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The Defunct Cabin-Lift from Posillipo to the Mostra d’Oltremare

  —or, The Little Funivia that Couldn't


Towards the end of its service (1960), the cabin-lift was surrounded
by hastily built
apartments. WWII and urban development quickly
turned this quaint mode of transportation
into an anachronism.

This was a charming idea that just got overtaken by WWII and subsequent urban development. It was a 1600 meter (1 mile) funivia (cabin-lift) from the heights of the western side of the upper Posillipo ridge down into Mussolini’s new Overseas Fairgrounds, the Mostra d’Oltremare, passing over the suburb of Fuorigrotta. It was public transport; the ride took six delightful minutes, gliding down 104 meters of elevation on the way to the Mostra. It was in service on and off from 1941 until 1960. Many people in Naples still remember it, and if they don’t, they can always drive up (in much longer than 6 minutes!) the road to Posillipo where they can view what is left of the old upper station. It has served over the last 60 years as a restaurant, an illegal squatters dwelling, or, most often, as nothing—just a relic. You can also find the old cable suspension pylons near the end of the run in Fuorigrotta. There were three of them, and they are still there. The pylons are now so surrounded by post-war construction (both photos) that they cannot be removed without destroying or damaging the nearby buildings. The last station is on the grounds of the Mostra itself and still displays one of the two cars that were used on the run.


Today's view of the first and second pylons after the bottom station
at the Mostra at the beginning of the climb up to Posillipo.
*

The areas of the upper Posillipo (the upper end) and Fuorigrotta (the lower end) were relatively undeveloped even in the 1930s, so the idea to build a gigantic Fair Grounds and connect to Posillipo was not such a bad idea. The pre-war regulations that governed urban development were quite specific in assuring that the cabin-lift would be unimpeded as it approached the Fairgrounds. It was a sound idea. The cabin-lift was opened to the public for a very short time in 1941 but then became part of the "scorched earth," the urban infrastructure of Naples destroyed by retreating German forces in September 1943 as they left Naples. In October 1943, the grounds of the Mostra, itself, became home to various Allied military hospital facilities; there was no attempt to put the cabin-lift back into service. That happened in 1950. After two years of rebuilding, the lift went back into service in June of 1952 and served the community until 1961.

The Posillipo Funivia was finally closed for a combination of reasons. Post-war urban development without rational planning simply flooded the areas adjacent to the bottom station with hastily-built blocks of apartments for tens of thousands of new residents. Also, the station was in the same area as the massive Ilva Bagnoli steel mill, a piece of urban blight if ever there was one, an area overfed by increasing car traffic coming from the east, the city of Naples, itself. Overbuilding, traffic, war, bad planning—you name it. In fairness, to play the urban planners' advocate, the line could not handle the increased need for people to get from “up there” to “down here”. The line had only two cabins and, at full tilt, transported only 175 persons an hour. It was choreographic but inadequate. It was quaint at a very unquaint time in Neapolitan history—1945-1960.

In spite of recent over-optimism out of the mouths of politicians who speak of reopening the funivia and making it part of the new tourist facilities on Posillipo as well as the continuing development of the old Fair Grounds, there is no chance, in my view, of that ever coming to pass.


*For some silly reason, the modern photo reminds me of the opening of "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field:

"The little toy dog is covered with dust,

But sturdy and stanch he stands;
The little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands..."

spoiler alert!  In the poem, the funivia dies.



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