Tourists wait on line for hours at the Uffizi in Florence, pounce on tickets for the Borghese Gallery in Rome, but could much more easily visit the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples which rivals both. It's the largest museum in Italy housed inside a former Bourbon Palace. Its collection includes masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and Andy Warhol. Now that tourism to Naples is on the rise, I say, go, go now to this incredible art museum while you can still wander the galleries in relative solitude.
Highlights of the collection at Museo di Capodimonte
Capodimonte is an encyclopedic museum with works ranging from Roman to modern art and is in the top three largest museums in Italy. It includes historic rooms and furniture and a beautiful park overlooking the city. The building project began in 1738 as a hilltop palace for the ruling Bourbon royalty. By 1787, a studio for painting restoration was established there. In 1799, the Bourbons were overthrown including the Neapolitan queen who was Marie Antoinette's big sister.
The Farnese Collection of art is the core of the museum's collection and it's worth the trip to Naples alone. (Sculpture from the same collection is at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.) Don't miss Parmigianino's "Antea". While reading Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels, I imagined that Lila looked like her minus the Renaissance swag.
Three more paintings that absolutely can't be missed are Caravaggio's "Flagellation of Christ", Artemisia Gentileschi's "Judith and Holofernes" and "Danae" by Titian. The first two both belong to the Baroque period which was the most glorious period of Naples when the majority of the city's 600 churches were built or redesigned.
How to get to Capodimonte from the historic center of Naples
In the past it was always difficult to reach Capodimonte from the city center of Naples. One could either take the city bus (long and confusing) or fork over €30 for a taxi. But just recently, a shuttle bus has been put in place with stops in front of the Teatro San Carlo opera house, Piazza Dante and the Naples National Archaeological Museum. A round-trip ticket which includes museum admission is only €12. And it's impossible to miss the bus as it's wrapped in Caravaggio's "Flagellation of Christ." The schedule and prices can be found at Museo di Capodimonte's new website.
Tours of Capodimonte
As the biggest museum in Italy, it's helpful to see the extraordinary collections of Capodimonte with a guide. If you're interested in visiting the museum with an art historian, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also enjoy our tour of Naples inspired by Elena Ferrante which includes a visit to the Capodimonte on the final day of the tour.