Piazza Dante is a square in the heart of Naples, in a neighborhood full of beautiful churches and other interesting palaces. It is one of those Italian squares where entire families gather late in the afternoon to chat and stroll. The Foro Carolino and the central statue of Dante himself are the biggest attractions.
Piazza Dante Naples
History and description
The original name of the square was Piazza del Mercatello, since a market was held here as early as 1588.
The Piazza del Mercatello was completely restored by Luigi Vanvitelli between 1757 and 1765. The restoration was commissioned by Carlo III di Borbone (Charles of Bourbon). The name was subsequently changed to Foro Carolino. It was intended to have an equestrian statue of the man himself, but this plan was never carried out. There are, however, 26 statues that personifying King Charles’ virtues.
In 1861, after the unification of Italy, this name was changed to Piazza Dante.
What to see
The Convitto Nazionale (“National Boarding School”) Vittorio Emanuele takes up on the east side of the square and has a huge facade. The history of this building begins in 1768. Originally a Jesuit Institute, it was later transformed into Collegio dei Nobili. When Giuseppe Garibaldi entered the city, he had the Order of the Jesuits dissolved and the building transformed into the “Vittorio Emanuele II National Boarding School.”
In the center of Piazza Dante is a large marble statue dedicated to the poet Dante Alighieri, overlooking the Via Toledo. It was created by Tito Angelini in 1871.
Among other things, Vanvitelli created a large semicircular construction with columns and statues looking down on the square. The 26 statues, four of which were made by Giuseppe Sammartino, depict the virtues of Carlo III.
On the north side is one of the ancient city gates, the Port’Alba. The gate was originally made by the inhabitants of the district in the old city wall. In 1625 Duca d’Alba had the monument renovated and several years later the bronze statue of San Gaetano da Thiene was placed at the top. This statue was taken from the Porta dello Spirito Santo. Walking through the gate one enters Via di Port’Alba, a street full of bookstalls and stores.
The Dante metro station is a tourist attraction in itself, being filled with installations by famous modern artists, including Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounellis and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
There are no fewer than four churches in Piazza Dante.
The San Michele Arcangelo Church is located on the south side of the square. It is also known as San Michele a Port’Alba. The first version of this church dates back to 1620, but its current appearance is the result of a major renovation in the mid-18th century. The architects responsible were Domenico Antonio Vaccaro and Giuseppe Astarita. When the church was built it was still called Santa Maria della Provvidenza.
Also on the north side is the Santa Maria di Caravaggio Church. By the way, this church is not dedicated to the famous painter, but to Saint Mary of Caravaggio, a small town in northern Italy, where the Virgin is said to have made a miraculous appearance. It was built in 1627 thanks to a donation from Felice Pignella. Its original name was Natività di Maria Church. It consists of a single nave and has an elliptical floor plan. Highlights include a “Nativity of Mary” by Gaetano Gigante and “The Appearance of the Virgin to the Peasant Woman by Caravaggio.”
The San Domenico Soriano Church with its adjoining convent were built in the 17th century, on the site of an earlier church. The cloister near the church can be entered both from the square and from the Vico Pontecorvo. It was built in the early 17th century by the Domenican priest Frà Tommaso Vesti. In 1850 the cloister was converted into military barracks.
The small 19th-century Chiesa dell’Immacolata degli Operatori Sanitari is almost always closed.
Address and public transportation
Public transportation: Metro: Dante.