Life and Death at the Foot of Vesuvius


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October 22nd 2016
Published: October 25th 2016
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Florence to Naples


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One of Igor Mitoraj incredible works
Day 268 Wednesday 12th October 2016 – Florence to Naples



I may have warned Scott about Naples but secretly I am so excited to be returning, I loved it and hope it lives up to those memories. First we have to get there, grabbed a bite at the station and waited to board our train, it was another high speed one that took 3 hours. The train got to speeds of 299 km/hr as we whizzed through the countryside arriving in Naples at 2.08pm. Exiting Naples train station landed me back 30 years into the chaos and grittiness, this is not a pretty city on the surface but once you look a little closer you see the charm, while making sure you are not hit by a motor scooter.



Our hotel is situated in old Naples behind the Napoli Cathedral in Piazza Sisto Riario Sforza. As you turned into the Piazza you are met with the huge monument Guglia Di San Gennaro and lots of apartments overlooking it and it would not be Naples if the neighbours weren’t hanging over the balconies screaming at each other. We walked to the back just before
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Death in Herculaneum
the side gate to the Cathedral passing the rubbish, graffiti and the occasional rope with a basket attached so things can be pulled up to the apartments. The rooms of our small hotel are located in an old apartment building on the 3rd floor which obviously does not have a lift and initially looked on the rustic side as you walk up but when you get to the rooms they are modern and quiet. This is the Italy I love with its rustic charm and busy hum of society.



We were met by the owner Luigi who made us feel welcome, we got settled and then went for a walk around the neighbourhood having a quick look at the Cathedral which is amazing but we will come back for a better look later. Eventually found a place to eat just near where we are staying which has a Banksy on the wall “Madonna with a pistol” this is an interesting diversion from a truly bad pizza. I had a mushroom one that had 3 pieces of slimy mushroom while Scott had one that was meant to have peperoni, basil and olives which actually had no peperoni, one
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Mystery house frescos - how good are they!!
leaf of basil and no olives but we both got a ton of cheese, well, guess where we are not eating tomorrow.



On the way back home we stopped for supplies 3 beers and a bottle of wine, I took pot luck and choose a wine from the Puglia region which had no price but how expensive could it be as I had seen it in every shop in the area. Went to the cashier who showed us the price on his calculator well the blood drained from Scott’s face and he blubbered to me “how much, what is your wine worth”. I looked at the price and thought wow that is cheap 4.60 euro poor Scott thought it was 46 euro, of course my main worry now was my wine only cost 1 euro how rough is this going to be, I want to wake up tomorrow.



The place we are staying has an amazing rooftop terrace that overlooks the cathedral one side and Mt. Vesuvius on the other with hundreds of TV aerials in between WOW. So we sat there to enjoy the view and indulged in a drink or two, before
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Rooftops of Naples and Vesuvius as seen from our hotel terrace
doing some final planning as our trip is coming to an end.





Day 269 Thursday 13th October 2016 – Naples



Well I woke up feeling fine but I only had 2 glasses of the lovely red wine which was actually good, it was a little chilly so opted for breakfast inside instead of the terrace. Today we are off to Pompeii and I am apprehensive as I don’t want to be disappointed and I hope Scott likes it. Got the train from Napoli Porta Nolana station which is the first stop so there were plenty of seats but the next stop at Garibaldi where most tourists get on, so it quickly became packed out. Forty five minutes later we arrived at Pompeii passing all the tourist information kiosks which are trying to allude they are the ticket office to get onto the site and the main ticket office. We opted for a combination ticket including a few sites with the main ones being Pompeii and Herculaneum for 22 euro each. My first mission was a toilet stop so I left Scott in the queue and when I finally emerged after
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Typical street
a long wait Scott was standing with the tickets and ready to go.



I am not going to detail every villa, temple and thing we saw but I may comment on a few more abstract elements or quirky. The main difference this time is the addition of the thirty sculptures that have been done by the late Igor Mitoraj which are on display from May 2016 to January 2017. This has added an incredible visual aspect against the backdrop of Pompeii. Of course there is also the Amphitheatre which may be amongst the oldest in the Roman world but probably better known for Pink Floyd playing there in 1971 to an audience of zero except for the crew. There is a small exhibition in the corridors under the seating containing photos of the band and information about Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii and yes we stood in the middle imagining them playing, and sadly Scott didn’t play the air guitar.



