At the end of April we took a family trip to Italy with our two adult sons. We aren’t usually in the same country without obligations at the same time. We haven’t been on a holiday together for many years, we had our ups and downs, but on the whole, we had a good time. It was also interesting to compare my son’s experiences to my own, how they experienced places and which places inspired them to return and how other places that I am definitely marking down for further exploration in the future didn’t have the same effect on them – more like, “that was nice, what’s next?”.
We flew into Rome and picked up the car my son rented and drove – a nice experience for Micha who got to be a passenger and could watch the view instead of the road. We drove straight to Naples where we had rented rooms in a converted palace on the edge of the historic center, next to Piazza del Plebiscito. Naples is a jumble of narrow, chaotic streets, all winding uphill, so our big hotel windows were also very close to the next building and we could look directly into
other people’s offices and apartments. But we were only there to sleep and the rooms were big and comfortable.
We drove our big car through the cobblestone streets and somehow found a garage. Your car disappears into the impossibly crowded parking lot with a driver from the garage and you pray that it will emerge unscathed at the end – it did, all the garages we used were run on the same principle and they took good care of the car. As we were driving a big car, we mostly arrived at our destination, parked the car and picked it up at the end of our stay. This was one trip where we didn’t really need a car, we could of done it all with public transport without much inconvenience.
We got to our hotel in Naples in the afternoon and just walked around the streets and harbor. Vesuvius looming over the harbor was partly obscured by cloud while we were there but still an impressive sight. Naples is not like other cities in Italy. Like the other big cities, it has lots of grand buildings, history, impressive museums and stunning scenery but it is all very crowded
together, poorer, much is neglected, peeling stucco, chaotic traffic, Italians talking, eating, laughing – I liked Naples, I thought it was a happy sort of place. Lots of vespas zipping around, sometimes the drivers didn’t look much older than 12 or 13 – and without helmuts too!
There are not many tourists in Naples. Tourists that come for the day, arriving with an organized tour, usually tend to visit Pompeii or Capri. Even so, there are lots of people on the streets of Naples, also very big groups of high schoolers visiting museums. There are lots of little shops and prices are reasonable, if you like shopping. Our second day we visited the archaeological museum to see the artifacts from Pompeii. They are housed in a 17th
century converted palace – just about everything is a converted palace. We saw mosaics and frescoes from Pompeii and were most impressed by the collection of sarcophagi in the courtyard. I was disappointed by the lack of signs and thought I would read more about them online but didn’t find much there either. Anyway, these sarcophagi were richly decorated with elaborate carvings and they were massive. Earlier this year Swiss police discovered
45 crates of stolen artifacts including Etruscan sarcophagi, statues and mosaics from Pompeii – it is mind boggling how these huge objects can be transported out of Italy secretly, how they can be moved at all.
We also visited the Secret Gallery which surely deserves a paragraph of its own. The secret gallery contains the erotica of Pompeii, retrieved from their bathhouses and brothels. I think that it is fair to say that it is mainly a homage to the penis. The penis is featured in all sorts of situations, there are lots of statues from stone and metal and of course, it is in paintings and mosaics. The penis also flies, it has wings and sometimes bells. It is difficult to say when erotica becomes comedy – but I suddenly had an urge to giggle and I saw that many other people were suppressing smiles. Then I looked at the faces of the young people in the gallery – they looked sort of shocked, they weren’t smiling. That was funny too.
We drove to Vesuvius in the afternoon but we didn’t go to the top because of the cloud cover and the poor visibility which reduced the
bay of Naples to a distant blur. Some other time. You drive up to a parking lot near the top and park the car for a fee, then you pay a fee for the bus to a higher stop and then pay a fee when you transfer to another bus before walking 850 meters to the top which is probably well worth it on a sunny day.
When we went to pick up our car at the first parking lot we kept driving along the road till we reached a lookout and small kiosk. The kiosk used to be the main stop for tourists before the climb to Vesuvius but the drop off point has now been moved to the beginning of the road and they don’t see much business these days. The woman was very happy to talk and tell us a little of the history of Vesuvius. Her father was a boy in 1944, the last time there was a major explosion. There used to be a funicular to the top of the crater. It was in use between 1880-1944. There is even a famous song about it, Funiculi Funicula – you may think you don’t know
it – but you do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYwafK4HttY
. A few years ago there were plans to build a new funicular but the Italian Greenpeace stopped it because of the environmental damage it would cause which is sort of ironic because the present system has hundreds of cars, taxis and buses every day busily polluting the air.
From what I read: No explosions since Pompeii have been as violent but there have been explosions for thousands of years. Sometimes there are big eruptions every few hundred years and sometimes they are more frequent. Between 1631 and 1944 there were over 20 major explosions. The eruption of 1631 killed about 3,000 people and apart from the rocks, lava, smoke, etc. emitted torrents of boiling water. An explosion in 1906 killed 100 people and devastated Naples causing the 1908 Olympic games to be cancelled. No wonder that the people in the south of Italy are so religious and superstitious – they are living in the shadow of a ticking time bomb – one that never dies. The only active volcano on the European mainland. Scary.
Our first evening in Naples we went to a restaurant to eat the famous Napolitano pizzas. We found
The Secret Gallery, Naples Archaeology Museum
Birds do it, bees do it, even goats do it but not always with other goats, sometimes with satyrs
them a bit disappointing. We did better the next night. We had a very nice meal that included a big variety of antipasto to start and main courses like fish and entrecote. The antipasto had filled us up and we couldn’t finish our meals but we managed two bottles of house wine, all for the princely sum of 70 euros. Naples is good value.
We finished our two day stay in Naples with our complimentary coffee and croissant at a nearby café. The baked goods are all very fresh and delicious. If you are not crazy about pasta and pizza, you may have a problem in the south of Italy. In the north there are a big variety of dishes and also pasta and pizza and in the south there is a big variety of pizza and pasta and not much else.
The sun had finally come out just in time for our drive down the Amalfi coast. We only had two days, there is a lot to see so we could only visit a few places and it is hard to choose. We sacrificed Pompeii and Capri, actually we only visited a few places –
Tambourines in Christmas Alley, Naples
Pulcinella is the figure in white with the black mask. He was a popular figure in 17th century puppet shows and is famous in England as Mr Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet shows.
there just wasn’t time. What we did see was wonderful and it is all just as beautiful as the photos, if not more so. Our first stop was a lookout over Sorrento and along the Amalfi coast. Our first taste of the splendors to come. While I was blown away by the sea, the mountains, the lemon groves, the terraces, the picturesque fishing villages spilling down the slopes, my sons also thought it was pretty amazing but also very quiet and maybe more suitable for a honeymoon.
Tot: 2.349s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 16; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0306s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb