History and curiosities about the Spanish Quarter: the bowels of Naples

by Simona Vitagliano
Naples is the city of contrasts, of white and black that meet, of good and evil that collide.

This happens every day in the midst of its streets and within the most real essence of each of its neighborhoods: just think that the Vomero hill, now inhabited and frequented by “Napoli bene”( the respectable Naples) , was once considered periphery and home to a few peasants who grew broccoli there!

More or less the same happens, but on the contrary, with places like the Spanish Quarters: sadly famous, on the one hand, for their past history of degradation and petty crime, they have risen to prominence in recent years due to an endless series of initiatives and movements (like “Heart of Naples“) that here have found the right fuse to be born, bringing tourists, onlookers and the Neapolitans themselves to spend with pleasure a few hours among their alleys.

On the other hand, we must not forget that this cluster of lanes, vats and buildings belongs to the historical part of the city and that, among those walls, ancient secrets and mess-ups are kept.

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

When they were born, the Spanish Quarters had a precise vocation: it was the sixteenth century and they had to welcome the Spanish soldiers assigned to stifle any revolts of the population (hence the name). However, they were also temporary dwellings for other soldiers passing through, heading for other places of conflict. It was precisely this initial nature that dictated the law on what, unfortunately, these places would have been, despite the attempt by the viceroy don Pedro de Toledo to eradicate the phenomenon through ad hoc laws: that myriad of mulberry trees that invaded the landscape began, in fact, to contrast with criminality, prostitution and lustful enjoyment of any kind that, at the time, were the rule to “feed” the desires of the military. A bad reputation that has been handed down for so long that even the Americans, during the Second World War, ventured there in search of “adventures” of this type.

In short, the bad reputation of these places is very ancient and certainly not attributable to the Neapolitans! Indeed, it is said that the bad language, the game and the cheating were brought to the city by the Spaniards.

Geography, however, has always been on the side of this swarm of houses, small shops and good taverns: and it is precisely this that, today, makes it a strong point. Suffice it to say that the typical vessels are very popular with the real estate market because those same tiny houses that had helped someone to survive in difficult times, are now being restructured in a tourist perspective and turned into a luxury B&B!
But the Spanish Quarters are also so much more: ancient and modern, folklore and residence of university students, history and art that become witnesses of a lifestyle that, here, is still preserved absolutely “Neapolitan”, just like that of the past. The clothes hanging and hanging from the wires attached to the windows and balconies make love with the wonderful and gigantic murals that many artists of our time are giving to this part of the city so typical, so particular, so unique, even for urban aspect.

Many are the important buildings that dominate the landscape, including churches, villas and historic buildings, which develop within an area that, during the excavations for the construction of a metro stop, also gave some ancient finds dating back to around. to 1500 BC and the Middle Ages.

Heart of Naples

Many think that the Spanish Quarters represent the heart of Naples (hence the name of the aforementioned event), but every true Neapolitan knows that, in reality, these avenues and alleys are the bowels of the city, a network that develops between Corso Vittorio Emanuele, above, and Via Toledo, below, both important streets that host the residences of the wealthiest or the oldest and most traditional commercial activities of the entire Neapolitan history.

A labyrinth where, among the buildings we see today – once surprising works for foreigners, used to finding themselves in front of only low houses or skyscrapers, but in the industrial areas of the big cities – entities and characters are still hiding and hiding halfway between myth and concreteness: the famous (really famous!) “femminielli” (transgender before this word was even created), which gave birth to the most ancient Neapolitan LGBT movement, the windows from which neo-melodic music and tarantella rhythms spread throughout those “pieces” of landscape that are immediately recognizable as having been part of films made by directors of all backgrounds and of all fame.

Walking in those narrow streets means ensuring good food at cost prices, greetings at every step from every tiny window facing the street and entering a world inside the city that is part of it visceral, beating heart, engine; in short, as we said, black and white, good and evil, yin and yang …