We approached Piazza (Giovanni) Bovio, better known as Piazza Borsa from the port on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks back. After getting a late start, it was that time of day when most everyone is sitting down to their afternoon meal and we found ourselves wandering the deserted streets. An aimless walk-about we had meandered from Chiaia to Piazza del Plebiscito and on to Castel Nuovo, down to the port and the newly opened Galleria del Mare and eventually found ourselves in Piazza Borsa.

The southwestern end of Naples longest street, Corso Umberto I was designed as an elegant boulevard to connect Piazza Borsa and Piazza Garibaldi. It was built after the Cholera Epidemic of 1884 during the Risanemento, Naples Urban Renewal Program that was undertaken to rid the city of the urban decay that was believed to be partly responsible for the epidemic.

Corso Umberto in the 1950s Naples, Italy
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Corso Umberto in the 1950s Courtesy of Wikipedia

The sun, high in the sky at this point washed away most of the blue sky behind the piazza’s most important building, the late 19th century neo-renaissance Palazzo della Borsa, home to the Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato e Agricoltura, Naples Chamber of Commerce.

It has been several months since I’d been down this way and I was curious to have a peek. I had heard that the construction (that surrounds most of the city’s piazzas at the moment) had been cleared away from Piazza Borsa and that it had undergone a major facelift but I’d yet to see it.

Thinking back I realized I’ve probably never seen the piazza when it wasn’t under construction. In fact, the Fountain of Neptune that once graced the piazza was removed in 2001 (long before I got here) to facilitate construction of the metro. Some ten years later the veil was lifted and in its place was the 80 ton statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, the last King of Sardegna and the first King of Italy that had once been in piazza Municipio.

Part of that facelift and the primary reason for the construction was the long-awaited opening of MetroNapoli’s 15th station on Line 1, the new Università Station. I hear all of you nay-sayers now, that’s how many new stations opened in how many years? But I have to say its opening fills me with hope and promise – well almost.

It is the first step towards completion of a major expansion of Metro Line 1 that will connect the northern quartiere of Piscinola to Capodichino Airport, link Metro Lines 1 and 6 at Piazza Municipio and that will connect Piazza Dante to Piazza Garibaldi via the new Toledo, Piazza Municipio, Università and Duomo stations. One down, five to go (on this part of the line anyway). Eventually, Piazza Garibaldi will connect to Capodichino Airport forming a complete ring.

After admiring the piazza for a bit we headed over to the red Metro sign and started our descent into the station. MetroNapoli’s newest Art Station it was designed by award-winning industrial designer Karim Rashid in a style that was meant to reflect the dynamic nature of the neighborhood and of our times.

Colors and spaces inspired by the language of the new digital age and the multicultural student community at the nearby University.

Descending down the stairs we found the walls of words to our left and right. Dark pink words printed on white tiles that according to Rashid are all words that have been created in the last century. Words like fusion, software, teknoorganic and shareware.

Arriving on the main level of the station we were immersed in an explosion of color, light and reflection. The entire room from the floor to the ceiling and the walls in between reflect the station’s contemporary works of art while the art reflects the features of the room.

We descended down three escalators into the bowels of the station, the spaces done in teal blues, lime greens, hot pinks, and neon oranges. Floors and walls adorned a variety of geometrical patterns reminiscent of the drawings I once made with my spirograph.

We boarded the Navetta, a baby metro train for our maiden voyage to Piazza Dante. Along the way we saw what we suspect are the Municipio and Toledo stations that will be stops along this route in the future.

With the addition of the new Università station there are now 12 Stazioni dell’Arte, Metro Art Stations  among Metro Lines 1 and 6. A project conceived of by MetroNapoli in the late 1990s, these stations feature works in a variety of mediums from photography to sculpture by artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Mimmo Paladino, and Luciano D’Alessandro.

Visit the Università Metro Art Station