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Naples, Italy
Introduction   
 
 
A landmark in the rebuilding of Naples, Galleria Umberto is probably the oldest shopping mall and by far one of the grandest in Southern Italy. The gallery was built starting from 1887 and it took four years to complete this cross-shaped building with its high and spacious glass vaults. 
 
The Galleria is a result of the Risanemento (or resanitizing) of Naples. During the 1880s and 90s, the city was known for its squalor. The city needed a symbol of hope and prosperity after the ravages of Cholera and the overcrowding of the houses. The city officials rolled up their sleeves and started with widening the boulevard, destruction of slum areas found between Palazzo Reale and Spaccanapoli, arranging some of the elements of the city layout and this, the building of a grand Galleria. It is located near the center of the town.
 
Designed by the engineer Emanuele Rocco, the Galleria uses modern architectural touches and is inspired by Milan's Vittorio Emanuele II, which was built nine years earlier. There were actually four designs submitted but Rocco's design was selected. His design was chosen because it enabled the preservation of a number of historic buildings in the area, which would otherwise had been destroyed. The design also provides a picturesque collage of Baroque and Renaissance elements. Later, the building was also modified by Antonio Curri and Ernest Di Mauro.
 
It was named Galleria Umberto in honor of King Umberto I, the king of Italy when construction of the building was first undertaken. Indeed, Rocco's design was a magnum opus of steel, glass and stone.
 
The building is tall and imposing and is covered by a glass dome. The magnificent dome is supported by 16 metal ribs and is perhaps the largest of its kind in the world at 184 feet in height. This dome is by Paolo Boubee. It also has a marble floor, with a colorful and highly fascinating mosaic in the center.
 
Each of the four wings of the cross-shaped structure faces a street – Via San Carlo, Via Verdi Via Santa Brigida and Via Toledo. Via Toledo is the city's major thoroughfare. Beside the Galleria, you will find the famous San Carlo Theater.
 
During the turn of the century, one can stroll along and visit the fashion ateliers, professional studios and newspaper offices. There also was a small theater, the Salone Marherita. Today, its three floors house a number of chic clothing stores, book shops, cafes, record stores, offices, nightclubs and many others. The products sold in the stores are also wide-ranging from chic clothes, shoes, electronics to ceramics.
 
It is one great way of getting a feel of how it must have been when Naples' turn-of-the-century elite shopped and met together under its dome. Beneath its dome, many have seen a number of fashion shows, art exhibits and concerts. Come Christmastime, the dome is also where you will find a tall Christmas tree resplendent with sparkling holiday adornments.
 
Galleria Umberto has stood the test of time. It is a great place to relax as you try to get to know Naples.

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