The Botanical Garden of Naples is
another of the "green lungs" in the city, those welcome,
large patches of vegetation that help the city breathe
in the midst of asphalt and traffic. (Others are the Villa Comunale, the Floridiana, and the Vineyard of San Martino.)
Garden in Naples takes up about 30 acres and is located
on via Foria, adjacent to the gigantic old Albergo dei Poveri
(the Royal Poorhouse) and is part of the University of
Naples Department of Natural Science. It is one of the
many scientific and educational facilities instituted
under French rule in Naples
(1806-15). (Another was the observatory.)
The Garden opened in 1810 and had a single director for
the next 50 years.
At present the Garden
displays on the premises around 25,000 samples of
vegetation, covering about 10,000 plant species.
Although open to the public, the Orto Botanico
is not, strictly speaking, a public park. It is really
an educational facility for the university and local
high schools and is separate from the agricultural
department of the University of Naples (on the grounds
of the old Royal Palace in
Portici). The Garden is also actively engaged in
the preservation of some endangered plant species.
There is also an
ethnobotany section of the Garden where plants are
studied that are potentially useful medicinally to
humans. Besides smaller structures on the premises,
there are two larger ones: the 17th-century "castle" (image,
below left) recently restored, and the 5,000 sq.
meter Merola Greenhouse.
The castle contains
lecture and display rooms, and houses the ethnobotany
section as well as the fascinating section on
paleobotany, displaying the evolution of plant life
throughout the history of our planet.
photo (top) and photo directly
above by Fulvio De Marinis