In 1742, the Baroque Italian architect, Ferdinando Sanfelice designed the Real Bosco di Capodimonte – a forested area to cater to King Charles’ love of hunting. Today, the gardens cover 130 hectares and feature over 400 varieties of trees. The Bosco is reached through the Porta di Mezzo gate behind the Polizia di Stato building. A second entrance to the park is at the Porta di Miano at the northwestern end of the park on Discesa Bellaria, just off Via Miano.
Whether you enter Capodimonte through the Porta Piccola gate or the Porta Grande, the first thing you encounter are Capodimonte’s gardens: the palm trees, grassy areas, and winding paths that encircle the palace; the belvedere, the beautiful view once known as the Veduta di Napoli that sits 150 meters above sea level overlooking the city and the bay. If you didn’t know about the Bosco, you might take a quick jaunt around, perhaps even stop for a picnic in the grass, and think that was that. But if you look a bit deeper you’ll find entry to the King’s hunting grounds, a mix of wide open grasslands and forested paths that are a peaceful and often solitary respite from the bustling city.
Not far from the Porta Piccola entrance is a building marked Polizia dello Stato. In the 19th century this was the Fabbricato Scuderie, the Royal Stables. Today it maintains much the same function, though stabling the horses of the State Police’s mounted unit rather than the King’s. Behind this building is the wide cobbled path that leads to the Porta di Mezzo – the gateway to Bosco Reale. Like the fingers of your hand, five major paths fan out from this gate and like spider veins, more than 100 secondary paths fan out from these.
A variety of statues, fountains, and buildings pepper the park’s landscape. Of special note is the Royal Porcelain Factory – the Real Fabbrica della Porcellana that is now the Istituto Giovanni Caselli, an art school that teaches this artisan tradition. The building was designed by Ferdinando Sanfelice, father of the winged staircases as was the nearby Church of San Gennaro. If you follow the path these are on, you will find the Miano Gate, a secondary entrance to the park about 1 ½ kilometres north of the Porta Piccola gate.