Of course we visited the Lupanare (the brothel) which is tiny I am sure it was bigger 30 years ago and there were more paintings of the menu on the wall, well if we
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Front door to our unit
all use our imaginations I think we can add to this or maybe you will see it already there -I like that position. There are many gems to see but the best frescos are in the Villa of the Mysteries with scenes of Dionysian with lots of drinking and dancing and other suspect happenings. There are the fast food restaurants 79 AD style and bakeries and vineyards. Then there is the amazingly preserved Stabian Baths that still have the reliefs on the ceiling and frescoes around the pools. The Gladiators Barracks was an amazing space and the smaller theatres and we nearly missed the Forum baths because from the outside it almost looks like a dead end tunnel but contains so much.



By five o’clock our legs were starting to protest so we glanced over our shoulders and said goodbye (lucky we were not Lot’s wife) and caught a train back to Naples which was packed to the gills with some interesting (dodgy) individuals. We ended up eating seafood at a restaurant in the piazza outside our rooms and then picked up a bottle of red wine which broke the bank at 2.50 euros, so which will
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Caption reads "beware the dog"
I blame for being sick in the morning seafood or the wine?







Day 270 Friday 14th October 2016 – Naples



Breakfast on the roof terrace, it is overcast but no rain so it was lovely sitting there having our strong Italian coffee, fresh fruit and homemade cake. Today is museum day so up the road we headed jumping out of the way of scooters, prams and piles of rubbish. Naples still has a huge rubbish problem and there have been many controversies over the years including the mafia connections but currently it is probably better. We made our way to the Museo Cappella Sansevero this chapel has one of the world’s most incredible marble statues, the Cristo velato (The veiled Christ) by Giuseppe Sanmarino in 1753. Sorry no photos but if you are in Naples please see this piece unbelievably there are no lines although tour groups did come and go. After looking at the statue for a few minutes I started to forget it was marble and had an eerie feeling I was looking at a corpse with a thin veil covering it, you can see the
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Main Forum
indents of where the nails had been, the vein in his forehead and the sunken torso as the last breath had disappeared. Then a group would come and push us out of the way and reality kicked back. There is another amazing statue Disillusion by Francesco Queirolo which shows a man breaking free from a net. Downstairs is the Maccine anatomiche by Giuseppe Salerno done between 1763-64 which are two skeletons with all the blood vessels showing, one is an adult male and the other a pregnant woman. Initially it was believed to be a form of plastination by injecting the hardening substance into them while still alive but recent tests indicate the veins are made of beeswax, iron wire and silk - somewhat less gory.



Back on the road to the Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli which contains much of the mosaics and frescoes from Pompeii and other sights that disappeared under Mt. Vesuvius’ fury. There are so many pieces to see, some almost childish as if you let your 6 year old draw on the walls while others are delicate and beautiful but all tell a story of life in Pompeii. There are many other
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Plaster cast of victim
interesting items from different areas such as the Farnese Bull found at the Roman Baths of Caracalla and of course what museum would be complete without an Egyptian collection. Scott was in rapture over a mosaic that depicts Alexander the Great, which he knew of but didn’t realise was here, and stood in front of it for what seemed like hours, gushing about it.



We stopped for a late lunch on the way back to discuss all we had seen and do the usual people watching. Afterwards we dropped into the Cathedral behind our room, this is an enormous place with the side chapels as big as most churches and it is free to enter which is a nice change. Later we walked to the bus terminal to buy tickets to our next destination and the weather started to change.



Dinner at the same restaurant in the piazza while some of the staff played music and started to dance while our waiter shook his head and laughed. There is such a rustic charm and unpretentious to this city.







Day 271 Saturday 15th October 2016 –
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The streets of Pompeii
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The day is overcast, very muggy and hot so it seems sensible to head to another ancient site to walk around. Got the same train on the Sorrento line to Ercolano which is before Pompeii, it is here you find the ancient town of Herculaneum that was buried under approximately 20 metres of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. It is a much smaller site to walk around and can be viewed from the high vantage point before you enter to buy tickets. We had already brought a combined ticket with Pompeii so we walked down onto the site which is interesting in its own rights. About 75%!o(MISSING)f the town is still buried and now built over with the modern city, well by ancient terms.



One of the best things to see is in House Number 22 with its beautiful mosaic Summer triclinium (reclining dining area) and nymphaeum (fountain). Most of the best mosaics and frescoes are in the Museum in Naples that we saw yesterday. Down near the small stream that now runs through the site is the boat houses and it is here that a lot of skeletons were discovered possibility
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Igor Mitoraj bronze in the Gladiator training grounds
waiting for evacuation by sea but perishing instantly by fulminant shock caused by temperatures of about 500 Celsius.



Walked back up the hill to the train station and jumped on the packed train heading back to Naples.



