It is served by the local railway from Naples to Baiano, and is 22 miles from Naples by the main line via Cancello. The more conspicuous buildings are the ancient Gothic cathedral (restored in 1866, and again in 1870 after the interior was destroyed by fire), with its lofty tower, the cavalry barracks, the ex-convent of the Capuchins at a little distance from the city, and the seminary in which are preserved the famous Oscan inscription known as the Cippus Abellanus (from Abella, the modern Avella) and some Latin inscriptions relating to a treaty with Nola regarding a joint temple of Hercules.
Two fairs are held in Nola, on June 14 and the November 12; and July 26 is devoted to a great festival in honour of St Paulinus, one of the early bishops of the city, who invented the church bell (campana, taking its name from Campania). The church erected by him in honour of St Felix in the 4th century is extant in part. There is a monument (restored in 1887) to Giordano Bruno, the free-thinker, who was born at Nola in 1548.
Nola was one of the oldest cities of Campania, variously said to have been founded by the Ausones, the Chalcidians and the Etruscans. The last-named were certainly in Nola about 560 BC At the time when it sent assistance to Neapolis against the Roman invasion (328 BC) it was probably occupied by Oscans in alliance with the Samnites. The Romans made themselves masters of Nola in 343 BC, and it was thenceforth faithful to Rome. In the Second Punic War it thrice bade defiance to Hannibal; but in the Social War it was betrayed into the hands of the Samnites, who kept possession till Marius, with whom they had sided, was defeated by Sulla, who in 80 BC subjected it with the rest of Samnium. Seven years later it was stormed by Spartacus.
Whatever punishment Sulla may have inflicted, Nola, though it lost much of its importance, remained a municipium with its own institutions and the use of the Oscan language. It became a Roman colony under Augustus, who died at Nola. Sacked by Genseric in 455, and by the Saracens in 806 and 904, captured by Manfred in the 13th century, and damaged by earthquakes in the 15th and 16th, Nola lost much of its importance. The revolution of 1820 under General Pepe began at Nola. The sculptor Giovanni Marliano was a native of the city; and some of his works are preserved in the cathedral.
Nola lay on the Via Popillia from Capua to Nuceria and the south, and a branch road ran from it to Abella and Abellinum. Mommsen (Corp. inscr. Lat. X. 142) further states that roads must have run direct from Nola to Neapolis and Pompeii, but Kiepert's map annexed to the volume does not indicate them.
In the days of its independence it issued an important series of coins, and in luxury it vied with Capua. Its territory was very fertile, and this was the principal source of its wealth. A large number of vases of Greek style were manufactured here and have been found in the neighbourhood. Their material is of pale yellow clay with shining black glaze, and they are decorated with skilfully drawn red figures. Of the ancient city, which occupied the same site as the modern town, hardly any thing is now visible, and the discoveries of the ancient street pavement have not been noted with sufficient care to enable us to recover the plan.
Numerous ruins, an amphitheatre, still recognizable, a theatre, a temple of Augustus, etc., existed in the 16th century, and have been since used for building material. They are described by A Leone, De Nola (Venice, 1514). A few tombs of the Roman period are preserved. The neighbourhood was divided into pagi, the names of some of which are preserved to us (Pagus Agrifanus, Capriculanus, Lanitanus).