Stretching for over 1km, Naples Villa Comunale Park has the enviable position of flanking the famed Riviera di Chiaia on one side and the Bay of Naples on the other along the renowned Lungomare – Via Caracciolo. Nestled between the Pizzofalcone and Posillipo Hills, it follows the curve of the Bay from Piazza Vittoria on the east to Piazza della Repubblica on the west, home to the U.S. Consulate General Naples. It was first built as a paved road between Piazza Vittoria and Piedigrotta by the Spanish viceroy Duke of Medinaceli in 1697 who adorned it with thirteen fountains and two rows of willow trees on each side. Later, it became a Royal Promenade known as Villa Reale and sitting directly on the shore, provided a much needed buffer between the hustle and bustle of the city to the north and the tranquil sea to the south.
… between the street and the sea, is the villa Reale the fashionable promenade. On one side the waves kiss the wall, and if you like you may sit for hours in the seats provided and dream of coral graves and purple mullets. Or you may walk in nicely-graveled paths, beneath palms, orange trees and bowers of blooming laurestinas, even though it be March. The whole air is full of perfume, and the promenades are thronged with the flush and the fair. Dick Tinto, New York Times, January 22, 1858
That however was in the days when women donned gowns to stroll through the park and when only the rich, the royals, and the famous graced its promenade. That is except for once a year on September 9th during the Festa di Piedigrotta, when all citizens were welcomed into the park, provided of course that they wore shoes. The Neapolitans still flock to Villa Comunale to celebrate that festival today.
The people eventually won the rights to their park in 1869 and it was aptly renamed Villa Comunale – the People’s Park. But around the same time, they lost their shoreline when the city built Via Caracciolo between 1872 and 1883. Despite that however, the sea remains a prominent feature of Villa Comunale and is an interesting contrast to the park’s alabaster statuary and lush greens which provide a much needed respite from the Mediterranean’s unrelenting sun.
Along Villa Comunale’s tree lined paths are neoclassical sculptures and fountains and an interesting assortment of late 19th and early 20th century statues and busts commemorating Naples’ local heroes. The park is also home to the Anton Dohrn Aquarium and Zoological Station, the Naples Tennis Club, and hosts the Naples Antique Market – Fiera Antiquaria Napoletana.
Naples Villa Comunale Park is a great place for jogging, walking the dog, or just taking the kids for a day out. There are playgrounds and a small roller skating rink in the park and you can rent a variety of motorized and non-motorized vehicles near the Piazza Vittoria entrance. Along the park on the waterside there are four caffes that are great for people watching and taking in the sea’s breeze.
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