Once disregarded as dirty, dusty and corrupt, Naples has been awakened in our imaginations of late. This spring, make-up artist Lucia Pica took inspiration from Naples for her Chanel make-up collection. She shares her top tips on where to go and what to see with Sarah Caden, as well as her beautiful, evocative images
Until recently, and thanks in part to the novels of Elena Ferrante, Naples did not feature on the must-see list of Italian cities. Until recently, it was not so much that people went to Naples, as they left it.
Its natives left for the brighter lights and less complex conditions of Rome or Milan, while potential tourists were put off by Naples' reputation as a poor, corrupt city, a bit seedy and slightly dirty.
Ferrante's four Neapolitan Novels, bestsellers the world over, conveyed the harsh reality of her native city, but always presented the pull of the place, too. Vesuvius in the distance, the sparkling sea, Capri on the horizon, the architecture like crumbling confectionery; the contrast between wealth and poverty, light and shade; bright, sunny days and dark, dangerous nights. Naples was suddenly on the map.
Lucia Pica, global creative designer for make-up and colour at Chanel since 2015, is also a native of Naples. She is among those who, perhaps to paraphrase Ferrante, has left; for work, for her art. However, she is also someone constantly inspired by Naples and it's mezzogiorno (midday) light, which has the ability to transform colours, make them shine and glow.
Pica, whose Chanel collections manage to be both bold and classic, is fascinated by colour and light. She is devoted to Chanel's beloved reds, but she also produces light-and-shine-saturated pinks, reds, greens.
This spring/summer, her Chanel collection has Naples all over it. Entitled Neapolis, as in 'new city', it breathes new life into old themes of the old city.
Her Giallo Napoli bright yellow nail polish is informed by the colour that crops up regularly in the city's frescoes, and her innovative lip powders evoke the fine-milled pigment powders used by the fresco artists.
"What I find fascinating is the layering of the city," says Pica, "from something so abundant and baroque to the ancient city underneath. There is the mythology and the magic of the ancient world, something that often lies beneath the sea, like the gas bubbling up from the volcano, causing a sulphurous yellow.
"I wanted to go back to the surrounding areas, like the ruins of Herculaneum and Oplontis, and use the colours of 2,000 years ago; I was fascinated by the preservation of pigment under the ash of Vesuvius," the designer says.
The photos on these pages convey what Pica calls "the accidental beauty, undeniable grandeur and the fatiscente (falling apart) glamour" of Naples. They entrance and attract, excite and give a slight shiver down the spine at the same time.
What we see in these photographs is what Naples once was - before it began to crumble, before the Camorra crimewave, before it fell off the radar as a great Italian city. What we see, too, is what is there for the 21st-Century visitor. The sun-drenched shabbiness, the texture, the raw beauty. Walk in the steps of Elena Ferrante. Take the boat to Capri. And did we mention the pizza? Never forget that, this city's greatest tricolore invention.
Lucia Pica's latest release for Chanel, Neapolis: New City Spring-Summer Make-up Collection, is available now from Chanel counters nationwide
Lucia Pica's must-see Naples
Square and church of gesu Nuovo
Piazza del Gesu Nuovo
From this square runs the ancient centre of Napoli; here a Unesco plate on the facade of the church details the "history and unmatched universal value" of the city.
* See gesunuovo.it
Museo Cappella di Sanservo
19/21 Via Francesco De Sanctis
The Sansevero Chapel Museum is a jewel of the world's artistic heritage. Here baroque, creativity, beauty and mystery blend to create a unique and almost timeless atmosphere. The most famous work is that of San Martino - the Veiled Christ.
* See museosansevero.it
San Gregorio Armeno
Via San Gregorio Armeno
Discover the art of the shepherds and cribs. You will walk along San Gregorio, the ancient and famous street of Neapolitan hand-made art.
Il Cimitero Delle Fontanelle
80 Via Fontanelle
Located in the popular area of the city. An old tuff quarry becomes, in 1656, an area of deposition of the corpses affected by the pest (plague and cholera), among which is the skull of 'the Captain', a pious soul who, it is told, with his intercessions in the world of the living, has helped many devotees.
* See cimiterofontanelle.com
Teatro San Carlo
98 Via San Carlo
In the very heart of Naples, overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito, Teatro San Carlo is the oldest still-active opera house in Europe and in the world, and one of the most spacious in Italy.
* See teatrosancarlo.ie
79 Via Luigi Settembrini
In the historical heart of Naples, the three floors of the 19th Century Palazzo Donnaregina host the Madre, the museum of contemporary art.
* See madrenapoli.it
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