Capodimonte Hill Walking Tour (Self Guided), Naples

Capodimonte Hill is very rich and full of unique attractions. It rises above the lower part of Naples and offers panoramic views of the sea, the islands and the volcanoes. The unique Royal Botanical Garden and the famous Capodimonte Palace are set on this hill. This self-guided tour will lead you through the most popular sites of Capodimonte:
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Capodimonte Hill Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Capodimonte Hill Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Naples (See other walking tours in Naples)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità
  • San Gaudioso Catacombs
  • Church Madre del Buon Consiglio
  • Seminario Arcivescovile di Napoli
  • National Museum of Capodimonte
  • Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte
Royal Botanical Gardens

1) Royal Botanical Gardens (must see)

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Naples is an educational facility attached to the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Science of the University of Naples. Endangered species of plants are preserved here.

The Royal Botanical Gardens was instituted by a decree passed by Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon. It was one of the many scientific institutions established by the French in Naples. It was laid on lands owned by the monks of Santa Maria della Pace and the Cava Hospital. Architects, De Fazio and Paelotti were given the task of designing the garden and the palatial structures within the grounds. It opened in 1810 and Michele Tenore was its first director. Tenore and all subsequent directors added to the diverse species of plants found in the garden today.

The Royal Botanical Gardens covers an area of 15 hectares and has over 10,000 species of plants from all over the world. The garden is divided into three sections, ecology, systems and ethno botany. It has succulents and bushes from the Mediterranean, medicinal plants, a palm grove, a citrus grove and a fernery. There is also a recently restored 17th century castle within the garden where lectures and exhibitions are held and a 5,000 square meter Merola Greenhouse that can be visited only by appointment unlike the rest of the Royal botanical Gardens which is open to the public all week except on Sundays.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità

2) Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità

This Basilica dedicated to Saint Mary of health is located in the Sanita neighborhood of Naples. It was built by Dominican Friars as the house of prayer for their abbey.

The Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità was built on the site of an older church dedicated to Saint Gaudioso. The ancient church had an image of the Holy Virgin dating back to the 5th or 6th century. In 1577, the land was given to the Dominican friars to build a new church over the catacombs of the ancient structure. The Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità was constructed between 1602 and 1610 and designed by Dominican Friar and mannerist architect, Father Joseph Nuvolo. The gilded tiled cupola was completed in 1613.

The interiors of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità has a Greek cross plan with many columns and small cupolas. It has some important works of religious art including paintings by Agostino Beltrano, Luca Giordano and Andrea Vaccaro. There are also many impressive pieces of marble and stucco sculpture. The entrance to the ancient church and catacombs is near the presbytery of the Basilica. The cloister has a unique oval shape. It was damaged because of the construction of a pylon for the 19th century Bridge in Sanita. The remaining cloister still contains frescoes depicting the history and life of the Dominican order.
San Gaudioso Catacombs

3) San Gaudioso Catacombs

The San Gaudioso Catacombs are a maze of Paleo-Christian burial chambers located beneath the Church of Santa Maria della Sanità in Naples. The graves of bishops and common people are found here.

Tunnels were dug into the Capodimonte hillside by the ancient Romans to serve as water cisterns. They later became burial chambers for ancient Christians from the 5th century. St Gaudiosus, a North African bishop and hermit, was enshrined here in 452 and it became an important place of pilgrimage.

The San Gaudioso Catacombs have many 5th and 6th century frescoes and mosaics. They also present a range of burial techniques. A unique technique, used between 1620 and 1650, was to wall a corpse in a standing position in a niche with the head cemented to the wall. The body was punctured to drain its fluids. After all the fluids drained away, the headless body was buried and a frescoed portrait of the deceased was painted below the skull of illustrious men and women. Several bodies of poorer families were drained away in the same niche without a fresco to preserve their memory. A tour takes visitors past the crypt of the Church of Santa Maria della Sanità in Naples to view the rows of stone niches in the catacombs today.
Church Madre del Buon Consiglio

4) Church Madre del Buon Consiglio

The Madre del Buon Consiglio dedicated to Saint Mary of Good Counsel is a large church located below the Capodimonte Palace. It is a recent 20th century construction that was consecrated in 1960.

