Santiago Calatrava in Naples

Sitting above Naples and commanding a particularly regal view over the city and the Gulf of Naples beyond, the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte was once one of the several residences of the Bourbon kings of Naples. Originally conceived in the 18th century to display the royal family’s prestigious collection of art, it officially became a museum in 1950. Now one of the finest in Italy, it’s a must for art lovers visiting the area.

Recently, I spent a day exploring the museum and had a chance to visit the special exhibit Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli that is on display now through May 10, 2020. The show is dedicated to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and explore 40 years of his extraordinarily multifaceted artistic career. This is a unique opportunity to see Calatrava’s explorations, which at every turn reveal a deep curiosity with nature, shape, and human form, with designs and influences echoing across the galleries and into his iconic building projects and future plans.

Envisioned expressly by Calatrava to take place in Naples, the exhibition is a reflection of his love for the city and its many layers of history. It was curated by Sylvain Bellenger, director of the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, and Robertina Calatrava, the architect’s wife, along with a direct collaboration with the Studio Calatrava. This marks the first exhibition ever dedicated to a contemporary architect at Capodimonte – and it’s a fine start.

Arriving on the second floor of the museum, a group of large sculptures mark the entrance to the Santiago Calatrava exhibit. This series of large bronze figures atop wooden columns set the scene right from the start for an exhibit dedicated not only to architecture. The human figures struggle (or is it dance?) with large circles that appear at times heavy and in others light as a feather. Movement presents itself as a key theme through all of the works on display throughout the exhibition.

The next room is a visually striking set of six large works of art created out of aluminum. What at first looks like solid colored canvases with geometric designs becomes more intriguing when you look closer. They don’t just seem to capture light in various ways – they actually move. These pieces are formed by aluminum that is cut into strips and mechanized to create movement through the geometric forms. The movements capture the shifting light in captivating ways. An idea not unlike the gentle unfurling of the large wings at the Milwaukee Art Museum Quadracci Pavilion from 2001.

Calatrava’s striking design for the Milwaukee Art Museum

This is just one of the many connections that come to life while exploring this exhibition. Calatrava has described the importance of his sculptural work for understanding his architecture since the ideas he continues to explore were born there. His passion for art started at the age of 8 when he began studying drawing and painting at the Scuola delle Arti e dei Mestieri in Valencia. While he continues to draw and paint, for Calatrava it is particularly his sculptures that reveal the earliest interests that appear in his buildings and bridges.

Indeed, the following rooms dedicated to Calatrava’s sculptural works were the most inviting for me. In the center of three galleries, large scale geometric designs ares surrounded by drawings, paintings, and smaller sculptures following similar themes. One of the most striking pieces was a dark and dramatic sculpture with sharp points swirling like feathers that were mimicked by the rush of bull horns in the drawings circling the gallery.

My favorite gallery was one with a series of three large sculptures, this time in light colored wood, with a similar exploration of spirals and geometric forms. Along the back wall are hung a series of paintings of bare tree branches and trunks. Every step walking around the gallery revealed new shapes and shadows.

The following galleries of the exhibition delve into Calatrava’s architectural and engineering works, grouped into train stations, bridges, and art and cultural institutions. Here the detailed project models are on display along with related drawings and sketches.

It was the interplay of the final projects and the preparatory sketches, studies, and little moments of inspiration that captured my attention. They brought life to the designs and revealed something we often forget in day-to-day life. Every building, from the homes we live in to the bridges we cross and the monuments and structures we admire, comes from the creative mind of an architect or engineer. It’s not often we get a glimpse inside that creative mind to see the process, sources of inspiration, and passion that flows from the original conception to the final design.

The exhibition Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli is on display through May 10, 2020. It also includes a separate section dedicated to Calavatra’s ceramics that is located in the Cellaio, the historic cellar, in the Capodimonte gardens. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it there, but if you plan on visiting, note that it is open only from Friday-Sunday.

Detail from the large project model for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Visit the Santiago Calatrava. Nella luce di Napoli website or the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte website to find out more about the exhibition. The video below shows the entire exhibition and offers a good look inside the portion of the exhibition dedicated to ceramics.

