The Pilgrim

Forza Napoli

22/08/07

With our shutters firmly shut we stayed blissfully asleep in our dark and quiet room until gone 9:30am this morning.

Julie could have easily continued her slumber if it wasn't for my itchtiness to get up, get out and get going. I opened the shutters with a rattle, the sun came streaming at 10,000 watts and the traffic volume jumped up from a comforting murmur to a car crash pile up at the bottom of our bed!

As Julie recovered from the trauma I sat on the balcony once again looking at our neighbouring buildings. I noticed that directly across to us, on Corso Umberto, hidden amongst everything else was one of Naples' 448 churches. Chiesa di Santa Maria Egiziaca.

With coffee and croissants devoured we made our way to the central train station on Piazza Garibaldi.

We were going to attempt the National Archaelogical Museum again. It was a exceptionally warm day so instead of walking we decided to make use of the metro. It was probably a wise move because even the short distance to Piazza Garibaldi had Julie sweating profusely from the head.

"Don't you think it's a bit odd?" she asked, "that I'm only sweating from my head?"

She lifted up her arms to demonstrate that her armpits were perspire free whilst the hair on her head looked like she'd swam from Sorrento! I suggested that perhaprs a rub of my Mitchum anti-perspirant stick all over her forehead and scalp might do the trick!?

In the relative coolness of the metro she recovered slightly but was soon melting again when we resurfaced near the museum. We were a lttile confused as we had somehow emerged 300 metres away and not the exit that was directly beneath the museum? Never mind.

The front door of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli was wide open today!

We paid €9 to get in and we also bought a small guide book about the secret chamber, a collection of erotic art found in Pompeii.

Not that we were in any way excited by some Roman porn but we did happen by chance to find ourselves in the Gabinetto Segreto before anywhere else. (It's up the stairs on the left by the way!)

Apparently during the excavation of Pompeii any artefact that was labelled as obscene pornography ended up behind lock and key. In fact at one time the store room was bricked up!

Our friend Priapus was there again showing off his donkey dong.

Also, in the corner there was a rather disturbing piece of goat sex or one could call it Caprine Copulation if one was a cunning linguist.

The half-goat/half-man fornicator was Pan, the Greek god of shepphards or something like that. Not all Greek gods are worthy of female adulation!

It's probably no coincidence he looks like the Christian interpretation of Satan, cloven-hooved and horned.

In the next room I was astounded by an enormous floor mosaic mounted on the wall. The sheer scale of it was mindblowing.

We had to stand quite some distance away to take in the whole scene of the Battle of Alexander and Darius.

This was meticulously moved from the House of the Faun (which coincidently is also a half-man/half-goat creature).

A large section was missing to the left but it didn't detract from its impact. It was an incredibly powerful work of art and to think it dated back to 200BC.

As we moved closer and saw how tiny were the indivdual pieces of tile, it made it seem even more astonishing. The attention to detail was staggering.

There were many other mosaics here, the best ones were all from the House of the Faun, such as the swooping cat.

We returned to the central staircase and climbed the steps up to the next floor. Right ahead of us was this beautifully decorated hall which was peculiarly empty.
The vast open floorspace of parque tiles was only broken by this odd marble line that stretched outwards from about the middle of the hall to the window in the far right corner.

Zodiac signs were painted along its length in what seemed to be a totally random placement.

What intrigued me was the only instance of two signs laying side by side were when Leo and Gemini met.

It was such a coincidence that these star signs were Julie's and mine! We wondered (briefly) what astral significance our union represented before concluding "It's all tosh anyway" and left the vast bare hall behind moving on into the west wing and the ghostly hall of bronze statues.

Every where we turned heroes from the past were staring at us. It created an exceptionally eerie atmosphere. It was their eyes. The whites of the eyes set against the jet black of the bronze which brought a deathly life to their bodies.

The tortured face of the philospher Seneca the Elder in particular was quite haunting.

To look into his eyes and to feel his sadness and his suffering was quite emotional.

 

We were just making our way out of this room when the staff began to usher us out. It was only after they then refused us entry to the next room did we realise that they were closing the doors and locking them up.

