Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews   entry May 2007



T
he Finest Building Never Finished

 

Palazzo
                  Tarsia (center)The places that "feel" the least crowded in downtown Naples (although the whole city is teeming) are those that were laid out symmetrically in square blocks, either in the historic center of the city (laid out by the Greeks, 2500 years ago) or in the Spanish Quarters (laid out originally to garrison Spanish troops 450 years ago). Other than that, there are areas that sprawl every which way, streets angled oddly, alleys that lead nowhere, squares that are every shape but square —a whole medieval clutter. It's as if the angel of the Lord in charge of passing out cities at the time had tripped and spilled parts of cities and just let the pieces lie and take root where they landed.

Thus, I never would have expected to find what remained of a spectacular villa built (at least, partially built) in the Montesanto section of Naples, where the angel got sloppy. It is the Palazzo Spinelli di Tarsia (the yellow building in the center of the photo, left).


    Villa TarsiaDescriptions of the city from the 1600s speak of a fine villa already in place and in the hands of the noble Tarsia family by the 1640s. In 1737, the family contracted with one of great architects of the time, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, for a make-over (Vaccaro's work in Naples includes the old customs house, the Immacolatella and the mosaic courtyard of Santa Chiara). Vaccaro's own plan (illustration, right) is lavish, to say the least, and it is not clear even today how much of it ever really got finished. There was to be an arched entrance into and through a terraced garden, then the passage through to the main courtyard dominated by the three-story main building, the entire affair replete with the fountains, marble statues and majolica tile that Naples was known for. The premises would contain, besides living quarters, a library and a science laboratory. The property changed hands in the 1800s and the subdivision started.


 
Palazzo Tarsia
                  today

The original rectangle is still intact, although there is no longer passage from the secondary structure in the front to the main building (photo, left), which faces due south and is subdivided into many flats. The central courtyard is now called Largo Tarsia (Tarsia square) and is a parking lot for the residents. Entrance is from both sides from adjacent narrow streets. The front building, with a life of its own, is now subdivided into establishments of one sort or another, including a cinema. What was presumably the garden was among the first to go when a market set up in the 1800s. A street, via Tarsia, runs through that section now.


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