Rione Sanità

Rione Sanità with its early Christian catacombs

No place embodies the contradictions of Naples like Rione Sanità. Located in a valley, it was born a burial ground in the Graeco-Roman era.

Like a suburb in the centre of Naples

Rione Sanità is located at the foot of the Capodimonte hill, a short distance from the historic centre.

Its urban layout developed from the construction of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità in the 17th century, becoming an area chosen by Neapolitan nobles and bourgeois for their residences. During the 18th century it became the route for the royal family from the city centre to the Royal Palace in Capodimonte.

The route was particularly convoluted, and so it was deemed necessary to build a direct connection, the Ponte della Sanità (Sanità Bridge), which left the neighbourhood isolated.

This is why the impression is one of city outskirts in the centre of Naples.

The bridge that divides

Work on the Corso Napoleone, the bridge that was to unite the Royal Palace of Capodimonte with the centre of Naples, was begun in the early nineteenth century by Joseph Bonaparte and continued with Joachim Murat.

The result was remarkable in terms of road access, but was disastrous for the district, which gradually began to be cut off from the life of the city, despite being so close. Moreover, the construction of the bridge caused the destruction of the main cloister of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità and damaged the minor cloister.

Its isolation meant that the neighborhood lived more and more within itself, with little interaction with the rest of Naples. In the most severe cases, this has caused situations of degradation and crime that have led to its ghettoisation.

The abandonment of Rione Sanità also led to the deterioration of its monuments and historical buildings, leaving places such as the Catacombs and the Basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia in ruins.

The road to rebirth

From degradation to the recovery of a huge and hidden heritage, in a district that has always displayed a propensity for art and creativity.

Since 2000, the arrival of the new parish priest of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità has marked the beginning of a process of redevelopment and enhancement of the district's historic, artistic and human heritage.

With the help of foundations, professionals and associations, it has been possible to create opportunities to benefit the youth.

The parish priest took up the ideas of his predecessor, Don Giuseppe Rassello, who claimed that beauty makes people grow and can boost employment. The idea, therefore, was to create opportunities through the recovery of the district's cultural and artistic heritage, with the help of professionals and foundations.

What sets la Sanità apart from other areas of Naples is its potential, composed of ancient history and sufficient assets to allow its self-promotion and recovery.

The creation of a network of third-sector businesses already active in the district has favoured the socio-economic growth of the local area.

«Creation stretches every morning while Tradition makes its breakfast and Change awaits it at the end of the lane.»

from Noi del Rione Sanità – Ed. Mondadori

Rione Sanità, a treasure of Naples

The beauty of Rione Sanità

An underground world that blends with the present and becomes the engine of its rebirth.

The catacombs

In the bowels of Rione Sanità, just a few metres below street level, there is an underground city.

The catacombs of San Gennaro and San Gaudioso and the lower levels of San Severo, currently undergoing restoration, are a testament to the origins of the city's relationship with the Christian faith: true underground cemeteries where East meets West and the sacred merges into the profane.

After years of neglect, in 2006 the catacombs were entrusted to us, Cooperativa La Paranza, thanks to the intercession of the Archdiocese of Naples and the parish priest of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità. In just a few years, they have become one of the main attractions of Naples.


The basilicas of Rione Sanità are the entrances to the catacombs and surprising venues for art.

The route starts with the Early Christian basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia, which, after years of neglect, once more displays its austere beauty to the visitors to the catacombs and those attending the many events it hosts.

The heart of the district is the Baroque basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità, which provides access to the Catacombs of San Gaudioso.

The basilica is immediately recognisable from the Ponte della Sanità, thanks to its yellow and green tiled dome, and its interior preserves the earliest image of the Virgin Mary in Naples, and precious works including paintings by Luca Giordano, Andrea Vaccaro, Francesco Solimena, Pacecco De Rosa, Giovanni Balducci.

Fontanelle Cemetery

The Fontanelle ossuary was one of the quarries for the extraction of tuff to build the city of Naples, and remained in use until the 17th century. A few years later, however, the Fontanelle excavations were used to house the remains of the plague (1656) and cholera (1836) victims, in addition to those from the churches.

The Fontanelle cemetery is best known for the cult of the anime pezzentelle, which involved the adoption and care of abandoned skulls in exchange for graces. Once a chosen skull was adopted, it was cleaned and placed in a marble case, or, for those who could not afford it, a box. The soul of the chosen skull and the person who had adopted it communicated through dreams: the deceased asked for prayers, bestowing graces or lottery numbers in return.

Palazzo dello Spagnuolo

Palazzo dello Spagnuolo is a prime example of Neapolitan Baroque, built in 1738 by the architect Ferdinando Sanfelice at the behest of the Marquis Nicola Moscati. Its eagle-wing monumental staircase is visually striking, as is its choice of colors in yellow and green.

Totò's House

The famous actor Totò was born at number 109, Via Santa Maria Antesaecula. He lived here until the age of 24, when he moved to Rome with his family.

For some time now, the house has belonged to private owners, but merely passing by the outside of the artist's birthplace is a deeply moving experience.

«I was born in Rione Sanità
the most famous district of Naples.»

«Sono nato nel Rione Sanità,
il più famoso di Napoli.»


Toto, who was born in Rione Sanità in Naples

Rione Sanità

You can visit the treasures of Rione Sanità with the
Miglio Sacro walk.

Guided tours
Every Sunday during the Miglio Sacro walk, departure at 9:00 am from the Madre del Buon Consiglio Basilica (Via Capodimonte, 13)

The Holy Mile, guided tour in Italian of Rione Sanità

Every Sunday at 9 am
3 hours 30

Buy your tickets