The history, not only of Campania, but of all of Southern Italy has passed through the vast and luxurious rooms of the Royal Palace of Naples, making it not only the heart of a European capital full of life and priceless treasures, but also an actual location-encyclopedia, where to begin knowing and understanding most of the Italian socio-political events of the last five hundred years.
The history of Palazzo Reale begins, like many tales of this kind, from a political intrigue between proud and powerful Kingdoms.
In the year 1500, Ferdinand II, sovereign of the Crown of Aragon, and Louis XII of France signed a secret agreement that provided for the division into equal parts of the then Kingdom of Naples. The agreement, however, was never respected, and, in 1504, Ferdinand invaded and conquered the Kingdom of Naples, declaring it a Vice-Royalty of his own crown.
Thus began the two centuries of the Spanish Vice-royalty in Naples, characterised by considerable cultural and economic dynamism. The Viceroy Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Zúñiga ordered the construction of a first Viceral Palace, which was completed in 1543 near the present Trieste e Trento square.
Years later, Fernando Ruiz de Castro, Count of Lemos and new Viceroy of Naples, promoted a policy of state funding for the construction of various public works, including a new Palace in honour of King Philip III of Habsburg. The construction of the new building, entrusted to the prestigious architect Domenico Fontana who was at the time the Kingdom's main engineer, began in 1600 in what was then called Piazza San Luigi, close to the Pizzofalcone hill and near the port and the old Viceregal Palace.
Initially conceived with a late-Renaissance imprint, and a function of representation rather than a fortress, the new Palace continued to be enriched even after the end of the Spanish era in 1734, when Charles of Bourbon conquered Naples, making it once again the capital of an independent kingdom.
From royal residence to a treasure chest of the history of southern Italy
Upon completion of the works in 1858, the Royal Palace took on its final appearance, which remained quite similar to what Domenico Fontana had imagined in his initial seventeenth-century drawings.
Following the unification of Italy, the building became the residence of the Savoy, who, however, lived there only occasionally. In 1922, after a long debate, Palazzo Reale became the residence, thanks also to the interest of the philosopher, historian and politician Benedetto Croce, of the very rich "Vittorio Emanuele III" National Library, formerly the "Royal Bourbon Library". This transfer confirmed and further enriched the social and urban role of the Royal Palace, which became a real treasure chest of the history of Naples and Southern Italy.
The damage and destruction suffered by the palace during the Second World War was remedied by numerous restorations, which continued even after the damage caused by the 1980 earthquake.
Today, the lavish exhibition itinerary of the Royal Palace consists of 34 rooms splendidly decorated and adorned with paintings, statues, tapestries, artifacts, furnishings and period furniture. The layout of the exhibition reflects the appearance of the rooms at the time of the Savoia family, according to the inventories of 1874.
DID YOU KNOW...?
The Royal Palace of Naples is one of 22 royal residences that the Bourbons built, acquired or adapted during their rule in Campania, which lasted from 1734 to 1861. Included in the tour are:
• The Royal Site of Carditello
• The Royal Palace of Capodimonte
• The Royal Palace of Portici
• Herculaneum's Villa Favorita
• The Royal Pheasantry of Resina
• The Villa d'Elboeuf in Portici
• The d'Avalos Palace in Procida
• The Royal Palace of Ischia
• The Royal Estate of Astroni
• The Royal Hunting Lodge of Licola Borgo
• The Royal Palace of Venafro
• The Royal Hunting and Fishing Estate of Torcino in Ciorlano
• The Royal Site of Persano in Serre
• The Royal Estate of Maddaloni
• The Royal Pheasantry of Caiazzo
• The Royal Palace of Caserta
• The Royal Site of San Leucio
• Fusaro Cottage
• The Royal Palace of Quisisana in Castellammare di Stabia
• The Royal Falciano Estate
• The Royal Casino of the Calvi State Property (La Real Casino del Demanio di Calvi)