Museums of every kind and age make Naples a sort of treasure chest full of stunning artworks. Yet there are many galleries, libraries and other points of interest which aren’t often included in the main tourist routes, even if they most definitely deserve a visit.
Let’s get acquainted with some of them, in no particular order.
1 – Museo Elena Aldobrandini – Entirely dedicated to textiles and clothing, this museum keeps precious religious vestments of the XVII century. Their simply exquisite tailoring is a clear evidence of the skills of the tailors and embroiderers who made neapolitan handicraft famous all over Europe in ‘600 and ‘700.
Laces, linen, embroidery, fabrics for furniture coming from the ancient factories of Naples, are all kept here, alongside precious silks and unique dresses. The museum is located in Piazzetta Mondragone, inside the namesake Foundation.
2 – A.R.C.A. – Among the youngest museums of Naples, in one of the oldest churches. Also known as Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, it was born in 2006 and is situated inside the wonderful monumental complex of Santa Maria la Nova, dating back to 1279. Around the cloister of San Ferdinando are displayed 132 works of 88 contemporary artists, gathered since 1949. A.R.C.A. is worth a visit because it offers a different, refreshing perspective on religion, a key theme for the city on Naples since basically forever.
3 – Museo Filangieri – Inside the ancient Palazzo Como, in Via Duomo, there is one of the two museums founded by Gaetano Filangieri, prince of Stariano and art merchant, who donated to Naples an exceptionally rich collection of rare masterpieces. Among them there are paintings, porcelains, medals, armors, plus an archive and a library of more than 30.000 volumes. Sadly, part of the collection was destroyed in a fire during WW2, and in the 70’s the museum was closed for several years. It was given back to the city only recently, and today we can also admire the beautiful portal designed by the prince himself and originally relized by some of the best neapolitan ebonists.
4 – Museo Duca di Martina – In Via Cimarosa, in the Vomero neighborhood, there’s a lovely mansion donated by King Ferdinando IV to his morganatic wife, the Duchess of Floridia. The elegant, neoclassic villa is called Floridiana, after the Duchess herself and is surrounded by a beautiful park overlooking the Gulf. Now it’s the seat of one of the most important museums of decorative art in Italy. It hosts a huge collection of more than 6000 masterpieces of porcelains, bronze artifacts, furniture, corals and crystals which date back until XII century and come from China and Japan as well as Europe. Mind the time table, though, not every section stays open full time.
5 – Museo Palizzi – This fascinating museum is the second one given to Naples by prince Filangieri, but it owns its name to Filippo Palizzi, one of the most important XIX century neapolitan painters, whose works are in the hall bearing the same name. Museo Palizzi has got an interesting collection of ceramics, jewels, ebony manufacts from XIX and XX century, but it also hosts an impressive archaeological section composed by Egiptian, Cumaean and Coptic artifacts. Find it in Piazzetta Salazar, a few minutes from Piazza del Plebiscito.
6 – Museo del Corallo – Probably among the smallest museums in town, the Coral museum may not be very large, but it still has a very fascinating collection of essentially everything regarding coral. From instruments, old and new, to pictures, from different kinds of coral to awesome jewels, refined cameos, delicate artworks and pretty shells. It can be easily found inside Galleria Umberto I, on Via Toledo.
7 – Villa Pignatelli – While walking along the sunny seafront of via Caracciolo, we can just cross the Villa Comunale to gift ourselves with a trip in a languid past made of art, culture and beauty. In Riviera di Chiaia there’s a stunning neoclassic villa with a small park that belonged to the noble Pignatelli family. Inside its hall there are magnificent grisailles and gilded stucco decorations by Gaetano Genovese, family portraits, some pictures by prince Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes, an amateur photograph, and a lovely Pompeian boudoir. There’s also a library and, on the first floor, the House of Photography.
8 – Quadreria dei Girolamini – The monumental complex of Girolamini is one of the most important in Naples, and definitely not to be missed. The church keeps and amazing fresco by Luca Giordano, but as gorgeous as it may be, it’s by far not the only reason to go there. Inside the parish, around the cloister, there’s a gallery full of painting by artists from central Italy, like Zuccari and Cavalier d’Arpino, as well as artists of the neapolitan school like Ribera, Solimena and Caracciolo. Unfortunately the library, with its almost 160.000 texts, is closed and can be visited only on rare occasions. The gallery entrance is on Via Duomo.
9 – Museo Donnaregina – Donnaregina is a baroque church nearby Via Duomo, in the very heart on Naples. It’s a museum in itself, with amazing paintings by some of the most relevant artists in Naples, like Luca Giordano, Solimena, Aniello Falcone, Vaccaro and many more. Right next to the church there’re also 3000 square meters of exposition, split into a medieval section and a baroque section. Among paintings and frescoes, there is a very rare XII century reliquary too, which holds a fragment of the Holy Cross.
10 – Museo dell’Osservatorio Astronomico – The Astronomic Observatory is located on the hill of Miradois, not far from Capodimonte royal palace. Up there, together with a stunning panoramic view, there is a nice neoclassic building. Some of its rooms are used to showcase artworks and a vast assortment of precious scientific instruments from different ages. Other rooms in the basement are maintained at a constant temperature for the sake of a few accurate timepieces. On the terrace, instead, there are geodetic and astronomical instruments, while in the farm there is a big hall containing the Repsold’s Meridian Circle, still the most modern and precise in Italy, even if it dates back to 1868. Enthusiasts and scientists both will just love this one.