Naples, Italy: the birthplace of pizza, Sophia Loren, and the Mob, and home of a number of amazingly beautiful gallerias. I have to say I didn’t know what a galleria was until seeing them in Naples. They are essentially indoor markets, covered shopping malls with open air entrances built during Victorian times. Being from Minnesota, home of America’s first indoor shopping mall and the famous Mall of America, my idea of shopping malls is quite different.
We stepped outside a museum and walked down a street for a mere 10 meters before I caught a glimpse of the beauty peeking through the seemingly plain exterior; the ornate interior of glass, wrought iron, wooden carvings and neoclassical decorative sculptures. This first one we saw below was relatively empty, just a few people walking through it as a glorified short cut. None of the market stalls were rented, the second floor apartments were abandoned.
The second galleria was much more used. There were hotels and halls for events and weddings. Little kids riding bikes, people eating gelato and pastries, musicians busking while pumping away on their accordions and guitars.
We continued further down the main walking street of Naples. Our travel guide author, Rick Steves, calls Naples “crusty” and says if you get sick of Italy with the speeding Vespas, slow traffic, lack of efficiency and teenagers making out, don’t go to Naples because Italy intensifies as you move south. Especially in Naples, as it is severely economically depressed. 1/3 of the population is unemployed and it has been this way long before the economic crash of the oughts (’00’s). For at least a century, Naples has had a particularly fascist government and degradation of freedom and opportunities, which contributed to the development of the Mob. I would imagine that when rights are suppressed people find a way to work around it, legally or illegally.
Even though it appeared slightly sketchy, I kept in mind that the most crime-ridden place in the world is the Vatican, a self-declared holy place and the capital of Catholicism. More petty crimes, especially thefts and pick-pocketing happen here than anywhere else. Looks can be deceiving, folks.
Despite it’s crustiness, I loved it. I loved people watching, popping in and out of shops and a the colorful Dominican church. It seemed teeming with life; maybe because it was crowded. It was remarkable looking up and down the sides streets. The streets the the right were alive, with overflowing balconies, while the same exact street to the left towards the Mediterranean was cold, dead, buildings designed in the fascist 90 degree angles of Fascist architecture.
Our visit to Naples was brief; we stopped there after visiting Pompeii and had just enough time to tour a museum containing the salvaged art from Pompeii and a stroll down and up the main street. Next time I visit, I’ll make time to have a slice of famous Neapolitan pizza, climb the hill to see the view from a villa, tour a church or castle, or two, and dip my toes in the Mediterranean.