Real Polverificio Borbonico at Scafati. The site is not currently open to the public
Scafati (province of Salerno), Via Pasquale Vitiello 104. Pompei (province of Naples), Via Astolelle front 111
Director of the site of the Real Polverificio Borbonico: Paolo Mighetto

The monumental complex of the Real Polverificio Borbonico at Scafati– an explosives factory – is situated in the plain of the territory of Nocera and Sarno, where the last spurs of the Lattari and Picentini mountains give way to aflat, fertile landscape made up of volcanic and alluvial deposits between Naples and Salerno and less than five kilometres from the archaeological site of Pompeii.

The Real Polverificio Borbonico at Scafati extends over almost 16 hectares. Building work began in 1851 at the behest of Ferdinand II of Bourbon and was completed in 1857 to replace the Real Fabbrica di Polveri e Nitri (another royal explosives factory) in Torre Annunziata to produce gunpowder and tobacco (after 1894), due partly to its favourable position close to the canal known as the Canale Conte di Sarno and one of its offshoots – the Canale Bottaro. The new factory was locatedat a reasonable distance from the centre of the town of Scafati to prevent dangers to the population in the event of explosions; it was reputedly“good, safe and secure, separated from the town and with plentiful water resources”.

The construction of the military structure was entrusted to Colonel Alessandro Nunziante whochose two Neapolitan technicians as his collaborators to achieve the task: the architect Luigi Manzella and thepyrotechnicschemist Filippo de Grandis. The work continued with considerable human and economic effort following the approval of the Real Rescritto (royal decree) of 31 December 1851, simultaneously ordering the closure of the pre-existing explosives factory at Torre Annunziata. However, they experienced a series of misadventures caused partly by the use of innovative elements and techniques: the complex was supposed to extend over a vast area in order to distribute and distance the various pavilions to prevent damage, in the event of an explosion, spreading to various buildings. The construction of the Real Polveriera atScafati was accompanied, for the purposes of navigation, by alterations to the final stretch of the river Sarno and the areas belonging to the explosives factory extended to the present-day road called via Astolelle in the municipality (comune) of Pompei with an initial southern expansion already constructed in 1870 (former Ametrano, Vitiello and Di Palma estates) and the completion of the current boundaries in 1876 (former Durazzano estates).

Due to a string of accidents – the most serious occurring in 1863, 1885 and 1888 – and the exasperation of the local population, the explosives factory was transformed into an experimental tobacco institute –the Istituto Sperimentale del Tabacco – in the last years of the nineteenth century with the restructuring and reconstruction of many of the pavilions.The tall trees planted to contain the spread of fire in the event of explosions were also thinned out. During the 1960s, work began on the construction of the CRA-CAT of Scafati (Centro di Ricerca Agricoltura-Colture Alternative al Tabacco – agricultural research institute exploring alternative crops to tobacco), following the demolition of a large part of the eastern side of the boundary wall and many of the original pavilions and the construction of new administrative and reception buildings and a production plant(which still exist although they are seriously dilapidated). Following the earthquake of 1980, the whole complex was definitively and gradually abandoned.

Two main streets with an east-west orientation lie within the area of the explosives factory. The main one, calledViale Ferdinando II, is situated almost at the centre of the area.It extends over a distance of about 420 metres from the entrance of Via Astolelle to the area of the buildings constructed in the 1960s that constituted the CRA-CAT and which overlooked Via Pasquale Vitiello in Scafati, the street formerly known as the Traversa della Polveriera. Viale Ferdinando II is bordered by a double row of plane trees that appear to date to the first few decades of the twentieth century and represents one of the longest avenues in Italy planted with plane trees. Other older plane trees dating to the late nineteenth century stood beside several pavilions bordering the part of the factory not directly related to producing explosives(offices) but were felled in 1990 due to disease; one surviving exemplar of this group of the oldest plane trees seems to be the one that stands on the north-west corner of the Padiglione Manzella, within an area of five hectares which will soon be reopened to the public and which already contains the large community garden – Grande Orto Sociale – run by a cooperative known as the ‘Ragazzi del Tulipano’.

A decree issued by the Ufficio Centrale per i Beni Archeologici, Architettonici, Artistici e Storici of the Italian Ministry of Culture (Mibact)on 06.12.1997 declared that the property known as the Monumental Complex of the former Real Polverificio Borbonico “is of special interest in accordance with article 1 of Law 1 June 1939 no. 1089 and should therefore, pursuant to article 4, be consideredsubject to all the provisions regarding conservation contained in the aforementioned law”.
The complex is state property and was handed over to the Ministry of Culture, and subsequently to the Archaeological park of Pompeii, with a report of delivery protocol no. 5199, OFA A1020403 of 18/4/2016; the same report of delivery entrusted to the Superintendency of Salerno, which loaned them for use to the town council (comune) of Scafati, the nineteenth-century buildings of the central administrative offices and the chapel of Santa Barbara, restored in 2004.