This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Visiting a series of cool, contemporary museums for free while riding the subway is probably one of those awesome things that you should never miss, especially in the South of Italy. The Art Stations of the Naples metro in fact provide an unconventional and yet particularly interesting way to learn how much the city has changed: vibrant colors, music, photography and historical testimonies. They are one of the smartest way to explore all the things to see in Naples, especially if you visit Naples in winter, as you won’t have to walk in the rain. Let’s see how!
Naples Metro: Where to find the Art Stations
The Art Stations of the Naples Metro are a project that was born as an upgrade to the very old metro stations in Naples. Combining public transport and contemporary art was meant not only as a way to make it all pretty, but as a method to promote art and culture.
All the new stations can be found on Line 1 and Line 6 of the Naples Metro and they include more than 180 works of art. The artists who created all of Naples subway art on display are international well established names, but also young local (and yet not famous) architects. The eclectic mix also helped to offer different styles for every metro station. We’ll check them out one by one with this virtual tour.
According to Naples Municipality, we should expect more Art Stations in the years to come. And we definitely can’t wait to see what they come up with! Hopefully tourists won’t be too scared from the fake news to visit Naples! Besides, if you are still trying to decide where to stay in Naples, you could definitely find lodging near Line 1 which is full of options: that way you’d basically be able to explore all the Art Station while visiting the city, without having to go out of your way to find them!
To visit the Art Stations you will just need a TIC, a ticket that you can use for the public transport in Naples. You can buy it at the vending machines in the stations, but also at any of the authorized newsstands in Naples. The single ride will cost you 1.10€. To save money for your trip, I suggest you buy a 90 minute ticket (1.60€) or a daily ticket (3.50€) according to how much you will use the public transport in Naples. If you are planning to follow my itinerary for the best things to see in Naples or if you are spending a romantic couple of days in Naples, there’s a way to save on public transport. In fact more than 4 days in the city mean that you will save more buying a weekly ticket (12€). Please be aware of the fact that if you are planning to visit Mount Vesuvius, this ticket won’t cover the route to the national park.
Here you can find the interactive map to the Naples Metro, and here you can download a pdf with the map that you can download on your phone (very useful if you won’t travel with an Italian SIM card!).
Garibaldi: Mirrors, steel and… snails
Garibaldi is the most important train station in Naples. Here in fact you will be able to hop on a fast train to Rome or Milan, or just find your way to your hotel. The area has been completely upgraded and it now includes a shopping center and restaurants how to tip in Italy(make sure you know , please). It also offers free WiFi and if you are very lucky one of the interesting events that take place in the shops, like free make-up sessions or fundraisings for Save the Children and many others.
Once you climb down the stairs to a big square inside the station, you will immediately notice colorful snails climbing up on steel pipes. This area offers some shade where tourists and locals can hide from the scorching heat we have to deal with in the summer time. From here you will also be able to access the shopping area.
A series of futuristic escalators that mix steel and LED lights will lead you down to the Naples Metro. The first work of art is a huge mirror where you will see life sized figures of travelers. At first sight it’s almost disconcerting: it’s so much realistic that you will feel like there are real people in line in front of you. This is an interactive work of art. If you step close enough, it will look like you’re part of the artwork.
The Naples subway platforms at Garibaldi are inspired to the London tube.
Museo: History and travel photography
The Museo Station has been designed by Gae Aulenti and opened in 2001. At first the visitors will be confronted with a series of big panels with photos by Mimmo Jodice, representing sculptures found at Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum. Even the outside of this building seems to be inspired to the history of Naples. It’s been painted in what we call “rosso pompeiano“, a particular shade of dark red that was pretty popular in the ancient city of Pompeii.
The station is pretty close to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which has the same design on the outside.
In the hall of the Naples Metro Museo there’s an impressive replica of the Ercole Farnese, a sculpture you will be able to see in the nearby Museum, and a cast bronze of a horse’s head named “Carafà“.
The whole station is dedicated to history, representing it not only through sculptures and casts, but also through many black and white photos.
