Convento delle Cappuccinelle, originally founded in 1585, was turned into a youth detention centre in the 1800s. Currently, it is home to an urban regeneration project named ‘Scugnizzo Liberato’, meaning ‘Freed street boy’. The project was initiated by the occupation of the building by Sacco Matto, a citizens collective aimed at filling empty urban spaces with a social purpose. The local authority of Naples, the current owner of the complex, decided to support the occupant group and, through a public resolution, gave the occupants the possibility to run the structure through self-management. Currently, activities hosted include language courses, after-school programmes, sports, dance, and theatre, and spaces for coworking, and art and craft labs. The former convent has become a place where a wide range of people, among other local artists, youth, and migrants, can socialize, play, experiment, and work.
The convent was originally founded in 1585 and subsequently extended in the 1600s. In the early 1800s, the convent was turned into the ‘Filangieri Institute’, an institution for the detention and reforming of conflictive youth. It stayed in operation until 1980 when the earthquake Irpinia destroyed most of the building. Later that decade, Eduardo de Filippo, a famous Neapolitan actor, financed its renovation and turned it into a cultural/recreative centre for local youth. The project failed, and in 2014, after being acquired by a university but remained without use, the Municipality of Naples got ownership over the building. The building has been recognised as a cultural asset by the municipality since 2005. In 2015, the building was occupied by Sacco Matto, a citizen association striving to provide empty spaces with a social purpose. They aimed to fulfil the project of Eduardo de Filippo to turn the convent into a cultural centre. The activities are specifically focused on providing meaningful engagement for local youth as an alternative to getting caught up in criminal activities and gang membership.
Naples is an especially interesting place for this initiative to take place, as it has an extended UNESCO World Heritage site, that incorporates over 1000 hectares across the historical city centre. The former convent is based within this historic centre. [1; 3]
The aim of Sacco Matto is to fill unused urban spaces with social initiatives that promote social integration, education and knowledge-generation activities for the local youth, migrants and other citizens. At Scugnizzo Liberato it does so, in cooperation with other partners, by providing different arts and crafts workshops, among others in ceramics, textile, ivory mosaic, plastic-based art, glass-work, goldsmith, sculpture, serigraphy and refurbishment. It also hosts programmes related to theatre and dance, sports competitions, language courses, and religious events, and provides co-working facilities for artists. [1; 4]
Scugnizzo Liberato is managed based on radical open democratic principles. Weekly assemblies are organized, in which everybody (also those from outside the neighbourhood) is welcome to join. Utilization of spaces and workshops can be requested by all interested. There is no rent, but those utilizing individual spaces are requested to participate in the overall renovation and management of the complex. [1; 2]
The initiative is supported by the local authority. The municipality of Naples has put regulations in place that allow for the recognition of squatted public places if they serve community needs. These regulations have enabled the development of Scugnizzo Liberato after the occupation of the building by Sacco Matto. Within the municipality of Naples, this innovative regulation is part of a broader strategy aimed at supporting the collective use of public and private spaces through self-governance structures. [4; 5]
The initial renovation work has been fully funded by earmarked public budget, and implementation of the first activities relied on voluntary labour, as well as the public regional budget. In 2019, the public authority has allocated €7.500.000 for further renovations.
Next to this, the initiative has generated its income through the provision of cultural and artistic activities for adults. The revenue generated has been reinvested in the activities and the maintenance of the space. More recently, the initiative has aimed to create a mutual aid fund based on a model of regenerative welfare. The objective of this system is to aid community workers while creating a self-sustaining social and economic system. [1;2]
Fava, F., Cannella, F., Caudo, G. (2019), 2. The Scugnizzo Liberato (Naples, Italy). D2.2 Individual Report on the Observatory Cases, OpenHeritage, H2020 GA 776766, available on openheritage.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2_OpenHeritage_ScugnizzoLiberato_observatorycase.pdf, on 28-09-2021.
Comune di Napoli (n.d.). Restauro e rifunzionalizzazione del complesso dell’ex Convento delle Cappuccinelle. Retrieved from www.comune.napoli.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/40704, on 28-09-2021.
Scugnizzo Liberato, organisational website, scugnizzoliberato.org/rassegna-web/, accessed on 28-09-2021.
Commons Napoli, initiative website, commonsnapoli.org/en/the-spaces/scugnizzo-liberato/, accessed on 22-11-2021
De Tullio, M.F, (2020), Commons towards New Participatory Institutions: The Neapolitan Experience. Retrieved from urbact.eu/commons-towards-new-participatory-institutions-neapolitan-experience, accessed on 22-11-2021