Category Archives: Italy

Galleria Umberto, Naples, Italy

One of the most grandiose shopping malls in the world, the Galleria Umberto, built in the shadow of the Castel Nuovo and the port of Naples, dates to the late 19th Century.Open to the elements, but still featuring a glass roof, it shows the influence of classical design and the Crystal Palace, built in London earlier in the 19th Century.Interestingly, there aren’t a huge number of stores, and most of them are very expensive.The dome is magnificent, and is the centerpiece of the complex. You won’t find any parking lots at this shopping mall, as it’s built right up to the street and surrounded on all sides by other buildings across the street.

Barons’ Hall, Castel Nuovo, Naples, Italy

Up a long staircase in the courtyard of the Castel Nuovo in Naples, the Barons’ Hall is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture – in southern Italy.With a massive groin vault, the ceiling is unique in that its keystone is actually open in the middle with a small skylight. I have seen many Gothic vaults in the world, but never have seen this.The room, now the meeting room for the city council of Naples, is now largely unadorned; perhaps originally large tapestries or frescoes covered the walls.Civic architecture can make the difference between having a boring city, and a city that truly inspires its residents and visitors.

Castel Nuovo, Naples, Italy

Finished in 1282, the Castel Nuovo, or New Castle, provided the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily with a bastion in the city of Naples.The walls of this fortress are just unbelievably massive, meant to intimidate and repel attackers. The pointed stones and scalloped walls were designed to cause battering rams’ blows to glance off at an angle.The massive towers punctuate the walls made of tuff, the local, sandy colored stone.Now a museum, the fortress has greeted visitors to Naples coming into the port for close to 800 years.

Villa Borghese, Rome

The Villa Borghese, now really the largest park in Rome, was once the country estate of the Borghese family.Like many powerful Italian families, they blew all of their money and had to sell off large portions of their collections and property to the state.Much like St. Louis’s Forest Park, you can see great art in the park. There’s nothing better than a stroll through a park to an art Museum.The actually country house in the Villa Borghese now features an amazing collection of paintings and sculpture from antiquity up through the 18th Century.

Caserta, Campania, Italy

Every once and a while, I like to go back to the sources of much of St. Louis’s architecture. Usually, that means Europe. The palace at Caserta, built outside Naples in the Campania region of Italy, sits right on the edge of the mountains that rise dramatically from the plains around the port city.A giant esplanade heads up into the mountain, terminating with a sculptural depiction of “Diana and Acteon” before heading up a steep cascade of water.It is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve traveled to in the world. St. Louis has several parks that use elements common throughout palace grounds such as Caserta.The English Garden, to the southeast of the dramatic cascade, is what we in America call a park.Arranged around carefully contrived vistas that are supposed to look “natural,” our own Forest Park or Tower Grove Park are the direct descendants of the English Gardens of the 18th Century.

Dumb Idea I took my trip to the Bay of Naples last March, I thought it would be fun to rent a boat for myself and go around the island of Capri. As I approached the island by hydrofoil, it became obvious that taking a dinghy by myself was an incredibly stupid idea, as the waves get quite high and rugged around the base of the island’s cliffs. So I stuck to the paths that snake around the island.