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main index © Jeff Matthews entry May 2009
This is page 1 of the series, Stalking the lost villas of Naples.
to: page 2
number of named villas were built in Naples from the
1500s through the early 1900s. They were purposely
built outside the crowded urban nucleus of the city
and usually named after a single head of family,
often a nobleman. Isolation and titles not being
what they used to be, those exclusive villas have
almost all been encroached upon by urbanization and
subdivision. There are a few exceptions such as the
Villa Roseberry on the
Posillipo coast; it has resisted civilization only
because the entire property was appropriated by the
Italian state to be a presidential residence.
(Other exceptions would be the Villa
Pignatelli and the Villa
Floridiana; the former is a museum, the latter
a public park and museum. As well, such buildings as
the villa Aselmeyer—technically
called the Aselmeyer castle—so stand out because of the
architecture that they have become monuments in
their own right and are easy to spot.) Some of the
villas have simply been demolished, but quite a few
still exist; they are “lost” in the sense that they
are now surrounded by the “background noise” of
overurbanization. This series deals with a number of
the "lost" ones. There are nine main items with
photos on these two pages; the first 5 are on this
page. At the bottom of p. 2, there are links to
separate entries on other villa.
On page 2: villa Ricciardi, villa Leonetti,
villa Winspeare and
dei Mari; link to the
Villa Craven and others.
The villa was built in the late 1600s by a Flemish merchant, cited in sources as “Ferdinando Vandeyeden” (Also cited as Vandeneynden. Both versions are probably mistakes or at least variations of the common Flemish name, van der Heyden.) The architect was a monk from Bologne, Brother Bonaventura Presti—architect, carpenter, engineer and all-round Baroque factotum in Naples in the service of archbishop, Ascanio Filomarino. Presti also helped design the main port facilities in Naples and contributed to the Spanish remake of the San Martino monastery. The villa Belvedere was built in the years 1671-1673.
owner’s daughter married into the Carafa family
and the property thus took the name “Villa Carafa di
Belvedere.” (Although “Belvedere” generically means
“panorama” or “scenic outlook” and is so used quite
often in Italian, in this case the word is actually
part of the family name and defines the particular
branch of the family. The Carafas were one of the
oldest noble families in Naples with hundreds of
feudal properties throughout southern Italy in the
middle ages. The name is attached to other sites in
the city, as well, including the Palazzo Carafa di
Belvedere on the Riviera di Chiaia.)
—Villa Doria d’Angri (original entry Dec. 2007)
The entire length of the Posillipo coast and hillside—from the Mergellina harbor out to the promontory that separates the Bay of Naples from the Bay of Pozzuoli—has attracted artists and poets ever since the Greeks sailed into the bay thousands of years ago. The area remained largely undeveloped until a road, via Posillipo, was built between 1812-24. That road starts at sea-level at the Mergellina harbor and moves up the coast to the cape. Even photos from a mere century ago show the coast and hillside to be still largely a wooded area. Overbuilding since the end of WWII has now made it difficult to pick out from the mass of recent buildings some of the grand villas that were built in the early 1800s.
Once such structure is the Villa Doria d’Angri, built for prince Marcantonio Doria between 1831 and 1836. If you stand at the seaside a bit past the Mergellina harbor and look above the road as it starts its route up the coast, the villa should jump out at you, even though it is no longer the solitary structure it must have been when it was built. The architects were Bartolomeo Grasso, Antonio Francesconi and Guglielmo Bechi, who worked with a large team of artists and decorators to construct this grand neo-classical mansion replete with Pompeian atrium and fountains, all with a stunning view overlooking the bay.
Some of the premises has fallen victim to the “death of a thousand cuts” over the years—large outdoor vases, statuary, and furnishings have disappeared, for example, as have the painted tapestries from the villa’s “Chinese room.” The villa is known for having been the residence of German composer, Richard Wagner, when he was in Naples in 1880 as a guest of the English family that had acquired the villa. The premises have been acquired by the former University Naval Institute of Naples--now "Parthenope" University--and serve as an academic and cultural venue.
is not to be confused with the Palazzo
Doria d’Angri, site of the historic
proclamation by Garibaldi annexing the Kingdom of
Naples to the nation of Italy. Same name, same
family, different building.)
—Villa Haas (now
also Palazzo Avena)
original property was 38,000 square meters—about
nine and one-half acres—on the southern slope of the
Vomero,almost in the shadow of the
gigantic Sant' Elmo
fortress just uphill and to the east. It had a
few other lovely, distant villas for company
(including the villa Belvedere—see
top of this page), but in those days the Vomero was
not developed at all (see Urban
Expansion of Vomero) and there was plenty of
room for rich elbows. After more than a century of
urbanization, the villa is still prominent (because
of its height—the upper stories are not original)
but stands totally flanked and surrounded by
buildings almost as tall; it is on via Cimarosa
directly across the street from the Vomero station
of the main cable car (which opened in the 1920s).
The entrance to the villa (in the shadows at the
lower right-hand corner of the photo) leads through
to the back of the property and one sees how those
original 9 1/2 acres have been
developed. It has all been subdivided and built
on, although if you follow the path to the very
back, you can still look out and see the bay.
the 1927, upper stories were added and the
facade was redone in sort of a mixed "Liberty"
style by architect Adolfo Avena. It was part of
a general plan to remake the square in front of
the cable car station. For that reason, the
building is also called Palazzo Avena.
The southern façade overlooks a garden/terrace. Photo is
taken from what used to be part of the original property.
Few villas in Naples are
as buried by the "background noise" of urbanization
as this one. Villa Patrizi is located at the eastern
end of current-day via Manzoni, the long road that
runs along the top of the Posillipo hill. The
nucleus of the villa was built around 1740 and was
part of the early Bourbon wave of villa construction
at the time. The building is now at a busy
confluence of three major roads and is surrounded on
all sides except the south by buildings put up since
WW2. Nevertheless, it stands out and sits high
enough to have a good view of the bay to the south.
The north side of
Villa Patrizi fronting on via Manzoni. A
The property originally
belonged to marquis Francesco Palomba di Pescarola.
The current owners tell me that the propery
originally (i.e., in the mid-1700s) extended down
the southern slope of the hill almost to the sea at
Mergellina, which means that it was, indeed, vast.
The property was acquired in the latter half of the
1700s by Pietro Patrizi, who was the procuratore
(state prosecutor) on the Bourbon Royal Council of
State. He made the villa into his country estate and
hunting lodge. At that time, the entire estate
included structures to the north, now on the other
side of via Manzoni (i.e., out of sight to the right
in this photo.). Patrizi was a well-known good host
and the villa counted as guests the likes of the
king of Naples, the emperor of Austria and other
royalty as well as a long list of poets and artists.
Sources say that the original
portal of the building (still intact) is by the
Neapoltian architect Ferdinado
Sanfelice (1675-1748), who is said to have
contributed, as well, to the small "villa theater"
on the premises. That theater was long a cultural
venue in Naples, indeed even well beyond WWII but,
sadly, was destroyed by fire in 1998. It was then
sold, and although there has been some hope of
restoration, that has not yet come to pass. The
extent of urbanization of the area is evident in the
bottom two photos; yet, in spite of that and all the
sell-offs and subdivisions over the years, the
building is still quite impressive; it has a
courtyard and three floors and still has a garden
terrace on the south and some trees on the west.