Day 6: It just keeps getting older: Naples and Herculaneum

I hope everyone’s been enjoying these travel blogs. Feel free to leave comments/likes at the end. I’d really like to hear from you.

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10/16

The seas were rough overnight–and I mean really noticeable.

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This morning, however, we whispered into Naples with hardly a ripple. What a lovely difference!

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It was a little scary there for awhile–at least until late evening, when I fell asleep. I can’t vouch for the rest of the time. It was kinda funny early on though, walking around the ship and seeing all that synchronized stumbling from the other passengers. “Drunken Dancing”–I could get behind that.

We didn’t have an excursion until the afternoon, so we had a leisurely breakfast and took a number of pictures from the ship before getting off to explore the town.

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A number of years ago, Naples was a dangerous town, and tourists had to be careful where they strolled. Nowadays, they tell us (I saw this on a PBS show that night), the streets are much safer. There is a greater-sized police force than in the past. Still, it’s a good idea to remain vigilant.

The first place we explored was the Castel Nuovo, or New Castle.

 

 

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There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of history given about the place, at least not in English. So I shall refer to the Wikipedia site once again:

Before the accession of Charles I of Naples (Charles of Anjou) to the throne in 1266, the capital of the Kingdom of Naples was Palermo. There was a royal residence in Naples, at the Castel Capuano. However, when the capital was moved to Naples, Charles ordered a new castle, not far from the sea, built to house the court. Works, directed by French architects, began in 1279 and were completed three years later.

Due to the War of the Sicilian Vespers, the new fortress remained uninhabited until 1285, when Charles died and was succeeded by his son, Charles II. Castel Nuovo soon became the nucleus of the historical center of the city, and was often the site of famous events. For example, on December 13, 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned as pope in a hall of the castle. Eleven days later, Boniface VIII was elected pope here by the cardinal collegium and immediately moved to Rome to avoid the Angevin authority.

Inside the Barons’ Hall with its high, vaulted ceiling

Under king Robert (reigned from 1309), the castle was enlarged and embellished, becoming a centre of patronage of art. In 1347 Castel Nuovo was sacked by the army of Louis I of Hungary, and had to be heavily restored after the return of queen Joanna I. The new works permitted the queen to resist the Hungarian siege during Louis’ second expedition. The castle was besieged numerous times in the following years, and was the official residence of King Ladislaus from 1399. It decayed under his sister Joanna II.

Under the Aragonese dynasty, begun by Alfonso V in 1442, the fortress was updated to resist the new artillery. A famous triumphal arch, designed by Francesco Laurana, was added to the main gate to celebrate Alfonso’s entrance in Naples. The decoration was executed by the sculptors Pere Johan and Guillem Sagrera, called by Alfonso from Catalonia.

In a hall of the castle the famous Barons conspiracy against King Ferdinand I, Alfonso’s son, occurred. The King had invited the barons for a feast; but, at a certain point, he had the garrison close all the hall’s doors and all the barons were arrested and later executed. The Barons’ Hall was the seat of the Council of the commune of Naples until 2006.

After the fierce sack of Naples by Charles VIII of France‘s soldiers in 1494, the Kingdom was annexed by Spain, and the castle was reduced from residence to an important military fortress. It was the temporary residence of the Spanish kings during their visits in the city, such as that of Charles V in 1535. The castle was again used as a residence by Charles IIIand later on by Duke Stefano Di Conza. The last restoration of Castel Nuovo occurred in 1823.

So there ya go.

Archaeological digs at the site:

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Speaking of digging up the past: There was one room off the courtyard that had a glass floor. This was so that visitors could look into past digs–not sure if they’re still working down there or not.

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It was really eerie walking across that thing, especially considering my fear of falling. I was a bit nervous, although the glass was a good six inches thick, held up every three feet or so by steel girders. The presence of skeletons beneath my feet didn’t help to alleviate my nervousness either…

 

 

 

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Umm,,,yeah. Moving right along…

Throughout the (now) museum, there was an incredible amount of artwork. We couldn’t get enough of it.

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Bet there’s a story behind this:

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A view from the top of the Castel:

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A fantastic side-trip altogether.

After that, we wandered the streets of Naples for awhile, taking pictures of alleyways, a magnificent fountain, the Spanish Quarter, and other places (including a Disney Store, of all things).

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We even explored a relatively recent find–a church which was almost completely below street level. Didn’t start out that way, of course:

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This info was taken from plaques around the building. I transcribed them verbatim, so if the grammar is wrong, it’s not my fault–just sayin’:

THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA INCORONATA

An exceptional of fourteenth-century factory, this construction dates back to before the first Angevine document of 1371, and was the foundation of a building created for the purpose of cult and of charity.

The Incoronata rises in the ancient Largo delle Corregge, so-called for the tournaments and carousels that took place there, in the spacious area near the Royal Palace, just outside the walls.

