Piazza del Plebiscito: History, Mysteries, and Legends
Welcome to this journey through the history, art, and curiosities of Piazza del Plebiscito, the beating heart of Naples and a timeless icon of the Neapolitan city. In this article, we will discover everything there is to know about the square and even some details still unknown to most.
The history of Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito was created in the 19th century to create a public space of significant impact and importance. However, its history is full of events and changes that forged its appearance and atmosphere.
The Piazza del Plebiscito was conceived as part of the urban redevelopment project commissioned by Joachim Murat, King of Naples and brother-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte. Work began in 1809 and was completed in 1816, under the reign of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, by architects Luigi Cagnola, Pietro Bianchi, and Antonio Niccolini.
The square is famous for being the stage for several historical events, including several celebrations during the Fascist era, concerts, demonstrations, and the plebiscite of October 21, 1860, which decreed the annexation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the Kingdom of Italy and to which the square owes its current name.
Another significant historical event is undoubtedly the 1820 revolt: an episode of rebellion against the Bourbon government, which saw the square as the scene of clashes between rioters and royal troops.
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The historic buildings surrounding the Piazza del Plebiscito
Several buildings that testify to Neapolitan history and art surround the Piazza del Plebiscito. These buildings include:
- Initially designed as a temple dedicated to Napoleon, the Basilica of St. Francis of Paola draws inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome;
- The Royal Palace: a residence of the Bourbons of Naples and, later, the Savoy family;
- The Prefecture and Palazzo Salerno: institutional headquarters of great historical value.
Piazza del Plebiscito today
The Piazza del Plebiscito is a central meeting and entertainment spot for Neapolitans and tourists today. Various events, concerts, and celebrations occur there, making it a symbolic location for the city.
Every year, the square holds religious and civil festivities, including the New Year’s Eve event and the feast of San Gennaro.
Legends and curiosities
Despite its long history and importance, the Piazza del Plebiscito still hides some mysteries and curiosities unknown to most people. These include the legend related to the ghost who, with his wide-brimmed hat, roams the square on moonless nights, only to disappear in a halo of mystery near the Basilica of St. Francis of Paola.
Other legends tell of a treasure buried in the bowels of the square, left there by a Spanish nobleman fleeing the city.
One of the most famous curiosities is the game of crossing Piazza del Plebiscito blindfolded or with eyes closed. Starting from the gate of the Royal Palace, you have to walk in a straight line across the entire square, passing between the two equestrian statues. Practically no one has ever succeeded in the feat!
Travel through culture and history
The Piazza del Plebiscito is a fascinating and timeless place encompassing centuries of Neapolitan history, art, and culture. By visiting it, you can immerse yourself in a unique atmosphere and discover unexplored corners and details of the Neapolitan city.
In addition, do not miss the opportunity also to explore the surroundings of the square, which offer additional artistic and cultural gems, such as:
Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino: is an imposing medieval fortress located a short distance from the square;
Galleria Umberto I: elegant 19th-century shopping arcade;
Teatro San Carlo: one of the oldest and most prestigious opera houses in the world;
Lungomare Caracciolo: picturesque seaside promenade, ideal for admiring the panorama of the Gulf of Naples.