An incredible interweaving of races, civilizations and systems of government; an interesting fusion of customs and cultures; an amazing ever-changing landscape with stunning coastlines, whitewashed hill towns, citrus groves and turquoise seas are the attractions on this enchanting journey from Naples to the wonders of Puglia.
Naples, the capital of the Campania region, is Italy’s third largest municipality after Rome and Milan. Neápolis, the “new city” of the ancient Greeks, became the resplendent capital of Southern Italy which is still known as Magna Graecia today, as it was in ancient times. Greek settlements were established in the area since the second millennium BC. In the 6th century BC, Naples played a key role merging Greek culture into Roman society, eventually becoming a major cultural centre of the Roman Republic. It remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples from 1282 – 1816. By the 17th century, Naples had become Europe’s second largest city after Paris and the largest Mediterranean city with a population of around 250,000. It was a major cultural hub during the Baroque era and was home to artists, philosophers and writers. The classical world was in vogue following the rediscovery of the remarkably intact Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Naples went through a period of Neoclassicism. At the turn of the 20th century, “Liberty Napoletano”, a local version of Art Nouveau, developed in the city. Having long been a centre of art and architecture, Naples is dotted with Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance churches, castles and palaces. Covering an area of over 720 hectares, the sprawling Historic Centre of Naples was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Magna Graecia, a term coined by the Romans, refers to the coastal areas of Southern Italy which were colonized by various ancient Greek citystates from the 8th to 5th centuries BC. Greek colonists selected the area due to the fertility of the land and its geographical position along the trade route of the Greeks, Etruscans and Phoenicians. During the late 5th century BC, there was increasing conflict with indigenous communities, in particular, the Oscan tribes based in the Apennine Mountains. As these peoples gradually migrated into the fertile plains, they became greatly influenced by the Greek political system of the polis or “city-state.” They readily adopted the polis model with its judicial, cultural and social structure, as well as the art, architecture, religion and even the language of the Greeks. In the following centuries, the settlements gradually came in contact with Rome and by 89 BC, all the cities of Magna Graecia were completely under Roman control.
Professor Puay-peng Ho is currently the Head of the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. Previously he was Professor of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his First Class Honours degree in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh and a Ph.D. in Art History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His thesis was focused on Buddhist art and architecture of the Tang dynasty. Dr. Ho is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Society of Architectural Historians. His research interests and publications are in the areas of Chinese art and architectural history, vernacular architecture, and architectural theory.