“The rays of the early morning sun swept through the windows of our bedroom onto our pillows as the dawn chorus of the myriad swallows awoke us from our slumber.” That might be a reasonable way to open a new chapter but would be factually incorrect for various reasons. Our large bedroom was at right angles to the lounge and had no windows anyway, coupled with the fact that the bedroom door shut off the lounge, so no daylight could enter. The double glazed windows of the lounge also precluded any sound from entering. Upon our awakening however, I did make my way out onto the balcony to watch the aerial acrobatics in the courtyard while Rosemary went for a shower. The dawn display was dramatic once I was in a good position to watch it, as the swallows swooped into the courtyard centre from each of the four sides of the quadrangle. They dived and twisted while always managing to avoid those coming in from every direction, at the same time totally ignoring my presence, even at times passing within less than a foot of me, while I endeavoured to film them which was almost impossible due to the sheer speed and angles involved. I secured some footage before going to the shower once Rosemary was finished. Following our normal continental breakfast we surrendered our keys, collecting our passports before taking the rickety lift then crossed the courtyard to Via Francesco and descended the steps.
At Caverno Correra, we turned left to Via Enrico Bellini but here turned right thus heading away from the Dante Museum, for today we had a new target in mind. The Galleria Umberto was built in around 1885 to 1890 during the reign of King Umberto to rejuvenate the rather drab and decaying city that Naples was in danger of becoming. Its purpose was to combine and create the cafe’s, shops and businesses into a virtual indoor town on two levels under an all encompassing glass ceiling, with a third floor being given over entirely to private apartments. One wing opens out onto the Via Toledo and another onto the San Carlo Theatre. The entire construction is visually spectacular and has been designated a World Heritage Site, which accolade it certainly deserves. I would place the Galleria Umberto amongst the most beautiful and spectacular buildings in the whole of Italy. Unfortunately that very degree of attraction has encouraged people to flock there not only to view but to also seek accommodation by purchasing the much sought after apartments. Many tenants are then annoyed by the constant noise and dazzling lights which disturb their peace, especially at night. The irony here being that the complex was built for that precise purpose, namely to attract all the hordes. It would seem you can’t please everyone! I intend to upload some photos later.
One unforeseen bonus is that the acoustics are such that numerous tenors and baritones, who could easily grace most of the world’s stages, perform there for no payment on a virtually daily basis. As one singer retires for a break, another springs up to replace him – while the musicians play tirelessly on. They were all quite happy for me to take some film as they performed, I did of course put something into their collection boxes, but under no compulsion. I am no musical connoisseur, but would aspire to the role of aficionado, having attended various performances including the Sydney Opera House and the Albert Hall as well as many provincial city performances. I would be hard pressed to detect any appreciable difference in the quality of the Street players performances as compared to that of the professional artists. There should be little surprise at the great expertise and abundance of operatic singers in Naples when you consider how many theatres and opera houses the city boasts. It would be fitting in this regard perhaps to mention the theatre which has hosted Paisiello and Cimarosa, Betlini, Paganini, Rossini and Verdi as well as many of the world’s greatest dancers and opera singers. I speak here of course of the aforementioned San Carlo Theatre, the oldest still working opera house in the world.
We spent a few hours admiring the superb architecture and quite stunning carvings and mosaics, then applauded collectively the singers and musicians, took some precious film and returned to our hotel. Any tourist visiting Italy and especially if they are within reach of Naples, would be advised to place the Galleria Umberto at the top of their “Must visit” list. After lunch at a local restaurant we visited the next target on our wish list, a nearby university specialising in Arts, Drama and stage building.
They were delighted to invite us in and to show us around every department even though we had made no arrangements to go there before arriving in Naples. These are sme pictures taken inside some of the departments.
Along Via Enrico Bellini we explored the shops and architecture on our way up the hill until we reached the Art Gallery where we spent a couple of bedazzled but informative hours. I had intended to elaborate on the Art Gallery, but having filmed the visit I intend to put the film on the website later, so have simply presenedt a few pictures from within the Academy on these pages.