25 February 2018

2016 ITALY Naples 44 - Much Needed Espresso

We needed a pick-me-up, so we stopped by Gran CaffĂ© Gambrinus. Per Wikipedia, gambrinus is a legendary somewhat tipsy character of joviality.

It was quite elegant, with fine furniture, paintings and chandeliers. 

The business was established in 1860 and quickly became THE meeting place for intellectuals of the time. In 1890 a new owner refurbished the place and commissioned numerous Art Nouveau painters of the Belle Epoque era to decorate the walls. These paintings still remain to enjoy.
Although humble me had not heard of Gambrinus, it is famous in some circles. Lots of memorabilia in this cabinet including a write-up in the NY Times.

This was mainly a coffee house, but you could buy juices, liquor, and other treats as well.

And the espresso was oh-so-good.

Exactly what we needed to continue on.
Next stop was the impressive Galleria Umberto I, named for the reigning king of Italy at the time (1878 til he was assassinated in 1900). It was constructed between 1887-1891. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here is an exterior shot of one of the four entrances.
It is a feat of architectural excellence with its wide glass center dome and four iron and glass wings extending out from center. It is one of the world's first shopping malls and, although it went through a period of decay, is still in operation over 125 years later.
It houses four stories of luxury brand stores and a few long-time eating establishments. At one time there were apartments on the third floor. This was a mix of residential, shopping, eating, and meeting space. Ok, so I would rather live here than Sanfelice (if there were still apartments).
Even the floors were marvelous.

Last major stop for me was the Real Teatro di San Carlos (or Royal Theatre of Saint Charles). In 1761, Johann Christian Bach (youngest son of Johann S.) brought two operas here. Currently, operas and ballet are performed here.

Seems there are many Opera Houses in Italy. Per Wiki, this one opened in 1737, making it the oldest continuously active venue for public operas in the world (decades before Milano's La Scala).

We had no time to enter, but we peeked through the doors. With standing room it originally accommodated 3,285. Due to a fire in 1816, much of the structure was rebuilt within ten months and seats were pared down to 1,386. It has 184 boxes and one royal box that contains 10 seats. To see a fabulous interior shot, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teatro_di_San_Carlo#/media/File:San_carlo_panoram.JPG
In WWII, the foyer was damaged by bombs, but after the war repairs were made within three weeks for a quick opening. Much more detail on Wiki. If you are interested, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teatro_di_San_Carlo.

From there we traveled to old town. I mean how old is "old town" in a town this old. Anyway, this was also a burgeoning area, but more down to earth with everyday life activities rather than a tourist hangout. The goal was to see a particular statue (can't remember what statue) and observe local happenings.

At this point my feet were killing me. Groupie Frank and I decided to stick with Giuseppe and the van. The others planned to hike only 15 minutes, but were away at least 45. I was glad to be seated in a comfy spot, simply people-watching.

Giuseppe was a little nervous parking for that long as he did not know the "rules of the road" here. Each town is different and sometimes you pay special taxes to operate a van in a certain area. Luckily no negative consequences occurred.

This city (metropolitan population of over 3 million) was alive and bustling. Traffic was weaving in and out like a fine clothe, although we did see one fender bender. People animated, talking and gesturing. All ages, all colors of skin and dress. Lots of shopping bags. It was fun just to relax and watch the world go by. By the time the rest of the group returned, we were all quite ready to return to Vico E.

Mike had not felt well that morning, so he decided to take a break. He spent the day at our hotel on the veranda, reading and relaxing. At one with sun and sea. I felt a little envious when I got back, as I was aching from top to toe. Feet and ankles swollen beyond recognition (totally unusual for me).

The staff had taken good care of him. Did not let him go hungry. The owner hoped to practice French with him, but to no avail. Although one of our group knew French, Mike did not. Dinner was on our own. We had some fruit and granola bars, so rather than go out again, we made do.

PS - I think I acquired a love / hate relationship with Napoli. It is a mess in some ways and very nice in other ways. There are certainly a lot of lovely and meaningful sights and the food is fantastic. Much of the population struggles here, while others flourish. No matter what, most seem proud. I would need to spend more time here before the town would truly and wholly reveal itself.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.