Depicted in the Italian films Processo alla Citta by Luigi Zampa and Giudizio Universale by Vittorio de Sica, not to mention as the backdrop for Pietra Montecorvino’s performance of Comme Facette Mammeta – How Your Mama Made You in John Turturro’s Passione, the Palazzo Spagnolo is an awe-inspiring work of architecture.
In Naples generally, the triumvirate of Bourbon architects include: Luigi Vanvitelli, Ferdinando Fuga, and Ferdinando Sanfelice. Sanfelice’s signature style was hawk-winged staircases – Ali di Falco – that he designed around the city center, like the one he did at San Giovanni a Carbonara; he also was believed to have created the stairs of this palazzo – but that’s untrue.
Marquis Nicola Moscati built this palazzo in 1738 and the edifice became a famous example of Neapolitan Rococo. Although Sanfelice was said to have designed the building, his name never appeared on any notary deeds, leading scholars to surmise that he only gave out advice on its construction.
Afterwards, financial problems marred the palazzo in scandal. Moscati ceded it to the Marquis of Livardi after incurring high debts. In 1813 Livardi had to sell it again to a Spanish nobleman, don Tommaso Atienza, from which the building gets its Spanish moniker.
Atienza commissioned a new architect to do extension work, but he was so unhappy with the result that he went to court. The proceedings cost Atienza an exorbitant amount and he too had to sell the palazzo, apportioning several sections to three different owners; four portions, however, remained empty due to lack of buyers. Let’s hope they have better luck today.