I get up a little early today (8 AM) in order to have sufficient time to pack and to try to check my voicemail at home. My Europa prepaid phone card (€5 for 40 minutes to the U.S.) works just fine to get me to my home phone, but there are no messages. My office line picks up after a couple of rings, so I try to signal it to ask for my password. Whoops! Europa is ready to take a new phone number to call. Drat! Too bad I threw out the separate DTMF gadget I once had. No voicemail on this trip, I guess.
After breakfast, we board the bus to Naples. Along the way, we get a pretty good view of the Naples bay in front of Mount Vesuvius. That active volcano really is MUCH too close to such a large city!
Although we're entering the center of Naples on a Sunday, traffic is still a mess. The police have some road blocked off, backing things up for a mile. We finally arrive -- and where have we arrived?! Perhaps it's the gray weather, but this place is depressing and ugly. It's certainly not all a matter of the weather. There's grafitti and posters on every vertical surface. The streets are strewn with trash. The buildings are covered in grime. Okay, it's not the ugliest city I've seen -- Taipei takes that honor.
First stop is Cappella Sansevero, which used to be a private chapel, built in the 18th century. The primary item to see is a statue of a "veiled Christ", by Giuseppe Sammartino, done in marble. It is, indeed beautiful. I'd be happy to show you a photo, but they don't allow any photography (flash or non-flash). (You can see a small image of the statue in Rick Steves' article). The veiled Christ statue is reclining on the floor at the center of the church, with a railing around it. On the walls are several other marble statues. One of them includes a man fighting his way out of a rope net -- exquisitely done, and all carved out of a monolithic block of marble. There's another statue, the meaning of which I'd like to know. It shows a cherub trying to club several snakes that are erupting out of some books. Two of the snakes are in the process of striking his leg. I'd guess that the statue is suggesting that books can contain evil, but on the opposite wall is a statue that clearly celebrates learning. The ceiling is done in Rococco style, complete with gilding and elaborate frescoes.
From San Severo, we walk down the Spaccanapoli to a brief refuge from the gray Neapolitan streets: The Church of Santa Chiara. Here, we find a beautiful garden cloister with extensive tilework on columns and low walls. The outside walls are decorated with lovely frescoes. It's a stark difference from the urban landscape outside these walls.
Lunch is included, at a pizza caffe. Margherita pizza (cheese, tomato sauce, and a couple of basil leaves) on a very good crust. It comes with a salad, the dressing for which seems to simply be -- salt. Well, after all, that's where the word SALad comes from... Drinks included.
We kill a little time and then walk over to the Archeological Museum. This museum contains all sorts of art objects that were recovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Our tour guide, Pina (short for Philipina) says that most of the marble statues are Roman copies of Greek bronzes. The original bronzes were long-since melted down, during the Middle Ages, to make whatever was needed at the time: bells, cannons, whatever... Luckily, the Romans liked the Greek artwork and made lots of copies.
We also see a few Roman originals, including a bust of Claudius (yes, THAT Claudius). There's another bust, this one of Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) cut off from the forehead up. That's a particularly impressive countenance! The next interesting statue is taken from a fountain in Pompeii -- it's Aphrodite, vainly checking the reflection of her tuchas in the water.
Another one from the "you learn something new every day" department: In a huge, epic marble piece, the "Toro Farnese" (Farnese Bull) that describes a myth of retribution, in the background stands an image of the Greek god of Justice -- or Revenge (ancient Greek made no distinction between the two). She is Nemesis. (While finishing off this website, I discovered that Pina's characterization does not jibe with anyone else's. According to various descriptions, including this one, the dispassionate lady with the spear is actually Antiope, the mother of the two men who are struggling with the bull.) As it happens, Michaelangelo and his students are among those who worked on the repair of this piece, which had only recently been discovered at that time.
On the second floor of the museum you find a number of really stunning mosaics, most of which were recovered from the "faun" house in Pompeii. This house is named for the greek god of wildlife, a bronze of which was the centerpiece of this particular home's atrium fountain. A copy is in Pompeii. We see the original one here, in the museum.
In any event, these two-thousand-year-old mosaics are truly amazing in their detail and in their use of shading and perspective (techniques which the Rennaisance artists supposedly thought THEY had invented).
Now, we come to the "Secret Cabinet" room. These are "erotic" pieces, depicting aspects of human behavior that the 17th century church deemed inappropriate for viewing by the general public. They were locked away, and viewing was permitted only if the church approved.
Most of these pieces are relatively benign. Apparently, a common story is about a faun who tries to seduce a woman -- and suddenly discovers that "she" is actually a hermaphrodite. Then, there are the out-and-out erotic pieces, usually depicting conventional activity, but occasionally, it's homoerotic or even bestial (the latter being a private matter between a faun and a goat). And then there are menu placques for the Lupanare (brothel).
Finally, there are a bunch of phallic objects that constitute good luck charms. (I kind of like the flying phallus windchime.) Apparently, the practice of wearing a phallus as a good luck charm still persists. Some women wear a small "horn" pendant, depticting something that looks like a goat horn or a pepper. This is merely the shape that the phallus charm morphed into, once the Church deemed the practice of displaying phalluses improper and pagan.
The last visit in the museum is to a collection of original Greek bronzes recovered from Herculaneum. These are beautiful pieces, and they represent a very large proportion of all the Greek bronzes that exist. A pair of runners truly exhibit amazing litheness and movement. And the coloration of the eyes is original. Amazing.
We re-board the bus for a quick trip along the harbor. We pass a funicular station that takes one up the hill to the nice part of town. This area is much nicer than the city center, and reminds me somewhat of the riverside, near Lisbon. Oh, and this funicular? It's the one referred to by the "funiculee funicular" song.
We have an hour to kill near the dockside. We walk around, looking for something to purchase for dinner, as an alternative to the cafeteria on the boat. We don't have a lot of luck. Eventually, we find some more of the fritters and pie that we ate in Sorrento. And we find this really cool glass-covered plaza, where they are setting up for another fashion show!
The bus takes us to the dockside, where we board the Janus for our trip to Palermo. Our room is small, but comfortable and clean. Bunk beds, of course, four beds to a room. Brig and I take the lower bunks.
We investigate the cafeteria, and are surprised to find that the line consists only of Lora, Connie, Robin, and Paola. We're further pleased to see that the cafeteria is stocked with lots of goodies. The cold fried food can wait (indefinitely, it turns out). We're eating here. We have:
We chat for awhile, and then agree to meet back in the Lounge at 9:15 PM, where the rest of the group should join us after having eaten in the restaurant (supposedly the same food at higher prices, but with table service).
I work on the journal a little, and then go looking for the party (Brigid remains in bed.)
Well, when I find them, it's the same crew from the cafeteria. We toast with cream limoncello, and nibble on Baci and chocolate lemon candies. After half an hour of chatting and holding down the fort, Connie, Lora, and I eventually give up on the party. I need time to finish this journal, and to get some sleep for our early arrival in Palermo.