Late Saturday afternoon sitting in the piazza having a beer and watching life in this part of Naples, well 3 children aged between 4 to 8, 2 boys and a girl who as kids do were getting into mischief. It started with throwing stones at each other and then at the passing cars and then onto the statues in front of the building across the road, now we know why all the statues in the museums are missing their noses. I was looking to the waiters who were doing their best impression of “I see nothing” when an old lady walked past – I knew she would sort them out. She called out to them and pointed, I have never seen 3 kids scatter so quick, amazing the power of old Italian ladies, then a police car went by with flashing lights so she seems to have had some help. The cops were not worried about those
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OMG Pink Floyd was here!!!!!
naughty children or the 10 to 12 year olds zooming up and down the one way street on motor scooters with no lights on or helmets. I would hate to see the emergency ward at the hospital which our waiter had no long finished saying are hopeless and that is where you go to die as it is run by the mafia. He said the mafia is no longer like the movies with guns on the street they now run all the government services like the hospitals and garbage collection so nothing improves.



We have been having some great seafood meals here and tonight is another good one with mussels, clams, prawns and calamari.



It is good to hear Scott using the words incredible and I can’t believe I am here over the last few days so I guess Naples gets a tick from both of us.


Additional photos below
Photos: 55, Displayed: 31


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Cathedral as seen from our hotel terrace
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Close up of Alexander
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Looking over the old city
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So fewer tourists than Pompeii
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The Basilica with sculptures from Igor Mitoraj
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Wheel ruts in the streets of Pompeii
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Underground passageway
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Fresco filled room
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A quiet street


26th October 2016
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Oh happy day!
So thrilled that both of you loved Napoli and the sites, and it wasn't overly crowded! Great score with your pension, seafood and wine, time with the Cristo velato and that Alexander mosaic--both so splendid. Big positive change since I was there 17 years ago. Those trains to Sorrento (and the archaeological sites) used to be full of Roma women begging in pitiful whining, totally annoying voices--you would have noticed them. And I made use of that mafia ER in the public hospital after spraining my ankle on those stone streets in Pompeii in a hail storm. You were right--it was bedlam (but free)! Hope your last stops also leave you with sweet memories!
26th October 2016
Pompeii

Oh happy day!
Only spotted the occasional Roma and one was a family tackling each other on the crowded train back from Pompeii. Shelley coped it bad with them when she was here 30 years ago as well, so it would appear they have settled down or moved on. Have seen heaps of tourists on crutches in Italy it would appear that it is still the "must have" Italian souvenir.
26th October 2016

Perfect Timing!
Good blog to read today as we are thinking about visiting Pompeii and Sorrento very soon. We are currently staying on the island of Procida in the Bay of Naples (near Capri). We see Vesuvius, Sorrento and Capri from our terrace every day and now we have your pictures to go along with our distant view. Good adventures in Naples and we are enjoying following along on your trip! Can't wait to see where you go next!
26th October 2016

Perfect Timing!
Procida sounds pretty good. Met a lot of people escaping the madness of Naples for Sorrento but never got there ourselves, but we can certainly recommend Naples if you love chaos. Been really enjoying your blog and sapping lots of details for our travels in particular Prague and Venice, thanks for all the great advice.
27th October 2016
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Just gorgeous!
27th October 2016

The real thing...
I was disappointed when your blog ended! We loved Naples and were so upset that we had only planned one day there. The seem to be quite a lot of changes from when we were there six years ago, so Shelley must have really noticed the differences. You clearly survived the cheap vino - what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger? :)
27th October 2016

The real thing...
We both felt that Naples was the real Italy or perhaps the Italy we always imagined and wanted to see. 3 days there was not enough especially as we spent two of those days outside of the town. As a bonus for us it had the best and cheapest food and booze. Not sure I would want to live there long term but hopefully we will be back someday - add it to the long list.
12th November 2016

Scratching the surface
We would love to walk these streets and explore the history. It is always so wonderful when you end up staying some place with an amazing view or rooftop. How wonderful. Sorry to hear that Scott missed an opportunity to play the air guitar. So many memories of the strong Italian coffee. We hope to go back to Italy soon. We have not been to this location yet. You've moved it up on our list. Life is too short to drink bad wine. Great blog.
12th November 2016

Scratching the surface
As you well know, there are just so many fantastic places to visit in Italy that it is very hard to short list. For us Pompeii was up near the top and for Shelley a revisit to Naples was at the top. Not sure if we will get back to Italy (sure hope so) and if we do we will be back at Naples, just love the place to bits. Thanks heaps.
12th November 2016
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Photo moment
Makes you stop and think about the past.

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