"Santimissima Annunziata and the 'ruota'" Naples Off The Beaten Path Tip by leics
Naples Off The Beaten Path: 89 reviews and 137 photos
Santimissima Annunziata lies in the Forcella district, which you will almost certainly pass through as you make your way from Napoli Centrale or Garibaldi stations to the historical centre of Naples.
It's as noisy, chaotic and down-at-heel as the rest of the ancient heart of the city, with throngs of people, narrow streets, washing lines, scooters and cars. According to my guidebook it's a stronghold of the Camorra, but imo it is perfectly safe to wander during the daytime (I cannot speak about wandering late at night, for I have not visited then).
Santimissima Annunziata is well worth the slight detour you will need to make. Not so much for the church itself (the white, twiddly interior and grey-and-yellow exterior paintwork completely hide its 14th century origins) but for the orphanage which has always adjoined it.
This courtyarded building (dating, I think, from the 1600s) is now a children's hospital. Walk under the arched gateway and turn left in the barrel-vaulted 'lobby' to find a tiny, free museum about one of the saddest aspects of this always-poor city: the ruota.
Into this wooden structure unwanted babies (and sometimes much older children) were anonymously placed. The wheel (ruota) was turned and the child received into the orphanage. The practice finally ceased in 1875.
All information is in Italian but one can still imagine the poverty and sheer desperation which led parents to abandon their children in this way. Other 'ruota' existed across Italy: there is one in Florence, for example.
On you way back to the street look up at the Medieval carving of the Madonna in the archway. It is attributed to Giovan Malvito and dates to the early 1500s.
It really is worth finding this place. It lies on Via dell'Annunziata, a narrow street (ironically) of shops selling baby clothes, prams and everything else baby-associated. Walk down Corso Umberto l from P Garibaldi and take the third street on the right (Via Ranieri). Via dell'Annunziata is the first on the left, and the church & orphanage are on your left.
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