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Sketching Naples

Mary Cinque and the ever-changing cityscapes of the Parthenopean capital

Sketching Naples

A kaleidoscope of color, a cacophony of sound; Naples is a theatrical city, where the stage-sets change with a startling rapidity. The speed with which the cityscapes alter depends upon the season, and how high (or low) you fix your gaze.

Walk the streets of Naples and you'll find yourself in a constantly shifting space in which, as you move from one street to another, not only the style of the buildings, but even the tone of the voices and the faces of the people change

Wherever you're headed, in Naples, there's never just one way of getting there. This is something that the artist Mary Cinque, who has been "drawing the streets in the streets" for years, learnt quickly. Constantly on the move, Mary draws as she walks, every day. And, just as there are infinite routes to reach her destination, there are infinite street scenes to capture along the way.

Naples full-immersion

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Our walking tour with Mary begins in the historic center, in the Largo Corpo di Napoli, the piazza where the main arteries of the Ancient Roman city, the cardins and decumans, meet. The square is almost halfway along Spaccanapoli, the road which leads from the Palazzo Capuano, one of the oldest of the city's gateways, to the hill on which the San Martino Certosa stands.
On clear days the bright blue sky contrasts with the dark grey tuff of the palazzi and accentuates the ornate crenulations and statues which adorn the city's churches.

This is the Naples you imagine: the colorful and chaotic Naples filled with the pungent smells of street food; the busy and bustling Naples, home to shops so full of goods that they spill out onto the sidewalk, and with streets, piazzas, courtyards and alleys swarming with nattering Neapolitans ... and their screeching scooters

The city within the city

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As we walk, a new cityscape is revealed. The warm earthy tones of the tuff palazzi are replaced by cold marble and stone which appear suddenly and blindingly white.
Naples' Palazzo delle Poste marks the halfway point on our walk with Mary. Dating back to the fascist period, this massive and imposing black and white edifice dominates the entire piazza.
This is the city within the city, where the rationalist forms of Naples' towering office blocks are a stark contrast to the patrician palazzi and flower festooned courtyards in Via Toledo and Corso Umberto.

Trees and gardens

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We change direction and, as a consequence, our vision of the city. As we walk along Via Chiaia, the number of trees increases, forming a shady green canapé, under which we sit, on stone benches, watching the well-heeled customers sauntering in and out of the elegant clothes shops and bars.

We head uphill, along Via Filangieri, past designer boutiques and patrician palazzi, and as we walk, take a peek through half-closed shutters to try and catch a glimpse of the high-ceilinged drawing rooms and twinkling chandeliers, reminders of Naples' dusty, but not too distant, aristocratic past

As we reach Piazza Amedeo, the scene changes once again. Commuters, shoppers and tourists appear from and disappear into the underground station. We then head uphill towards Parco Margherita, to see buildings sporting stone balconies and green railings, and to witness yet another version of Naples.

The photos of Mary at work are by Lucio Carbonelli

Our Insider is Mary Cinque

Mary Cinque grew up between Italy and Ethiopia and now lives in Naples. The artistic director of Nomicosecittà, you're unlikely to see Mary without a sketch pad and pencil in hand.
The photos of Mary at work are by Lucio Carbonelli.

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