Originally designed as a hunting lodge for Charles VII of Bourbon, this monumental palace was begun in 1738 and took more than a century to complete. It's now home to the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, southern Italy's largest and richest art gallery. Its vast collection – much of which Charles inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese – was moved here in 1759 and ranges from exquisite 12th-century altarpieces to works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Titian and Andy Warhol.
The gallery is spread over three floors and 160 rooms; for most people, a full morning or afternoon is enough for an abridged best-of tour. The 1st floor includes works by greats such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, with highlights including Masaccio’s Crocifissione (Crucifixion; Room 3), Botticelli's Madonna col Bambino e due angeli (Madonna with Child and Angels; Room 6), Bellini’s Trasfigurazione (Transfiguration; Room 8) and Parmigianino’s Antea (Room 12). The floor is also home to the royal apartments, a study in regal excess. The Salottino di Porcellana (Room 52) is an outrageous example of 18th-century chinoiserie, its walls and ceiling dense with whimsically themed porcelain ‘stucco’. Originally created between 1757 and 1759 for the Palazzo Reale in Portici, it was transferred to Capodimonte in 1867.
Upstairs, the 2nd-floor galleries display work by Neapolitan artists from the 13th to the 19th centuries, including de Ribera, Giordano, Solimena and Stanzione. It's also home to some spectacular 16th-century Belgian tapestries. The piece that many come to see, however, is Caravaggio’s Flagellazione (Flagellation; 1607–10), which hangs in reverential solitude in Room 78.
If you have any energy left, the small gallery of modern art on the 3rd floor is worth a quick look, if for nothing else than Andy Warhol’s poptastic Mt Vesuvius.
Once you've finished in the museum, the Parco di Capodimonte – the palace's 130-hectare estate – provides a much-needed breath of fresh air.