"Cheeky sods" I moaned (quietly) "We've paid the full price to get in and we've only seen half the museum!"

It was only 1:30pm but I didn't dare complain out loud as they looked like sour face people not to be messed with.

We made our way with everyone else down the staircase to the ground floor. Luckily this was an open planned space with no doors to shut us out. We were rather fortunate that it turned out that way because we got to see one of the museum's highlights, the Farnese collection.

These pieces weren't neccesarily native to Naples.

The most well known piece, the Farnese Bull, was excavated from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Even the Farnese family weren't Neapolitan being historically from Parma. But they had gathered together this amazing collection and housed them here in what was originally known as Museo Borbonico.

The "Il Toro de Faranese" is a monumental work of art, carved from a single block of marble around 200BC. You just can't take your eyes off it because one glance is not enough. There's so much detail to digest.

Having sat down and admired the bull wrestling for ten minutes we were suffering a little from statue fatigue so we turned our attention instead to fine marble backsides that were on display.

We were giggling like naughty school children admiring the peachy posterior of Venus or Hercules' bulging buttocks.

Before we made right arses of ourselves we managed to pull ourselves together and discretly left the room.

After scooting around a very dull exhibition of Amber, (dull in excitement not in colour) we left in search of lunch.

A pizzeria called Sorbillo was on my list of 'places to eat pizza' and according to my Time Out guide to Naples it didn't close for August. So we walked down Via Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, through Piazza Bellini, ending up at the beginning of Via dei Tribunali.

This was another arrow straight road but it seemed to have much more shops along it than its parallel, Spaccanapoli. We even found a SSC Napoli store where we bought Rory the team's football kit.

We eventually found Sorbillo and ... "I don't believe it!" ... it was closed for refurbishment.

I was very disappointed but not entirely surprised.

All was not lost however. We had seen a restaurant on the way down that looked inviting.

Locanda dei Grifo was tucked away in the shadow of the tower of Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore della Pietrasanta. It was also next to a hotel (Hotel Neapolis) which I wish we had known about before.

It was in a fantastic location!

Their menu had a great choice of fish dishes for Julie and we consulted our guide book on a fish called Orato. It apparently was similar to Sea Bream.

We decided that a glass of wine and a full tummy could have sent us sleep so despite their extensive wine list we stuck to water for lunch.

All the pizzas that were flying out the kitchen looked amazing. Their interpretation on how to top a pizza was very unique. The artichoke one looked spectacular and there was one that had uncooked boccincino mozzarella balls dotted all over it. I had ordered what they called Pizza Verace which was just a Margueritta.

When my plain pizza arrived I was slightly envious of the others but one bite and I was smitten. This was perfect. Just as delicious as my previous 8/10 favourite from Triannon. The taste of the buffalo mozzarella alone was a delight.

The high standards continued as Julie's version of sea bream arrived and she absolutely loved it!

After a very pleasant lunch we strolled down a side street to the only church (or chapel) I wanted to visit, Cappella Sansevero. If you didn't know that it was there you'd never "stumble" across it, tucked away down a side street. It's famous for the miraculously carved statue of the Veiled Christ by Guiseppe Sanmartino.

The way the marble hangs like real fabric is unbelievable.

It's the most famous of the statues here but not the only one using the thinly draped cloth technique. A statue called Modesty on the left of the altar was dressed in a fine wrap and on the right another figure called Deception was even more fascinatingly covered in a thick roped net. All were carved by different sculptors.

Photographs were strictly forbidden, the veiled christ even had its own security guard! The chapel had it's own souvenir shop where you could (and I did) buy the postcards. I would have prefered to have paid to take my own photos though.

To get to the shop you were directed through the crypt where a bizarre 'anatomical machines' where on display. Legend has it that chapel's patron, Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, was some demonic sorcerer, an apprentice of the occult.

We left the chapel with no particular place to go and ended up following our noses to Piazza Dante. We decided that as we hadn't properly walked down Via Toledo, Naples' main shopping street, we'd try some retail therapy.

It was good to see the concept of siesta was alive and well as most of the shops were shut until 4pm.

One that wasn't was a Gelateria!

