Visible from the autostrada near the Naples Financial District, a tower pokes its head out of the hills. It’s reddish and from the freeway it looks crumbling – or even like an Arab tower with overtones of neo-Gothic and Renaissance.

A bit more reading about Naples history, however, reveals that while Arabs from North Africa may have traded with Naples, they didn’t settle in these parts. In fact, no mosque exists in the modern city today. So what is this strange tower that pokes into view when you are driving along the tangenziale and peeks through the vegetation near the botanical gardens?

Located a few blocks away from Capodimonte, the Torre del Palascino was designed to look like the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. Antonio Cipolla directed construction that builders completed in 1868. Today, private residents live inside the tower, which is surrounded by high gates.

The surgeon Ferdinando Palasciano (1815-1891) once owned the entire complex. When he provided medical care to both sides in Messina during the riots of 1848, the King considered his care of the enemy an act of treason and consequently Palasciano served one year in prison. His case gained international attention and provided the basis for the Geneva Convention of 1864 that gave life to the Red Cross. The good doctor thereafter lived in this abode, which included a large garden of fruit trees.

Today, the Culture Hotel Villa di Capodimonte is located next door, providing wonderful views of the city as well as a view of the tower.