Rettifilo, oggi Corso Umberto I, Armando Mancini, Flickr 2009


It began to speak already during the reign of the two Sicilies of building interventions aimed at restoring the most deprived neighborhoods and create new residential areas; In 1839 Ferdinand II, through the Building Council of Naples, suggested the creation of a new residential area for the workers’ families, in view of the planned port expansion in the east, detectable today between the lower part of the “Corso Garibaldi” and “S. Giovanni a Teduccio”. There was the forecast building of a new middle-class neighborhoods in the west, in the areas of Chiaia, Posillipo and Vomero hill, with the creation of connecting lines through tunnels and funiculars. In the project there was also the urban transformation of the former granaries area, now via Costantinopoli, in front of the National Museum. We must wait until the unification of Italy to see implemented the first projects for the rehabilitation and expansion of the city. We can divide the urban interventions between made before and made after of the cholera epidemic of 1884 and the law for the “Risanamento” urban rehabilitation of the Naples city of 1885.

Ante-law of “Risanamento” urban rehabilitation

Via Bellini
In 1861 the first invitation was issued tender for the construction of a new road, now named Via Bellini between the National Museum and Piazza del Gesù to facilitate the construction of a district for the middle-class in the National Museum, Via Pessina, Piazza del Gesù, via Costantinopoli quadrant. The road under construction, entrusted to the Errico Hetch firm, stopped a few steps from Largo Mercatello (from 1871 called Piazza Dante) without reaching the Gesù Nuovo, for impediments placed by the owners of some buildings; the new road found its limit to the Museum in the construction of the Prince of Naples Gallery of Breglia architects and De Novellis, through which we came out in front of the National Museum.
Via Duomo
The enlargement of the ancient street, now Via Duomo, was started in the same year, it proceeded with sites, the first site widened the old road between Via Foria and the Duomo to 16 meters, then the works went up to the “Via Vicaria Vecchia”, now Via Forcella, they continued up on the “Via Marina”only in 1880, with the partial demolition of the church of S.  Giorgio Maggiore and the reconstruction of the facade.

The new Central Station
At the time of the unification of Italy in 1860, in Naples there were two railway stations. The first born with the Napoli-Portici railroad, then extended up to Nocera Inferiore and it was called Bayard station, as named as the railroad dealer; it was located in the present Corso Garibaldi, to left of the Circumvesuviana station, today in ruins with a portion occupied by the office of the municipality. The second was the terminal of the railroad Naples-Caserta and was located in place of the Circumvesuviana station. Already in 1860, immediately after the unit, the construction was decided of a railway station that concentrated all lines. The chosen site was the actual Piazza Garibaldi, close to the tram tracks that line the square. The project was Paul Amilhan and Nicola Breglia; The work was completed in 1867; the tracks of the Naples-Portici line and the Naples-Caserta were focused in addition to other lines that were built to connect the various Italian railway networks. After many years was created the direct railway line Naples-Rome, which ran through the town in the underground; the railway terminal was arrears in the station to create space for a pit, where trains were circulating on a lower level with its stop called “Piazza Garibaldi”. The station was demolished in 1960 to make space to a modern Station.

The epidemic of cholera and the law of urban rehabilitation

Rione Amedeo
Two other projects were completed between 1860 and 1880; the first was interested in the urban development of the area upstream of the Riviera di Chiaia; an initial project much larger was abandoned, it interested all the Chiaia quarter from the current Piazza dei Martiri until the end of Via Crispi, it was presented by Pianell firm, that was not executed for legal obstacles that could not be overcome; The Rougier firm made only the construction of a road which connected the Riviera di Chiaia  with Corso Maria Teresa, now called Corso Vittorio Emanuele. This road followed the path of today via Martucci, Piazza Amedeo, via Crispi, via Pontano. Buildings were made for the rich bourgeoisie of the city within that quadrant named Rione Amedeo. After 1884 the second project extended today’s Via Vittoria Colonna, that connected Piazza Amedeo with the church of Santa Teresa a Chiaia, until Via Chiaia, creating two sections called Via dei Mille and Via Filangieri, the sides of these streets were built houses for the upper-class.

Via Caracciolo
The arrangement of the beach in front of the Villa Comunale, the Chiatamone area and Borgo Santa Lucia was one of the first projects to be presented, but the start of work came with the offer of the enterprise Giletta, accepted by the municipality, which followed a similar project by Enrico Alvino. The work, subcontracted to the firm Du Mesnil, began in 1870 and were divided into two sections: the first was interested from the Borgo Santa Lucia to Piazza Vittoria, the second was from Piazza Vittoria to Mergellina.
The first involved the trunk of Chiatamone area where was created a line of buildings along the coast through a sea filling, today there are luxury hotels, This project transformed Via Chiatamone from seafront in internal road, replaced on the coast from the present Via Partenope .
The second section, from Piazza Vittoria to Mergellina, was done with a sea filling that extended the Villa Comunale to the coast with the creation of the racetrack of gallop and the current Via Caracciolo. This was considered the most beautiful urban creation of the nineteenth century; the work was completed only in 1893.
The Borgo di Santa Lucia, populated by fishermen, was affected by the works only since 1895. The families of fishermen were moved into the houses of the Borgo Marinaro on the islet of Megaride, next to Castel Dell’Ovo; the Rione Orsini was created with a sea filling district between Borgo Santa Lucia and the new Via Nazario Sauro, while current Via Acton and Via Cesario Console took the place of the ancient “Salita del Gigante”.

