Gallerie d’Italia & Galleria Borbonica

I wasn’t terribly ambitious this afternoon. I visited a relatively small art gallery, Gallerie d’Italia, and took another underground Naples tour, Galleria Borbonica.

Getting to the Gallerie d’Italia

But first I had to get from where I had lunch, way up the San Martino district, to the Gallerie d’Italia, which is closer to sea level in central Naples.

If you read my post from this morning, you know I took a funicular up. But Google Maps told me it was only about a 30-minute walk. That’s not bad. I figured I had gravity working for me, so I walked down.

For most of the walk down the hill on the route Google Maps gave me I had no fear whatsoever of having any confrontation with Naples’ pedestrian-hostile drivers. Most of the way down was on three long stairways. I hope Google Maps doesn’t give the same directions to people who ask for a driving route.

Roads intersected with stairway landings only on the lowest stairway. On the upper two I encountered no interactions with cars whatsoever.

My Fitbit counts stair flights only on uphill climbs, not descents. I don’t think that’s fair. I think I should get at least half credit for downward flights of stairs. True, you don’t have to expend as much energy, but I still find it a bit more strenuous than walking on level ground because I have to work a little harder at fighting against my knee buckling as my leg descends to the lower step. And I have to fight a little against gravity to make sure it doesn’t force me down the stairs faster than I can safely go.

None of that is the least bit relevant here. But if someone from Fitbit (now part of Google) sees this I hope they’ll consider it.

Speaking of Google, the walk took me a little longer than the 30 minutes that Google Maps said it would take. It was definitely not my fault.

Every once in a while, the compass on Google Maps flipped from the true direction, usually by about 180 degrees.

When that happened, I generally had a sense that it was wrong, but I’m unfamiliar enough with Naples streets that I was willing to assume that it was my sense of direction that was off, not Google Maps’ sense of direction.

However, when I was suspicious of the direction Google Maps sent me, after walking a bit to take into account of the position margin of error, I looked at Google Maps to see if I was on the correct route. Sure enough, the route I was supposed to be on was behind me, but the Google Maps’ compass said I should keep going in the wrong direction.

Helpful hint: I always hold my phone in the portrait orientation when I’m using a mapping app. I found that when I realized that the compass had flipped, if I turned my phone to landscape orientation then immediately turned it back to portrait orientation the compass corrected itself.

I didn’t have the problem often enough to be completely certain that wasn’t coincidence, but the fix did work every time I used it. The occasional brief misdirection explains why the walk took me a little longer than Google Maps said it would.

All of that being said, the route Google Maps gave me took me by streetscapes with a lot of character. And when I say “a lot of character,” I mean that as a good thing, not as sarcasm or as a euphemism for shady.

Gallerie d’Italia

My guidebook tells me that the Gallerie d’Italia’s most prized possession, by far, is a Caravaggio. But not just any Caravaggio. It’s his last work, a painting he completed just weeks before his death, the “Martyrdom of St Ursula.”

I went to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket. Before he would sell it to me he told me, “Caravaggio is not here.”

This did not surprise me. He died in 1610. It would have been more than a bit macabre to have his more than 400-year-old bones on display in the Gallerie d’Italia today..

Apparently the ticket seller meant Caravaggio’s painting, not Caravaggio. “Martyrdom of St Ursula” is on loan to another gallery. At least, that’s what they told me. They probably hid it when they saw me coming.

Nevertheless, I bought a ticket and went inside. The decision to do so was helped along by learning that the price for decrepit people, such as me, is only four euros.

The gallery is on the smallish side. It has a temporary exhibit on the ground floor and then permanent exhibits on the two small floors above it. The works in the gallery are mostly paintings. Most are from artists who either lived in Naples or worked in Naples when they produced the works in the gallery.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures in the Gallerie d’Italia, but the painting in the photo I posted here, “Tobia Restores his Father’s Sight,” by Hendrick de Somer, circa 1632, captured my attention. I looked at it and thought, “When I get to be that old, which may be in the next 24 to 48 hours, I hope that I’m that well cared for.” I’d prefer that I don’t lose my eyesight, but if I do, I hope someone will restore it for me.

Another painting at the Gallerie d’Italia captured my attention as well. I posted a picture of it here too. It’s titled, “The Devil at the Holy Water,” circa 1887. It’s by Salvatore Postiglione. What? That’s the devil? Other pictures I’ve seen of the devil usually depict him as a man with horns. Well, it’s nice to see that the devil has finally been able to come out as a trans woman. The devil should be free to be her true self.

Enough said about the Gallerie Italia.

