In 18th century Naples, the largest building was not the Royal Palace, as many would expect, but rather the Albergo dei Poveri, the Hospice for the Poor. It’s a great compliment to the royal family that financed the building, and King Charles III in particular, who came up with the idea.
Yet the construction of the building was never finished. King Charles III of Naples became king of Spain before the completion of the immense edifice. The plans were not entirely abandoned, however, as the massive Royal Palace of Madrid is said to have been inspired by his earlier creation.
The Hospice for the Poor, as one would expect, housed the poor. It also served the elderly and the mentally ill. There were artisan workshops and even an adolescent prison. It served the unfortunate, it served the victims.
Little by little the structure was abandoned, until 1980 when it housed 3,800 prisoners within its walls. From there it fell into obscurity until Peppe Marmo arrived. The cheerful and generous man now in his fifties was full of creativity. Peppe had a rough childhood. But this man, now an institution in and of himself, found his chance in life through sports, ultimately becoming a world Judo champion. He wanted to do for others what others had done for him. He sought and earned the right to use a portion of the Hospice for the Poor, spending his own money for the initial repairs. It was cleaned, painted, and brought back to life. He created an immense sports club for impoverished and unfortunate children. Those who could pay did, those who couldn’t did not. Over 1,500 children from the poorest neighborhoods in Naples use the facility, practicing every sport imaginable.
Peppe also developed an organization that helps disabled children, and children whose parents are in prison. Particular attention is paid to these young ones. Now, this once dead building is not only full of life, but it also plays a vital role in giving a chance at life to those in the city that need it most. The Hospice for the Poor gives hope to hopeless.
It was Peppe Marmo himself who brought the building to my attention. It is a gigantic complex with many courtyards, galleries, monumental staircases and the basilica, where Peppe has paved the way, yet where much still remains to be done.