The epidemic in Naples
The post unity government was taken from problems such as the rail network, the literacy of the population and the army unification, it neglected urban rehabilitation in those cities where the population pressure was higher and more unhealthy housing: Genoa, Naples and Palermo, although doctors have highlighted the link between unhealthy housing and the development of cholera among the population . In 1884, a cholera epidemic spread throughout Europe; the epidemic was controlled and there were relatively few cases in the rest of the continent, the disease was rapid in Italy and widespread especially in the three cities mentioned. Naples had 450,000 inhabitants with 240,000 living spaces, with an average crowd of two people for room, including services and kitchens. This residential overcrowding, combined with the precarious situation of the sewers, led to an epidemic that caused more than 8,000 deaths in the city.
In 1893 a new cholera outbreak repeated in Italy, but the mortality rate was much lower than the previous year, as a result of the preventive health measures that had been implemented in the meantime.

The law of “Risanamento” of January 1885
“The Guts of Naples”, the book written by Matilde Serao describing the miserable conditions in which the Neapolitan peoples was forced to survive, urged the government, in the person of the President of the Council Agostino Depretis, to take care about the fate of the city. Depretis, during a visit to Naples where he was accompanied by the mayor Nicola Amore, was convinced of the urgency to approve a special law that was financing the urban rehabilitation, he spoke of “gutting” of the popular neighborhoods with the construction of new roads surrounded by palaces for residences, new districts dedicated to the building destined to the working classes, and to the small and high bourgeoisie of the city. On 15 January 1895 the law was passed for the rehabilitation of the city of Naples. The promoter of the law was the Società pel Risanamento di Napoli, a public company that was specifically created to make the urban interventions of the law of rehabilitation, while in May of 1885 the new Serino aqueduct was inaugurated which still supplies the city with drinking water of excellent quality.

Post-law of “Risanamento” urban rehabilitation

“Rettifilo” and adjacent streets
The first intervention, the most urgent, was the demolition of the so-called slums Porto, Pendino, Mercato and Vicaria, because they were located below the natural level of the water with the construction, after elevation of the ground level of 3.5 meters, the Rettifilo, called Corso Re d’Italia and following Corso Umberto I. It connected the Central station with Via Medina and with Piazza Municipio with a fork in Piazza Bovio. It comprised two squares, the first, Piazza Nicola Amore, intersection with via Duomo, and the second, Piazza Bovio, just after the junction with Via Mezzocannone. They also built eight orthogonal roads to Rettifilo connecting the same with Via Marina and at the opposite side, with the Historical city. A road was built, symmetrical to Rettifilo, which joined Piazza Garibaldi to Via Carbonara (via Alessandro Poerio) and another one between the two earlier that linked Piazza Garibaldi with Forcella (Via Mancini). Two curtains were built on these streets of new office buildings and residences of the middle class, behind the curtains coexisted patchy new and old buildings. The works, which were made by the Società Risanamento, were completed in 1894. Rehabilitation continued with the extension of Corso Garibaldi to Piazza Carlo III where the conditions were created for an urban development that affected the eastern part of the city. Two streets were built symmetrical to Corso Garibaldi that branched from the Piazza Carlo III, today’s Via Sant’Alfonso dei Liguori and Via Mazzocchi /Via Lahalle, with the construction of Arenaccia district for the workers’ families. Also bogs were drained nearby the railway, building the district Vasto with a network of right-angled streets and a square, Piazza Nazionale, from which were radially originated 12 streets; the houses of this neighborhood were mainly for worker middle class.

Piazza Municipio and Santa Brigida
The Società Immobiliare di Roma faced the works for the upgrading of the Piazza del Castello (later Piazza Municipio), where  the walls and bastions were broke down around the Maschio Angioino and also buildings were broke down that were leaning to bastions, creating a large square extended to the port. a side of the place was bordered by buildings, used as hotels (Grand Hotel de Londres) and housing, and the ancient theater of the “Fondo”, today Mercadante theater, while on the opposite side towered the Maschio Angioino Castle surrounded by protective moat. The remains of the bastions and walls are re-emerged during recent construction works of subway Municipio station.
The old and unhealthy buildings were pulled down in via Santa Brigida and its immediate surroundings and buildings, intended for housing, were built; the most important of which is the middle-class building facing the front of the castle; also the Galleria Umberto I was created with its four surrounding buildings. The works were completed in 1897 with the installation of the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Piazza Municipio.

In 1885 the Banca Tiberina was the owner of most of the land of the Vomero hill, between the Villa Floridiana and the ancient village of Antignano, which stood on the Via dei Colli (via Antiniana) linking Napoli with Puteoli (Pozzuoli) to the time of the Greeks and Romans; the first miracle of San Gennaro happened in this village in 413. the Bank planned urbanization of the hill, with an area called Nuovo Rione, where were built some residential buildings concentrated in the area Via Scarlatti, Via Morghen. Banca Tiberina ceded the properties to the Banca di Italia for economic difficulties, which to facilitate the sale divided the land in small lots, creating a network of roads in grid-like pattern, following the rational urbanism inaugurated in Paris by Hausmann. Mono and multi-family villas began to rise in these small lots for the middle class. In 1891 the Chiaia and Montesanto funiculars were built creating an organic connection and fast to the city center. In 1928 the opening of the Centrale funicular  caused the urban explosion of Vomero, continued until the 70s of the last century, also involving adjacent Arenella district.

The law of “Risanamento” and the resulting urban mutations solved the most urgent sanitation needs of the city, it didn’t have to suffer epidemics such as the one suffered in 1884, but the main problems were not solved of social housing, the part of the slums that were not restored kept on being shelter for the poorest people. That area of ​​town was destroyed by the bombings that affected the port and Via Marina during World War II. At the end of the 50s the residents of those neighborhoods, left homeless, were transferred in Fuorigrotta, in a new housing area called Rione Traiano. Only then the rehabilitation was completed almost completely of slums.

(Photo at the top: Rettifilo, oggi Corso Umberto I, Armando Mancini, Flickr 2009)