G.the entrance is from an Indiana Jones movie. It works like this: you enter a small staircase inside the Palazzo di Donato, in via dei Cristallini 133 in Naples, and go back 2300 years. Yes, because below, in the heart of the Rione Sanità, the neighborhood told by the film Nostalgia by Mario Martone (with a masterful Pierfrancesco Favino), there is a treasure: the Ipogeo dei Cristallini, four burial grounds from the Greek age dug into the tuffdecorated with frescoes that represent a rare and incredible testimony of Hellenic painting and architecture.
The Hypogeum of the Crystals in Naples
Rocambolesque is also the story of the first discovery. But let’s go in order. The Vergini area, inside the Sanità district, was used as a necropolis since the 4th century BC. In the hypogea, the Greeks, especially the aristocrats, buried their dead. The Romans continued, sometimes reusing the ancient Greek hypogea or building new ones. And the Christians, who left their catacombs there.
In this real Underground Valley of the Dead the remains of ancient inhabitants of the Neapolitan city rested for millennia. But in 1889 Baron Giovanni di Donato decided to dig into the cellar of his palace to look for water. The workers at work find a hitch almost immediately: underneath is the void! And what a void: from the dark heart of the Rione Sanità emerges the hypogeum of the Cristallini.
An underground treasure in the Rione Sanità
Today it is possible to admire the four rooms, painted and decorated, a true treasure of painting and architecture funeral. Each consists of two superimposed rooms: the vestibule which was used to fulfill the funeral rites, which was accessed by a staircase to the lower floor. Here was the real tomb decorated with bas-reliefs, paintings, amphorae, artifacts, urns, altars, frescoes, garlands, bright colors and trompe l’oeil effects …
The treasure of the Rione Sanità has been kept for centuries in the middle of the lively district. Protected for decades by its people and the Martuscelli family to which the area belongs due to an inheritance from the Baron of Donato. Alessandra Calise Martuscelli worked tenaciously on the reopening project, involving the Superintendency, Central Institute for Restoration, Archaeological Museum. The desire of Alessandra and the Martuscelli family is “to give back to the city and to all the public the possibility of living a unique cultural and emotional experience. But also to contribute to the recovery of the Rione Sanità which in recent years has seen a real rebirth, focusing on its immense heritage of art, history and culture ”. The ruins, even older than the famous sites of Pompeii and Herculaneumgalvanized the foreign press: in particular CNN showed great enthusiasm for the operation.
The opening to the public is scheduled for 1 July 2022, with a maximum of 8 people entering at a time. To celebrate the event, from 1 to 10 July free admission. Reservations and tickets on: Ipogeodeocristallini.org
Where to sleep in the Rione Sanità
For an atmospheric stay, just a few steps from the site, in via dei Cristallini 138, there is Casa D’Anna ai Cristallini, a refined Baroque Neapolitan house, on the second floor of the Giannattasio Palace. It houses a splendid collection of antiques, has four elegant rooms and a lovely hanging garden of bougainvillea and lemons, where you can relax with a glass of wine and reading a good book. Wanted and managed by Alessandra Martuscelli, it is a strategic address not far from the hypogeum and from the many beauties of the Neapolitan city.
Or always a few steps from the hypogeum, in theAtelier Inès by Vincenzo Oste and his wife, the artist Ines Sellami, that have transformed the atelier of Hannibal Innkeeper in a boutique hotel where you can feel at home, among sculptures and works of art.
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