Palazzo Genovese in Largo Campo: falcon wings from Salerno to Naples

by Gerardo Russo

TO Largo Campo, central square of Salerno, we find Genoese Palace. It is a work of the youthful period of Mario Gioffredo, a Neapolitan architect, who followed the restoration works of the building around the middle of the eighteenth century. The palace has similarities with two iconic buildings of the Health District, Sanfelice Palace e Palace of the Spanish, thus tracing an imaginary line that unites Salerno e Naples through architectural creativity.

The history of Palazzo Genovese

The Salerno building was inhabited since 1621 by the Pinto family. It was then donated by the last descendant of the Pinto to the convent of the Teresian Fathers. These, not having sufficient resources to be able to restore it adequately, granted it to Baron Matteo Genovese.

Thus, in the mid-eighteenth century, important renovations were started, directed by the young architect Mario Gioffredo. Prominent exponent of eighteenth-century Neapolitan architecture, Gioffredo had been a pupil of Ferdinando Sanfelice, its illustrious predecessor, known in particular for its characteristic and monumental open stairways.

Palazzo Genovese overlooks Piazza Sedile del Campo, presenting a rectangular plan and an internal courtyard, from which you can admire the majestic stairs. Used as an elementary school until the 1980s, it subsequently hosted exhibitions and festivals. A part of the building also houses some laboratories of the University of Salerno.

Palazzo Genovese a Largo Campo: ali di falco da Salerno a Napoli
Palazzo Genovese, Salerno. Ph. Gerardo Russo.

From Palazzo Sanfelice to Palazzo Genovese

Palazzo Genovese has a large open staircase inside the courtyard, which clearly reflects the model of Ferdinando Sanfelice, known as Scala Sanfeliciana or falcon wings, an expression of the Neapolitan Baroque. The symmetrical and double-flight hawk-wing staircases have made Palazzo Sanfelice, built between 1724 and 1726, and Palazzo dello Spagnolo, built starting in 1738, famous. The two buildings are located in the heart of the Health in Naples and over time have become symbols of the neighborhood, as well as of the entire city.

The stairs, bizarre for the time and still seemingly unstable today, make science fiction scenarios possible only theorized later by Escher. The strangeness of the hawk-wing stairs gave an original nickname to Sanfelice, renamed "Levat'a'sott”By the people for the risk suggested by its structures.

The opening of the stairs, on the other hand, acquires a specific scenic relevance within the Baroque architecture of Sanfelice, later taken up by Gioffredo in Palazzo Genovese. The stairs, forming a majestic backdrop to the courtyard, constitute a sort of theatrical fifth to the sociability and daily life of the environment. A permanent setting for the meetings that arise and die on the ground floor of a housing complex, whether it is in the heart of Naples or Salerno. It is no coincidence that the Sanfelician buildings were then used for various film sets. We recall, for example, the setting in Palazzo Sanfelice di These ghosts, the work of Eduardo De Filippo.

Palazzo Genovese a Largo Campo: ali di falco da Salerno a Napoli
Spanish Palace, Naples. Ph. Gerardo Russo.

From Sanfelice to Gioffredo, from baroque to neoclassical

Naples and Salerno, the two main cities of Campania, thus find an unprecedented element of conjunction through the stairways of the two eccentric buildings of the Baroque era.

Another curiosity, however, unites Sanfelice and Gioffredo, as well as Naples and the Salerno province. In 1740, it is reported how Sanfelice suggested using the Doric columns of the temples of Paestum as an ornament of the Capodimonte Royal Palace. This is not surprising, as the reuse of ancient monuments for different purposes was a very common practice since the Renaissance. Fortunately, Sanfelice's proposal was declined and it was Mario Gioffredo, a forerunner of neoclassical models, who together with the painter Giovanni Battista Natali he directed the first survey campaign of the archaeological remains of Paestum.

The discovery of the temples of Paestum would have contributed greatly to the spread ofneoclassical architecture, which incorporates elements of classical Greek and Roman architecture, to the detriment of the Baroque one represented by the Sanfelician palaces. We find in Naples one of the most important examples of neoclassical architecture in Italy: the Royal Papal Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, located in Piazza del Plebiscito.

Palazzo Genovese a Largo Campo: ali di falco da Salerno a Napoli
Royal Papal Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, Piazza del Plebiscito. Ph. Vytenis Malisauskas.

The hawk wings that unite Campania

Naples and Salerno, two very different cities although geographically close, also tell their story through the Sanfelician stairs which, with the flapping of the wings, of a hawk, take us instantly from Largo Campo to the Rione Sanità, from Palazzo Genovese to Sanfelice Palace. Just as Paestum takes us back to Piazza del Plebiscito. As well as the sirens of Ulysses from the Amalfi coast take us back to the ancient Parthenope. Just as the Greek and then Roman world, passing through the Baroque and the Neoclassical, in a melting pot of heterogeneous styles and stories, bring us once again, tirelessly, from Naples to Salerno.


Pippo Pirozzi; Palazzo Sanfelice - Architecture and the urban scale; 2021—4b061a1e-40e7-4b28-9287-2355752fc72a.html

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