Speaker: Dr Giovanni Coci
I was born in Naples, Southern Italy and I am quite passionate about the culture and the history of this beautiful part of the world. The purpose of my talk is to share with you some facts about the history of Southern Italy which may not be well known.
Let’ s start from the beginning. How many of you have heard of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies?
Let’s look at the map of pre-unification Italy
It consisted of eight different states:
The Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont – In Italian Piemonte)
The Lombardo Veneto (Under Austrian rule)
The Principality of Parma
The Duchy of Modena
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany
The Republic of San Marino
The Papal States
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
As you can see the Regno delle Due Sicilie (Kingdom of the two Sicilies) was the name given to Southern Italy before unification
The Kingdom was the largest and most populous state of pre-unity Italy
Why this rather odd name of Kingdom of the two Sicilies, when in fact there is only one Sicily?
Well, over the last one thousand years Southern Italy was ruled by various dynasties, Normans, French, Spanish and others. As the rulers changed, often boundaries were re-written. At one stage the whole of Southern Italy was known as the Kingdom of Sicily. Then the island of Sicily seceded and kept the name of Kingdom of Sicily, while the ruler of the mainland in his wisdom decided to keep his title of King of Sicily. When the island and the mainland were finally re-united, to avoid bruising egos the new entity was renamed the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
This happened at the beginning of the eighteenth century. For the last 3 centuries prior to that Southern Italy had been ruled by Spain.
In 1734 one of the Spanish Princes, Carlo di Borbone,
managed to convince the Spanish government to relinquish the control of Southern Italy and he became the first monarch of the Neapolitan Bourbon dynasty (Borboni di Napoli) to rule over the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
Map of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies
Carlo di Borbone proved to be an exceptionally enlightened and talented monarch. Under his rule architecture, the arts, music, science, technology, commerce and industry flourished and the golden period of the history of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies began. Carlo di Borbone only ruled Southern Italy until 1756 when he was offered the crown of Spain and moved to Madrid as King of Spain, but his successors carried on his legacy.
Let’s go through some of the remarkable developments that took place under the Bourbon dynasty and that can be looked at as the GLORY of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
Although there were great achievements in most fields the following stand out as areas of excellence
He wished to build a new royal court and administrative centre for the kingdom in an inland location, protected from possible attacks from the sea , and away from the congested city of Naples.
The brief for this development on a 120 hectares site near Caserta, some 30 km inland from Naples, was given to the Dutch architect Lodewjik Van Wittel, whose name was soon Italianised to Luigi Vanvitelli
This statue of Vanvitelli stands in a piazza in Naples named after him
Construction began in 1752. We can see some of Vanvitelli’ s original plans
The grandiose palace and park are strikingly beautiful and elegant
Adorned by many fountains and exquisite marble statuary.
The most impressive of these are
The fountain of Aeolus
Fountain of Aeolus
The Fountain of Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis
The Fountain of Diana depicting beautiful hunting scenes
Fountain of Diana
Fountain of Diana Close up
Close up of Diana)
The Fountain of the Dolphins
Fountain of the Dolphins
By the way nothing to do with Pizza Margherita.
This is the real thing: thick crust, fresh tomatoes, basil and my friend Marco’s mozzarella. A yummy for Mother’s day.
The pizza Margherita came into being one hundred years later. It also had a royal connection. There was, and still is, a well known family owned pizzeria called “Brandi” near the royal palace of Naples. Legend has it that one day queen Margherita of Italy visited the restaurant. The owner, Mr. Brandi had just designed a new pizza which he offered to the Queen who thought it was excellent and from that day it was named MARGHERITA and is known as such throughout the world.
Getting back to Caserta, an enormous amount of water was required to feed all the fountains and the water courses. For this reason Vanvitelli had to build an aqueduct which was named after him
Look at the elegance of the design, reminiscent of Roman aqueducts.
Let’s now look at the Royal Palace itself which was clearly inspired by the Palace of Versailles
The Palace is rectangular, with four large interior courtyards intersecting at right angles. It covers 45,000 m2 and its five storeys rise to a height of 36 m.
Aerial View of the Palace.
The building contains 1,200 rooms (this beats any house on Beachy Head)
The monumental main staircase
gives access to the throne hall
Another noteworthy feature is the Court Theatre, a superb example of 18th-century design.
The royal apartments include a magnificent library
And, naturally, the royal bedroom
As a matter of curiosity the royal bathroom included a bidet, the first ever to be installed in Italy
And now let’s talk about
To compensate the farmers who had lost 120 hectares of land Carlo di Borbone decided to create a village on a nearby royal hunting reserve known as the San Leucio Resort, right next to the Royal Palace of Caserta. The village was designed to house a very advanced silk weaving industry. San Leucio was an unusual experiment well ahead of its time, combining the most advanced technology available with a modern social security system for the workers who had subsidised housing, free schooling and free medical care as well as participation in a profit sharing system. Not bad for the middle of the eighteenth century.