Spaccanapoli, the most famous street in Naples, Italy, is so-named because it appears to "split" (spacca) down the middle of the city's historic center. For Neapolitans and travelers alike, it's a point of reference in the old city, from which the most important landmarks and attractions of the ancient city seem to emanate.
Spaccanapoli is officially Via San Biagio dei Librai, though it has a few different names along the way. The street parallel to it, Via dei Tribunali, also has a similar vibe and is often conflated with Spaccanapoli. Like Naples itself, Spaccanapoli has a rough, decaying beauty; lined with crumbling palazzos and centuries of different architectural styles, it's imbued with a gritty, chaotic, and colorful sense of life.
Walking Spaccanapoli is a not-to-be-missed experience in Naples—here are the best things to do on the "Naples splitter."
Snack on Street Food
Street food is ubiquitous in Naples, and nowhere more so than on Spaccanapoli. Try a cuoppo, a paper cone of just-fried seafood and vegetables; pizza a portafoglio, a round of pizza folded and easy to eat on-the-go; or variations of pizza fritta (fried pizza), which is just as decadent as it sounds. If you've got a sweet tooth, sample crunchy, filled sfogliatella or a rum-soaked babà sponge cake. Read our guide to the most delicious foods in Naples to learn more.
Centuries older than Rome, Naples was founded by the Greeks (its Greek name was Neápolis). The remains of the city's past as part of Magna Grecia lie dozens of meters underground, and sections of tunnels and cavities can be visited via a guided tour with Napoli Sottoterranea (Naples Underground). Highlights include ancient cisterns still flowing with water, a Roman theatre, and the remains of WWII bomb shelters. This is one of our top things to do in Naples.
Go Christmas Shopping on Via San Gregorio Armeno
In Naples, it's always Christmas in July. And in March. And in October. At least, the holiday season never ends on Via San Gregorio Armeno, a narrow, pedestrian-only street running between Spaccanapoli and Via dei Tribunale. Along both sides of the street are workshops and stands selling Naples' famous presepe, or nativity figures. The best are hand-carved, hand-painted, and meticulously detailed so that no two are alike.
Pay Your Respects to the Relics of San Gennaro at the Duomo
Officially the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, the Duomo of Naples is the city's most important church, and is home to relics associated with Naples' most revered saint, San Gennaro. Among the many relics in the grand cathedral, look for the vial holding the 4th-century martyr's congealed blood. Three times a year, during the Festival of San Gennaro, crowds wait to see if the blood will miraculously liquefy and grant good fortune to the city. The blood usually liquefies but if it doesn't, it's taken as a bad omen (it last failed to liquefy on December 16, 2020). The Duomo is located a few blocks off Spaccanapoli,
The Museo Cappella Sansevero is bursting with incredible sculptures, but people come here to see one of them in particular, Giuseppe Sanmartino's 1753 "Veiled Christ." The miraculous marble sculpture shows the dead Christ draped in a transparent veil. When the sculpture was first presented, incredulous observers thought Sanmartino had used alchemy—medieval magic—to transform cloth into stone. The realism and detail of the work of art rank it among the greatest sculptures in the world. There are plenty of other stunning works of art in this small chapel a block off Spaccanapoli, so don't overlook them when you visit.
Try a Real Neapolitan Pizza
Naples is famous as the birthplace of pizza Margherita—the mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce-topped pie named for Margherita of Savoy, wife of Italy's King Umberto I. Spaccanapoli and neighboring Via dei Tribunali are rife with places to get a Margherita, with Pizzeria Antonio Sorbillo among the most famous. But if the line is too long there, just look for other pizzerias crowded with locals.
The first thing you'll notice about the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo (Church of the New Jesus) is its severe exterior, which is covered with diamond-shaped stone projections. Step inside, and this foreboding exterior gives way to an interior riot of Baroque excessiveness, dripping with colored marble, carvings, statuary, and gilt. Here, you'll also find important works of art, mostly from the 18th century. Of the many Baroque churches in Naples, this may be the Baroque-iest.
The Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara (the monumental complex of Saint Claire) features plenty to see and do, including a 14th-century church, monastery, tombs, and an archeological museum. But the religious complex is perhaps most famous for its beautiful and unusual cloister, whose benches and columns are covered in colorful majolica tiles. Just a block off chaotic Spaccanapoli, to visit is to step into a world of quiet, solitude, and contemplation.
Pause on a Piazza
If you're touring Spaccanapoli at aperitivo or dinner hour, be sure to find a seat on one of the many characteristic piazzas along the street. As the sun goes down and the lights turn on, enjoy a drink or two while Neapolitans young and old make their way out for an evening of socializing. Piazza San Domenico Maggiore is one of the larger ones, though Piazza del Gesù Nuovo and smaller Piazzetta Nilo also have lively evening scenes.