Sorrento is a beautiful town perched on a cliff high above the sea with views of Vesuvius and the islands in the Bay of Naples . Use this website to help you plan a visit to this elegant southern Italian resort and find your way to the best beaches and some lovely villages and towns along the Sorrentine peninsula that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Spend the day in ‘royal’ Naples

If you go to Naples for the day while staying in Sorrento, spend some time in the area around Piazza del Plebiscito, where there are many buildings with royal connections that are well worth seeing.

You can arrive by boat and quickly walk up from the harbour to this area, which is the smartest part of the city.

Piazza del Plebiscito is not far from the port of Naples
Piazza del Plebiscito is not far from the port
The impressive Palazzo Reale at the eastern end of Piazza del Plebiscito was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The palace, which dates back to 1600, is now home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, which are both open to the public.

It is nice to browse in the shops of the elegant Galleria Umberto I nearby, which was built in the 1880s and named after one of the Savoy Kings of Italy.

You could pause for refreshments at Gran Caffè Gambrinus, founded in 1860 in Piazza Trieste e Trento. It was later remodelled in stile liberty (art nouveau) and became a meeting place for artists and intellectuals in Naples.

Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples.

Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November in 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.

Palazzo Reale viewed from the Caffe Gambrinus
Palazzo Reale viewed from the Caffe Gambrinus
Built in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, Teatro di San Carlo quickly became one of the most important opera houses in Europe and renowned for its excellent productions.

The theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for Charles I, and took just eight months to build.

The official inauguration was on the King’s saint’s day, the festival of San Carlo, on the evening of 4 November. There was a performance of L’Achille in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio with music by Domenico Sarro, who also conducted the orchestra for the music for two ballets.

This was 41 years before La Scala and 55 years before La Fenice opened. San Carlo is now believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, remaining opera houses in the world.

Both Rossini and Donizetti served as artistic directors at San Carlo and the world premieres of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Mosè were performed there.

In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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