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After spending a month and a half in the cold and wet weather of the British Isles, I was hoping for some warmer and dryer temperatures.  So much for hopes because they were dashed as we arrived into a rainy and chilly day in Naples. Fortunately, I had arranged for a car to meet us at the airport to take us to our apartmen.  

This is my first time staying in Naples; I have been there before travelling through but never to stay.  While our apartment was lovely and Italy is my favorite country in the world, I was not really impressed with Naples. From the dirty streets, horrible traffic, and not the friendliest of people.  With the help of a good friend,  our short trip took in some great sights, my grandson had some good pizza and great gelato, and we spent quality time seeing those sights with friend and stand in tour guide. I think if it hadn’t been for his willingness to act as our tour guide and dinner host, the trip to Naples would have been a bust. We did, however, with the help of our guide, see some beautiful things in the city and glad we did.

While in Naples, it is almost required to go to Pompei. I was looking forward to our trip to Pompeii and hoping that my grandson would as well.  Unfortunately, the weather had different ideas so the day was pretty much a bust. Even if he would have enjoyed it, slim chance of that, the continuous wind and rain killed that, so it ended up being a VERY LONG day.  As lunch was included in the tour, the bright side for him was the pizza and the gelato after the ruins before getting on the bus again to head to Mt. Vesuvius. 

For those who are not familiar with the history of Pompeii, in 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius erupted and that eruption resulted in the end of the bustling city of Pompeii.  Studies tell us that the estimated 2,000 people who perished were not caught escaping rivers of lava but died from asphyxiation from the giant cloud of scorching ash and gas ejected by the volcano. For almost 2000 years, Pompeii lays in ruins at the foot of Vesuvius, a testament to the power of nature and the weakness of man in a struggle between the two.

Since last I was at the ruins, they have continued their excavation so there were things I did not see on my last visit. I was told the mummified dog I had seen so many years ago was now at a museum and no longer on site. There were, however, others still there frozen in time.  Walking through the city you can still see the frescos on walls like those in a brothel as a menu to the choices of services for the patrons or the beautiful tile that was installed over 2 millennia ago. Even in the rain, as you walk in the shadow of mighty Vesuvius, you are in awe of a civilian long gone but so much of their history still here and more being uncovered every day.  I will take a trip back to Pompeii some sunny day, sans my grandson, and soak in what is left of this once busy city by the sea.

Our tour included a trip to Mt. Vesuvius but we chose to stay in the warm and dry van instead of climbing up a mountain in the rain. So the view from the mountain will have to wait for another day.

While in Naples proper, our impromptu tour guide was gracious enough to take us to both cultural sites and what some may see as fun; me yes, my grandson….you already know the answer. One of the first sights we saw was Chapel of Santa Maria della Pieta often called Cappella Sansevero, the home of the Veiled Christ.  As we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, the pictures here are from the internet.  I found the chapel a bit overwhelming given its small size and the amount of art it contains but worth the visit just to see its beauty.  Leaving the chapel and heading downstairs, the sight at the bottom of the stairs could not be more different from the chapel.  Here is what you will find the Anatomical Machines; the skeletons of a man and a woman in upright position with their arteriovenous system almost perfectly intact.  The items are so eerie to me that I am glad I missed  the remains of a fetus were still visible in the woman until a few decades ago when they were stolen.  The history of both the chapel and the ‘machines’ is interesting and suggest those reading this ‘card’ search out for more of their stories.

Our other excursions took us to a beautiful church, the ‘Christmas’ street of Naples, and a part of the ancient underground city. The church, the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, is located at the precise geographic center of the historic center of the ancient Greek-Roman city and entrance to part of the ancient underground city.  While the current church was built in the late 13th century, the origins date back almost a century earlier with the Franciscan monks during the lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi himself. I have to admit, here and now, that viewing the beautiful churches throughout Italy is one of the things I know that my grandson will hate, and I will love in equal measure.  

After viewing the Basilica we head underground to see the ancient Greek and Roman city. As you walk through the streets that began as early as 400 BC that was used as a bomb shelter in WWII, you can almost imagine the hustle and bustle of the market place those millennia ago, with the ‘fast food’ vendors selling their meals to those without the luxury of a kitchen to trading of goods essential to the daily lives of the residents.  Unfortunately, because of time we were only able to visit a part of the underground but what we saw was an interesting quiet look into the past of a modern city with its busy traffic and noise.

A day in Italy is not complete without passing by the shops selling anything renowned for the area and a lunch of pizza, pasta, or in my case, risotto.  Before lunch however, we are to visit Via San Gregorio Armeno, or Christmas Alley as it is known to the tourists.  The street is open all year and is full of every size nativity scene, or “presepio,” you could imagine already made or with all the elements necessary to create your own.  Unfortunately, as we still have two months to travel there were no purchases that day, but maybe another trip to take some of the beautiful artistry that Naples is known for ‘home for the holidays.’

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