I couldn't resist and impulsively ordered a Pistacchio cone. I rather rushed my choice because I was so excited to try the nut flavoured ice cream for the first time.

Having looked at the photo later I wished I'd gone for the Ringo flavoured one! What the hell?!?

Does the ex-Beatle know he's an ice cream?

A little further down we came across a toy store which sold toy cars.

Now one of my father's little foibles is a magpiesque inclination towards hording, (one that Julie believes that I have inherited) and one of his collections is toy police cars. We'd promised him that if we saw a Polizia or a Carabinieri car we'd pick it up. As it was only 3:40pm we decided to sit outside the shop, on its windowsill and waited for it to open. At least it would give me time to enjoy my rapidly melting ice cream.

After some ten minutes, a yound lad, the classic cheeky neapolitan street urchin, in a pair of shorts and a stripey t-shirt skipped his way up the hill, stared at my gelato stained face, then pushed open the door into the shop.

"It's bloody well open!" Julie turned to me and said. All we could do was laugh.

We went inside where the boy was asking about the price of a plastic golf club set. He counted the small change in his pocket then sighed. Not enough. Obviously hadn't picked enough pockets today!

Anyway, we bought the car and at €10 (giftwrapped!) it was half the price of an identical model we saw at a market stall earlier this morning (as we walked to the train station). I suppose you can't blame the market trader for trying his luck and if you can afford €20 and are willing to pay that amount then all is fair. That's why I hate bartering.

We toddled our way down the Via Toledo hill, our strides had been reduced to small shuffling steps by the ridiculously hot temperature. This is why the next port of call practically sucked us in when the door's of the department store slid open and we were enveloped by a refreshing rush of super cooled air. Caught in its spell we were lured inside. Before I knew it I was having a mild anxiety attack amongst perfumes and leather bags. We didn't spend too long inside but the moment we stepped back into the furnace outside we almost stepped straight back inside again.

Our shortlived shopping expedition came to an end with a visit to a pharmacist for some antiseptic cream for Julie's leg. She had been bitten by some dirty insect whilst walking around Pompeii and by today it had inflamed quite horribly. "It's itching something chronic" she said.

We stepped inside into what looked more like an apothecary with huge bottles of chemicals on old mahogany shelves. It felt like we'd walked back in time.

The two old ladies behind this large counter peered over the rim of their glasses as Julie lifted up her leg to show the wound.

"Ah" said one "Ooh" said the other, "Big problem" they said in unison. They were quite a double act.

The shorter one got up onto a step and reached for a tube of cream. The other insited that Julie sat down and and applied the pink coloured balm. Once suitably protected and only then were we allowed to leave.

At the end of Via Toledo we came to the Galeria Umberto and decided to pop inside for a coffee. We were hassled on the way in by a young boy with outstretched hands, pulling his best puppy dog eyes whilst pleading for an euro. We ignored him withease. Later, an older well-fed boy came to our table.

"One euro" he begged.

He was eyeing up the €3 I'd put out to pay for our coffees.

"One euro" he moaned.

"No, get lost" I barked back.

He wouldn't go away, he just stood there continuing to whine, so we turned and looked the other way and eventually he walked off, although he couldn't walk very well on account of a mangled right leg which he had on display having rolled his trouser leg up. Just as our hardline was beginning to wane we saw him walking towards two ladies that were keeping a very close eye on him. When he ventured outside the Galeria they shepherded him back inside. In my naievty I hadn't realised that kids begging on the streets would have been part of an organised gang. The poor exploited little beggar.

The other younger boy didn't seem as closely controlled. Infact he was well dressed and even had a gold Nike earring. He must be a good earner.

We sneaked out the back door as not to be confronted by them.

I had wanted to find a pizzeria called Brandi, a pizzeria that boasts the invention of the Margherita pizza.

The story has it that the in 1889 when King Umberto I visited Naples the owner of this pizzeria (and his wife) were invited to the Royal Palace of Capidimonte to prepare a pizza feast fit for a King and his Queen Margherita di Savoia. They presented three variations, a white pizza, (cheese, olive oil and basil), a pizza topped with tiny sardines, and the third a mozzarella and tomato pizza. Of the three the Queen especially enjoyed the third variety. As a tribute (and great marketing ploy) they began calling the classic mozzarella pizza a Margherita. And the rest is history.

