of Alexander with Darius.
The Capodimonte Museum (Museo di Capodimonte) in Naples is located in an 18th century palace built by Charles III - later King of Spain and boasts one of the finest art collections in the city!
With the help of trusted patrons of the arts, Charles III amassed a substantial collection of paintings by such masters as Titian, El Greco and Pieter Bruegel (the elder). Today, the collection of this Neapolitan museum also includes works by Caravaggio (The Flagellation of Christ), Raphael (Portrait of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese), Bellini, Carracci and many other Italian painters. On the upper floors, in addition to paintings from the Neapolitan period and works by the Caravaggionists, there is a section of 19th-century and modern art.
In addition to paintings, the Farnese Gallery salon and Royal Apartments also house a rich collection of porcelain, fine jewelry and furniture from the 18th century.
Near the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the historic center of Naples, you can visit the Sansevero Chapel (Cappella Sansevero, also known as Pietatella). Some thirty works of art can be admired there and although the sheer number of them is not very impressive, we strongly recommend taking a little time to visit this remarkable museum. There are many beautiful buildings in Naples, but the Cappella Sansevero is a true architectural gem. It is here that you can admire the famous Christ wrapped in a shroud - a marble sculpture so intricate that it was believed that it must have been created through alchemical practices.
Other works of art collected in the Pietatelli are also of great renown - especially the Veiled Truth and the Il Disinganno ("the release of deception" or "the dispelling of illusion"). Both exhibit the unbelievable effect of lightness and airiness achieved by the masters sculpting in heavy, solid marble.
To see the Sansevero Chapel you must book your visit online.
The Royal Palace of Naples (Palazzo Reale) is, like Capodimonte, one of the former residences of the Bourbon dynasty. The palace has been remodeled several times since the 17th century, and now houses, among others Italy's National Library, the country's oldest opera theater (the San Carlo Theater) and a museum. Its collections include beautiful tapestries, antique clocks and furniture, the oldest of which remember the time of Charles III, as well as numerous sculptures and paintings. It's worth taking a tour around here to see for yourself the throne room of Naples' rulers. The Palazzo Reale museum is decorated from the outside with statues depicting rulers from all dynasties since the founding of the kingdom. The Royal Palace is located in the Piazza del Plebiscito.
The former Carthusia of St. Martin (Certosa di San Martino), the monastic complex of the Carthusian order, rises on Vomero Hill, offering a beautiful view of the bay and all of Naples. The museum was created back in the 19th century, after the unification of Italy, and is open to tourists until the present day. It is an amazing thing to stroll through its quiet gardens and look down on the bustling city. However, the biggest attraction is to visit the interior of the monastery. The richly decorated rooms, numerous sculptures and unusual paintings on the vaults are sure to impress any art lover.
The Neapolitan Treasure Museum of San Gennaro (Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro) was established in 2003 at the cathedral chapel. Its collection includes many precious votive gifts offered in gratitude to the city's patron saint, St. Januarius (San Gennaro). This tradition was cultivated for hundreds of years, and the temple received votive offerings not only from ordinary people, but also kings and popes and because of that the museum's collection is extremely rich. According to some sources, even Napoleon Bonaparte made gifts to San Gennaro.
The exhibit includes, among other things, a priceless mitre set with precious stones. It is decorated with as many as 3326 diamonds, 164 rubies and almost 200 emeralds! It is said that the collection of this small museum in Naples is worth more than the British crown jewels.
The Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) is the only museum on our list devoted entirely to contemporary art. If you like works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt, Mimmo Paladino, Richard Long, Jeff Koons or Francesco Clemente, MADRE is the place for you! It is located in the historic part of the city, in the 19th-century Palazzo Donnaregina, which will also appeal to architecture enthusiasts. The three-story building showcases a rich collection of contemporary art - of both Italian and foreign artists.
The last museum in Naples on our list is the famous Gallerie d'Italia. Branches of this museum can be visited in Milan, Turin and Vicenza. Lovers of contemporary art will be pleased to know that in the Neapolitan Gallerie d'Italia part of the permanent exhibition is an exhibition of 20th-century painting. However, this should not discourage those who prefer works by Caravaggio or Guarini, as they too are included in the museum's extensive collection. Among the works on display in the Neapolitan branch of the museum is Caravaggio's last painting, completed barely a few weeks before his death: The Martyrdom of St. Ursula.
Whether you're interested in the art of antiquity, works by masters of the Neapolitan school, or paintings from the 20th and 21st centuries, museums in Naples have a lot to offer! We hope that our list will help you to pick those you will enjoy most!