By: Petia Stoykova, BA, 2014-2018
Naples, a city with a strong reputation among Italians and greater curiosity to visitors, this destination is very popular among all travel lists, as the city develops and focuses on cultural awareness. The BA students were able to experience the Napolitano culture through local eyes. Arriving into the city with fresh but groggy eyes after an early morning train ride, we were looking forward to experience the new Naples over our extended weekend.
As soon as we arrived and checked in, our day began immediately as we got to know the city through the new metro line. The accessibility of the city has improved, making traveling and exploring much easier. As we walked through to the underground, we were greeted by large colorful cartoon like snails, an example of the art commissioned at each line creating a diverse spatial composition. Within the historical city center, we experienced the local street food among the compact and lively streets. The beautiful cloister within the church Santa Chiara was so beautiful and unique; the frescoed loggia surrounding the cloister contained blooming flowers and divine orange trees. Within the cloister itself, intricate ceramic floors bordered the central walking areas, making the space all the more sacred.
During the last few years, the excavation of the Galleria Borbonica has become an elaborate and interesting space, which completely changed my view and understanding of the city of Naples. Galleria Borbonica is an underground area that has changed and been repurposed based on the needs of the city. The mood within the diverse space ranged from dynamic and heavy to comical and quirky. Initially used as water cisterns during the bombing of World War II, residents would hide underground while the city was bombed. Up to 10,000 people would collect in the span of 10 minutes. I had never been able to see the atrocity of WWII in such a direct way; it was extremely moving and informative and furthered my new perspective of the current living state of Naples.
Our cultural experience extended from the city of Naples to the city of Pompeii, where we were guided through the destroyed, but strangely preserved city. The architecture and city spaces were planned very intricately, prioritizing functionality in correspondence to the uses/needs of the people. You can still see the impressions from carriages on the ancient paved streets and the pedestrian crossing spaces indicated by stepping-stones. These special types of stone paved into the streets reflected the moon to help guide Neapolitans at night.
As we wrapped up our exploration of Pompeii, we climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius and had an aerial view of Naples. By way of train, bus, and oversized Jeep, we reached the top. The breath-taking view next to the destructive space of Pompeii created a very contrasting experience. This type of juxtaposition gave us a new perspective of the city reflecting on the disaster of Pompeii, while seeing it from the volcano responsible.
On the first of May (Italian Labor Day) we were given the opportunity to experience our own version of Naples, taking advantage of the ideal weather. Being close to the water, I chose to explore the waterfront to relax. I found a small beach near Castel dell’Ovo where locals enjoyed the sun sitting on the rocks along the coast or laying out in the sand. Our weekend involved major cultural exposure and local experiences. The city of Naples is a dense place and can be rediscovered many times – I look forward to seeing how the city develops and changes in the future.