Luigi Vanvitelli Route

 In Art Itineraries, Historical Center

DOBEDOO – Luigi Vanvitelli Route through the historic city center of Naples and the architectural heritage of Luigi Vanvitelli.
L. Vanvitelli is a Neapolitan painter and architect, and is considered one of the greatest interpreters of the late Baroque-Neoclassical Italian. Born in May of the 1700s, Luigi Vanvitelli was active mainly in the center of Italy (Lazio and Campania), where he realized most of his works.
Among its most prestigious legends are the most famous Palace of Caserta and various architectural products distributed in the city of Naples.


The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata Maggiore is settled in Pendino district, near  Forcella, in the historic centre of Naples.

The Basilica, erected in the XIV century, belongs to a bigger architectonic group that was consisted in a church, a hospital (still functioning), a convent and an orphanage.

In the XVIII century during the Bourbon’s kingdom, the buildings of the Basilica, after a devastating fire, became the main characters of a great restoration action.

The next reconstruction followed a design by Luigi Vanvitelli, who proved his ability to join the new structures to the pre-existing settings. But the Neapolitan architect could not finish the works that passed to his son Carlo Vanvitelli.

The story of the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata Maggiore is bonded to the story of Neapolitan people: in the basilica there was the Ruota degli Esposti (literally translated as The Wheel of the Exposed Ones) that is still visible. This Wheel was an orphanage where the Neapolitans women could leave their children because of poverty or illegitimacy reasons in a total anonymous way. The children were entrusted to the protection of Santissima Annunziata.  As said before with this system the mother’s anonymity was totally guaranteed. After the transfer of the child , there was an system of recognition that was useful to permit to the mothers the recognition of the child in case of second thoughts: it consisted in giving a piece of cloth or a half-cutted t-shirt.

From this incredible custom was born the widespread Esposito surname. This Italian surname is considered as one of the most important surnames with the greatest historical value because we know exactly the date of parentage: 1st January 1623.

Luigi Vanvitelli Route: PIAZZA DANTE

Piazza Dante (Dante’s Square) is one of the main squares of Naples. Originally named “Largo del Mercatello”, it used to host one of the two major markets of the city.

The other market, considered the main one, was settled in Piazza Mercato (literally translated in “Market Square”) located in the port area. The current conformation of the square is by to be assigned to the neoclassic architect Luigi Vanvitelli that in 1756 reinterpreted the urban space in order to solemnise the king Carlo di Borbone (Charles of Bourbon) giving to the square the new name “Foro Carolino”.

Immediately after the Italian unification in 1861 the square was renamed with the actual name Piazza Dante (Dante’s Square) in order to delete every footprint of the Bourbon domination. Coincidentally to this event, in the centre of the square, was erected a statue of the highest poet Dante Alighieri by the artists Tito Angelini and Tommaso Salari Jr. The last operation to the square is about to be assigned to the architect Aulenti in 2002 in order to position the new underground station of Naples.

In 2011 the squares was closed to traffic to discourage the using of cars in the historic center. Piazza Dante hosts some of the most important cultural, tourist and artistic events of the city.

Luigi Vanvitelli Route: PALAZZO DORIA D’ANGRI

The Palazzo Doria d’Angri is a monumental palace of Naples situated in Piazza Sette Settembre near Via Toledo.

The palace was erected on the basis of two sixteenth-century houses on commission of the prince Marcantonio Doria. In 1760 the main preexisting complex was demolished, but in that year Doria died and the idea of a family palace passed to the son Giovanni Doria that commissioned the project to a now-old Luigi Vanvitelli.

After the death of Vanvitelli in 1773, the projects passed to Carlo Vanvitelli, Luigi’s son, to whom is due the actual configuration of the Palazzo Doria d’Angri.

In 1940 the great collection of Marcantonio Doria, which had preserved in the palace, was unpacked and sold at auction. Among the most important works, there were arworks by Van Dyck, Rubens and the “Martyrdom of St.Orsola” by Caravaggio.

During the Second World War the complex was damaged, especially on the top of the main façade, for this reason it lost six of the eight sculptures that embellished the top cornice of the building and the great coat-of-arms of the aristocratic Doria’s family, situated on the great window of the noble floor.

Luigi Vanvitelli Route: SAN CARLO THEATER

The San Carlo Theater is situated near Piazza del Plebiscito (Plebiscite Square) and belong to the same complex of the Royal Palace of Naples.

