The Bonelli Museum: the History of Naples in a room

by Federico Quagliuolo

Entering the Bonelli Museum room is a journey into the daily life of the past: from bus tickets to the original decrees of Francis II of Bourbon, arriving at sanitary ware from the end of the 19th century and American souvenirs from 1944.

In the collection there are more than 30,000 artifacts and memories of everyday life, those things that pass through our hands and characterize our lives, but that escape attention and, when we find them, they bring back ancient memories, a bit like when an old token from telephone booths appears in the house e makes us smile.

The mission of a lifetime

The host, Gaetano Bonelli, welcomes us with a smile. The temporary seat of the Bonelli museum is located inside the House of the Scugnizzo of Materdei, a seat obtained later years of battles to be able to find a place to place the huge collection gathered in years of work.

Since I was a teenager I had fun in collect objects with a soulexplains Gaetano - and all you see is the fruit of a whole life spent studying, selecting, discovering artifacts related to the history of Naples: for me everything has a value, because it tells a story". A manifesto to the sensitivity.

And actually what he says is really true: in the study of history, thanks to the work of scholars, we succeed in rediscover the habits of the ancients through a piece of earthenware found by chance or a coin with an unexpected appearance. The same can be said for the objects of the last century: in the last hundred years there are so many habits, professions and interests that have changed and disappeared. And thanks to the work of Gaetano Bonelli, it will be easier to pick up pieces along the way.

Museo Bonelli cessi gabinetti
"Award-winning V. Coccoli toilet factory"

Let's start with what makes a smile: i toilets. The same as Clemente Esposito found in his underground explorations, today they are on display in the Bonelli Museum, making us discover background of Neapolitan daily life. In fact, they were very naturally called "cessi", as the labels tell us, and each of these made a fine show of their abilities, from the "very comfortable" to the "award-winning odorless toilet”Of a factory that no longer exists in Capodichino.

And again: inside a wardrobe there is an almost infinite archive of documents related to various historical areas of the past: from threats made to lawyers during the Cook process to theater posters from the early 1900s. Let's not forget the collection of tickets and deeds of the Belgian Society of Tramways, the ancestor of ATAN which later became our ANM: we know the rates, habits and timetables of Neapolitans even from 100 and more years ago.

Another fundamental use of these finds? The art of films. It is indeed thanks to the historical archives that the most attentive can recreate those details that astound us in a film set in times gone by.

Locomotiva Duca di Calabria
The locomotive of Pietrarsa

The Banco di Napoli Museum

The greatest pride of Gaetano Bonelli, however, is linked to Banco di Napoli: We are talking about an institution that has marked the history of all of Southern Italy. I have collected unique documents, only from me they can be found“.

His collection is almost endless. From checkbooks to the original projects of the various offices, arriving at registers, stamps, documents, cases and everything that can be linked to the business. The exhibition is on display in the central showcases of the room and there are also numerous documents from very important historical value.

What is also surprising is the total economic autonomy of the Bonelli Museum. Proudly Gaetano explains to us that everything we see is managed exclusively with his own strength, guided by the immense love for the history of the city. It has often launched appeals to institutions and individuals to seek funding and support.

Waiting for a even bigger accommodation, where it is possible to exhibit the entire heritage of the largest collection of finds, it is a must-see for Neapolitans and tourists. Freely open to visitors.

"Casa dello Scugnizzo" Foundation, Piazzetta San Gennaro in Materdei,

Contact details: - 340/4844132

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Museo Bonelli
the Bonelli Museum

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