The surroundings of Naples: Nola

When you visit Campania there are unforgettable places such as the city of Naples, the archaeological excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the Sorrentine Peninsula, the Phlegraean Fields and much more.

However, there are numerous places, sometimes less known to the general public, that should be visited. Among these, there is certainly the town of Nola.

The history of the city of Nola

The town of Nola is located about 28 km north east from Naples. According to ancient historical sources, Nola was founded around 801 BC from the Italic people of the Ausoni. Subsequently, Nola was conquered by the Osci, the Etruscans and the Samnites. Later, Nola was conquered by the Romans in 311 BC.

In 14 AD, in Nola, Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor, died.

In the first centuries of Christianity, Nola was an important center of religious life with an episcopal seat since the 3rd century; homeland of Saint Felice and seat at the end of the 4th century, of Saint Paolino of Bordeaux who was elected Bishop in 409.

Nola was destroyed by the Vandals in 455 and its name was almost completely forgotten for many centuries. Only after the year 1000, there was a certain revival of the town which, however, in 1256 was conquered by Manfredi who united it to the Kingdom of Sicily. It then became a fief of Count Guido of Monfort, in 1269, after Manfredi had been defeated in 1266 in the battle of Benevento.

The town then passed by inheritance to the Orsini family who dominated it until 1528; in this period, it regained its ancient splendor.

In 1548, Giordano Bruno was born in Nola, a famous philosopher who died a martyr to freedom of thought in 1600.

After the end of the Orsini dominion, Nola was definitively incorporated into the Kingdom of Naples and remained so until the Unification of Italy in 1861.

Finally, we recall that in the town of Nola, in 1820 the Neapolitan Risorgimento riots began, which forced King Ferdinand to grant the constitution.

What to visit in Nola?

In Nola and its surroundings there are numerous monuments and places of interest which we will treat briefly.

Churches and religious buildings in Nola

Among the religious monuments of Nola we can mention the following:

- The Cathedral of Nola: the church was rebuilt in 1900 after a fire and contains the crypt of the patron Saint Felice. Recently, a domus ecclesiae was found under the Cathedral, so far the only testimony in Campania.

- The church of San Biagio: it is a late-Renaissance religious building, built by reusing an ancient spa dating back to the Roman Empire. Below the church there is a crypt where the remains of a Roman domus of the 3rd century AD are visible. The church of Saint Biagio is embellished with polychrome marbles and paintings by the greatest painters of the Neapolitan seventeenth century.

- The Convent of Sant'Angelo in Palco: it is a Franciscan convent dedicated to the Archangel Saint Michele, most likely founded by Raimondo Orsini, feudal lord of Nola around 1440. The religious building is called "del Palco", as it overlooks, almost as if from a natural stage, among the olive groves and green trees of the fertile Nola countryside.

The Reggia Orsini in Nola

Among the civil buildings, we remember above all the Reggia Orsini, a palace-fortress overlooking the square named after Giordano Bruno. The palace was built by Count Orso Orsini around 1460 and has been the seat of the Nola court since 1994.

The archaeological sites of Nola

In Nola and its surroundings there are numerous archaeological sites. Among these we remember:

- Prehistoric Village of Nola: the site, dating back to the Bronze Age (1800 BC), is called the "Pompeii of the Bronze Age" because it has an exceptional archaeological value. The elevated casts of two huts can be visited, which have been preserved thanks to the mud caused by the eruption of Vesuvius called "delle Pomici di Avellino".

- The Roman amphitheater: the monument is known with the name of "Laterizio Amphitheater". It is one of the oldest and largest amphitheaters in Campania and dates back to the 1st century AD. It measures 138x108 meters and has been brought to light only in part. The amphitheater can be visited by reservation only.

- Complex of the early Christian basilicas of Cimitile: a few kilometers from Nola there is a group of religious buildings dedicated to Saints Felice, Stefano, Tommaso, Calionio, Giovanni, the Martyrs and the Madonna degli Angeli. The oldest buildings date back to the 4th century, but the period of maximum splendor is that enclosed between the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th when S. Paolino of Nola retired there as a monk, before becoming bishop of the city around 409.

The museums of Nola

- Historical-archaeological museum: it is located inside the former medieval convent of the Lateran Canonichesse. It is dedicated to the history of the territory of Nola from the prehistoric age up to the eighteenth century. Among the most interesting sections of the museum we remember those of the Prehistoric Village of Nola, of the Hellenistic-Roman age and the late-Medieval one. In the historical-artistic section there are works by authors such as Ferdinando Sanfelice, Antonio Vaccaro, Girolamo Imparato, Micco Spadaro, Agostino Beltrano and others. There is also a section dedicated entirely to the Neapolitan "riggiola".

- Diocesan Museum: housed in the spaces adjacent to the Cathedral, inside there are several works of great artistic and religious value, such as the Annunciation by Cristoforo Scacco of Verona.

The “Festa dei Gigli”

In Nola, during the year, numerous popular festivals take place among which the most important is certainly the Festa dei Gigli, which since 2013 has been recognized as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.

The festival, held in honor of S. Paolino, co-patron of Nola, takes place in June and it is characterized by a procession of eight wooden obelisks, called Gigli, up to 25 meters high. The Gigli are carried on the shoulders by a group of over 100 men (called "paranza") through the streets of the historic town center.

How to get to Nola?

By train: at Nola station, on the Naples - Nola - Baiano line of the Circumvesuviana. Or for Nola station, on the Cancello - Avellino and Salerno - Caserta line of the Ferrovie dello Stato.

By car: on Caserta - Salerno, Nola exit (from Caserta at km 19, from Salerno at km 36). Or on Naples - Canosa, intersects with the A30 (from Naples at km 16, from Canosa at km 156).