The Church of Madre del Buon Consiglio was built as a result of two miracles. Maria di Gesù Landi, a young girl from Naples who had great faith in Our lady of Good Counsel painted a picture of the Saint that resulted in the end of a cholera epidemic in 1884. The same painting appeared miraculously in 1906 and cleared the ash clouds of the Vesuvius after an eruption. In gratitude to the Saint for the two miracles a church designed by architect, Vincenzo Vecchio, was built between 1920 and 1940. The church has become legendary because the head of the Madonna on the top of the church fell as a result of the earthquake of 1980 but remained miraculously intact.

The exterior of the Church of Madre del Buon Consiglio resembles the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Many relics and works of art from damaged and abandoned houses of worship in and around Naples were brought and installed in the interiors. Three former Cardinal Archbishops of Naples are buried here and it has become an important place of pilgrimage in honor of local girl, Maria di Gesù Landi. There is also an art gallery with paintings dating back to the 16th century and sculptures depicting the apostles by Michelangelo Naccherino.
Seminario Arcivescovile di Napoli

5) Seminario Arcivescovile di Napoli

Seminario Arcivescovile di Napoli is a theological institution. Its building is majestic, with many statues, and with a fountain in the courtyard. It was built in the 1930s. You will see there several chapels and a wonderful terrace. It boasts of priceless paintings, sculptures that belonged to ancient churches before and were moved here.
National Museum of Capodimonte

6) National Museum of Capodimonte (must see)

This museum, located on top of the Capodimonte Hill in Naples, has valuable pieces of classical art and sculpture and a separate section devoted to contemporary art. It is housed in an 18th century Bourbon Palace, the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte.

The Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte was constructed by the Bourbon King, Charles VII of Naples and Sicily. It was completed in 1738 and the grand palace overlooked both the city and the bay of Naples. It served as the king’s residence and repository of the fabulous Farnese collection of art and sculpture that he inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, who was the last in the line of the Dukes and Duchesses of Parma. Successive Bourbon rulers and those from the house of Savoy also added to the collections. The present museum was opened for public viewing in 1957.

The National Museum of Capodimonte covers three floors of the palace. The first and second floors have major works from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Some of the finest works of the Neapolitan School and contemporary works are found here. The ground floor has the Farnese collection of Roman sculpture on display. Visitors can also view the Royal apartments at the palace, including some exquisite pieces of 18th century antique furniture and porcelain, as well as majolica glazed pottery brought here from other royal residences.

Hours: First floor (8.30-19.30); Second and third floor (9.30-17.00); Closed Wednesday.
Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte

7) Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte (must see)

The Astronomical Observatory of Naples is located on Miradois Hill near the Capodimonte Palace. Located at 150 meters above sea level, it commands spectacular views of the city and the bay. It was the first building in Europe designed to house instruments for astronomical observation.

In 1735, the Bourbon King Charles III endowed a chair of navigation and astronomy at the University of Naples. The plan of establishing the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte was conceived by well-known university astronomers, Giuseppe Piazzi and Federico Zuccari. Their dream was realized during the reign of Joachim Murat, the brother in law of Napoleon, who approved of its plan and sanctioned the construction in 1812. The observatory was completed in 1860 after the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty.

The Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte is a research facility that studies the solar system and astrophysical processes, genesis and evolution. It has a 40cm main telescope through which the public can view the stars when experiments are not being conducted. The observatory also hosts a library with books on astronomy and a small museum, displaying astronomical instruments, including old brass and wooden telescopes, globes, a Chlasner Clock, dating back to the 16th century, some 18h century clocks that were made in Naples, and an impressive collection of maps and prints.

Note that this research center can be visited during scheduled events only, including the various laboratories for the youth.
Activities are published both on the center's FB page (INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte) and their website.

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