The parking lot in Piazza del Plebiscito, thirty years of horrors

by Federico Quagliuolo

Naples has always been a automotive chaos: even when the cars were a tenth of the current ones it was anyway difficult to find a place. It was for this reason that it was regulated the parking lot in Piazza del Plebiscito in 1963, even becoming a bus station in the 1980s. However, it was already present at the beginning of the 20th century a taxi rank in the square.
It was a vision that, from the windows of Royal Palace, would have horrified all the Neapolitan kings, which they were very attentive to the landscape.

Parking throughout the historic center

If today there are those who complain about finding the empty and bare square, just see one of the many photos of the era for rethink things in a different light. The enormous size of Piazza del Plebiscito in fact they made it the largest public parking in Naples and its surroundings.
It was very easy to lose your car in a sea of Fiat 500, 131 and 127 that, small, small and with uniform colors, yes they looked alike all among them: there are those who say that the searches lasted even more than an hour!
And here, especially in recent years, he thought about sorting cars and drivers the inevitable valet: Don Pascale, a famous smuggler of the area also known for his long tongue: he, in fact, a suggest the story of the fake lion theft of the colonnade of San Francesco di Paola to an unwary reporter.

Carbone Archive Parking in Piazza del Plebiscito
The parking lot in Piazza del Plebiscito in a super congested day Photo by Riccardo Carbone Archive

The parking problem

However, the problem was serious: the streets of Naples were difficult to manage for the coachmen, let alone for the motorists, who in the 60s were also in very small number compared to today and with a fleet of machines infinitely smaller than the suv modern. Yet, even at the time, they were there big space problems, as there were very few garages (they were often still called garages, with a linguistic heritage of fascist origin) and the hilly neighborhoods were under construction.

The Italy of the economic boom was running faster and faster. And with the salaries growing, new jobs and the technological progress of industries, even the less affluent began to travel first on the economic ones Wasps (and it is no coincidence that Naples, as well as Palermo and Catania, is still very tied to the Piaggio scooter today) and then they moved en masse on Automobiles, with the Fiat Giardiniera loaded with suitcases who every summer traveled to the new tourist resorts, Baia Domizia e Coppola village. With cars increasing dramatically in number every year, parking problems came, since the Unruly traffic was already known even when engines were a thing for very few in the city.

Thus it was that Piazza del Plebiscito it went from a pedestrian area to a public parking lot, replacing the ancient and graceful installations of the end of the 19th century, such as the Fontana del Serino, with the trucks and cars that filled the monuments with smog and the interiors of Royal Palace, starting the an era of decay which only stopped many years later.

Parking in Piazza del Plebiscito
The parking in Piazza del Plebiscito with also the bus station

Parking in Piazza del Plebiscito closes amid protests

The year 1994 was a turning point in the recent history of Naples. The city was going out ruined and battered from the 80s, started with the earthquake of Irpinia and concluded with the havoc combined for Italy '90, where the same piazza del Plebiscito became an open-air construction site for the construction of Line 6 of the subway, which was never built just like the first underground in Italy eighty years earlier. (Maybe the terminus there is bad?)

The mayor was Antonio Bassolino, the first to be elected by the citizens, who found himself with enormous responsibilities on his shoulders: he had to organize the city in a workmanlike manner to prepare it adequately for host the G7, one of the most important world political events ever. The great challenge was also that of having to restore most of the monuments and historic buildings, at the time unsafe, looted or even abandoned after the disasters of the 1980 earthquake.

Festivalbar 1996 piazza plebiscito
The 1996 Festivalbar in Piazza del Plebiscito, one of the first major events in the pedestrian square

One of the administration's first measures surprised everyone and concerned traffic: Piazza del Plebiscito became a pedestrian area. Initially it was thought it would be a transitional measure linked to the G7 that would be held between 8 and 10 July 1994. Then the square was cordoned off with chains and stakes, demonstrating the will to make the decision perpetual: it was the casus belli that unleashed the furious protests of many merchants of Via Toledo, who met in committees, launched petitions and moved all sorts of legal instruments for invalidate the mayor's decision. Then again, the taste for controversy never fails and we have also seen it in more recent times, when it was pedestrianized the promenade twenty years after Piazza del Plebiscito.

Everyone was wondering: "What will happen to all those parked cars?" and especially: "without a parking space, who will ever come to Toledo?". The subway did not even exist: at the time it was a small newborn line that connected Vanvitelli with the Aminei Hills and, without the parking in Piazza del Plebiscito, things for motorists would certainly have favored the commercial district of the Vomero, more modern and easy to reach thanks to the ring road. Then immediately afterwards Via Scarlatti was also closed to traffic. And the Vomeresi also rose up.

Time proved the mayor of Naples right.

Already the Festivalbar, which was done in Naples right in the former parking lot in Piazza del Plebiscito, he demonstrated with his 100,000 spectators the potential of the space returned to citizenship. Very soon the new square became the center of great city events, duet with the St. Paul with concerts and dominating national televisions during the new year celebrations, thanks to the scenic setting designed by two Swiss architects 500 years ago: Pietro Bianchi e Domenico Fontana.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Become a supporter!

With a small contribution you will keep the largest cultural dissemination site in Campania alive! Many advantages for you

error: NOTICE: You can't copy the content!