Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Naples (Napoli), Italy--August 24, 2004

Naples, Italy is just a few miles from Mt. Vesuvius, the (formerly) buried city of Pompeii, and the enchanted Isle of Capri. We so much wanted to visit Capri to see the Blue Grotto we have read about in Red Sails to Capri. But we were told the crowds would be overwhelming on the island. And we had only one day. We figured we will have to return to Capri some other time--perhaps in May or late September. For today, Pompeii would have to do. . . .

Sarita and I paid a taxi to take us to Pompeii ("Pompei," as they spell it). Here we're looking down on the first sight one sees as one comes over the brow of the hill one has to climb to gain entrance to a city that was buried under volcanic ash almost 2000 years ago.

Looking down on the main tourist entrance to the city.

I thought I'd give you an overview of the site first, before we "go in." If my sense of direction is accurate, visitors normally enter through a gate on the southeast corner. I didn’t take this photo until we’d been inside the city for close to an hour. We worked our way through the southern portions of the city, and then out the southwest gate. This photo was taken from outside the city wall on the southwest side. We’re looking north.

Notice the embankment on the left. You can see how much dirt archaeologists had to remove! . . . I think that was one of the things that astounded us as we visited many arhaeological sites: how truly boring much of an archaeologist's work must be. Much of the work involves removing dirt! It really is excavation. Except you have to be extremely careful, so you don't remove "good stuff" along with all the boring dirt! . . . But I want you to remember: we are, here, in a "pit" dug by archaeologists. The 20- or 30-foot-high wall you see on the right used to be buried by volcanic ash!

We're on top of the embankment you saw on the left of the previous photo. We're looking down, over the city wall (in foreground) into the city.

Similar shot from on top of the embankment.

Outside overview from the corner of Pompei almost furthest from the main visitors' entrance.

Entering the city.

We're stunned at the brick work.

How could they produce this quality bronze work?

Amazing statue, but look at the mosaic tile! How do you cut open-centered stone parallelograms to enclose stone parallelograms?

There was a storage shed in which all these pieces were stored. Look at all the pots (on the right side, in the shadows)!

More of the storage area.

More of the storage shed, lots of pots, plus the plaster cast from one of the body holes archaeologists discovered. (Body holes were left by people who died when Vesuvius erupted. The ash surrounded their bodies. After all these centuries, the bodies decomposed, but the ash remained in place, in the shape of the body that had been there.)

Wow, look at the carvings! . . . Too bad this stuff is all off-limits to visitors. It just sits in its storage shed, gathering dust.

More storage; another body cast.

Sarita liked this goat image that was placed above the street marker. It was the only such image we saw. It was probably at about a 10-foot height.

There were all these large stones at every street corner. We thought, at first, that they were similar to speed bumps. They would certainly slow down any cart that wanted to turn and dash up the street! But then we were told they were actually stepping stones for people to use to cross the street when rain fell.

Another view of a typical street.

Ongoing gah-gah. Who does brickwork like this today? Amazing!

Notice the fine marble work on the far steps, plus mosaic work on the floor of this pool.

You begin to understand why the Renaissance viewed ancient Rome and Greece as the peak of civilization! Such amazing work.

Even in a poorer home, fancy mosaic work on the floor . . . and these are real stone pieces, they're not fired ceramic! How much time did these people spend cutting and breaking stones "just to make things pretty"?

I was fascinated by these walls with bricks or blocks on edge in a kind of diamond shape. I can't imagine it was easier to lay the stones or bricks in this manner. The residents must have done this solely for the aesthetic appeal. Amazing!

Now you can really see the blocks on their edges; and look at the water pipe in the wall at left, plus the capital of the foreground wall. And we're talking 2000 years ago!

Better view of the in-wall drain-pipe. Amazing!

Detail of the terra cotta drainpipe. Talk about engineering! Look at the interlinked design.

This section is under a roof. They are still digging it out. I could get no closer than this doorway, so, in trying to take a picture of the gorgeous walls, I was left with my camera blowing-out the portions where the sunshine was. But even with those limitations, look at the vibrant colors of the wall paintings after 2000 years!

Houses, houses, more houses! How big was this town? (They say 20,000 or more people lived here.) Look at that gorgeous brick work! And this was not the rich quarter.

Basalt block roads, and yet cart wheels cut ruts in the stone!

I guess people liked marble kitchen counters 2000 years ago!

Wow! The entryway to a modest home.

And next door to the one I just showed you. If I understood the notations on a small tag nearby, these mosaics were only uncovered in the late 1980s or early 1990s. There's still a lot of archeological work going on.

Unbelievable architecture--bricks, stones, angled stones, arch, cement-like surface . . .

A little seating area--for what? Afternoon discussions? A kind of city bus stop?

We're looking down one of the main streets of Pompei toward an entry gate. This seemed like a richer neighborhood. You can just make out a bit of the modern city just beyond the trees.

This was in a dome-topped room at the base of (and inside) one of the corners of the city wall. At right, in the middle right, there is a hole in the wall. The stones look as if they were meant to channel the flow of water. Was this some kind of cistern? . . . We could see no water INLET. And the entrance through which we looked (and the photo was taken) was almost at ground level . . . How did the plumbing system work? A very curious sight.

We were running short of time (our taxi driver was waiting); so we quickly shot all these amazing interior shots of houses on the back side of the city (north end) and made our way back out to the entrance.

I had to lean the camera through an iron gate to take the picture. Amazing that all of these artifacts were buried under volcanic ash!

So sad we couldn't enter any of these homes! But you get a sense of some of the beauty . . .

Another wall mural--almost 2000 years old!

After we returned from Pompei, we decided to explore a bit in Naples itself. The Castel dell'Ovo is in Naples Harbor--about a mile from our ship. The Castel is a huge old fortress. We read that they almost tore it down sometime in the last century. They wanted to use the blocks for some other purpose. But some group got together in the 1980s to renovate it and open it to the public. At this point, it really isn't used for much of anything. I think we may have seen 15 people in the castle and we paid nothing to get in.

To get into the castle, you climb a long incline and go through this amazing arch.


Heading up the incline, into the castle.

Short doors! Why? To slow down invaders? Because the original inhabitants (1100s-1300s) were short?

All these amazing architectural features!

On top of the ramparts.

Naples Harbor from the ramparts. Our ship, the Celebrity Galaxy, is in the background (slightly to left of center). Notice the jetty in the right middle portion of the photo. There were all kinds of people hanging out not only there, but all along the seawall, in and on a number of boats, etc. All LOCALS. And 90% or more of them were MEN. Where were the women? Is it typical that the women do all the work while the men play?
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