Festive exhibitions at the Royal Palace of Portici

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

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Portici is a beautiful seaside city that lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius (Campania region, Italy), at about 5 miles from my beloved hometown Naples. Its gem is the Royal Palace, home of the city’s Botanic Gardens, operated by the University of Naples Federico II.
This beautiful Palace was ordered by Charles of Spain, King of Naples, and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony, as a private residence and a place where they could meet foreign nobility travelling to the kingdom. Antonio Canevari was given charge of the ambitious project that started in 1738.

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The Royal Palace was completed in 1742. The painter Giuseppe Bonito and the sculptor Joseph Canart decorated the inside with beautiful frescos and Carrara marble statues.

The entrance presents a majestic facade terraced and equipped with balustrades. At the center there’s a large quadrangle with two gateways to allow modern traffic to pass through. In the past it was used by carriages and called “Strada delle Calabrie“. One of the parks overlooks the Gulf of Naples: you should go there to see a beautiful sunset, with the sun putting the sea on fire, surrounded by luscious trees.

If in the past the gardens had even a private zoo with exotic animals, mostly to impress the foreign dignitaries, today the Royal Palace of Portici accomodates the seat of the Department of Agriculture of the University of Naples Federico II.

The Royal Palace usually hosts a huge series of Christmas events that can be enjoyed by adults and children in a magical setting, the “Natale in Reggia“.

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From the 8 to the 11 of December, the palace hosts a Christmas Markets event, with about 40 scientific and cultural stalls mixed with vendors of Christmas decor, presents, flowers and typical food from this area. The visitors can walk around not only in the beautiful Palace but also in the Botanical gardens, where they could also book a guided tour for as little as 4€.

On the 13 December, Natale in Reggia like every other year, hosts a ceremony to assign the prize EuroMediterraneo to the Rector of University Federico II, professor Gaetano Manfredi, for his incredible work to promote cultural and scientific activities on our territory.

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One of the things Naples is best known for is its makers of nativity scenes. It is an art that every year draws half a million of tourists to the most famous street for those makers, Via San Gregorio Armeno (Naples).
From the 4 December to the 6 January there is a beautiful exhibition in the Royal Palace in Portici, thanks to the Associazione Italiana Amici del Presepio. This free event will show you beautiful nativity scenes (some of them pretty uncommon and yet creative, like the one built in a tuna can), to let you enjoy these tiny masterpieces, typical of Naples, inside the Royal Palace, in the Sala delle Guardie, from 10AM to 7:30PM. 

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This year for the first time in Italy, an innovative light experience was offered to the visitors of the Botanical Gardens. On the 17 and 18 December, the show “Lumina” brought the videomapping technique to life. It was the first time this was applied to living beings: for two days, visitors have been able to enjoy the show for free. From 5:30PM to 10PM, adults and children have been guided through a mindblowing experience. 3D effects, video and animations that could trick your eyes to create what looked like mass illusions, images projected on ancient fountains, pillars and even on trees. Shadows of birds flying over the leaves, colorful fireflies scattered into the “magical forest”, flowers blooming onto the trees and the passing of seasons projected against an ancient portal.

I have personally attended this event and I truly hope that it will be available in future to everyone, not only for Christmas. I saw pure joy on the faces of the visitors who attended: children couldn’t believe their eyes… I loved to witness the pride on the faces of the artists who worked so hard to give life to their dreams. They guided us through a completely new and totalizing experience. Everyone should be able to experience this at least once!

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On the 18 December at 10:30AM another event has been scheduled: “La Reggia e le voci del presepe” (The Royal Palace and the voices from the native scene). The participants will gather at the ticket boot, to be guided through the native scene brought to life thanks to actors and narrating voices. The tour will let them walk inside the Royal Palace, explaining the traditions of Christmas in Naples, from the Bourbon Age to the modern times. It will be a great way to experience the Palace and the little stories behind every nativity scene. The ticket is free for children under 12 years old and it costs 8€ for adults. Free parking inside the Palace for the visitors. Please bear in mind that you will have to book your tickets in advance sending an email at [email protected] or calling 0812532016 (from Monday to Friday 9:30AM – 2:30PM).

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The last event of this holiday season will be the Presepe Vivente (Nativity Play) on the 30 December from 6:00PM on. The Royal Palace will be crowded with shepherd guiding their animals, laundresses washing their clothes, a small market, with songs and traditional dances to accompany the visitors through this experience that, I’m sure, will be wonderful not only for the children!

The whole event will take place at Palazzo Valle, at the Convento di S. Antonio, Via Università and the Royal Palace of Portici. It is free and you won’t have to book in advance to attend. Definitely a great idea if you’re planning a trip to Naples for Christmas! After all, you should know by now that the best Italian food are to be eaten for Christmas!

Enjoy the holiday season!

 Read more about Bratislava Christmas Markets or Vienna Christmas markets!

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8 Comments

  1. Claudia

    Wow so many things to do in the Royal Palace at this time of the year. It must be beautifully decorated for Christmas especially with the Christmas market it must give it a lot of festive character! The tickets to enjoy these little activities are also very affordable which is great so the locals can also enjoy it

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