Galleria Principe Di Napoli

MAP PPP280-1

S3 08144 42 45; Piazza Museo Nazionale; ® Museo

Naples' oldest shopping arcade has seen better days. Now abandoned, It was designed by Nicola Brlglla and built between 1876 and 1883. Its soaring neoclassical look Is almost Identical to that of Its younger, better-loved sibling Galleria Umberto I, located at the lower end of Via Toledo.

GALLERIA UMBERTO I MAP PP280-1 Via San Carlo; @ R2 to Via San Carlo

Doppelgänger of Milan's Galleria Vlttorlo Emanuele, the trick to appreciating this mammoth glass-and-steel masterpiece Is to walk with your head tilted up: Its grand central dome soars to a lofty 56 metres. The mysterious stars of David Imbedded In the glasswork are said to suggest local Jewish Investment In the building. Complete with a sumptuous marble floor, the Galleria makes a surreal setting for Impromptu late-night soccer games.

Pompeii's La Battaglia di Alessandro Contro Dario mosaic, now in Museo Archeologico Nazionale

JEAN-BERN ARD CARILLET

MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE MAP P286 SS 08144 01 66; www.marketplace.it/museo .nazionale; Piazza Museo Nazionale 19; admission €6.50; E3 9am-7.30pm Wed-Mon; ® Museo Even if the idea of an archaeology museum usually sends you to sleep, this place will amaze you. With many of the best finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum on display, as well as hundreds of classical sculptures and a trove of ancient Roman porn, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Is world museum heavyweight. You could easily spend a couple of days exploring the museum, although It Is possible to do an abridged tour In a morning.

Originally a cavalry barracks and later the seat of the city's university (Palazzo del Regnl Stucli), the museum was established by the Bourbon king Charles VII In the late 18th century to house the rich collection of antiquities he had Inherited from his mother, Ellsabetta Farnese. However, he never lived to see Its Inauguration; he died In 1788, 28 years before the Reale Museo Borbonlco (Royal Bourbon Museum) was opened by his successor Ferdinand IV. Forty-four years later, In 1860, the museum became the property of the new Italian state.

The museum Is spread over five floors. Before you venture Into the galleries (numbered In Roman numerals), It's worth Investing €7.50 In the National Archaeological Museum of Naples quick-guide or, to concentrate on the highlights, €4 for an audlogulde In English.

Starting In the basement you'll find the Borgia collection of Etruscan and Egyptian relics, while It's on the ground floor that the Farnese collection of colossal Greekand Roman sculptures Is displayed. The two highlights of classical sculpture are the world-famous Torn Farnese (Farnese Bull) In Room XVI and the gigantic Ercole (Hercules). Sculpted In the early 3rd century AD and noted In the writings of Pliny, the Torn Farnese, probably a Roman copy of a Greek original, depicts the death of Dlrce, Queen of Thebes. According to Greek mythology she was tied to a wild bull by Zeto and Amphlon as punishment for her treatment of their mother Antlope, the first wife of King Lykos of Thebes. Carved from a single colossal block of marble, the sculpture was discovered In 1545 near the Baths of Caracalla In Rome and was restored by Michelangelo, before eventually being shipped to Naples In 1787.

Ercole (Room XI) was d Iscovered I n the sa me Roman dig and like the Toro Farnese remained In Rome until 1787. Originally without legs, Ercole had a new pair made for him by Gugllelmo della Porta. In fact, the story goes that the Farnese were so Impressed with della Porta's work that they refused to reinstate the original legs when they were subsequently found. The Bourbons, however, had no such qualms and later attached the originals to their rightful place. You can seethe della Porta legs displayed on the wall behind Ercole.

Continuing up the grand staircase, the mezzanine floor houses exquisite mosaics from Pompeii and ancient smut In the Gablnetto Segreto (Secret Chamber). Of the series taken from the Casa del Fauno In Pompeii, It Is La Battaglia di Alessandro Contro Dario (The Battle of Alexander against Darius) In Room LXI that stands out. The best-known depiction of Alexander the Great, the 20-sg-metre mosaic was probably made by Alexandrian craftsmen working In Italy around the end of the 2nd century BC. Ofthe other mosaics In the collection, that of a cat killing a duck In Room LX Impresses with Its portrayal of feline ferocity, while In Room LX III, the study of Nile River animals combines art with zoology.

Beyond the mosaics is the Gabinetto Segreto and its small but much-studied collection of ancient erotica. The room was only reopened to the public In 2000 after decades of being accessible only to the seriously scientific, although you still need to book at the front deskto see It. Guarcll ng the entrance Is a marble statue of a lascivious-looking Pan draped over a very coy Daphne. Pan Is then caught In the act, this time with a nanny goat, In the collection's most famous piece - a small and surprisingly sophisticated statue taken from the Villa del Pa pi ri In Herculaneum. There Is also a series of nine paintings depicting erotic positions, which served as a menu for brothel clients.

Originally the royal library, the Sala Meridiana (Great Hall of the Sundial) on the 1st floor Is enormous. Measuring 54m long and 20m high, It contains the Farnese Atlante, a statue of Atlas carrying a globe on his shoulders, and various paintings from the Farnese collection. The rest of the 1st floor Is largely devoted to a treasure trove of discoveries from Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stablae and Cuma. Items range from huge murals and frescoes to a pair of gladiator's helmets, household Items,ceramics and glassware-even egg cups. Rooms LXXXVI and LXXXVII house an extraordinary collection of vases of mixed origins, many carefully reassembled from fragments.

Finish your tour up on the 2nd floor, where there are various engraved coppers and Greek vases.

with entire families who stroll, eat, smoke, play cards, chase balloons, whlnge about the Inlaws or simply sit and stare.

Dominating the eastern flank of the square Is the enormous pink façade of the Convitto Nazionale. Now housing a boarding school, shops and cafés, It was the plece-de-reslstance of Lulgl Vanvltelll's spectacular 18th-centuiy square. Dedicated to the Bourbon king Charles VII, It was known as the Foro Carollno until Italian unification In 1860 when It was renamed Piazza Dante. At the centre of the square, a sand-blasted marble Dante looks out over anarchic Via Toledo In arm-raised disbelief

Below It all, the Dante metro station doubles as a cutting-edge art space with Installations from some art-world heavyweights. As you head down on the escalator, look up and catch Joseph Kosuth's Queste Cose Visibili (These Visible Things) above you. Huge and eye-squlntlngly neon, It's an epic quotation from Dante's II Convivio. Along the wall at the bottom of the escalator you'll find artist Jannls Kounellls's renegade train tracks running over abandoned shoes (Locals have been known to add a pair of their own trainers to the mix.) Right behind you, above the second set of escalators, sits Intermediterraneo, Michelangelo Plstoletto's giant mirror map of the Mediterranean Sea.

PALAZZO DELLE POSTE MAP PP280-1 @ 081 551 14 56; Piazza G Matteotti 3; £3 8.15am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-noon Sat; 0 R4 to Via Monteoliveto

Looking like a giant, graffitled UFO, Naples' main post office Is a striking fascist concoction. Product of an urban renewal programme that wiped out the San Giuseppe quarter, It was designed In 1935 by Giuseppe Vaccaro and features a number of fascist architectural hallmarks: most notably Its foreboding scale and black marble columns - a reference to the black armbands worn by Mussolini and his right-wing posse. Predictably, the front steps are a popular rallying spot for young neofasclsts.

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