Around 1352, the year of the coronation. along with Ludovico di Taranto, Queen Giovanna the 1st ordered the construction of a hospital for the poor and the construction of a church dedicated to the crown of thorns of our Lord Jesus Christ, after a relic coming the Sainte Chapelle de Paris and donated to the Neapolitan Church. However, it is still under debate whether the Incoronata was built by incorporating part of the Palace which stood there, or if it arose and a new building at the Curia of the Vicariate.

From another plaque:

In the 16th century, having been ceded to Carthusian Monks of St. Martin, the religious establishment fell into disuse; when work was begun to enlarge the fortress of Castel Nuovo, the street level had to be raised and as a consequence, also the original layout of the Church had to be altered. In the 18th century, it was decorated throughout and opened up again for worship. Its present appearance is the result of a very long period of restoration work begun in 1925 by Gino Chierici and taken up again in recent times. This work has restored the Church to its original Gothic forms, also by knocking down buildings that over the years had sprang up against its walls. The colonnade, already reinforced by Chierici by inserting metal cylinders into the columns, has recently been dismantled and recomposed, replacing the rusty metal supports with steel fixtures. The marble has also been restored, as well as the plasterwork and facings. Besides all this, frescoes have been recovered and restored, some of which have still to be put back in place.

 

On our way back to the ship, we decided to take advantage of the shops in the terminal. It seemed a much quieter, less hectic place to relieve ourselves of some euros–ha ha.

I bought a “strong ale”, which to my happy surprise was actually a pretty decent brew. (I’m a beer snob, and I have a hard time finding good beer outside the Pacific Northwest.) We also went to a pizzeria and had another beer each ( a different kind this time–not as good).

After this, we boarded our bus for the ride out to Herculaneum. I was really hoping that, like the previous day, we’d just get dropped off and get to wander where we wanted to,

Nope. Had to flock it with a guide. Phooey.

First, though, we had to make the obligatory stop-and-shop–this one at a place where they made jewelry out of shells. Not my thing–Paul and I were back in the bus pretty quickly. (“yeah, yeah, very pretty–now let’s go already”)

Herculaneum was much smaller than I’d expected, and tightly surrounded by the population around it. Instead of some wide-open space, it was really just a large sunken area buttressed by walls.

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But the thing is, it’s a lot bigger than what we see–the ancient city’s main street (the very center of Herculaneum) follows along one of the walls. In other words, the other half of it is under the foundations of the apartment buildings above it. I don’t think they’ll be excavating under those any time soon.

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Our guide did a good job of herding us through the place and telling us very interesting facts. However, we wandered and took pictures, so the main points she made were lost to us. This was probably true for the whole group. I didn’t see anyone jotting down notes on their iPads.

There is far too much historical info to post here. The pictures will have to suffice:

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We didn’t get to go down to the niches where the (reproduction) skeletons lay scattered. Pity–that’s what Paul and I both wanted to see the most. We had to be satisfied with our cameras’ zoom capabilities.

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Again the cry: “Next time!”

On the way back to the ship, I had a chance to get a closer look at the apartments we passed–and especially at the clotheslines on each and every balcony. Like Brazil, it seems that clothes dryers just are not used. Every apartment had a setup of four or so lines on a device that swung out over the balcony. Around here, that sort of contraption wouldn’t last five minutes, once someone saw it.

Another thing: gypsies. Most specifically, the way in which they live. Our tour guide pointed out one of their encampments. And no, it’s not the colorful wagon and pony thing you might think–at least not here. In a flattish area between the freeway and various businesses we could see mounds poking up everywhere, with corrugated tin and other junk all over them. They lived under those. Terrible living conditions.

When we got back to the maritime terminal, I was happy to see that the shops were still open. There were a couple of things I’d had my eye on, but didn’t want to lug them to Herculaneum and back. Good prices for things too.

We had a dinner reservation on board the ship at 6:45pm, so were back on fairly early. After dinner, we went outside to watch the lights of Naples recede behind us.

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When that got old, we went into one of the ship’s bars and had an Irish Coffee apiece.

Okay, $10.00 for a drink is just stupid. Especially when the amount of Irish whiskey they put in it is barely a couple of tablespoons’ worth. Coffee and whipped cream I could get without extra cost anywhere on the ship. Yep–forget drinking while cruising. Unless they’re free.

They were doing Trivia Night in the bar, and Paul and I were able to answer almost all of the questions (between each other–we hadn’t signed up for the game).

Except for one question: “What was the name of Batman’s butler?”

We both drew a blank, which is pretty stupid since we both watch “Gotham”. It was at least an hour before Paul remembered (Alfred).

Well, it had been a long day, after all…

Tomorrow–a day at sea and then our first taste of Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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