In the corridor that leads to the Archaeological Museum, there are 9 statues representing the most important years in the life of artist Luciano D’Alessandro, and historical pictures showing Naples seen through a series of details.
Just like a free, underground museum, you will then walk past “India ’70“, a photography exhibit with photos shot by Fabio Donato during his trip to India, and other pictures from the photogographer showing his appreciacion for the opera in Naples.
On the corridor that leads to the Piazza Cavour metro station you will also find another photography exhibit with images by Raffaella Mariniello, representing the suburbs of Naples.
Materdei: Mosaics and bronzes
The Materdei station in the Naples Metro was opened in 2003 and designed by Alessandro Mendini. You can access it from piazza Scipione Ammirato at rione Materdei. This square is a pedestrian area with nice gardens and contemporary artworks scattered all around. Outside the metro station there’s a bronze statue by the artist Luigi Serafini, named Carpe diem, and colorful pottery covering the elevator entrance.
The main highlight is a big mosaic with a yellow and green star. Inside, the station is very colorful thanks to colored glass and steel (making it similar to the Salvator Rosa station). Like everything else, the main colors are green and yellow.
Mosaics cover almost all the walls of this subway station. One of the most beautiful can be seen near the stairs that bring the visitors to the platforms. Made by Luigi Ontani, it represents fantastic beasts, the Neapolitan figure of a scugnizzo (Neapolitan dialect indicating street kids), and Pulcinella: we already talked about this theater mask in our article on Via San Gregorio Armeno. Yet in this artwork, the artist himself put his face under the mask of Pulcinella, becoming part of the mosaic.
While you wait for the subway on the platforms, don’t forget to have a look at the wooden panels by Domenico Bianchi, the Wall Drawings by Sol LeWitt, and polychrome serigraphy by Mathelda Balatresi, Anna Gili, Stefano Giovannoni, Robert Gligorov, Denis Santachiara, and George Sowden.
Toledo: The most beautiful metro station in Europe
I’m saying this to prepare you to an immersive and quite amazing experience in the undergrounds of Naples. Toledo station was designed by Oscar Tusquets Blanca and it was opened in 2012. You can access it from Via Toledo, the shopping street where I always stop to eat some of the most delicious foods you can find in Naples.
The theme is water Blue Grotto in Capri(some say it reminds them of the ), as you can also see from the picture. In fact this metro station was built under an aquifer: it goes down 50 meters. Outside there are 3 hexagonal pyramids covered with ocra yellow and blue panels. They send colored, natural light to the first level of the metro station. On the Via Diaz entrance there’s a steel sculpture representing the Knight of Toledo, by William Kentridge.
When you get inside, you’ll walk down a long corridor with big orange circles and benches made with volcanic stone from the Vesuvius. In the hall the two beautiful mosaics by William Kentridge represent the mythology figures of the Neapolitan culture, including San Gennaro, and symbols indicating the Parthenopean Republic of 1799. You can see one of them in this article, named Ferrovia Centrale per la Città di Napoli.
In Naples when we dig to make a new subway there’s always the risk of finding remains from our past. It happened at the Toledo station as well, so the designers decided to integrate the remainings of the Aragon walls found while working on this project and show them to the public. Another museum-like area that you can visit for free.
The most famous area of the Toledo station is the Crater de luz, shown in the picture above. You will walk into an eerie area, with classical music coming from the speakers, feeling like you are waltzing into another world. Or even better, under the sea, according to what the artist Robert Wilson wanted to represent. This white cone crosses all the levels of the Toledo station, lighting up the inside with natural light and LED lights.
It’s quite common to find tourists going on the escalator, with their nose up in the air to see the cone from underneath… and then they just hop on the escalator on the other side to climb down and stare some more. You just can’t get enough.
Usually me and Aldo walk outside (enjoying the show), get ourselves a delicious Neapolitan coffee on the other side of the street… and get back to the Toledo Station for another ride!
Via Toledo is also a great place to go if you’re looking for Italian souvenirs!
