At the top of Vomero hill there is a little piazza known as Piazzale San Martino. The last stop on the V1 bus, it is home to the San Martino Charterhouse which sits just a few hundred meters below Naples Castel Sant’Elmo.
Be it by bus, taxi or foot, visitors arriving here for the first time are so taken by the views that they make a beeline for the aging balustraded railing that gives way to a vista of the entire eastern side of Naples. The city stretched out before you, a patchwork of rooftops and cupolas in Pompeii red, white, yellow, and green.
The unmistakable yellow tuff and green roof of the massive Santa Chiara Church and its adjacent bell tower. The Spire of the Immacolata in Piazza del Gesù marking the western end of Centro Storico. And the most prominent of all, the cupola of Chiesa Santo Spirito.
But if you think the views from here are spectacular, wait until you see the vista from the San Martino Charterhouse, or the 360° panorama from Castel Sant’Elmo’s rooftop terrace. Both are must sees before you make your way down Salita della Pedamentina.
Peering out from the balustraded railing, rarely down, the nondescript stairway that lies just below is often overlooked by the unsuspecting tourist.
One of Naples oldest stairways, Le Scale di Napoli, Salita della Pedamentina was built around the same time construction was started on Charles of Calabria’s San Martino Charterhouse (1325). From the Italian, piedi del monte, the foot of the mountain, it was used to transport building materials.
As an added benefit, it also provided protection to Castel Sant’Elmo from those pesky medieval sieges. Not for the Castle we see today, that one dates to the 1500s, but to an earlier castle built by Robert the Wise in 1329.
Steep descents, zig-zag turns and 414 elongated steps take you 650 meters down Vomero hill to Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
For the Vomerese, it’s a convenient if not strenuous connection between the Vomero and the Corso. For the adventurous tourist, unparalleled views of the city and a glimpse at everyday life on the Pedamentina awaits. A little rough around the edges in places and in definite need of some TLC, the journey is nevertheless well rewarded.
Reaching Corso Vittorio Emanuele, there are several paths to choose from to continue the descent. Taking a left on Corso Vittorio Emanuele leads to Scala Montesanto and down through the Pignasecca. Heading right, any of a number of stairways will take you down into the Spanish Quarter.