Note: I apologize for the low quality photos in this post. I only had my several year old iPhone with me when I visited the exhibition.

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Amalfi Coast 2020 Travel Inspiration

Now that the holiday season has wrapped up, it’s that time when we start looking ahead at the year to come. If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast in 2020, I’ve gathered together some special experiences to help with your planning or perhaps even inspire you to book a trip to the Amalfi Coast this year. This is by no means a complete list of all there is to see and do on the Amalfi Coast and the surrounding areas. (Psst … Moon Amalfi Coast is a great resource for that!) These are just a handful of events I’m looking forward to this year along with places in Campania I’m eager to explore more in 2020.

While wisteria blooming in the early spring is by no means unique to the Amalfi Coast, for me seeing Positano decked out with wisteria is something I look forward to all winter. The blooms are usually out in March, but sometimes earlier. I’ve also caught them gorgeous right at the beginning of April. I first fell in love with wisteria while meandering through Dumbarton Oaks when I worked in Washington, DC. It made me so happy to discover it grew so plentifully on the Amalfi Coast. However, there’s not much in Amalfi, so I usually visit Positano or Ravello to really kick off the spring. If you’re planning an early spring visit to the Amalfi Coast, the air will be just a little bit sweeter thanks to the wisteria blooms.

Historical Regata Boats in Amalfi 2012

Created in 1955, the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics) is a historic parade and boat race that takes place every day between Amalfi, Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. These four cities were powerful republics in the Middle Ages and once vied for control and trading routes. Each city takes part in a parade with detailed and colorful costumes reflecting a key moment in history. Then all eyes turn to the sea for the 2 kilometer race on large wooden boats modeled after 12th century designs.

The Regata rotates between the four cities and takes place in Amalfi every four years. It’s thrilling to be in Amalfi to cheer along during the race. The two times I have seen the Regata in Amalfi, in 2012 and 2016, the Amalfi team had spectacular come from behind wins both times. What an experience! The Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare is scheduled to take place in Amalfi this year and is usually the first weekend of June. I haven’t seen the dates announced for 2020 yet, but if you’re planning a summer trip to the Amalfi Coast, this is a really fun event to catch if you can since it won’t happen again until 2024.

UPDATE: Word on the street is that the Regata won’t actually be taking place in Amalfi as planned in 2020. I am trying to confirm this and will update the post again when I have more information.

Historic Parade in Amalfi Regata 2012

If you can’t make it to the Regata in June, you can enjoy the historical parade during the Capodanno Bizantino celebrations that take place on September 1st in Amalfi. The event includes flag throwers and the same traditional costumed parade from Amalfi to Atrani.

Mark your calendars and plan a visit to the Santiago Calatrava: Nella luce di Napoli exhibition that will be at the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples from December 6th to May 10th, 2020. Even if you think you’re not familiar with the work of this noted Spanish architect, you’ve likely see at least photos of some of his stunning buildings like the World Trade Center Station in New York City or the sweeping wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Long enamored with the city of Naples, this exhibition is a rare look back at his 40 year career in all its aspects – architect, engineer, sculptor, painter, and designer. Co-curated by Robertina Calatrava, the architect’s wife, this is truly a rare glimpse into Calatrava’s life and career.

On the topic of exhibitions, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (National Archaeological Museum in Naples) has a series of special events planned for 2020. This is just an added bonus, of course, because the permanent collection at the museum is enough reason to visit again and again as it’s one of the finest archaeological collections in the world. But for an added incentive, opening on March 13th, 2020 the exhibition Gli Etruschi al MANN is a retrospective dedicated to the ancient Etruscans. With about 400 objects, the exhibition will be an incredible chance to delve into this fascinating civilization. It will also coincide with the reopening of the Prehistory and Protohistory section of the museum.

Opening on April 8th, 2020, is an exhibition I Gladiatori, which, as you can probably guess, will about gladiators. This promises to be a popular exhibition dedicated to the figure of the gladiator from private life to the arena as told through key pieces from the MANN collection and museum collections around Europe.