From the platforms to the Crater de luz, there’s a long corridor with animated panels representing the sea, and Men at work by Achille Cevoli, a thank you to the men and women who worked hard to build the Art Stations in Naples.
Salvator Rosa: Art and traditions
Salvator Rosa in the Naples Metro was designed by Alessandro Mendini and opened in 2001. You can access from via Salvator Rosa in the Arenella district, after you cross beautiful gardens. Outside of the metro, the surrounding buildings have been morphed into works of art: make sure to explore the area because you will also be able to see a Roman bridge and a neoclassic Chapel.
The gardens are divided into several levels that you access through an escalator. Families love to visit the kids area which was specifically designed by Salvatore and Mimmo Paladino to represent the joy of youth. The access is of course free. In the park you will also find many contemporary artworks by international and Italian artists: marble, steel and colored glass make it a very cool area of Naples. The best part of it? It’s still unknown to the mass tourism so it’s unlikely that you’ll find it too crowded. In this area you will also find a lot of cheap foodie options because there are little restaurants that still use the Italian traditional recipes we all love.
Inside the Salvator Rosa station, on the platforms there’s an artwork named A subway è cchiù sicura (a mix of English and Neapolitan dialect, translated as “The subway is safer“), representing three Fiat Cinquecento with covers on them to keep them “safe”.
If you walk to the second exit on Via Battistello Caracciolo, there’s many colorful ceramics that you can see, by Enzo Cucchi, and a beautiful artwork by Lello Esposito, Eccomi qui (Here I am), representing Pulcinella overlooking the road from above.
Not too far away there’s the building where the author of the world famous song ‘O sole mio, Giovanni Capurro, used to stay.
Quattro giornate: Gardens and aluminium
Quattro Giornate in the Naples Metro has been designed by Domenico Orlacchio and was opened in 2001. It serves Piazza Quattro Giornate, the Arturo Collana stadium and part of the Vomero district in Naples. The main entrance to this Art station is again embellished by gardens and this time by modern sculptures. One is a V shaped sculpture by Renato Barisani and the other two are bronze statues representing athletes, by Lydia Cottone.
Just like the square, also the metro station is dedicated to the Four days of Naples, a civil uprising in 1943 against the Nazi forces occupying the city during World War II (maybe now it’s more clear why I was so adamant on my need to visit Auschwitz).
In the hall you will see bronzes and paintings by Nino Longobardi, inspired to the civil uprising and showing some of the most important moments of the Four days of Naples.
On the corridor that leads the visitors from the platform to the main hall there are more paintings from Sergio Fermariello, the aluminium sheet lit up with optic fiber by Baldo Diodato and Sabe que la lucha es cruel (Translation from Spanish: Know that battle is cruel), a serigraphy on five panels, by Anna Sargenti.
Three more panels hanging on the walls on a metal installation have been created by Umberto Manzo with an innovative technique, the photographic emulsion. In the station there’s also a light box with the image of the author Betty Bee inside, and four female figures dressed in white, Le Combattenti (The fighters), by Marisa Albanese.
Università: Modern art and a splash of color
The Naples subway stop Università has been designed to offer inspiration and a splash of colour to those who hop on the metro in the morning to go to work or to go to University, by the architects Karim Rashid and Alessandro Mendini. Opened in 2011, it serves Piazza Giovanni Bovio and Corso Umberto I (another great shopping area).
It’s by far the most eclectic and colorful one of the Art Stations in the Naples Metro, inspired to the digital era and the Internet language. In fact on some of the panels next to the stairs you will find ceramics with words like database, network, software on them.
The main hall of this station is a splash of acid green and LED panels with colored shapes on them. As you walk further inside, on the shiny metal walls the chromatic contrast between hot pink and fuchsia seem to direct the travelers towards the metro platforms.
If you step inside from Piazza Giovanni Bovio, you will see two pretty big black pillars. If you look long enough you will recognize the shape of two faces seen from the side: they represent the importance of conversation between humans. The shapely steel sculpture that you can see on the picture on this page is Synapsi, and it represents human intelligence and the neural system in our brain.
