#2 So. Italy, Sept. 26, 2006

Dear Everybody,

I’m absolutely through with the cappuccini here in Napoli. I’ve tried about five and they are just not as good as the ones in Toscana or Rome. For one thing they put too much bitter powdered chocolate over the top. I don’t think the coffee is as good, either.

In Naples I saw more churches with gorgeous works of art—lots of walking in perfect temperatures, in the shade, anyway. One day I took a detour into the Spanish Quarter which is a fairly poor, but interesting neighborhood. Lots of very narrow streets with lots of clotheslines full of drying clothes across the streets; a pigeon coop; people shaking mops from balconies. The guidebook says not to venture in here at night, but it seemed perfectly safe in the daylight.

 

 

 

 

 

Elsewhere in Naples, there were several castles to see; many palazzos (palaces) now made into banks or orphanages; the 1900 Galleria Umburto I—a shopping mall like the one in Milan;

 

 

the Teatro San Carlo, abutting the huge Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) so that the royals could go to the theatre (opera) without going outside.

 

 

 

 

During my visit to the National Archeological Museum, I saw all the statuary, silver, mosaics, paintings—even a kitchen and bedroom—from Pompeii. What a wealth of a find.  But throughout the museum looking at other things, it was difficult to follow since everything here has so many layers of civilizations that—well—“this is a 2nd century Roman copy of a 4th century BC Greek statue with a connection to Egypt,” etc.

Another day I went to the Capodimonte Art Museum—a beautiful 18th century building with lovely grounds up on a high hill. The museum had a wonderful collection including many old ‘Renaisance friends’ from Toscana and I even found two ‘Sister Wendy’s pics’—a Breugel (‘The Misanthrope’) and Massaccio’s ‘Crucifixion.’ I’m going to see all 1000 of Sister Wendy’s yet—it’s like a treasure hunt!

But finally my eyes glazed over and I had to get outside in the lovely sunshine. The grounds were full of families enjoying Sunday—kids playing soccer, balloons, babies in their strollers and everybody talking and gesticulating. Napoli is so talkative—no wonder I like it!

Unfortunately the sky clouded over on the day that I visited Capri (pronounced Cap’-ree, not Ca-pree’). It’s a beautiful small island with its rocky coastline and remains of Roman castles. Capri town is rich, rich—Anacapri on the other side of the island is less so. After a hydrofoil to get to the island, a funicular from the harbor to Capri town, then a bus to traverse all those hairpin turns to Anacapri, there I was!

I visited the house built by Axel Munthe on Capri, which he recounts in his book, “The Story of San Michele,” which he wrote as an old man in 1929. My friend, Judy, had put me on to this as it’s a favorite book of hers and she had visited Capri on her honeymoon 50 years ago! I also bought the book so I’ll learn more about him in the next few days.

Today was one of those travel days that just happen sometimes. The sky had promising blue patches this morning, but no, it all closed over by 10:00. I had taken a bus to Caserta, north of Naples, which has a huge royal palace, built in 1752 to rival Versailles. It was closed! When I asked why, the guard said the date—maybe something special about today? When I asked if I could walk through the courtyard to view the garden, he said no, it was a military zone! So it goes.

To salvage something from the excursion I decided to get a bus to Santa Maria Capua Vedere, only 12 km away, that has the remains of the second largest Roman amphitheatre ever built and also the site of the REAL Spartacus (I guess there really was one) -led rebellion of the gladiators.

I asked the ladies on the bus (the driver wasn’t on yet) if this bus went to Santa Maria Capua Vedere. They said that it did, so I got on. Well, we drove and drove through every little village within miles, circling around and about the entire village to get ALL the passengers. After an hour I asked the driver if the bus went to SMCV. He gave a complicated reply in Italian that I couldn’t begin to understand. A half hour later, I asked again, and this time he answered me in pretty good English. He said, “You are a
mistake!” and proceeded to explain that this bus only goes to a corner of SMCV and I needed to take a big blue bus. So he put me down and told me which bus to take and voila, I was very soon at the amphitheatre.

Yes, the amphitheatre—well there was very little remaining—mainly grass growing out of piles of bricks, a few arches and columns here and there. Now I saw the THIRD largest Roman amphitheatre at El Jem in Tunisia—it was still nearly complete, with facade decorations and everything. But here, the consolation prize was a pretty Mithraic Temple, though, which was very complete. Now I need to find out what a Mithraic temple is.

On the way back to the hostel, when passing a butcher shop I couldn’t resist buying a rabbit to roast (coniglia) for my dinner. I also bought a bunch of veggies and some wine so I expected to eat well that night. As it turned out, the hostel man got very excited that I had put a pan with a cover with plastic handles in the oven with my vegetables in it. Nevertheless, after improvising, I did manage to roast my rabbit and cook my vegetables, although none of it was as good as if I were cooking in my own home, or in Partina. In fact, remind me not to attempt this again. Unfortunately there are no restaurants within walking distance of the hostel.

So it goes—-not everything in traveling is perfect, but on the whole, it’s really exciting and stimulating.

Carol

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