Queen Joanna II (1373 – 1435) lived in troubled times. Her series of court favourites and lovers was embroidered in the popular mind into a story that she sent servants onto the streets of Naples seeking the handsomest fellows for her bed. These men, having satisfied the queen’s needs, were then thrown to sea monsters, or even an African crocodile, in some dark recess of the Castel Nuovo. She lived at the Castel Capuano and her amorous activities allegedly extended to the Villa Sirena in Posillipo.
Two hundred years after Joanna’s death, Princess Anna Carafa (1607 – 1644) inherited this villa and ordered the architect Cosimo Fanzago to renovate it. Lavish parties ensued. Matilde Serao in her book about the legends of Naples tells how Anna Carafa competed with her niece Mercede de la Torre for the love of another man. There was a fight one night, after which Mercede was never seen again.
It is said that Mercede’s ghost haunts the villa, now named Palazzo Donn’Anna. Cosimo Fanzago would never complete his renovations of the palace. Instead, Anna’s husband, a Spanish viceroy, returned to Spain while Anna remained in Naples taking up residence in a villa in Portici and dying a lonely woman.
This note is an amuse-bouche for the Napoli Unplugged Guide to Naples, into which Bonnie Alberts, Barbara Zaragoza and Penny have poured their passion for the city. More at naplesnapoliguide.com and facebook.com/NUGuideToNaples.