Friday, August 1, 2008

Archaeology

I arrived in Naples Wednesday night a few hours before Olga and passed out before she arrived. I had some trouble finding the hotel -- imagine my surprise when I was happily awoken by a phone call - it was Olga saying she was waiting in the lobby! yay! We wandered randomly through the city at night, without a map or any idea of the city layout. It later turned out that we had covered about 60% of the city - almost all of the medieval sector.







The next morning some member of the hotel staff (I hope) barged their way into the room, said some expletive, and ran out. No matter, we were up and enjoyed an early morning breakfast and walk through the city (this time with a map). We stumbled upon two fascinating underground sites within a block from each other. First was the San Lorenzo Maggiore (Church) - underneath it was discovered an ancient lost Greco-Roman civilization that was preserved better than any ruins I have seen in Rome. It's also neat because it has been preserved in chronological order.





Then across the street is Subterranean Naples, an 80-Km-long labyrinth (we didn't walk the whole thing) that was originally a Greek quarry for building Naples, then an ancient Roman aqueduct bringing water into the city, then in WWII was used as a bomb shelter that could have fit the entire city's population. At the end, they took us to an apartment building they are continually (for the past 8 years) acquiring and recovering - it was formerly Nero's theatre in ancient times. The parts they have acquired and peeled back are fascinating - including an ancient Roman road that, a few years ago, was the apartment building's motorcycle garage.





Later on the same street, we had our first Napoli pizza - amazing!!! I don't know how they made it so quickly (about 5 minutes) and so tasty (the crust was so soft and perfectly baked).
Then we headed to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. It is entirely comprised of artifacts dug up from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum - the 3 cities that were destroyed by lava flow in 79 AD.





After 3 floors of Vesuvian artifacts and several Cafe Freddo and Limone Granita breaks, we were ready for a light dinner. We walked through some more of the city, down to the harbor. Birthday dinner comprised of super yummy gelato, then wine at a vino bar on Santa Lucia street. Then we walked along the water back to the hotel.







Friday the archaeology theme continued. We took the train to Pompeii in the morning. I have to say the place would be so much more moving if they still had the original artifacts. A few structures had replicas of the artifacts, but most of them had nothing (even the frescas had been peeled off the walls and put in the Napoli museum. My favorite sites here were the brothel (the beds look so hard - the frescos are still there listing a menu of services rendered), the bakery (there's a cute picture somewhere of me popping out of an oven), the amphitheatre (hasn't changed a bit since the 1972 Pink Floyd film), and the plaster dead people (as the archaeologists were digging, when they would come across a hollow area, they would fill it with plaster and wait for it to dry. Then they would keep digging, and the plaster cast would come out into the shapes of humans and animals - they were 'buried alive' and left cavities in the pumice after their bodies decomposed).





In the evening, we decided to take it easy. We went for another pizza (good but not as good as the first day). Spent the rest of the night at a cool internet bar (the only working one we have seen on this trip - the previous 3 were broken) - it's a used bookstore, used cd store, free wifi point, and bar w/ DJ that has really been rocking the last couple of hours. Unlike an internet cafe were you get more wired and focused as you are there, here we are all getting nice and toasted - a good quality for blogging. In Vino Veritas.

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