While you walk inside the Università station, you will see that both on the walls and on the floor everything is baby blue, yellow and green, or orange and pink: someone thinks it looks like one of the iconic digital bars and clubs in Tokyo.
On the second level, if you step back while watching the stairs, don’t be surprised to see that the steps create the shapes of Dante Alighieri and his Beatrice Portinari, to represent the importance of the bond between culture and modern art.
Vanvitelli: blue neon tubes
You can access this station on Piazza Vanvitelli, in the South part of the Vomero district.
It is completely colored in blue, liliac, yellow and grey.
As soon as you get inside you will see an artwork by Giulio Paolini: it looks like a huge rock trying to break through the glass cage that is holding it back. Along the corridor, two stripes by Vettor Pisani represent the Eastern and Western Countries.
The highlight of this Art Station is the huge neon spiral hanging from the ceiling, by Mario Merz. This artwork, the last one created by this artist before he died, moves down towards the intermediate level, where it turns into prehistorical animals. Next to them, two steel stars by Gilberto Zorio. Walking towards the platforms, eight cylinders, called Pozzi, have been created using metal, crystal, wax and glass.
Dante: Neon sign with lines of poetry
The Dante station in the Naples Metro is situated near Piazza Dante and was designed by Gae Aulenti. The architect also reorganized the square, without disrupting the original structure dating back to the 1700. For the pavement she used volcanic stone from Mount Etna in Sicily and followed the same scheme designed by Vanvitelli.
Inside the metro station there are many modern and conteporary artworks, like frescoes by Carlo Alfano, or Universo senza bombe (Translation from Italian: Universe without bombs), a huge mosaic with ovals and geometric figures guiding the travelers towards the platforms.
In this Art Station there are two of my favorite artworks. One is by the artist Jannis Kounellis, who created a long steel panel on which there are tracks blocking several objects: a hat, a jacket, toy trains and many shoes. It is particularly big and evocative.
The second one is located before the escalator that leads to the platforms. It’s Queste cose visibili (Translation from Italian: These visible things) by Joseph Kosuth. The huge neon sign shows the following lines (in Italian) from the Convivio, written by Dante Alighieri:
Lo colore e la luce sono propriamente; perché solo col viso comprendiamo ciò, e non con altro senso. Queste cose visibili, sì le proprie come le comuni in quanto sono visibili, vengono dentro a l’occhio – non dico le cose, ma le forme loro – per lo mezzo diafano, non realmente ma intenzionalmente, sì quasi come in vetro transparente. E ne l’acqua ch’è ne la pupilla de l’occhio, questo discorso, che fa la forma visibile per lo mezzo, sì si compie, perché quell’acqua è terminata.
(Dante Alighieri, Convivio, Trattato III, Capitolo 9)
Rione Alto: Light boxes and decorative panels
The Rione Alto subway in Naples serves the hospital area of the city. The entrance is made in glass and steel domes, and there’s a beautiful fountain on the front, decorated with a mosaic by Achille Cevoli.
On the inside you will see many wall drawings by David Tremlett, painted with pastels on the wall. And between the escalators, decorative panels by Giuseppe Zevola, photos by Katharina Sieverding and two light boxes by Bianco & Valente, hanging on the tunnel that lets you walk to the platform.
As you walk towards the exit, you will also be able to see many more modern and contemportary works of art created by Italian artists.
Piscinola: colorful urban art
The Piscinola metro station is the end of Line 1 (the other one being Garibaldi) and was originally called “Piscinola-Secondigliano“.
The station is built on two levels. On the first one there’s the metro station, Line 1. On the lower one there’s the Arcobaleno Line (Napoli-Aversa). The municipality of Naples has decided that this line in future won’t end at Piscinola anymore: it will in fact serve also the Capodichino Airport and the Centro Direzionale (the modern skyline of Naples).
All the station is dedicated to the artworks of Felice Pignataro, who painted colorful murals in Scampia, a difficult area of Naples, making the streets brighter and lively. His own way to offer some hope to the children living in this district.