Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Italy: Naples

Atlas bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is the first sculpture
visitors see at the National Museum of Archaeology in Naples.
We gave ourselves only one night in Naples.  Our train from Rome got us there in time for a pizza lunch, then a visit to the ancient treasures of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, an evening walk to the waterfront, a morning ride on a funicular railroad and the midday ferry to Capri.

It turns out that Naples is worth more than one night. Its many narrow and boisterous streets invite you to walk further. Its restaurants and bars are constant temptations with prices considerably lower than those in Rome. And the archeological museum would require several visits to really see everything.

That's not to say there was no disappointment, though. We didn't like the pizzas we had here. The crusts were soggy in the middle and the edges were doughy and not thoroughly cooked. An innkeeper later in our trip explained that the center should be soggy: "If you pick up a piece and the pointed end doesn't droop, it is not a good pizza," he told us. Pizza is eaten here with a knife and fork, not by picking up the entire piece and biting into it. Pizza in Rome was more to my liking, as was pizza in Sicily.

An unexpected upgrade at the Hotel Piazza Bellini  gave
us a room with a sunny terrace, a table and two lounge chairs.
Unfortunately, we hardly had time to use it. The hotel is
a short walk south of the archeological museum and within
walking distance of the waterfront.

Via dei Tribunali is filled with university students
and pizza restaurants. 

A narrow street off of Tribunali cuts
through a building.

Our pizzas in Naples (those are anchovies on the left) weren't the best-of-all-possible-pizzas
that we had hoped for. Soggy crusts and undercooked edges detracted from the toppings.
People at other tables, however, seemed to love them, though most did not eat the edges.

Naples's archeological museum holds the best works from Pompeii and Herculaneum along
with many works from the celebrated Farnese Collection, largely amassed by Pope Paul III.

Since there's so much male nudity in ancient works, it's nice to see a different sort of fresco.

I can't imagine the process by which large mosaics such as this were moved from Pompeii and
Herculaneum to be displayed in museums.

Another mosaic.

This relief on the front of a sarcophagus depicts the myth of Prometheus and the creation of man.

Donatello intended this 1456-1466 bronze head of a horse as part
of a gigantic work but he died without finishing it.

The Farnese Collection features many complete figures.  During the Renaissance, as Italy was
rediscovering and celebrating ancient Greek and Roman civilization, culture and arts, many
statues were unearthed with missing arms, heads, etc.  Accomplished artists of the day were
commissioned to recreate the missing parts, often adding anachronisms like a 1500s hair style
on a 100 B.C.E. stature. Nonetheless, after seeing so many partial figures at museums in Rome,
it was nice to see them more fully realized. (The modern argument against this sort
of restoration is that it erases the passage of time that is revealed by damage.)
"Kneeling Barbarian" is from the first
century and uses two different marbles.

"Hercules at Rest' is an early third-century  Roman
 copy of a fourth-century B.C.E. Greek work. 

A teacher discusses "Hercules at Rest" as her students listen.

The famous "Farnese Bull" (which depicts the torture of Dirce who was tied to a raging bull and stomped
to death) was discovered in fragments. Restoration began in the 1500s and continued into the 1800s. It
was originally carved from one block of marble and restorers used nearly identical marble to make repairs.

This bronze is the original faun from the House of the Faun
in Pompeii.  When we later went to Pompeii, I made sure to
see the replica that replaces it there.
Before leaving Naples, we had time for a morning
ride on one of the city's funicular railroads. It
took us up Montesanto.

We ended up here for coffee near Castel Sant'Elmo, overlooking much of the city and
the Bay of Naples. The shadow in the distance is Mount Vesuvius. In a few days
we'd see what it once did to Pompeii and Herculaneum. 

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