At the moment closing dates for those special exhibitions haven’t been announced yet, but keep an eye on the MANN website for more details.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my lovely friend Shari’s annual Positano Yoga Retreat. I can speak from personal experience when I say that this is an incredible retreat. Set in a secluded spot above Positano, it’s an experience that introduces you to the quieter side of the Amalfi Coast as well as offering a break from the rush of modern life. Settle into warrior pose while gazing out over the Amalfi Coast and you truly feel like you can take on the world. Shari has some special events up her sleeves to celebrate the 10th anniversary, so this is the perfect year to attend if you’ve been thinking of a yoga retreat on the Amalfi Coast.

While this doesn’t have to do with a specific tie to 2020, one of my top suggestions would be to spend time on the islands of Ischia and Procida. By far the highlight of writing Moon Amalfi Coast was the time I spent on these two beautiful islands in the Gulf of Naples. Exploring the Castello Aragonese on Ischia is easily one of my top 10 experiences from 13 years living in Italy. And Procida, which is the colorful photo you see above, is a pastel dream. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I love the Amalfi Coast and Capri. However, if you’ve been to these areas and are looking for somewhere new to experience in the area, do put Ischia and Procida on your radar.

And if these ideas don’t spark your travel planning bug, you’ll find a ton more in my book Moon Amalfi Coast: With Capri, Naples & Pompeii. It covers all the top spots as well as smaller towns along the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and the Sorrento coastline, Salerno, Naples, and Ischia and Procida. If you visit here this year, I hope you have fun exploring this beautiful part of Italy!

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New Bus Service from Naples Airport to the Amalfi Coast

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Planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast and flying into the Naples Airport? Then I have some good news for you! There’s a new bus service that goes direct from the Naples Capodichino Airport to multiple destinations on the Amalfi Coast. And it only costs €15 per person! Reaching the Amalfi Coast by public bus has always been a bit of an adventure. It was hard for me to even recommend that as an option for travelers, especially if they didn’t speak Italian. Thankfully, Pintour has launched a new bus service the connects the Naples Airport with all of the towns on the Amalfi Coast from Vietri sul Mare to Amalfi. That includes stops at Vietri sul Mare, Raito, Cetara, Erchie, Maiori, Minori, Castiglione (where you would get off to catch a local bus up to Ravello), Atrani and Amalfi.

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There are four departure times from the Naples Airport (9:00, 12:30, 16:00, 19.30) and four departure times from Amalfi (7:00, 10:30, 14:00, 17.30). The journey takes about 2 hours each way. Tickets cost €15 per person (€10 for kids under 12) each way, and can be purchased online here. For exact departure times from each stop along the way, check out the schedules below.

 

Bus Schedule for Naples to the Amalfi Coast

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Bus Schedule from Amalfi to the Naples Airport

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This is a much needed service on the Amalfi Coast – for both locals and travelers alike. The departure times from the Naples airport comfortably cover many of the flight times for travelers arriving to visit the Amalfi Coast. And for the departure, if you have a later morning or afternoon flight from Naples, this bus service has you covered, too. The only issue with departure times is for travelers heading to the United States since those flights often leave very early from the Naples airport to make international connecting flights in Italy or Europe. If you’re leaving at a flight around 7am like I often do when flying back to America, then booking a private taxi transfer will still likely be your best option. I know some of you will be asking, “And Positano?” That town is not covered in this bus service, and will have to be another post in itself! (Spoiler alert: It’s NOT easy.)

Note: I’m looking forward to trying out this bus service to the Naples Airport, but I haven’t used it yet personally. So for any additional questions on schedules or tickets, please contact Pintour here.

Book Review | Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

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Given my passion for reading and great love of the Amalfi Coast, as soon as I saw the title of Katherine Wilson’s book Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law I knew it would be a book I would enjoy. And I certainly did! With Katherine’s engaging writing style and lighthearted yet perceptive look at her experiences in Italy, it was the perfect beach read this summer.

The book follows Katherine from her arrival in Naples as an intern at the U.S. Consulate in Naples to meeting her husband and being welcomed into his family. As the title suggests, there are many lessons along the way, and I enjoyed seeing how her relationship with her mother-in-law grew and developed over the years. Naples has always fascinated me, and I loved the glimpse behind the scenes of family life and the author’s impressions of the city over the years. She captured the spirit of Naples when she wrote, “I should have realized by then that in Italy, and particularly in Naples, anything is possible. Magic happens.” Some of that magic filters through her stories and fills the pages with that intoxicating blend of light, chaos and vibrancy that is Naples.