It is considered as the italian lyrical temple as well as the first lyrical theatre of Europe and of the world. Built on the 4th November, 1737 for the will of the King Carlo III di Borbone (Charles III of Bourbon) right in occasion of the reckoning of the King. Hence the name San Carlo.

For the King the theater should exalt the power of his kingdom and the status of Naples as the european Capital City. The initial project of the theater was commissioned to the architect G.A.Medrano. Medrano provided the first structure of the theater with 1379 seats. During the first years of the neapolitan theater, under the direction of Casarale nicknamed “the Miracle Man”, the San Carlo used to host on its stage artists of caliber like Domenico Sarro.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, with Gioacchino Murat the theater was directed from the entrepreneur Domenico Barbaja. In those years the great revival of the San Carlo took place thanks to the architect Antonino Niccolini that in only two years gave to the theater the actual majestic look.

Some years after Niccolini will even direct the successive restoration works in 1817 after a great fire that burned the theater, reconfiguring the main indoor room with 2500 seats. Among the most famous artists who have walked the stage of the neapolitan theater there are Paganini, Bellini, Verdi, Mercadante and many others.

Luigi Vanvitelli Route: PALAZZO REALE

The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) of Naples is a kingly building located in Piazza del Plebiscito (Plebiscito square) in the historic center of Naples where is situated its main entrance: the entire complex that includes the gardens and the San Carlo Theater overlooks on Piazza (Square) Trieste e Trento, Piazza Municipio (Townhall Square) and via Acton.

It was the historic residence of Spanish viceroy for more than hundred and fifty years. It was sold in 1919 from Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy to the italian state-property and mainly used as museum pole, especially the Royal Apartments, and it is the headquarter of the National Library.

The Palazzo Reale was built in 1600 and reached its actual appearance in 1858: to its construction and successive restoration works participated architects like Domenico Fontana, Gaetano Genovese, Luigi Vanvitelli, Ferdinando Sanfelice e Francesco Antonio Picchiatti.

Luigi Vanvitelli Route: PIAZZA DEL PLEBISCITO

Piazza del Plebiscito is a large public square in central Naples, situated at the end of Via Toledo, just overstepped Piazza Trieste e Trento.

Located in the Historic Centre of the city between the seafront and Via Toledo, Piazza del Plebiscito has a 25000 mq surface and it is presented as one of the largest squares of the city and of Italy: for this reason this square is one of the best place for the major events.

We can metaphorically divide Piazza del Plebiscito in two distinct parts: the first one starts at the base of the basilica and it follows a semicircular conformation, while the second one – below the hemicycle closure axis – has a rectangular shape given by the curtains of the Twin Palaces along the short sides and by the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) profile along the long side.

In the middle of the square there are two equestrian statues representing Carlo III di Borbone (Charles III of Bourbon) and his son Ferdinando I.

Once in the square for the Neapolitans it is a must to challenge themselves in crossing blindfolded the square starting from the entrance of the Royal Palace: the first who can reach the centre of the equestrian statues wins the challenge and everlasting fortune. Obviously without cheating!


It is considered as one of the most important examples of neoclassical architecture in Italy, the Royal Pontifical Basilica San Francesco di Paola is located at the west side of Piazza del Plebiscito.

The starting project belongs to Gioacchino Murat, who was the King of Naples in 1808, and he wanted to requalify the peripheral area of the historic center that was disreputable at that time. The chosen project, named Gran Foro Gioacchino, proposed the edification of an arcade with a hall in the middle thought to be used as headquarter for popular meetings, but this project did not fulfil because Murat was dethroned by the bourbon Ferdinando I of the two Sicilies who decided to convert the final product into the church, and he dedicated it to Saint Francis of Paola that had interceded the reinstatement of the Bourbon Kingdom.

Ferdinando I decided to build a majestic Church positioned in the middle of the arcade with the explicit request that the height of the dome did not exceed the height of the Palazzo Reale situated in front of it.

The works of Church finished in 1846 and it reflects the neoclassical style, it is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome.

The Basilica San Francesco di Paola overlooks the square embracing it with its 34 majestic columns. To enter you walk on a staircase made of precious marble from Carrara.
Insidethere is the greater altar that it was designed by Ferdinando Fuga in 1751 and it is realized in porphyry and beautify with lapis lazuli and agate and on its sides there are two columns of Egyptian breach, moreover  you can also find a canvas from Luca Giordano.

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