Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Italia: Napoli & Pompeii

In Canada, as I packed my Italian dictionary and phrasebook, Naples guide books and Christmas presents for the Irish chef, I snuck in some reading. I was well-informed about Naples because, if you're only travelling there for aesthetic purposes, then you may not be impressed with it. Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy, but due to the economy, it's very poor. There are pockets that are rundown, but there are also areas that are extremely beautiful and looked no worse than some streets in Paris. I also read that it's a dirty city due to the obscene amount of garbage everywhere. Surprisingly, I didn't feel bothered by any of this information and there were areas where the amount of garbage was excessive and others where you couldn't see any litter at all. What does bother me is that I don't understand why people litter. Is it laziness? Is it lack of pride in the community? This was something that irked me in Kuwait, too. In Kuwait, there was garbage EVERYWHERE and it wasn't an issue of aestheticism so much as it was me being disgusted walking around in filth since I'm not used to it. Back to Italy!

Another bit of information I learned is that the unemployment rate is quite high (among youth, according to Bloomberg: In 2012, the unemployment rate was 53.6%. Although, I also read online that in 2013 it was 43% (overall). Either way, such statistics were shocking to me. Sadly, I could relate. In my town it also seems that the unemployment rate is high. We won't get started on that one as it is one of my biggest criticisms about my province (Ontario). Again, back to Italy!

When I came home and tried to think of how to write about Naples and what I'd experienced, I struggled to find the words and my reasons for loving it there! I know many people may not share my sentiments which is why I found this blog post so aptly doing what I haven't been able to do: describe the Naples the way I experienced it:

As I'm sure you know by now, I'm not a fan of hitting every single tourist spot, but since there weren't too many tourists, I felt compelled to do a bit more than I usually do. We walked a lot and along the way, found some treasures:

#1: Castel Nuovo

 This castle is HUGE! Seriously. The first day we went out exploring I said to the Irish chef, "Wow! This castle is gigantic. I wonder if it's anything special." Duh.
 Perspective: The palm trees were larger than me
I stared at it in awe and thought, "It's built so well, defensively!"
This was the view of the rear of Castel Nuovo just from the sidewalk. Crazy, eh? No security guards or patrol on this end. You'd almost think it was nothing important, and yet it is.

#2: Gallerie DItalia, Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Napoli

 I LOVED this gallery because it showcases Neapolitan art specifically! This little gem was our own find, reasonably priced (€5/person) and the architecture was absolutely stunning!
Location: Via Toledo 185, Napoli
 Raffaele Belliazzi's Putto vendemmiatore (Allegoria dell'autunno) [Putto harvesting Grapes (Allegory of Autumn)], 1870s
 Baldassarre De Caro's Vaso con fiori [Vase with Flowers], 1715
 For some reason, I didn't record who painted this. I'm sorry! It's titled, Veduta di Napoli con Largo di Palazzo [View of Naples with Largo di Palazzo], first quarter of the 18th century
This room was beautifully decorated. It held portraits and sculptures of people.
This was a small room, but had these four paintings and-again-for some reason I don't have any of the artists' information :(
 This is the architecture of the gallery. It was beautiful! I'm not into weddings, but the ambiance was quite romantic and perfect for a wedding if anyone is looking for places to marry in Naples ;)
Oh, yeah! Guess what we saw?!? A Michelangelo Merisi, or more commonly known as CARAVAGGIO!!! This is supposedly his last known painting. What a moment! I stood looking at the painting in...awe. It was an incredible moment. I have seen a lot of famous artwork, but with no one even watching me while I was in the small room that housed this painting, I took a moment to drink it in. No one hovered over me! No one was even there except for the Irish chef. It was stunning. I sat down for a moment. There is something profound about being around work completed by such a prolific artist. I felt privileged, blessed and inspired.

#3: Orto Botanico di Napoli (Botanical Garden of Naples), Via Foria 223, Napoli
*Just an FYI: We went during the week in the early morning since it closed at 2pm (apparently. It actually was never open after noon). Also, this is a guarded and locked area, so you have to buzz to be let in (at least in early December, hehehe). We were greeted by security, who were AWESOME, but spoke little English. They did manage to find a pamphlet in English for us though :)  Not sure what it's like during high tourist season, but we had the whole place to ourselves, or at least that's what I assume since we didn't see ANYONE ELSE-YAY! *NO entree fee*

The entrance. Although it wasn't sunny, it didn't rain and it was still warm and absolutely stunning!
 A map constructed of painted tiles, soooo cool!
 A fish pond. I LOVE the reflection of the palm trees in the water!
The area designated as "The desert"...I wonder if Arabs who live in the desert laugh at this...They might if they're from Kuwait and/or certain parts of Saudi Arabia!
 The citrus grove was awesome! I love citrus fruit and it's a BIG part of Napoli's culture and food!
 Honestly, this citrus fruit was BIGGER than my head! I HAD to take a picture as proof!
 The warm greenhouses. We were only able to enter the glass greenhouse. WARNING: I wasn't aware of how explicit some plants' names are! The plants were stunning and the names a bit shocking.
 It was here that I was reminded of how sexual plants and flowers can be and I thought of Paula Cole's song, Feelin' Love GREAT song! By the way, I did study plants and eroticism in university, so I'm not just conjoining ideas or behaving in a perverted nature, promise!
 Hmmm, see the difference is I know what "erectus" (Latin) means, but not "clitoria". Need to look it up.
 It was sooo warm in here and it smelled so fragrant! I LOVED this little dome full of unique plants, most I'd never seen before!
 The greenhouse was like a little piece of paradise in paradise!
 Leaving the greenhouse: bamboo to the right and MASSIVE trees to the left
 This was one of the massive trees to my left. Look at those ROOTS!
Heading down the walkway to the entrance/exit. Does it remind anyone else of Hollywood a bit??

