The legacy of Bourbon rule (1734-1798) can be seen through their dazzling buildings. Today, I'd like to give a visual tour of their reign.
In 1734, Don Carlos of Bourbon took over rule from the Austrians and was crowned King Charles of Naples. His first stop was to pay homage to the remains of Saint Gennaro, the patron saint of the city, whose blood liquefied immediately. The Bourbons, thereafter, reversed two centuries of Spanish colonial oppression by initiating civic Enlightenment ideals.
Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered during King Charles' rule. Well-known artists also visited the city during this era, including Rousseau and Goethe. But the stunning mark King Charles left on the city was architectural in nature.
The Teatro San Carlo turned Naples into an epicenter of musical genius. Castrati such as Farinelli sang here and Rossini (The Barber of Seville) worked here:
King Charles built the Royal Palace of Capodimonte, which today houses some of the finest artwork in the city, including two Artemisia Gentileschi paintings and an Andy Warhol picture of Mt. Vesuvius:
The Royal Palace of Caserta marked the pinnacle of architect Luigi Vanvitelli's career. Located about 15 miles north of Naples, the palace models Versailles, especially with its opulent gardens:
This was also a time mysticism and science gained prominence, as seen through the artwork commissioned by alchemist, scientist, and nobelman Raimondo Di Sangro in the San Severo Chapel. Guiseppe Sanmartino scuplted the Veiled Christ in this chapel.
In 1759, King Charles abruptly abdicated and left eight-year-old Ferdinand in charge. Ferdinand's reign was one of the longest in European history. He was beloved for his Neapolitan dialect and known for setting up a small stand each evening in the market to give away his hunted game or catch of the day. He also established the lottery and a silk factory meant to become an industrial social utopia. Ultimately, the project failed, but San Leucio, near the Caserta Royal Palace, still exists:
The Parthenopean Republic in 1799 brought the Bourbon reign to an abrupt pause. But it failed within a year and Neapolean's French troops entered the city. A husband of Napolean's sister, Joseph Murat, took over. During his fifteen years of rule -- before Napolean's defeat and Murat's own execution by firing squad -- he commissioned the Piazza Plebiscito adjacent to the Royal Palace:
King Ferdinand returned to the throne in 1815. He ruled until his death in 1859. Two years later, the Kingdom of Naples came to an end and the city unified with the rest of Italy.
Book Recommendation: The best English language history of Naples is -- In The Shadows of Vesuvius: A Cultural History of Naples by Jordan Lancaster. If you love Naples, you'll enjoy reading this more than once.