In November, Richard attended a ten day training at the US Naval Base in Naples, Italy. Any chance to go to Italy is high on the priority list for Mel so she joined him for a week. The visit was made even sweeter because of the beautiful accomodations at the Hotel Excelsior situated in the popular Lungomare (waterfront area) http://www.excelsior.it. From the rooftop terrace there is a stellar view of the marina and the oldest castle in Naples, Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg). Medieval legend has it that its name is derived from a magical egg that the classical poet and sorcerer Virgil hid in the castle and if the egg is ever broken then the castle and the city are doomed to destruction. Obviously, it’s still intact and is used today to house exhibitions and special events!
View of the Hotel Excelsior from the Castel dell’Ovo and Borgo Marinari
The city street scape is unbelievably claustrophobic especially for a Colorado mountain girl who likes her wide-open spaces. Despite the dark and dirty streets and noisy clamour there is a certain charm that is distinctly “Naples”. A perfect place for people watching because there’s LOTS of them.
The large pedestrian square Piazza del Plebiscito was originally built by Napoleon’s brother-in- law who ruled Naples in the early 1800’s. He apparently was dissatisfied with the chaotic jumble of buildings opposite the Palazzo Reale (restored to its original grandeur where one can wander leisurely through its opulent rooms and imagine the nobility that lived there) and rebuilt the entire area. Today it continues to be the center of city life and many gather here for various ceremonies, festivities and military parades. One of the days we were here, the piazza was being used for a military school graduation ceremony.
Richard boards the Funicular to ascend up the hill to the Vomero neighborhood where the views of the city are outstanding.
Once in Vomero, the phenomenal 15th century Certosa di San Martino is not to be missed. The elaborately decorated church shares the hilltop with the Castel Sant’Elmo, the Chiostro Grande courtyard and the first-rate Museo di San Martino.
Now a grand museum on beautiful grounds, the Museo di San Martino was enlarged and redecorated by Carthusian monks whose vision was to document Neopolitan history and culture through displaying different art media including paintings, sculpture, costumes, porcelain, glass work and, most famously, the nativity scenes. The nativity scenes set mostly in large pastoral scenes that fill the room, tell a story through the elaborately carved figures down to the most finite detail of each man and beast. No two characters among the hundreds depicted are alike. Truly remarkable. Highly recommended google search!
In the the view looking south, you can just barely make out Vesuvius over the cloud of pollution and haze.
On a clearer day, we ventured out to Pompeii and were not expecting the enormous size and scope of this ancient city that was completely destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.
The city was buried under 20 meters of ash and pumice and many artifacts and remains were discovered to be completely intact. The stunning preservation of Pompeii gives us a glimpse of daily life in this beautiful Roman city as it came to a sudden and complete halt during the horrible two day eruption beginning on August 24, 79 AD.
The intricate mosaics still intact on many of the floors communicate stories as well as basic information. This one at the entrance of a home warns “Beware of dog”.
The cobbled streets of Pompeii show the worn carriage tracks in the street and the well-planned sidewalks and building structures give testimony to the fact that the Romans were top notch architects, engineers and city planners.
There are more fantastic sites in Pompeii – too many to post on this blog but so worth the visit. Because it is so well preserved, it’s easy to get lost in your imagination about the every day lives of the people of Pompeii.
Back in Naples, another castle of note is the Castel Nuovo (new castle) built in 1443 is now the site of the Museo Civico and town council meeting rooms. The dungeons have many legends about them including the claim that crocodiles once lived here.
Sunrise over the sleeping giant – Vesuvius.
The day we arrived in Naples, we hiked up to the rim of Vesuvius and looked down into that gigantic crater. (Before you get all impressed with us, we have to admit that we drove the road nearly to the top!)
All in all, a phenomenal Neopolitan experience (especially the food!) but we were happy to get back to the peace and fresh air of island living.