The history of Piazza Vanvitelli: the beating heart of Vomero

by Leonardo Quagliuolo

Piazza Vanvitelli is the heart of the Vomero, traveled every day by hundreds of people for the past 130 years. A fundamental point of reference, as well as the main hub to reach any other part of the neighborhood.

Despite its ancient, unmistakable, four buildings are an indelible image in the mind of every frequent visitor to Vomero, having remained almost unchanged, the square has undergone important changes over the years, which in the eyes of the Vomeresi have not gone unnoticed.

vomero piazza vanvitelli
Construction project for the new Vomero district, 1887. From: "Naples nineteenth century

The foundation of the "New Vomero district

It was the 1885, the historic center of Naples was being upset by the plans of the Remediation while the first road axes of the new Vomero district had just been drawn on the ancient country roads that furrowed the hills, at the foot of the ancient Sant'Elmo Castle.

The streets, in fact, remained marked exclusively by a number until 1890, when it was established by the "Permanent commission for the naming of the streets"Of the Municipality of Naples which the hilly district would have been dedicated to famous artists from Campania and also from the rest of the still young Italian nation.

The first names selected were those of the Neapolitan Gian Lorenzo Bernini, from Palermo Alessandro Scarlatti (who, however, lived and died in Naples) and the famous architect, also from Naples, Luigi Vanvitelli.

The first buildings, including the Chiaia and Montesanto funiculars, were built by Banca Tiberina, wich was embroiled in a major scandal in 1899, which is why he had to sell the properties and building land to the Bank of Italy. One of the few completely built areas was Piazza Vanvitelli.

During the management of the land by the Bank of Italy, there was no real coordination of building interventions, but only a simple subdivision that involved, in the following years, the construction of buildings of very variable and sometimes heterogeneous dimensions.

Leonardo Immobiliare

Piazza Vanvitelli and the famous palm tree

The square, octagonal in shape, very spacious, is remained almost unchanged over time as regards the four buildings that belong to it, similarly to the square Nicola Amore, which has a similar history and conformation. In 1900, after the discontinuation of the speculative activity of the Tiberina Bank, Piazza Vanvitelli nevertheless appeared different from today:

The sidewalks were much narrower than they are today, at street level there was no wide choice of commercial premises, like today, but more apartments. Not to mention the traffic, which at the time consisted mainly of (a few) horse-drawn carriages. But the fundamental difference lies in the center of the square: there was a fountain.

piazza vanvitelli
Recolored photo from the early 20th century. A large fountain can be seen in the center of the street.

There was a big news for Piazza Vanvitelli in 1912: the enterprise of conquest of Libya by the Kingdom of Italy. To celebrate the victory, some typical local plants were imported to Italy, as a sort of trophy. In Piazza Vanvitelli he touched a palm tree, which replaced the fountain, definitively.

In those years, the buildings housed, in addition to the residences of the historic inhabitants of the neighborhood and various professional studios and institutes, some of which are still present today, also the studio of the musician Florestano Rossomandi, which today has a street dedicated to Vomero, as well as the consulate of San Marino.

Piazza vanvitelli elisabetta ii
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Piazza Vanvitelli, 1961. In the background, the historic palm tree.

The subway works

In 1976, in the presence of the mayor Valenzi, the construction of Line 1 of the Naples subway, which would have been completed only in 1990. These massive works involved the complete opening of the road surface of the entire stretch between Piazza Vanvitelli and Piazza Medaglie d'oro. It was the most important restyling in history of the square. The palm, of course, was moved.

The sidewalks were widened, with the addition of stairs to reach the underground station below and new flower beds were arranged, with various trees, including some palm trees, still visible today.

piazza vanvitelli metropolitana
Photos from the 1980s, works on the subway in Piazza Vanvitelli.

Piazza Vanvitelli today

In 2009, a red weevil epidemic led to the death of many plants in the neighborhood, including the palm tree which for almost a century has been a spectator to generations of Neapolitans who have brought Piazza Vanvitelli to life every day.

After a long and debated selection, a camphor tree was chosen as the new "protagonist" of the square, which at the time was rather slender, but which today grows luxuriantly.

albero piazza vanvitelli
The new tree in Piazza Vanvitelli. Photo by Leonardo Quagliuolo.

-Leonardo Quagliuolo

For more:

Naples nineteenth century"By prof. Giancarlo Alisio and Alfredo Buccaro

Vomero”By Italo Ferraro

The streets of Naples”By Romualdo Marrone

The roads of Vomero”By Antonio La Gala

Naples Spa subway

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