Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry March 2005 

New Construction on via Marina

One of the most blighted areas of Naples for many decades has been along via Marina, the east-west road that runs the length of the port of Naples from the passenger terminals in front of Piazza Municipio and the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Fortress) for about a mile and a half all the way to the industrial port at the other end.

Along its length, via Marina passes (at about the half-way point) the historic Carmine Church and the adjacent Piazza Mercato (Market Square), both of which for many centuries were central to the social and commercial life of the city.

There are two main reasons for the overall degraded condition of that section of  Naples. To take the most recent reason first, the approximately 150 Allied air-raids on Naples in WW 2 (until the Anglo-American expeditionary force came up from the invasion at Salerno to drive the Germans out in September of 1943) did considerable damage to the port, the adjacent industrial plants, and the nearby train station and rail lines. Naples was very important to the Axis war effort and, thus, was  the most heavily bombed Italian city in the war. What the Allies didn't destroy, fell victim to a devastating "scorched earth" policy of the Germans when they abandoned the city to flee north towards Cassino. The industrial port was rebuilt and is once again a full and functioning commercial facility, but wartime damage is still evident in sections along via Marina in the sense that the rubble is gone but not much has taken its place.

The second reason for the decay is not that evident to the casual observer. Via Marina, itself, is a relatively recent invention. It was part of the massive rebuilding of Naples known as the "Risanamento", a decades-long construction project begun in the 1880s to rebuild the city (to "make it healthy again," as the term risanamento implies). The point was to build a modern port-side road to facilitate traffic out of the city towards the towns to the east and south. In order to do that, what was left of the Spanish wall to the city along the port was demolished, including the Carmine Castle directly across from Piazza Mercato. So far, so good. But another main road, Corso Umberto, was also built
, a broad and straight boulevard that connected the areas of the City Hall and the Stock Exchange to the train station over a mile away. It runs parallel to via Marina, but a couple of blocks inland. The new Corso Umberto was so successful that it essentially shifted the commercial center of the center away from Piazza Mercato, cutting it off, as it were. That section of Naples, between the port road and the other new road, then went into a decades-long decline many, many years before the ravages of the Second World War.

That is changing. Today, if you start at the passenger terminals at the west end of the port and walk or drive east along via Marina, the immediate impression is of new buildings and ongoing construction picking its way east, bit by bit, to fill in the holes left by over a century of decay. There are new office buildings, banks, and even two new university buildings. Much of this has taken place over the last 10 years. It is now fair to say that at least the first section of via Marina, from the passenger terminals to Piazza Mercato, has had a solid make-over. As is usual in all Neapolitan architecture, you get a mish-mash. Some of it I like, some I don't, but it is all better than what was there before.

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