The Church of Santa Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe
The Quartieri Spagnoli area (the Spanish quarters) of Naples is one of the poorest areas and as is true of the rest of Naples, the poorer the area the more religious it is. Along with life-size statues of Padre Pio and shrines to various saints and dead relatives, this area contains an enourmous amount of churches. Although not one of the most famous, La chiesa di Santa Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe (The Church of St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus) attracts a particular type of visitor: this church has a repuation throughout Italy for helping women experiencing problems conceiving, and people travel from far and wide (I once met a couple who’d made the trip all the way from Turin) with the hope that the nuns’ blessing will help them to get pregnant.
The church itself is small and very beautiful, but it’s not until you make the climb up the winding staircase that the miracles happen. If you weren’t already convinced, the walls are plastered with the ‘new arrival’ cushions common in Italy: proof of the nuns’ success. Not hoping to get pregnant myself any time soon, I declined the offer to sit in the famous chair where the magic happens, but the popularity and belief in the mircacle can be seen in the queues of women that flock here every day.