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main index © Jeff Matthews entry May 2009
This is page 2 of the series: Stalking the lost villas of Naples.
to series is on page 1
links to: villa
Maraval (alias Pierce, Lauro, Rocca Matilde)
Villa Ricciardi. Very little remains of the original neo-classical construction; the building stands at the western end of the Vomero section of Naples at today’s Largo Martusciello (where the streets Corso Europa and via F. Cilea meet). It is at a point where the original propery overlooked the slope to the northwest and the Soccavo area of Naples in the plain below the Camaldoli hill. It is not to be confused with a lower-lying property (originally called “Masseria Miniero”) [Massera=roughly, ”estate”] also often cited as “Villa Ricciardi,” set in the plain, itself. (To avoid confusion, the lower one is also cited as “Masseria Ricciardi.)
The villa was built in 1817 as the residence of Francesco Ricciardi (1758-1842), a jurist and important figure in the Murat government in Naples and then a noted political figure in the restored Bourbon government after 1816. Both properties—the villa on the hill and the lower-lying estate—were awarded to him by Murat and had originally belonged to religious orders. The villa hosted guests such as Giacomo Leopardi and Alexander Dumas (the elder). During the political upheavals of May 1848, the library of some 15,000 volumes was destroyed by Bourbon sympathizers. (At that point, the villa was in the hands of Ricciardi’s son, Joseph, a political figure in his own right and part of the risorgimento, the move to unify Italy. Father Francesco, besides having defended some of the accused revolutionaries after the failed Republic of 1799, had also come out for the separation of church and state as well as against such things as arbitrary arrests. The entire family was obviously a nest of liberals and progressives, which fact did not bode well for the library!)
At the beginning of the 20th century, the villa became a vacation spot for students of the Vittorio Emanuele Convitto (high school). Since 1956, it has housed the Domenico Martusciello Institute for the Blind as well some offices of the World Wildlife Foundation.
The property is set off from the heavily urbanized sourroundings by a high wall. Originally, the gardens of all the Ricciardi properties were created by the noted German botanist, Friedrich Dehnhardt (1787-1870) (director of the Botanical Gardens and also the one who created the gardens of the Villa Floridiana) and were an important center for botanical research at the time. The trees on the grounds of the villa still stand out. They have been through a lot, but they are still there.
It is still spectacular, but you might miss it on your hectic morning drive up via Tasso unless you look almost straight up (which you really shouldn’t do as you drive). The building is well above the corner of via Tasso and via Aniello Falcone; indeed, it was there well before either of those streets existed. The villa grounds used to be part of what is now another piece of property, that of the Villa Winspeare (which still stands and is currently undergoing restoration - see item directly below this one) about 70 yards higher up the hill on via Santo Stefano, the road that runs east-west along the top of the Vomero hill.
The villa was built for the Winspeare family in the early 1800s and has also gone by the name of Poggio Fiorito. It has changed hands over the years, finally winding up as property of the Sant’Anna dei Conti Leonetti society. The impressive grounds and gardens are the result of the work of Pietro Porcinai (1910-1986), one of the best-known Italian landscape architects of the 20th century. To accommodate the presence of via Aniello Falcone (a road from the 1920s) that passes beneath the villa, an entrance was built on that road and a Baroque portal originally at via Medina in the downtown area was moved to serve the new entrance (photo, right).
Winspeare & Winspeare family
Antonio (Naples, 1822—Depressa [near Lecce], 1918). He was the mayor of Naples from November, 1875 to May, 1876.
The word "poggio" means hill or hillock. "Mari"
in the name is not the plural of "mare"—the sea. It is
simply a family name—technically, de Mari; thus,
the de Mari hill will
do. It is, in fact, a small hill on the eastern
Vomero slope; in today's terms, it is on the street
Salvator Rosa and precisely across the
street from the metro station of that name. A
giveaway that this large white building, the villa dei Mari
(now totally subdivided into apartments), is
centuries old are the two high, arched loges in the
retaining wall, all of which support a plush bit of
greenery not yet fallen victim to urbanization.
The de Mari name is traceable back to
the days of Pepin the Short, Charlemagne's father,
when the de Maris were active in helping to liberate
Genoa from the Franks in the late 700s. Members of
the family were later counsels in the government of
the Republic of Genoa, the great commercial
city-state of the Italian Middle Ages; they served,
as well, in the imperial fleet of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen
and later in the Angevin
fleets of Naples. Thus, the mari in the
name perhaps does originally go back to the Italian
word for sea—men
of the sea, sailors. The family was one of the most
prominent banking families in Genoa and by the early
1500s the name is found in Naples. The historical
archives of the Bank of Naples has the name listed
as "a banking family resident in Naples." They had
numerous pieces of property not only in the city of
Naples, itself, but as far south as Otranto in
Puglia. The particular piece of property in the
photo (above) was the family's summer residence in
what was then a nice hilltop in Naples where you
could go to get away from it all. It is known to
have been the property of the de Maris by at least
the mid-1600s since the premises display a family
crest with heraldic particulars showing that Charles
de Mari had been elevated to the nobility, which
event occurred in 1665.
Villa Craven on the Posillipo coast Villa Maraval (aka Pierce, Lauro, Rocca Matilde)
villa Livia villa Elena e Maria villa Ebe
villa d'Elboeuf villa Favorita Corte dei Leoni article on the Vesuvian Villas villa Fermariello
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