In a city that can be as overwhelming as Naples, it’s nice to have the expanse of a public square like the enormous Piazza del Plebiscito. This is one of the biggest public piazzas in Naples, and it sits right next to the bay on the edge of the city’s historic center.
The Piazza del Plebiscito and the church of San Francesco di Paola, which borders the square to the west, were both planned in the early 19th century as monuments in honor of then-emperor Napoleon - his brother-in-law being the King of Naples at the time. Construction of both the piazza and the church were completed in 1816, after Napoleon had been exiled.
On the opposite side of the Piazza del Plebiscito, you’ll find the Royal Palace of Naples, a former residence of the Bourbon Kings who ruled in the 18th-19th centuries. The side of the palace that faces the piazza contains niches where the statues of major rulers over the Kingdom of Naples are displayed. One of the statues is of Gioacchino Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law who first began the planning and construction for the piazza over which his statue now looks.
Today, the Piazza del Plebiscito is used for everything from outdoor concerts protest gatherings to to impromptu soccer games among children. The wide, colonnaded arms that emanate from either side of San Francesco di Paola are reminiscent of the arms encircling St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, while the broad dome of the church itself reminds you of Rome’s Pantheon. The scene at the heart of the Piazza del Plebiscito, however, is entirely Naples.