By the time we'd reached Palazzo Reale on Piazza Plebiscito my feet were screaming at me to stop it, stop marching, stop torturing my soles, go home. We really were too tired and to go any further would have been insensitive.

So despite the fact that somewhere in the Quartieri Spagnoli was the Holy Grail of my pizza pilgrimage I decided that we were in need of some serious rest.

Just outside Castel Nuovo we hopped on an Alibus that shuttled us across to Piazza Garibaldi and we wearily trudged our way back to our hotel.

We attempted another caffeine boost to sustain us through the walk home.

Bar Mexico has a reputation for serving the best coffee in Naples and I couldn't argue with that.

The path back to our hotel bed was littered with African bag sellers making the journey even more challenging. Despite being dead on our feet we did squeeze in one final shopping flurry as a kids clothing shop was open. Julie spotted some bright orange booties for Tyler.

We just had to buy them.

It was 6pm by the time we collapsed onto our bed and within an instant we were both fast asleep. After a two hour power nap we awoke refreshed and ready for some supper!

Well, when I say "refreshed" I was lying. We weren't exactly bounding about like gazelles. My feet were worse for wear, red and sore. Julie's were the same plus her insect bite was worryingly warm to the touch.

We decided to call a taxi to take us out for the evening. Perusing our guide book we had chosen a restaurant called Transatlantico very near to the Castel dell'Ovo.

The taxi only cost us €8 and was worth every single cent because we stepped out of the car calm, collected and very relaxed instead of sweaty, knackered and bedraggled if we had walked.

We were dropped off on the island that is home to the Castle. With the fortified walls forming one side of this small yet busy piazza it created both an intimate and exciting atmoshpere. People were sitting outside the cafe bars and restaurants laughing, chattering, enjoying the good life.

We stuck with our original choice of Transatlantico despite it looking the least popular as the seats outside were empty.

The reason why became apparent as soon as we walked inside. All of it customers were seated on the Marina side which during the day would afford great views of the bay and of Vesuvius.

The place was absolutely packed and we had a 30 minute wait for a table.

It was worth the wait as we sat outside, with views of all the luxury yatchs and the posh hotels of Naples. The whole ambience was perfect.

The food was also good.

We shared a Caprese salad. This one had an intense cherry tomato salad served with the Buffalo Mozzarella. Very tasty. We also shared a platter of chargrilled veg such as aubergines, peppers and courgettes. They were too slimy for Julie's pallette, so they were mine, all mine.

Julie had Swordfish which she rated as her second best Pesce Spada of the week, (behind her favourite which was at the restaurant '13' on Monday evening).

I of course went for pizza, but I went for a white pizza in honour of its history.

It was good, very cheesey and as such difficult to compare to the others but the base was excellent. So a 7/10 was recorded.

We sighed at the thought that this was our last night in Naples. "Let's just stay here a bit longer tonight" Julie suggested.

"Definitely!" I couldn't agree more.

So we had another glass our Pinot Grigio and I ordered a Torta di Caprese despite not having a clue what it was. It could so easily have been awful but it turned out to be the most delicious chocolate sponge cake.

To wash it down I had a perfect espresso and to wrap up the meal I had my first glass of limoncello of this trip. We paid the most expensive bill of the holiday at €75 and left our marina side table but we only got as far as the seats outside the front of the restaurant.

The night was still young.

We people watched for hours in this piazza which peculairly (as we couldn't see the sky) felt more like an indoor replica, or a Vegas-themed "authentic Italian" piazza.

Midnight struck and the night rapidly grew old. The days exertions had finally taken their toll and it was time for us to make our way back home.

By now we were at that stage between very merry and slightly hammered. We were also penniless. Despite our compromised state of mind we managed to walk over to the mainland, took some cash out of the Banco di Napoli ATM, and get a taxi from a rank near Hotel Vesuvio, reaching the safety of our hotel room some time vaguely before 1:00am.

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