After more than three years since the first closure, we are finally close to the return of one of the most important and popular cultural sites in Naples. We are talking about the Fontanelle Cemetery, which has experienced some really dark years since 2020. First the COVID outbreak and the pandemic emergency, then various structural and bureaucratic problems. In short, the situation has never seen a recovery, let alone a timetable.

The long-awaited news has arrived: the Fontanelle Cemetery will be reopened in the coming months. The official announcement came directly from the city's mayor Gaetano Manfredi during the presentation to the public of the G-124 Naples urban redevelopment project. However, giving strength to the veracity of the news is the 'victory' of the 'La Paranza' cooperative, which obtained the management of the space.

The success of La Paranza: a security for the Rione Sanità

The Fontanelle Cemetery's immense cultural heritage will therefore be entrusted to the cooperative La Paranza, which is active in the Sanità district. The co-op has always been involved in the defence and promotion of the neighbourhood, acting as spokesman for an entire community. An important project was the recovery of the Catacombs of San Gennaro and San Gaudioso launched in 2009, which started a real renaissance for the neighbourhood. In this regard, cooperation with the local church has always been crucial. Special mention should be made of the parish priest of the parish Maria SS. del Carmine alle Fontanelle don Gigi Calemme and the chaplain don Giuseppe Rinaldi. Worship activities will be taken care of by the two of them, and free of charge for residents of the Third Municipality is guaranteed. 

The City of Naples has made a total of 200,000 euros available for safety measures, which represent the first phase of the work. In particular, the spotlight is on hydrogeological safety, building and plant upgrading, and the rebuilding of the electrical system. In short, an authentic restyling. In addition to ordinary maintenance and management, La Paranza will also be responsible for upgrading the sanitary facilities and guarding. The cooperative will have a total of 640,000 euros of private resources to fulfil its project objectives, money from the Fondazione CON IL SUD and the Fondazione di Comunità di San Gennaro.

The Fontanelle Cemetery origins and its new project

The Cimitero delle Fontanelle has always been a unique artistic site, a feather in the cap of the city of Naples. Thousands of human skulls and bones are arranged inside the underground caves, creating an evocative and ghostly atmosphere. Its origins date back to the 16th century, when following a plague epidemic there were so many victims that the traditional mass graves were quickly filled. Given the emergency, some pre-existing caves were used as temporary charnel houses. The place took the name 'delle Fontanelle' from the numerous water sources in the area. The other magical feature that makes the Cemetery unique is the cult of the 'pezzentelle souls'. In the 19th century, a group of devout women began to adopt the souls of the dead, giving them the name 'anime pezzentelle' or 'pezzentelle souls of Purgatory'. They believed that these souls had no living relatives or friends who could pray for them, so they took it upon themselves to care for them.

Diving into the origins and history of the Fontanelle Cemetery is essential to understand its beauty and extraordinary importance. Fortunately, the strong recovery plan we mentioned is underway. To back it up, there is the G124 project, born of the great Renzo Piano's desire to support young architects in the recovery of various Italian suburbs. In Naples, the Fontanelle area has been chosen, specifically the space in front of the church of Maria SS. del Carmine alle Fontanelle. The area involved includes the entrance to the cemetery, the adjacent parish churchyard and four small squares near the cemetery. The aim is to restore dignity and lustre to a site that is a symbol of Neapolitan and other art and tradition.

Fontanelle Cemetery will be included in Naples Pass

When the site will be accessible and visitable again, the possibility of taking advantage of the Naples Pass should definitely not be forgotten. In fact, the Fontanelle Cemetery, as well as many, many other destinations, is also part of the Pass. An opportunity not to be missed and to be noted in view of the coming months. The gem of the Rione Sanità is about to return in all its enchanting and mysterious beauty.

Work is already underway to allow the Fontanelle Cemetery to open in the shortest possible time. The most realistic forecast speaks of the beginning of 2024 as the likely restart, thus having the remaining five months of 2023 to complete the entire project. However, Mayor Gaetano Manfredi is optimistic for a reopening as early as Christmas 2023.