Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bella Napoli!

When I first saw Naples it was from the window of a Contiki tour bus. In fact I probably don't remember much about it at all - having spent three head-spinning days in Rome seeing everything from the the Vatican Museums to the Capucin Crypt with many bar stops along the way. Naples was a sideways glance, sandwiched in between a coral/cameo factory and a ferry trip to Capri via Sorrento.
It took me a long time to return. Why wait so long? Marriage, children, divorce, study, post-graduate study....it all contributed. However this is what I saw the first morning we woke up in our hotel in Posillipo - an elevated suburb on the northern edge of the city.

Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, sunrise, September 2012


Well doesn't that just take your breath away! I did me - I mean there are not too many volcanoes on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia!
I fell in love with Naples. I love an underdog and Naples is Italy's underdog. The magnificent cities of Florence, Venice and Rome with their splendour and regal presence captivate me and millions of others but Naples - it seems - is lacking the same fan base. If only people would look beneath the graffiti and monstrously crazy traffic and see the 3000 year old city - founded when the Siren Partenope threw herself ashore where the current city now stands in a fit of despair after having been rejected by Ulysses. Well at least that's the legend. Three thousand years of history - and tourists barely give it a second glance, fleeing to the bland prettiness of Sorrento.
Nah....give me the grit, grime and gorgeousness of Naples any day. Just take a look at some of these images from my past two visits (apologies for the quality - they were taken with my iphone).
The Spanish Quarter

Sunrise - Vesuvius and Bay of Naples - New Years Eve 2012

The road leading down from the Lungomare to the Molo Beverello port
The beautiful Via Partenope

New Years' Eve Napoli style - busting out the fireworks on the street. What a night that was!

Spaccanapoli - Via Tribunale - the Historic Centre

The exquisite Castel Dell'Ovo on the Bay of Naples, sunrise New Years' Eve 2012
 
 
See how utterly captivating the place is. In fact I didn't take nearly enough photos. I was too busy gawking at everything.
 
Anyway, back to the first visit in September 2012.
 
Maxine (my aunty and travel buddy) and I spent a wonderful day getting lost around Mergellina, trying to find the metro to take us to Herculaneum. But before we got on the metro, we had to take this very cute form of transport to the sea level - the funicular.
But before we hopped on the funicular, we stopped for a photo-op - how beautiful is THIS?
 
 
The funicular took us to Mergellina - a very picturesque area on the northern fringe of the Naples' bay front where we had lunch the day before on our arrival.

Pretty Mergellina. Cute little boat sheds and what glorious weather!

And honestly, truly, hand-on-heart, this was the best pizza I have ever had in my life (until I returned to Naples three months later!).

Anyway, to continue the journey to Herculaneum. Finding Mergellina's metro stop took a bit of detective work and once on the train, we found out we were on the wrong metro line - lucky for us the locals are so helpful and kind. One walked us from the Metro to the Circumvesuviana train line in Napoli Centrale and waited while we got on the right train. Don't know if that would ever happen in Sydney. The Circumvesuviana was an experience - kind of crowded!

But hey, I'd waited a LONG time for Herculaneum and a bit of a squeeze on the train wasn't going to put me off.

Herculaneum

The ancient seaside town of Herculaneum was one of the lesser-known victims of Vesuvius on that August day in AD79 (August is disputed by the way). Visitors flock to Pompeii, often unaware that Herculaneum is just as evocative.




View of entrance to Herculaneum Scavi. Green area is the ancient sea front/beach.

View of ancient seafront chambers. This is where archaeologists Dr. Guiseppe Maggi and Dr. Sara Biesel discovered over 150 skeletons of Herculaneum's residents who had sought refuge from the volcanic storm. Until this discovery in 1982, it was assumed most of them had the chance to escape.
 

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