Hey, you know what I love? I mother f*#$k-ing stately home.
I cannot get enough of some grandiose living spaces, y’all. Something with tons of tapestries and baroque stone carved curlicues and some of those stucco putti kids and anterooms to rooms that serve no discernible purpose.
Show me a medal room. Show me a salon. Show me a hall of mirrors. Show me anything that screams over-the-top “Renaissance-in-the-style-of-Kim-and-Kanye.”
I will gladly plunk down 7 euros (around $10) to breathe in your musty antiquities.
The Royal Palace of Naples did not disappoint in any of the categories in my mental “Stuff That A Mother F*#$k-ing Stately Home Should Have” list.
Just to get some history and context out of the way, according to Wikipedia, the Royal Palace of Naples:
was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies(1730-1860). Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, earl of Lemos…In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons.
And man, did those Bourbons know how to live it up. They started renovating the hell out of the place, adding the theater, rebuilding the great hall, and adding a new wing. Also, this cool escape tunnel from the palace to the coast to help the monarchy escape the often-rebellious people of Naples. Apparently, the French Bourbons weren’t the only ones who had problems with the populace. (I visited the tunnel too, but we’ll talk about that in another post.)
Things at the Palace got even fancier during the Napoleonic occupation, when Napoleon’s dandy of a brother-in-law Joachim Murat took over the palace. Check. Out. That. Hair. He’s like Prince or something. Loving it.
By the way, Murat’s last words while facing a firing squad after the whole Napoleon-getting-overthrown business, were: “Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face.” Holy vanity, that is amazing. This dude? Baller.
Today, the Palace and the adjacent grounds are open to the public. There are all kinds of pseudo-government offices in there, including the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III. That, coupled with the fact that there’s a ton of construction and restoration work being done on both the inside and the outside of the Palace makes the whole visitor experience a little confusing.
But I’ve never been one to let a little hammering and scaffolding get in the way of looking at ridiculously ornate tabletop time pieces and portraits of dead fancy people.
I wandered around a bit confused and overwhelmed on a chilly Tuesday morning, the weak December light making everything a bit more cold and austere and milky white.
I had an English audio guide lodged firmly to my ear, which made me unself-conscious enough to gawk freely at the restorers delicately dremeling the pale marble decorations along the entry staircase. I could always just point to the thing at my ear, and shrug if anyone stopped to stare back at me.
I walked past sleeping docents guarding empty theater rooms, their eyelids drooping like the old velvet curtains framing the stage.
I leaned in close to ornately inlaid wooden tables/bird cages/topiary holders staged in the middle of an otherwise-sparsely furnished room next to a single, stiff chair.
I listened to two docents chattering away in Italian, pointing at their newspapers and waving their hands while keeping their elbows by their waists and glancing around to see if anyone else was around. When they glanced at me, I quickly became engrossed in a Sevres vase.
I stood in awe in front of the ridiculously complex precipe (or nativity scene) housed in a chapel and sponsored by a bank. The true meeting of capitalism and religion.
I wandered on, through a throne room or two (one for the king, one for the queen), the king’s study, the private apartments, the Hall of Hercules (a ballroom), a music room, a tiny little prayer closet for the queen.
All in all, I probably spent about two hours engrossed in bygone splendor, only interrupted by my inability to figure out the sequential order on my audio guide (the rooms were supposedly numbered to correspond, but I could hardly find the numbers and just started guessing.)
That was fine by me. One should stroll through a mother f*#$k-ing stately home, not rush.