The Rione Sanità, a popular Neapolitan neighbourhood at the foot of the Capodimonte hill, is experiencing a phase of social, cultural and touristic rebirth. Today, when we talk about Sanità, of its wonders and its contrasts, we talk about a “city within a city”, where you can visit the catacombs of San Gennaro, San Gaudioso and San Severo, the Palazzo dello Spagnuolo and Palazzo Sanfelice, the Fontanelle cemetery, the basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità and the street art that paints the walls.
Now there’s the Ipogeo dei Cristallini, a new archaeological site of exceptional value: as you descent eleven metres below ground, you’re immersed in an underground world with four sepulchres dug into the tuff rich in decorations, stuccos, frescoes, bas-reliefs, brightly coloured trompe l’oeil and over 700 artefacts discovered in 1889 by the Baron of Donato, conserved by the Martuscelli family with the Superintendency and now exhibited at the MANN, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
A beautiful story that dates back 2300 years. Returning to the surface, among the alleys of the Rione Sanità there are other traditions, such as those of the two “Ciros”, Oliva and Scognamillo, which in the savoury and sweet offer delicious reasons to go this far from the centre, because after all Piazza Cavour is only a few steps away. With only thirty years of age and in the fourth generation of pizza makers, Ciro Oliva bakes his gourmet pizza made with a slow leavening dough and topped with exquisite oil, tomato and mozzarella, which honours the fame of the family pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi.
There is also a queue in front of the pastry shop opened in 1920 by Papele (Raffaele Scognamillo) and Puppnella (Giuseppina Evangelista) – hence the name Poppella – with their wonderful invention of the “fiocco di neve”: a soft pastry brioche filled with cream and covered with a “snowfall” of icing sugar. The recipe is top secret.
In this district, which has also made a comeback with the film Nostalgia by Mario Martone, and reviewed with interest by the New York Times, reservations can be made a room at Casa D’Anna ai Cristallini, an elegant bed and breakfast next to the Ipogeo dei Cristallini, delightfully managed by Alessandra Calise Martuscelli.The lounges and terraces are enveloped in southern light and classical music.