... about, well many things but in this case, Napoli.
Last May the trip we made down was for the opera on Saturday afternoon, a pizza that night then Pompeii with our friend Marc-Aurele the next day. I had heard so many horror stories about the place from ex-pats and others that I didn't want to spend anymore time there than I had to. Apparently no one had ever gone there without being pick-pocketed, robbed or murdered in their bed. It was unwise to wear rings, watches or carry bags on the streets, in fact the only way to prevent being robbed was to strip down to your knickers. There wasn't an honest cab driver in town nor a street that wasn't clogged with panhandlers. And if something dreadful hadn't happened to the teller it had happened to their brother/sister, their brother's/sister's best friend or a friend of... you can pretty much figure it out from here.
Well to quote a friend of mine who is decidedly Napoletano that's strunzate*. This time we went down with a positive attitude and some advise from that friend. We stayed in a very nice hotel in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele area, wore our watches and rings, were not robbed or accosted, had two reasonably priced cab rides with polite drivers, saw many incredible things, ate several wonderful meals and had conversations with some very charming people.
I'm trying to get the 270 odd pictures I took into something resembling a logical order but in the meantime here are a few that capture a bit of the flavour of the city.
Of course everyone takes pictures of Mount Vesuvius so why would I be an exception? I hadn't realized it has a snow cap in the winter months. That large cruise ship was just pulling out of harbour - not doubt filled with happy campers comparing digital shots of Pompeii.
No photo album of Napoli would be complete without the requisite shot of a street in the Quartieri Spagnoli off Via Toledo. This past weekend the New York Times Travel section had an interesting article comparing this fascinating area with a more upscale neighbourhood just a funicular ride up the hill.
The Teatro San Carlo has long been known as one of the most beautiful - and acoustically perfect - opera houses in the world. Sadly when we were there in May it showed all the effects of years of neglect. However in the succeeding 8 months, while the opera house was closed, the first stages of a massive restoration has been going on. The auditorium interior was addressed first and has resulted in the reemergence of all the glory of this wonderful theatre. It is absolutely stunning. Sadly, because of government budget cuts, the season has been reduced to three operas and one ballet but during the lengthy periods of inactivity restoration will continue. I can only hope that once it's completed in 2010 there will be more opportunities to see it as it was meant to be seen - a working theatre.
All over the Centro Storico restoration is in high gear. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (in this photo) is being restored as is the Galleria Principe across from the Museo Archeologico. These early 19th century shopping malls are once again becoming the centre for upscale shops and watering holes.
Earlier today I posted Marco Beasley singing Il Monastero di Santa Chiara, a ballad almost as romantic as the real thing. Again restoration work is being done to return it to its glory days when the entire garden was composed of pillared pergolas, walls and benches covered in Majolica tiles. And what isn't tiled is frescoed with bibical scenes from the Old Testament. We spent over an hour just wander through the cloister and small museum. I'm hoping to post a slideshow of some of the wonderful tiles.
On Sunday another two hours were spent doing one floor and a special exhibit at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Recognized as one of the World's leading museums it alone would be worth a visit to Napoli. From the mamoth Farnese Farnese Hercules and Farnase Bull to the smallest fresco from Herculaneum (such as the lovely little basket above) it is an overwhelming collection that it is best viewed and appreciated over several visits.
Which just means we will have to go back to revisit the Museo and take in more of the city. And to anyone who in hallowed tones relates the misadventures of every foreigner who has stepped foot on Via Toledo I have a new word to use, thanks Marco I think it may come in handy for all sorts of things.
*Being a family blog - yes your Holiness we are a family - I won't translate that but say it out loud to get the full flavour of the word - and the "z" has a sort of "sh" sound to it.
04 febbraio - San Giovanni di Britto