The very first place we stayed when we moved to Naples was just off Via Toledo and very near to the new Toledo Metro Station. I remember very clearly our first days there. The warmth of the sunshine during the day. The cool evenings. And the long walks up, down and around the streets of our new home.

Of course that was before we knew how to use the buses or the metro, and when the only way we were able find the Montesanto Metro Station was to take the metro there from Stazione Centrale and find our way down the Pignasecca, back to Via Toledo. It was also when H&M was La Rinascente and I had no idea what lay beneath the construction zone across the street.

I would eventually learn that it was to be a metro station someday, but walking past the construction site all these years, it was just part of the landscape. Occasionally I would peak in to see if I could spot any ancient ruins or glean any signs of progress, but quite frankly, most of the time I just walked on by without giving it a second thought.

But that was then.

Previewed during America’s Cup in April and during May of the Monuments 2012, the station’s June opening was delayed, and delayed again. Then finally, on September 17th, 2012, during the European Week of Sustainable Mobility, the Toledo Station was opened to the public, passengers and curious passersby. In fact, on my first visit there last week, it looked as if there were as many people there to see the station as there were to take the train.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

The 16th station on MetroNapoli’s Line 1, it is not only the next step towards completing the major expansion of Line 1 that will connect the northern quartiere of Piscinola to Capodichino Airport, the completion of which is still some five years out. It is another stunning example of a collaborative project engaging architects, artists, designers, and craftsmen from near and far in the laboratory, in the experiment in large scale public art that is Naples Metro System.

Along with four stations on Metro Line 6 and the Università Station at Piazza Bovio that opened on Line 1 in May 2011, it is MetroNapoli’s 13th Stazione dell”ArteMetro Art Station. Designed by Oscar Tusquets Blanca, it seems only appropriate that a Spanish firm was chosen for the job.

Built along Via Roma, this bustling shopping street once went by the name Via Toldeo, and for some, it still does. Named for the first Spanish Viceroy of Naples (1532 – 1552), Pedro Alvares de Toledo, who had Via Toledo built in 1536 to connect Piazza Dante and Piazza Trieste e Trento. On the other side of the station is the Quartieri Spagnoli, Naples Spanish Quarter. Built in the 16th century to house Spanish troops,  a second entrance to the station is scheduled to open there in February 2013.

Entering the station’s main entrance from the newly anointed pedestrian area on Via Roma, on one side you are confronted by the Aragonese walls that were found during the excavation and restored and incorporated into the design. Excavations also uncovered evidence a Neolithic plowed field which is on exhibit at Neapolis Station.

On the other, Ferrovia Centrale per la città di Napoli, 1906 (Naples Processsion), the spectacular mosaic designed by the South African artist William Kentridge and realised by Neapolitan craftsmen.

Stretching the full length of the station’s lobby, it features 16 figural representations of Neapolitan iconography and classic mythology. A procession of characters marching through the station with Naples Patron Saint, San Gennaro at the helm.

Burrowed fifty meters into the earth, the bowels of the station were built below the ground water. But the deepest station built on Line 1 to date is no black hole. In fact, the further down you go, the brighter the station gets. From the black of the ground to the ocher of the earth, until finally reaching the blues of the sea.

Designed around the themes of light and water, hexagonal openings and a huge crater allow the natural light to reach into the deepest recesses of the station.

Crater of the Toledo Metro Station in Naples, Italy
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Here, mimicking the movement of the sea, Robert Wilson’s light panels move passengers along the corridor that leads to the train platform.

Until the inauguration of Stazione Garibaldi which is scheduled for May or June 2013, a Navetta connects passengers with the Dante and the Università stations. At Dante, passengers can change trains and continue towards Piscinola.

Want to know more about the new Toledo Metro station? From Tuesday, September 25th to Tuesday, October 30th, 2012, MetroNapoli’s weekly guided Metro Art Tour will be dedicated exclusively to the new Toledo Station and Università stations. The tour starts at 1030 at the entrance turnstiles of the Toledo Station and will continue to the Università station. Reservations are not required but participants must purchase a metro ticket.

Visit the Toledo Metro Art Station