Galleria Borbonica

For the headings in this journal, I generally use whatever name the guidebook(s) I’m using give the sight. If I use multiple guidebooks and they differ, I get to choose between them. If the guidebooks use the English name for a sight, I use the English name. If they use the local-language name, that’s what I use.

Both the guidebooks I use called this attraction “Galleria Borbonica,” the Italian name. But the website for Galleria Borbonica has an option for an English version of the site. On that, they don’t call it Galleria Borbonica, but rather Bourbon Tunnel. It was pretty busy today. But I think it could have been, for my taste, even more popular if they called it Whiskey Tunnel or, for a more local flavour, maybe Limoncello Tunnel.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I got to the ticket office I learned that entrance is only by guided tour and they run English tours only every hour on the hour. I arrived about seven minutes after the hour. I bought a ticket for the next and last tour of the day and walked around a bit. I came across a nearby small public square with some trees and benches, had a seat, pulled out my phone, and did some work on this morning’s journal entry.

I then came back in time for the tour of some more of Naples’ underground. No, my previous visit to Napoli Solterranea wasn’t enough for me.

The Galleria Borbonica tour doesn’t actually start in the Galleria Borbonica. It starts by climbing down a long set of stairs a little ways away in Naples. That took us down to some caverns that were dug for generally the same purposes as the ones I saw on the Napoli Solterranea tour—as quarries to extract volcanic rock and to use as cisterns and aqueducts. Although, these caverns were more recent. Rather than being ancient Greek and Roman caverns and tunnels as was the case with the caverns on the Napoli Solterranea tour, these dated from the Renaissance time.

Like the caverns I saw the other day, these too were used as bunkers during World War II.

I forget how many people sheltered there during the war, but there were only three toilets. The toilets didn’t have seats, there was no septic system and they couldn’t be connected to the sewage system because that was above the level of the caverns. Instead, the toilets were installed over very porous rock that would absorb the urine and excrement. There was just one problem, by the end of the war, air raids were so frequent that the toilets overflowed and people had to shelter with sewage covering their shoes.

During the war, the army engineers dug a tunnel from these caverns to the Bourbon Tunnel, which was also used as a bomb shelter. We used that tunnel to get from the first caverns to the Galleria Borbonica.

The Bourbon Tunnel was built for a completely different reason and was much more modern.

King Ferdinand II of Bourbon used to rule Naples. But he was terrified that the Neapolitans would revolt against him. So, in 1853, he ordered that a tunnel be built as an escape route from the palace to the sea. It was never quite finished, but that’s what I was in this afternoon.

This is not a narrow little tunnel for the king to be able to make a furtive escape if necessary. The king ordered that it be big enough that he could take his carriage and entourage through it.

Cisterns and aqueducts in the area were still in use at the time. So the engineer dug the tunnel slightly above them and built bridges over the cisterns where necessary.

The Galleria Borbonica is in what was, during World War II, the rich part of the town. The caverns I was in to start the tour were in what was the poor part of town. I don’t know if that division of rich and poor between the two districts is still the case. The point is, during the war, the rich people sheltered in the Galleria Borbonica during air raids.

We also saw the toilets in what was the Galleria Borbonica bunker. The walls of the toilet stalls extended further out and had hinges for doors (the doors aren’t there anymore). And the toilets had seats.

The area where the rich people’s bunker toilets were is on a bridge over one of the cisterns. But by World War II the cisterns and aqueducts had long since been emptied because seepage from the sewage system contaminated them. So the cistern was empty then. The rich people’s toilets emptied into the large cistern area beneath the bridge and never overflowed. Wealth has its privileges.

After the war, the police used the Galleria Borbonica as a vehicle impound station for confiscated vehicles. There are still a bunch of rusted out cars and Vespas still down there.

Naples Summary

I leave Naples tomorrow morning to go to my next stop, Sorrento. So this will be my last post from Naples.

I quite enjoyed it here. I probably could have done with another day or two here, particularly if I had never been to Naples before (which I have). There’s a large art gallery that I didn’t get to because, one, I’m not all that much into art galleries, and, two, it’s inconvenient to get to.

There are also some islands off the coast that you can visit by ferry. The most famous is Capri. I was in Capri the last time I visited Naples. I loved it and thought at the time that I wanted to go back. But Capri is closer to Sorrento by ferry than to Naples, so I plan to go from Sorrento. We’ll see how that works out.

There are another couple of other islands that you can visit by ferry from Naples, and they’re closer to Naples than to Sorrento. But my guidebooks didn’t have a lot to say about them, so I decided to skip them. There’s only so much time.

All in all, I’m glad I came to Naples.


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