Any middle-aged or elderly Neapolitan remembers "the Mostra d'oltremare when..."-perhaps when it was first opened on May 9, 1940 as a showcase for Mussolini's imperial designs in Africa; or maybe when they rode the suspension cabin-lift when it still ran from the distant, scenic Posillipo height all the way into the grounds of the Mostra, itself; or maybe when the spectacular outdoor theater, the Arena, was open and you could watch a fullscale production of Aida under the stars.
I have complained in the pages of the Around Naples encyclopedia about the general decay that is part and parcel of the whole area in Fuorigrotta where the Mostra is located. I am still complaining, but perhaps there are better times ahead for this gigantic piece of real-estate way out "beyond the grotto," west of Naples proper.
Certainly, the original "Mostra Triennale delle Terre Italiane d'Oltremare" (Triennial Exhibition of Overseas Italian Territories) as it was originally laid out-a broad swath of land stretching for a mile from Fuorigrotta to Bagnoli, the next town over-had little time to prosper. World War 2 intervened. Adjacent to Bagnoli-site of a major steel mill as well as a large military base-the grounds and buildings of the mostra were damaged by aerial bomabardment during the war. The construction boom of the 1950s and 60s then led to further decline as land from the original area was given over to needs more urgent than having 36 separate areas, each one uniquely given over to different flora and architecture of colonies that no longer existed.
Also, the earthquake of 1980 caused massive displacement into the mostra of persons with nowhere to live but in the container/shanty town set up on the grounds. The eastern end of the grounds, directly in front of Piazzale Tecchio had a brief renaissance in 1990 when that square and adjacent San Paolo stadium were rebuilt for the World Cup soccer matches. You could get onto the grounds, walk around, but there was no doubt that terminal rot had set in.
By that date, the western end of the grounds had for a number of decades gone its own separate way, sprouting small business to accomodate the growing population of Fuorigrotta and Bagnoli. At that far western end, today, there is still a large amusement park, Edenlandia; a closed dog-racing track; and a zoo that animal lovers have, thankfully, caused to be closed, so horrible were the conditions.
In 2001, the Mostra came under the tutelage of La Mostra d'Oltremare S.p.A, a corporation formed to rejuvenate the area. The project ties in with the development of the new campus for the University of Naples just up the road at Monte Sant'Angelo. At least the eastern end of the grounds are again used for major fairs and exhibits, such as the recently completed Home Show, a massive exhibit of household items arrayed in two exhibit halls on either side of the main concourse (top right photo) leading up to the theater (also in operation). The square, Piazzale Tecchio, in front of the entrance is the site of major metropolitana construction to connect the nearby university with the main train lines into and out of Naples. The Arena (second photo, top right) is back in service and, indeed, has featured a recent production of Aida. Restoration is also underway on the large outdoor swimming pool and the beautiful Fontana esedra, a 100-meter-long, terraced cascade fountain surrounded by a shaded promenade.