Postcard from Naples, Italy: A month there. No regrets.

When people asked where we were headed next and we answered Naples, their reactions reflected the city’s reputation. People tend to associate it with crime. Garbage. While there are people who travel there now specifically because of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet of novels, I must confess her descriptions of the gritty, rough neighborhoods of her childhood almost deterred me.

People also asked if we were mainly going to use Naples as a base for exploring the Amalfi coast. For visiting Pompeii. But, no, we were not. We were planning to spend a month primarily exploring the city itself.

I am asking you to stop now. Throw out all your preconceived ideas about the city for the upcoming blog posts.

Yes, there are some gritty, grimy areas, as there are in most big cities. Garbage does accumulate in narrow streets filled with bars where young people party late in an overwhelming volume that would prove challenging for most municipalities. But there are also miles of clean pathways skirting around the bay. There are enormous pedestrian-only pristine plazas. There are layers built upon layers of buildings climbing up its high hills. Some handsome; some not.

The city feels so real. So alive. A place operating not simply to appeal to tourists, but to function as a place where people live. A place with an engaging quirkiness and surprising discoveries around every corner.

And the Bay of Naples is drop-dead gorgeous. Mount Vesuvius and the islands of Capri and Ischia frame the shimmering water. No one told me that in advance, so I was unprepared for the beauty encountered everywhere.

Staying up in the Vomero neighborhood high above the city might seem like cheating in a way. An escape hatch from the hub-bub. How high is it? Not far as the seagull flies, but it amounted to a climb of about 60 stories. We only used the twisting-stairways once. But we descended into the city almost every single day via the inexpensive funiculars to explore her museums and churches. To admire the Baroque architecture. And to experience her restaurants. Pizza, pasta and fresh seafood everywhere.

Below is a random sampling showing some of Naples’ beauty and some of her warts.

 

Maybe Naples will grow on you as it did on us.

 

Biannual Roundup: Thanks for following posts to and fro

Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement

Know it appears suspicious that a post about the author’s book that finally made it into print popped up as the most-read by you during the past year, but you actually were that kind.

Of course, the controversial redevelopment plans for Alamo Plaza still remain of grave concern for those who love San Antonio. Will the plaza be fenced in? Will the Texas General Land Office repurpose the buildings on the west side of the plaza as a new museum or bulldoze those important historic landmarks? So many design issues remain unresolved as we enter 2020.

The author always hope postcards sent back from other places help tease out the boulevardier in you, seducing you into traveling more and serving as helpful guides when you do.

The following list represents the posts you clicked most in 2019, with the number in parentheses representing rankings from six months ago.

  1. Postcard from the Coker Settlement: Following long gestation, book finally due to arrive, 2019
  2. Has Alamo Plaza fallen in the hands of ‘reverential’ caretakers? 2019 (2)
  3. How’s the GLO managing Alamo Plaza? Welcome to the faux Alamo. 2019 (3)

    Hey, GLO. No faux Alamo.

  4. Postcard from Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy: History with a horse hanging overhead, 2019, (5)
  5. The Madarasz murder mystery: Might Helen haunt Brackenridge Park? 2012 (7)
  6. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014
  7. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: ‘I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ 2019
  8. Postcard from Mexico City: The Lord of Poison and potent relics, 2017
  9. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Foods steeped in tradition, 2019 (11)

    Boquerones, fried anchovies, at El Rinconcillo in Sevilla, Spain

  10. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The most celebrated mother in Spain, 2019
  11. Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Street Art, Part I, 2019
  12. Postcard from San Antonio Botanical Garden: Walking across Texas without leaving home, 2019

From the streets of Malaga, Spain, pulpo y vino

Thanks for dropping by. Would love to see comments anytime.

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Frisky gods frolicked in the buff

Artemis of Ephesus, Goddess of Fertility, 2nd Century

In the mid-1700s, Charles III of Bourbon (1716-1788), King of Naples, began exploring the towns buried by Vesuvius and combined some of those finds with works of art he moved from palaces in Rome and Parma he inherited from his mother, Elisabeth Farnese (1692-1766), Queen of Spain. His son, Ferdinando IV (1751-1825), moved the treasures into a building that originally was a 16th-century riding school and later the university. Today the structure serves as the National Archaeology Museum or Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN).

The mosaics from Pompeii were my favorite part of the museum, but, unfortunately the galleries containing the largest mosaics were closed temporarily for renovation. No photos appear here of the outside of MANN because it was completely covered by scaffolding, possibly removed by now.

While ancient Romans favored wearings togas, tunics, stolas and pallas, many of their gods tended to frolic shamelessly in a bacchanalian existence, cavorting and coupling in fashions far from puritanical.

This is evident throughout the impressive museum, but even more so in the Gabinetto Secreto, or Secret Cabinet. In this gallery clearly marked with a warning as to its mature content, one finds the more pornographic-seeming artifacts from Pompeii and erotic objects of the Borgia Collection. The only one of the above images shot in the Secret Cabinet is that of the enormously endowed god Priapus, kind of an X-rated scarecrow threatening evil-doers with rape.