Looking for spooky adventures as Halloween, All Souls’ Day and Day of the Dead approach? Then you may want to head to Naples, city of myths and legends, of mysteries and ghosts. Here are four of the most enigmatic legends and places in the city.
Naples’s most famous legend
One of the most famous Neapolitan legends is the one concerning Parthenope, the mermaid that gave the city its name.
Parthenope and the other mermaids used their seductive song to lure sailors to the coast, where sea nymphs would then drown them.
When Ulysses, as told in Homer's Odyssey, plugged the ears of his sailors so they wouldn’t hear the sirens’ sweet song, Parthenope killed herself in despair.
Her body was transported to a tiny peninsula, called Megaride, which is located where Castel dell’Ovo, the city’s oldest castle, stands today. Legend has it that her body dissolved, turning into the morphology of the city that exists today. In fact, her head is said to be where Capodimonte is, while her feet are in Posillipo.
The haunted Castel Sant’Elmo
One of the most beautiful places to see in Naples is Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress located on the Vomero Hill, next to the Certosa di San Martino, overlooking Naples.
Of course, being a castle, it is said to be haunted.
According to legend, you can hear cries coming from the basement at night, and those would be the souls of the usurpers who wanted to attack the royal residence and who were killed by the guards.
It is also said that along the Pedamentina, the small staircase that flanks the hill on which the castle stands, lives a ghost dressed in white who likes to scare visitors as they enter and leave the castle. So be careful!
The creepiest place in Naples
In the heart of the Rione Sanità, the Fontanelle Cemetery is an ancient cemetery located in via Fontanelle. Named for the presence of water sources in ancient times, the cemetery houses about 40,000 remains of people in an area of about 30,000 square meters. Since the 1500s, it was used by the Spaniards as a place to bury the bodies of the poor who could not afford an adequate burial, and it was also used in time of epidemics, especially during the plague.
The cemetery is associated with the popular rite of the “anime pezzentelle", that is the adoption and care by a Neapolitan of a specific skull of an abandoned soul in exchange for protection.
The best way to enjoy Fontanelle is with a guided visit.
For a literal dive into a hidden side of Naples, take the ‘Napoli Sotterranea’ tour. Forty meters below the crowded historic center of Naples, you will find a series of ancient cisterns, part of the Serino Aqueduct network, that supplied water to the town for 23 centuries. You will also find Greek tuff quarries (used for the construction of the city), Roman aqueduct and road tunnels, Bourbon tunnels, anti-aircraft shelters, a war museum, a water museum, and the Neapolitan nativity scene museum.