If you've been to the city center of Milan, you've no doubt seen the Galleria Emanuele II, which is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world – as well as one of the prettiest. So it's not surprising that when Naples wanted a shopping arcade built, the designer took his cues from Milan's building. Walking through Naples' Galleria Umberto I, you'll feel momentarily like you've been transported to Milan.
The Galleria Umberto I was built starting in 1887. It's in the shape of a cross, with the roof of each wing made from glass. Like the Galleria in Milan, the one in Naples is also topped by a glass dome. One of the wings opens onto Via Toledo, a main thoroughfare in Naples, and another feeds onto the San Carlo Theater.
During World War II, the Galleria Umberto I was severely damaged – the glass ceilings and dome were shattered by bombs – and it took many years before they were replaced. Even with the broken roof, the Galleria remained open after the war, with Neapolitans visiting to do their shopping and stop for coffee with friends.
Today, the glass once again sparkles overhead in the Galleria Umberto I, but the crowds don't gather in the arcades as often as they once did. Still, there are shops and cafes in the Galleria, the mosaics on the floor are intact, and the glass roof is as beautiful as ever. It may be just a handy short-cut from one street to another, or it may be the perfect spot to take a break from your Naples sightseeing with a coffee. Either way, it's worth stopping and looking, as it's one of Naples' beautiful historic buildings.