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main index   © Jeff Matthews    entry Sept 2013


The Palazzo d'Avalos on the island of Procida




The Palazzo d’Avalos, commonly known as the Procida Castle, sits atop (at 91 meters above sea level) a limestone cliff overlooking the sea—it’s about two miles across to the mainland. A healthy swim if you’re in shape. The building was erected in the 1560s on the commission of cardinal Innico d’Avalos, whose family governed the island until the arrival of the Bourbons in 1734. The inhabited center of the island was situated behind the building; the cardinal also had a wall erected around the small town to protect it from incursions by Saracen pirates. That section of the modern island is still called the “terra murata,” the “walled land.”

In 1744, the building became the property of the new crown and became another of Charles III’s royal sites. A "Bourbon Royal Site" was a piece of property considered the personal possession of the king or of some member of the royal family. There were 22 such sites in the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples; some were palaces, others were villas, and some were casine (singular: casina)a hunting lodge, the casina, at the center of a large tract of land. The complete list:

Royal Palace Naples
Royal Palace Capodimonte
Royal Palace Portici

Royal Palace Caserta
villa d'Elboeuf in Portici
Villa Favorita
Palazzo d'Avalos Procida
Lake Agnano
Astroni
Torcino
Cardito
 
Carditello
Persano
Maddaloni
Caiazzo
Sant'Arcangelo
Licola
San Leucio
Casino del Fusaro
Palace at Quisisana
Falciano
Demanio di Calvi



I
n 1815
, following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy after the Napoleonic Wars, the Palazzo d’Avalos became a military academy, and in 1830 was transformed into a penitentiary by Ferdinand II. It functioned as such throughout the 19th century and most of the 20th century. It was upgraded after WWII into a maximum security prison, which is where that swim comes in. (I don’t know if anyone ever made it off this particular “Rock.” The prison was finally closed in 1988. Recent notices (summer, 2013) from Procida have made a grand show of the fact that the building has finally been acquired by the Procida city government, which has ambitious plans for turning it towards social uses—youth center, museum, exhibit hall, etc.


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