Ospedale degli Incurabili
Museo delle Arti Sanitarie
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Ospedale degli Incurabili information
It's at this 16th-century hospital and monastic complex that you'll find the Museo delle Arti Sanitarie , a small museum packed with rare, historical surgical instruments, among them an 18th-century defibrillator, a portable pharmacy kit adorned with painted Roman landscapes, and an original flagello della peste, a beak-like wooden mask worn during the city's plagues. It's also here that you can book a guided tour of the neighbouring Farmacia Storica degli Incurabili, a breathtaking 18th-century apothecary.
Tours of the farmacia normally run on Saturday morning and can be booked online or by calling the museum (you can request an English-speaking guide). Divided into a glorious reception hall and a laboratory, the apothecary's lavish walnut shelves are lined with decorative majolica vases, while Pietro Bardellino's epic ceiling painting portrays an episode from Homer's Illiad, in which Machaon is curing the wounded Menelaus. A more unusual feature of the reception hall is a rococo inlay portraying an allegory of caesarean birth.
Some of Naples' finest baroque architects and artists worked on the apothecary: Domenico Antonio Vaccaro styled the facade, Bartolomeo Vecchione designed the interior, and Gennaro di Fiore engraved the shelves, the latter also collaborating with Carlo Vanvitelli at the Reggia di Caserta . The majolica vases were painted by Lorenzo Salandra and Donato Massa (whose most famous tilework is found in the cloister of the Basilica di Santa Chiara ). Not surprisingly, the pharmacy is widely considered one of the city's finest examples of early-18th-century crastmanship.
Both the museum and farmacia face the Cortile degli Incurabili (Courtyard of the Incurables), from which stairs lead up to the main hospital building. Enter it to access the wonderful Orto Medico (Medical Garden), lovingly adorned with medicinal plants and herbs. At its centre is a small fountain and a beautiful 400-year-old camphor tree. Walk a little further on and you'll stumble upon the smaller Chiostro Santa Maria delle Grazie , its lush tropical foliage framed by a frescoed, vaulted portico.