The first 3D Planetarium in Italy: Naples and the management issues

The new buildings in Città della Scienza

Once upon a time there was an abandoned steel mill, closed in 1992. Bagnoli became a quiet area. The sirens weren't screaming anymore to call the workers back to the plant. Yet the huge metal skeletons scared everyone. One day someone decided to try and do something about it. The fairy's name was Fondazione Idis: the steel mill was going to become a Science Center. So many people and schools visited this place, until a terrible night, the sirens started screaming once again. On the 4th March 2013 it was policemen and firefighters. Someone had decided to start a fire to destroy the dream of all the honest people who loved (and still do) their beautiful Naples. The Science Center had been destroyed.

A modern fountain and an amphiteater on the outside
Aerial view of the new Science Center: you can clearly see the 3D Planetarium dome

It could've been the end of the story, and yet for four years Fondazione Idis has been working hard to bring it back to life. There was an international contest to find the best project, and over 100 professionals decided to apply. Four Italians won, returning to Italy after having moved abroad to work like so many others. Yet they weren't alone. More than 400.000 people have donated and contributed to help Città della Scienza. Citizens, schools, companies and local communities have raised over 2 million of Euros: everyone worked pretty hard to restart the project.

The entire project should be completed by 2018: it will include a beach, three thematic areas, the Officina dei Piccoli (science activities for the little ones), a museum, a terrace on the sea, a restaurant and a theater. While the works haven't stopped, Fondazione Idis has decided to open the areas already finished. The old Science Center has been rebuilt next to a Sea Museum and to the Officina dei Piccoli, but there are also two new buildings. The 4th March 2017, a strongly symbolic date, they inaugurated the first Interactive Museum on Human Body, Health and Prevention, Corporea


Corporea is an interactive museum on the human body
One of the exhibits at Corporea

Designed by Massimo Pica Ciamarra, this building counts 5000 square meters on three levels, with 14 thematic areas to explain how the organs and the five senses work, 100 exhibits, macroinstallations and interactive areas, for a fascinating trip inside the human body that both kids and adults will love.
Corporea binds together past and future, because the exhibits have been paired with archaeological finds from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples and the most important museums in Campania region. You will also find items entirely printed with 3D printers, like prosthesis, medical tools and a neonatal incubator.
Visitors at Corporea, Città della Scienza
Corporea is an interactive museum that should be avoided when too crowded

This kind of museum is pretty common in the United States of America and it reminds me of the Science Museum at Griffith Park, in Los Angeles. The second new building is in fact the first 3D Planetarium in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe. The Dome/3D seats 120, has a state-of-the-art machine, with a particular 20m dome that grants a completely immersive experience.

The first 3D Planetarium in Italy is in Naples
The inside of the first 3D Planetarium in Italy

After asking information about the 3D Planetarium, I was invited to visit it at the opening. Because it was father's day in Italy, I decided to spend the day with my dad, bringing him to see something new, the first 3D Planetarium in Italy, Corporea and the Sea Museum. The shows timetable was made official only at about 48 hours from the opening: the first one was for the press only, then there were shows for the whole day, every 45 minutes.

When we arrived on place, finding the ticket booth was a bit of a quest. The signs didn't say anything about the 3D Planetarium and only mentioned Corporea, so we had to ask a few times to the staff members where exactly we had to go. Imagine my face when, even if we got there hours earlier, there was a wall of people in line! So many were pretty unhappy about the clear management issues: there were four cashiers but the lines were all mixed up and not bordered, so people were confused about where they should pay and who came first. The ticket area is pretty small too, and this makes it pretty dangerous for kids when there are such crowds, because they risk being crushed.

After waiting for a good while, it was finally our turn. We got there and I was informed that they forgot to reserve a seat for me and my dad. Besides, next available show was at about 2 p.m. because all the tickets were already sold out. We'd have to wait for more than five hours, without having lunch (unless we took our car and found a restaurant, because there still isn't one in the Science Center). Was this the surprise I had planned for my dad? The Chinese kids who were visiting Naples with their family, right next to us, were equally unhappy. The fact that a staff member came by to ask for 11 tickets that were already allegedly sold out didn't help at all. The staff member then even told us that we should've reserved online: as if we hadn't done so already!

We decided then to buy the tickets for Corporea, they cost 10€ each, hoping to spend the rest of the morning visiting this new interactive museum. Inside I realized that it could definitely get worse. Every exhibit was overcrowded, with long lines especially for the interactive ones. Of course kids wanted to play and people wanted to try everything, I couldn't blame them. But why the management didn't think of spreading out the entrances, making large groups? This kind of museum in fact deserves a better management, as people want to learn, touch and experience something new.

Disappointed, we moved to the "old" Science Center. With our ticket we could've seen two more areas, but they were closed (like the one dedicated to bugs). A short walk into a very tiny and uninteresting Sea Museum, and in stead than trying to push our way through people to see Corporea, we headed home, without even seeing the Planetarium show.
The truth? I felt so embarassed because I really wanted it to be a special day for my father and in stead it has been a complete disaster!

What still puzzles me is that while the Museum is very beautiful and linked to the first 3D Planetarium in Italy, there are still huge management issues, like it often happens in Naples. It's like having a beautiful car and not knowing how to drive it.
Is it possible that they weren't expecting so many people? Couldn't they think of making big groups for Corporea, like everywhere else? What happens when the schools will start bringing here a huge number of kids?

Hoping that Fondazione Idis has learnt from this opening how to deal with the crowds, there's only one suggestion I can give you: don't even think of going to Città della Scienza during the weekend!


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When things go bad... 3D Planetarium in Italy


9 comments

  1. I find 3D printing a very fascinating concept and I think it's a very great thing to have in a city. But also, I think it's a very Italian thing- the management issues. I think they will be ironed out over time.

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  2. The science centre looks like it will be amazing one day but what a shame that they can't sort out those management issues, how frustrating. When good times turn bad!

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  3. Wow this place looks really interesting to visit! It's amazing that all those people could get together to help fund something that they loved to help rebuild it! Really hope they can sort out their management issues in the future so this place can really prosper!

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  4. I'm from the US and I've actually never been to a planetarium! This definitely put them on my radar though and hopefully I can go soon!

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  5. 400,000 people have donated or contributed? That is so impressive. What a nice testament to community spirit. I would love to go to that planetarium. I cannot imagine how cool it will be.

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  6. I have never head of this place, but it looks amazing and somewhere I for sure want to take my kids. It sounds like when it is finished the whole area is going to be incredible!

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  7. What a fascinating place - the history, and the community to who came together to rebuild it after the fire. Shame about the management issues, but hopefully they will be ironed out over time.

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  8. The Città della Scienza would probably the last place I would visit in Naples. But I bet the local folks are so excited to have this modern 3D planetarium with lots of things to do and learn.

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  9. Wow, looks like an interesting place! It's such a shame about the management but hopefully that will improve over time. Thanks for putting this on my radar :)

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