If everything has already been said about Venice, not enough has been said about Naples. At least, not enough good. We prepared for Naples as if we were going to a semi-war zone. We read about the tricks used by thieves in the train station. We had our strategy of sticking together to ward off the Mongol Hordes. We had inner pockets, inner purses, hidden money belts, etc. It was all for naught.
The street scenes were haunting but in no way menacing. There are more thieves and beggars in the Florence train station than in Naples. In fact, the Naples train station (at least the upstairs section) was more beautiful than the stations in both Florence and Venice. Every taxi driver was honest and accommodating. We did not have one negative experience. I won’t count the hour long taxi ride to our lunch restaurant on our last day because that was the fault of the America’s Cup race and the closing of one entire artery of traffic. Even that experience was entertaining since we saw 6 lanes of traffic merge into 1. Our taxi driver got on my phone when I called our lunch restaurant and explained our situation in great detail, then he wrote down the fish that we should order. We also saw a traffic accident where a poor girl’s bumper was nearly torn off by a motor bike who just zipped away.
Our hotel, La Ciliegina (http://www.cilieginahotel.it/en/), was centrally located, close to the harbor and close to the old city center. We had a nice modern room and a roof top terrace with great views of Vesuvius and the harbor. It was lovely to sit there at the end of the day, have a refreshment, and plan the evening. We went to Naples with our Palazzo friends and we are all looking forward to returning. Two nights were not enough.
There is so much to see in Naples. This is the Farnese Bull, so named because it was owned by the Farnese Family and currently housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. It is the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity. There is some controversy over whether it is a first century BC original or a second century AD copy. It is carved from just one whole block of marble and was imported from Rhodes to Rome. The statue was unearthed in 1546 during excavations by the Farnese Pope Paul III in the hope of finding ancient sculptures for his family's palatial residence in Rome. He lucked out.
It was breath taking to see all of the detail of the ancient myth of Dirce who was tied to a wild bull by the sons of Antiope to punish her for the ill-treatment inflicted on their mother. Pretty nasty stuff.
The bull is the most dramatic of the ancient sculptures in the collection but there is so much more to see.
There is an entire floor of frescoes taken from Pompei. There are no words to describe the beauty.
The ancient mosaics are amazing. We particularly liked this one because it depicts an alligator and our great-niece Rosalie has a thing for alligators.
It could take several days to seriously examine all of the ancient sculpture and frescoes and mosaics in the museum so after just 2 hours we felt like we did run-by art viewing.
After a brief lunch we went to the Capodimonte Museum to take in a few more modern (15th-17th century) pieces from the Farnese collection. I guess it was really good to be Pope in those days. This is a Caravaggio that was the highlight of our visit. The museum is situated in an old Palace, on top of a hill overlooking Naples, surrounded by acres of gardens and green space. The park was filled with families and children of all ages and lovely to see.
Another day, another museum. The Certosa di San Martino is a former monastery complex, now a museum, located next to Castel Sant’Elmo and is the most visible landmark of the city, perched atop the Vomero hill. We wanted to go mainly for the views.
Unfortunately, it was a hazy day and it wasn’t possible to see clearly either Mt. Vesuvius or Capri. We decided to be adventurous and take the Funicular to the top of the hill and then walk to the monastery. I thought the Funicular would be more like a ski lift with great views but it was more like a subway car going up through rock. The walk from the Funicular station is about 10 minutes and we followed the signs to the monastery but noted that there were no accompanying signs pointing back to the station. Instead of leaving bread crumbs I took pictures of every corner where we made a turn to have a digital picture record for our return. That was a good idea in theory but after taking over 50 pictures at the top I never did go back to our photo map. We made it back all the same.
The monastery was beautiful and the views, even with the haze were spectacular. We didn’t have time to go to the castle next door, that will be for our next trip. Also, there was a lovely restaurant near by with a large outdoor terrace that would be a great place for lunch, if only we had the time.
There is an abundance of famous art scattered throughout the churches in Naples but we only had time for the Duomo. The French-Gothic altar is a bit over the top, but hidden inside the Duomo are Greek, Roman and early christian ruins including the oldest surviving baptistery of its kind in the western world.
While we were wandering the streets and museums of Naples, the America’s Cup was conducting its World Series races. We didn’t get to see any of the races in person, but the restaurants had the race on TV so we saw it on the big screen. There was a big party atmosphere at the harbor, but interestingly, no commerce that we could see, so we don’t have any hats or T-shirts.
What is Naples without food? We had some great seafood meals and tried to order those things that we couldn’t get elsewhere, like really good langoustines, and octopus and calamari.
And, what is Naples without pizza? The pizza in Naples is very different, I am told, because of the water and the near by San Marzano tomatoes. I don’t know what in the water changes the dough, but it really tasted great. The pizza was softer than we are used to and we saw the Neapolitans folding it instead of cutting it, as the Florentines do.
All in all it was a wonderful adventure. I just could not edit my pictures beyond what you see below. I hope that you will eventually have time to see them all. I strongly encourage you to make an effort to see these sights live and in person.
Give Naples a chance!
National Archaeological Museum http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanarnietravel/sets/72157633475904746/
Capodimonte Museum http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanarnietravel/sets/72157633460866447/
Certosa San Martino http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanarnietravel/sets/72157633461137345/