Unlike Milan, Naples is not renowned for fashion or shopping. And shopping malls are not normally high on my list of places to visit. So why would I be writing about the Galleria Umberto I in Naples?
Risanamento Architecture of the Galleria Umberto I
Of course, this being Naples, the Galleria is no ordinary shopping arcade. Unlike many modern constructions, it is of architectural interest in its own right, a magnificent confection of iron and glass. Modelled on the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, it was intended as a centrepiece for the risanamento, or revitalisation, of Naples in the late 19th century.
Built in the shape of a cross, the gallery has the feeling of a cathedral, soaring upwards to a vaulted glass ceiling and a vast glass dome at the centre. As you walk around, note the rich architectural detail and the mosaics on the floor, in particular the central mosaic with the signs of the zodiac.
A Meeting Place for Neapolitans
The Galleria fell into disrepair for some decades but is now being extensively renovated in keeping with its status as a part of the UNESCO listing of the Historic Centre of Naples. Today it is a place for shopping, eating and meeting your friends. There is also an upmarket hotel (the Hotel Art Resort Galleria Umberto) built and furnished in the Baroque style within the Galleria itself.
Even without the shops, the people watching opportunities and the architecture of the Galleria Umberto I make it an essential part of any visit to Naples.