I see that the City Hall is currently struggling with the demands of environmentalists, who are demanding that steps be taken to protect one of city's few grand parks, the Villa Floridiana. It is not nearly as well-known as the Villa Comunale, the Public Gardens, down on the sea-front, or the vast grounds of the Capodimonte Museum, one of the royal palaces of the Bourbons from the 18th–century. For a start, the Floridiana will be put under the auspices of the Naples Superintendency of Museums, and an initial 150 thousand euros have been allocated for maintenance and repairs of the grounds. Also, it seems that the employees of the Floridiana—a dozen or so—like to use the grounds as their own private parking lot. After all, when they come to work in the morning, there is generally no place on the street to park. They certainly can't be expected to use the nearby garages; they would have to pay, and we can't have that.
The Villa Floridiana,
today one of the favorite public parks in Naples, commands
a pleasant view of the bay from its position on the slopes
of the Vomero section of the city. The villa dates back to
1816 when Ferdinand I of Bourbon,
King of the Two Sicilies, acquired the property from
Giuseppe Caracciolo, Prince of Torella. The King then
donated the property as the site for a vacation residence
to his favorite lady, Lucia
Migliaccio Partanna, duchess of
Floridia, from which the villa has taken its name. (She
was the king's "morganatic" note*
wife and did all right; she later got a second residence
from Ferdinand, the Palazzo
Partanna. The King's first wife, Caroline, had died
The neoclassical residence and
surrounding gardens were then planned and built from
1817-19. The architect was Antonio Niccolini, the great
Tuscan architect and the same person who restored the San Carlo theater in 1816 after
a disastrous fire. He had been brought to Naples by Joseph
Bonaparte in 1806 and had established himself as the court
architect, staying on even after the restoration of the
Bourbon monarchy following the Napoleonic wars. Numerous
wooded trails wind through the park and there are over a
hundred species of trees, flowers and plants. The
original picturesque and romantic setting was amplified by
the addition of statues, fountains, an outdoor theater, a
temple and even a fake ruin or two to heighten the effect
of Classicism. The original property included both the
Villa Floridia (top photo) and the Villa Lucia (photo,
right), named for the king's wife. After the death of both
King Ferdinand and his wife, the grounds underwent some
legal subdivision; the Villa Lucia and a section of the
park were sold off into private hands, where they remain.
The rest—the present-day Villa Floridiana—was acquired by
the state in 1919. The premises had been opened to the
public somewhat earlier; this item appeared in il Mattino on March
Along the new and silent streets of Vomero, on March 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, from 10 am to 6 pm, we shall see all of Naples turn towards the paradise of the 'Floridiana'. It is the happiest, most harmonious and luxurious product that might ever have sprung from the imagination of Antonio Piccolini...
Well, the streets of Vomero
are no longer new and silent, but the Villa remains a
peaceful place to get away from the last 100 years of
progress. Since 1927 the villa Floridiana has housed the
“Duca di Martina” National Ceramics Museum, a prestigious
collection of European and Oriental decorative arts. The
collection was built up by Placido di Sangro, Duke of
Martina, and comprises some 6,000 items in glass, ivory,
amber, lacquer, coral, tortoiseshell, enamel, and above
all, porcelain and maiolica ware. On his death, the
collection passed to his nephew who bequeathed it to the
city of Naples in 1911.
The displays on the first floor feature porcelain ware by various European makers, notably the Meissen works in Saxony and a large number of items from the works at nearby Capodimonte. The ground floor features maiolica ware, china from the Hispano-Moresque tradition, and glass ware. The basement section of the villa has a large display of Chinese and Japanese porcelain.
*morganatic: an unusual term with a
fascinating etymology, from matrimonium morganaticum,
literally "marriage with a morning gift," referring to a
gift given to the wife on the day of marriage, in lieu
of any share in the husband's property. The term
designated a form of marriage in which a nobleman
married a woman of lower social status with the
provision that, although children would be legitimate,
neither they nor the wife might lay claim to the
husband's rank or property. (back
up to text)
The dark green patch in the photo (below, right) is the Floridiana park. It is the only place that local residents in the totally overbuilt Vomero part of the city have to wander around in some greenery. This aerial view does not make clear that the park is at about 600 feet above sea-level. That is, the right-hand border of green is at the very edge of the prominent Vomero hill that then drops sharply down to sea-level and the buildings of the Chiaia section of the city (the buildings on the right, along the sea-side. [Also see: Urban Expansion of the Vomero.]
Spring is in the air, and one of the few places left in the Vomero section of Naples where you have usually been able to get a whiff of any air at all has traditionally been the Floridiana park. Recent rain and wind felled a single tree in the park a while ago; that caused a wave of bureaucratic fear of lawsuits, so the park has been closed until further notice while they examine the general state of the rest of the trees. This may take some time, as usual, since the contract between the park and the city ran out a few years ago causing a number of gardeners to leave and seek greener pastures elsewhere. This leaves the 120,000 residents of the immediate area with nowhere to stroll. Also, the cost of general maintenance (if and when the park is ever reopened) may require a small admission fee even to get into the grounds. As noted in the main entry (above), the park also contains the National Ceramics Museum. That will remain open via a secondary entrance.
My title (from Milton) is more dramatic than the original. Ms. Stella Cervasio, journalist for the on-ine newspaper, la Repubblica (Naples edition, June 10, 2023), writes
"The villa Floridiana is in bloom again: litter and trash are gone; there are fewer path-blocks; the greenery is clean and well-tended."
She writes effusively how this is now a clean and worthy tribute to the vision of the original architect, Antonio Niccolini. "This historical park in Vomero is starting to look like a place that the people who live here can be proud of again."
She's right. This is a beautiful view of the villa Floridiana, looking south. In front of you the island of Capri center-right and the tip of the Sorrentine peninsula to the left. Stunning.
(photo: Ms. Cervasio or an unnamed photographer from la Repubblica)