#4: Chiesa Cattedrale Di Napoli, Via Duomo 149, Napoli
*Roman Catholic Church, NO entree fee*

 The outside was so majestic! This was an extraordinarily CLEAN area ;)
I know you can't see, but there were white Christmas lights strung up...Not lit up, but there nonetheless!
 I LOVED the designs of the buildings on this part of Via Duomo!
 Not crowded at all. Happy day :)
The ceiling
 I've never been in a church this large, so it was a pretty jaw-dropping sight to me!
 Even if you're not affiliated with any Christian/Catholic religion, this building was so beautiful that it's worth a visit just to feel the grandeur, majesty and aesthetics/art/architecture!

Look at that ORGAN! It was like FIVE times as tall as me...Although maybe that's not very big since I'm pretty short, lol!
 What little sun there was streamed strongly through the windows, casting a divine glow.
 Seriously, you saw the pictures taken outside; it was overcast, but look at that light coming in!
 This is an actual picture I took WITHOUT the flash! I LOVE how it turned out! Gothic feeling! It looks like an illustration, not a photograph.
I think my mother's family (devout Roman Catholics), would have been happy I visited.
I studied European history and I remember learning about why churches were built to be tall, beautiful (painting, design, etc.), stunning and whatnot. To see it in real-life, however, puts it all into perspective.
It was like I'd stepped into my undergraduate European history textbooks...It was living history for me!


 This is the view we had of Pompeii when leaving the restaurant. It was such an idyllic spot.
 We wandered around the small area a bit and it was quite picturesque.
Yet another gorgeous church :)
 Walking to the ruins. You can begin to see the ruins from the street! Look: EMPTY streets!!!
Honestly, the street views were just as awesome as being INSIDE the actual ruins.
Okay, here's my two cents about the ruins: they are quite spectacular IF you know the history and what EXACTLY you're looking at. We knew the history (thank goodness!). HOWEVER, even with the map we were given along with an audio guide, we had NO IDEA what a lot of the ruins were. Sadly, NOTHING is labelled and we missed SO MANY of the highlights and I was really annoyed at this. After paying €22 for us to simply ENTER the ruins, imagine my surprise when there were NO signs, NO plaques, etc. My advice, if you're REALLY interested in knowing what the heck you're looking at, invest in a tour guide...A real human being, since the audio guides are useless at €6. OH, P.S. I didn't need to use the washroom, but I don't remember seeing one...I assume they're there, but...Double-check!
 Close to the entrance, this is what we encountered. Sorry for the lack of labels, but I was pretty clueless as to WHAT we saw :(

 We barely saw any tourists and this group was one of the biggest we saw!
 Can you see the church steeple in the distance? It was such a calm, cool day, in spite of the light, sporadic rain showers ( ^ - ^ )
 So, as we went deeper into the ruins we saw this...
Monstrosity (the restaurant, not the Irish chef!). That's his disappointed face at the ruins being destroyed to build a restaurant.
 Sun showers in this beautiful garden!
 So lovely! I felt like I was in part of the HBO series, 'Rome' set! So incredible!
Lewd graffiti, those dirty minded, Romans! Don't believe me? Check it out:
I had no idea what this said when I took the picture, but I have recently discovered it's overtly sexual.
Look at that GORGEOUS rainbow! It was so quiet and peaceful in here. I wish we'd packed food so we could sit and enjoy the sights!
 We may have wandered pretty far around the perimeter at one point and stumbled across these views!
 Some artifacts were so well preserved it was shocking!
I admit I may have gotten a bit nauseous as I stood at the top of the stairs of the large theatre!
 The ampitheatre was a bit flooded.
Looking up at the (non-existent) audience in the ampitheatre.
I don't know what this area was called. We only saw this man as we walked back here. We were close to the street at this point (behind the buildings on the left).

*Again, I have to point out that while I did enjoy the ruins in Pompeii, we missed a lot and we walked around for about three hours, so it was a bit disappointing.

Here are some more shots of the architecture we saw on the days we wandered aimlessly :)

 I think this was on Via Foria...
 This was a small church on a side street that I don't know the name of because we were lost, lol!
 Via Foria?!?
 This statue was close to "Amnesia Kebab", hehehe! (refer to previous post for picture).
 While we were searching for Sorbillo Pizeria, we saw this little alcove. The only sign I could find read, "Piazza Cardinale Sisto Riario Sforza".
So incredible to see this random statue down a side street! It looked like nothing more than a residential area.
The view looking up!

The trip to Italy was only my third to a European country (Turkey being considered both European and Asian). I also feel blessed since I visited all three in the span of eight months. For 32 years I'd never managed to step foot in that continent!!! The more often I visit, the less I want to return to Canada. Italy wasn't perfect, we pretty much always got lost when we followed locals' directions, the volume of traffic/pedestrians was overwhelming (at times the crowds were even worse than parts of Tokyo, like Shibuya's famous intersection:, not because of the volume, but because of the unorganized nature of how people walked), and people walked ALL OVER the place (I'm not used to this), drove me nuts a bit. The best parts: VERY reasonably priced and DELICIOUS local wine, amazing food, nature (the water, the vegetation, the garden and Pompeii!), and the vitality!!! I felt ALIVE there! I felt a similar liveliness in France!!! I really want to travel around Europe more! Next up: Greece for my best friend's wedding and hopefully we can squeeze in a visit to the Georgian lady IN Georgia!!!

A gracious note of thanks to our Airbnb host, Davide, and a tremendous amount of thanks to the Irish chef for taking me to Italy for Christmas!!!

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