Nook of Naples: Driving along the autostrada past the Naples Financial District, a tower pokes its head out of the hills. It's reddish and from the freeway it looks crumbling -- or, medieval to be exact. I always thought this was an Arab tower.
But it's no such thing. The Arabs may have traded with Naples, but they didn't settle in these parts. In fact, no mosque that I know of exists in the city -- and I've looked. Still, I wanted to find out more about this strange tower and one afternoon I simply followed the horizon. I ambled, circled, asked, and outright got lost in the congested streets of Naples, but I finally landed at the Torre del Palasciano.
Located a few blocks away from Capodimonte, the tower was designed to look like the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. Antonio Cipolla directed construction that builders completed in 1868. Today, private residents live inside the tower, which is surrounded by high gates.
The surgeon Ferdinando Palasciano (1815-1891) once owned the entire complex. When he provided medical care to both sides in Messina during the riots of 1848, the king considered his care of the enemy an act of treason. Palasciano served one year in prison. His case gained international attention and provided the basis for the Geneva Convention of 1864 that gave life to the Red Cross. The good doctor thereafter lived in this abode, which included a large garden of fruit trees.
Today, the Hotel Villa di Capodimonte is located next door, touting wonderful views of the city as well as the tower.