The “Lessons in Food” part of the title carries through the entire book, and will most certainly have you hungry along the way. Knowing that readers would be tempted the stories of her mother-in-law’s cooking, Katherine painstakingly documented some of her best recipes that she lovingly writes about in the book. So as soon as you’re done reading you’ll be ready to tie on your apron and get to work whipping up the dishes in your own kitchen!

While sometimes the Amalfi Coast feels very different from Naples, some of Katherine’s stories really resonated with my life here and had me laughing out loud. For those of you Amalfi Coast fans, there are even some stories about the author’s summer holidays in Positano.

If you love Italy, and especially the Naples area, put this book on your reading list. Food, family, Naples – what’s not to love?

Intrepid Naples with Carla Coulson

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Photograph copyright Carla Coulson

Many travelers zip through Naples on their way to Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast, or think of it as just a point of arrival or departure for exploring the area. But that means you’re missing a remarkable place, full of history and energy and an Italian allure all its own. I could get lost in the images of photographer Carla Coulson. When I found out recently about her photography workshop in Naples, I couldn’t resist sharing about it here. Her photos capture that impossible to pin down allure of Naples – intensely beautiful, gritty, vibrant, diverse. I asked Carla to share more about this city she loves and about her Naples photography workshop. May this encourage you to explore Naples as well on your next visit to the Amalfi Coast!

 

What first brought you to Naples and when did you know you were smitten?

I was in Lecce way back in 2001 in front of one of its beautiful baroque churches and all of a sudden I was encircled by a group of Neapolitan women. Somehow I ended up lunching with them and they were so proud and enthusiastic about their city I ended up taking the train a couple of days later to Naples. I stayed in the heart of Spaccanapoli in a funny old Pensione and walked out into the streets and couldn’t believe my eyes, in less than an hour I was smitten with the place. It was like street theatre on every corner.

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Photograph copyright Carla Coulson

You’ve described Naples as “raw, emotional, fast, voluptuous, confronting and generous.” Is is that blend of characteristics that draws you back?

I feel like you could draw a circle around Naples and it could be its own country. In ways it’s very Italian but in other ways it’s a whole new world, like Asia had a train crash with Italy! Each time I arrive in Naples I have the same feeling of awe as the first time I visited, there are so many contrasts and so much that still exists that has already disappeared from other parts of Italy. There markets and shops are overflowing with products, the architecture is grand and regal but with that “Cuban” faded patina and whole families glide around the streets of Vespas. I was warned each time I travelled to be careful but the Neapolitans were always so generous.

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Photograph copyright Carla Coulson

What emotions do you enjoy capturing in your photographs of Naples?

I love to capture their passion for life, love, faith, family and music. Neapolitans are very easy and open with their emotions and it makes it a joy to take photos in Naples.

 

Why did you choose Naples for your photography workshop?

I wanted to offer a unique opportunity to travel somewhere that maybe a lot of people hadn’t been and where there is a rich daily life that is inspiring to photograph. It would have been easy to go to a place like Venice but Naples makes my heart beat harder and I have always followed my heart. I think the people coming on the workshop will have the time of their life and start a life long love affair with this special place.

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Photograph copyright Carla Coulson

What is the one thing you wish every traveler knew about Naples?

There is so much to learn from Neapolitans, they have a great sense of humour, l’art d’arrangarsi (the art of getting by) which makes them extraordinarily creative when the chips are down but the one great life lesson we all could learn from Neapolitans is to live for the day. I have never seen a population take these words and truly live them. I have been told over and over again in Naples “that tomorrow can wait.” I think this is a beautiful way to live as you get the most out of today without the anxiety of thinking about the future.

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If you’d love to take your photography to a new level and discover Naples at the same time, then you’ll want to check out the Intrepid – Naples Unedited photography workshop with Carla Coulson. There aren’t many spots left, so don’t miss your chance!