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The Botanical Garden of Naples, also known as the Royal Botanical Garden, is a facility of the University of Federico II, part of the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical, and Natural Sciences. It covers an area of 12 hectares and houses around 9000 plant species and nearly 25000 specimens. It is located on Via Foria, near the Royal Albergo dei Poveri.

Founded on December 28, 1807, by decree of Giuseppe Bonaparte, the botanical garden was built on land previously owned by the Religious of Santa Maria della Pace and the Cava Hospital. The project was initially endorsed by King Ferdinando IV, with the financial support obtained in 1776 through the intervention of Giuseppe Beccadelli di Bologna. However, the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799 made its realization impossible.

The project was carried out by two architects. The first, Giuliano de Fazio, designed the monumental facade, the perpendicular avenue to it, the temperate greenhouse, and the avenue leading to the Castle. The lower part is the work of Gaspare Maria Paoletti.

The first director of the garden, which opened its doors in 1811, was Michele Tenore (appointed the previous year). Tenore was responsible for both scientific activities and external relations. Regarding the former, great importance was given to research and education. Many species of medical and exotic interest were cultivated. The latter were carried out in major botanical institutions in Europe. By the end of his tenure in 1860, the cultivated species approached almost 9000.

Guglielmo Gasparrini, who took office in 1861, continued to improve the garden by restoring some areas in poor condition and creating an area for alpine plants. During his tenure, a new heated greenhouse was built to replace the previous one from 1818, called the Warm Greenhouse. He also placed significant importance on the Botanical Museum.

In 1868, two years after Gasparrini’s death, Vincenzo Cesati took over until his death in 1883. He was succeeded by Giuseppe Antonio Pasquale, who had already served as interim director since 1866 and remained in office for ten years until his death. His successor, Federico Delpino, faced significant economic difficulties during his tenure from 1893 to 1905.

The goal of revitalization became the focus when Fridiano Cavara took over in 1906. Not only did he restore some structures and expand the collections, but he also established the Experimental Station for Medicinal Plants (later becoming a Section, initially not part of the institutional structure, aggregated only in the 1970s) and initiated the construction of a facility intended to become the new headquarters of the Institute. In 1930, he was replaced by Biagio Longo, who continued the requalification work. Under his direction, the Institute’s headquarters became the structure desired by Cavara. In 1940, there was an important event, a meeting of the Italian Botanical Society at the Mostra d’Oltremare.

The Second World War had severe consequences on the life of the Botanical Garden of Naples, including devastation from bombings, the use of iron for military purposes, the arrival of part of the population seeking refuge, and the decision to cultivate portions of the garden for essential goods. Some areas of the structure were converted for military purposes, and a part of the garden was transformed into a football field hosting Napoli’s matches.

Giuseppe Catalano, Longo’s successor, was the first director appointed after the Second World War. His appointment in 1948 focused on the restructuring of the garden, accompanied by an enrichment of tools available to botanists and the transformation of the “valletta,” envisioned by Gasparrini, into what is now the filicetum in the 21st century. Valerio Giacomini, who took office in 1959, followed a similar path.

In 1963, a period considered crucial in the history of the garden began when Aldo Merola became the director. Under his leadership, the garden gained economic and administrative autonomy in 1967, making it possible to obtain extraordinary funding to improve the structure. Various greenhouses were built (totaling 5000 m2), a heating system was installed, and a water distribution network was established. Merola’s “political” work was of great importance as he sought legislative support (such as the creation of a specific high-specialization professional role: the gardener of botanical gardens). Cultivations were significantly enriched, especially thanks to the work of Luigi Califano. Relations with major European gardens were reactivated, and great importance was given to the educational role of the structure. One of the most visible signs of Merola’s work is the rearrangement of areas based on both systematic and ecological criteria.

The earthquake on November 23, 1980, severely affected the botanical garden during Giuseppe Caputo’s interim directorship. Once again, the structure became a refuge for the population. In 1981, Paolo De Luca became the director, tasked with starting the reconstruction work.

Gaetano Nicodemi tra scienza e rivoluzione. Di Maria Laura Castellano e Massimo Ricciardi


Le parole che Domenico Cirillo dedica a Gaetano Nicodemi nella sua opera sugli insetti napoletani rivelano un grado di stima e affetto non comune per un maestro verso il discepolo, e in più suggeriscono un sintetico, quanto preciso, ritratto di quali fossero i vincoli che li legavano nella ricerca scientifica. Quando per i gravosi impegni medici Cirillo aveva dovuto allontanarsi dagli studi sulle piante, a continuarli era stato Nicodemi, secondo a nessuno a suo dire nella raccolta, classificazione e illustrazione delle cose naturali, e grazie al suo instancabile lavoro la collezione si era accresciuta. E nel presentare la pubblicazione, che tanto doveva al contributo del suo allievo, Cirillo non esita a chiamarlo grande amico, persona scrupolosissima e dottissima.