Before there was the Louve, before Belvedere Palace, and even before Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli was opened by Charles III of Spain (1750s).

The mid-1700s of Napoli’s history signals the Spanish occupation of the Kingdom of Naples; and, is marked by a period of enlightenment, tolerance, education, and preservation of history. Historically, Charles III’s reign is known as a period of enlightened absolutism.

The vast majority of the collection in the archaeology museum comes from the Farnese family, an influential Italian family that once held peerage in Parma, Piacenza, and Castro. In their bloodline were popes, royalty, governors, cardinals, and military leaders.

The Farnese Italian peerage ended in 1731 with the death of the last, childless Duke of Pharma, Antonio Farnese. The lands, titles, and holdings then passed on to Elizabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain. It was her son, Charles III (mentioned above), who created the Museo Archeologico di Napoli in his cavalry barracks.

Most of the works in the museum are marble statues, marble fountain pieces, and gems. It’s easy to envision these peppered around the Farnese estate for guests to meander and ponder. In this sense, the name of the museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) is a misnomer because most of the holding did not come from a dig or from the ground (other than the Herculaneum papyri), which is why they are in pristine shape.

Beyond the marble works are artifacts pieces from Vesuvian cities and Magna Graecia.