Naples, Pompeii and Amalfi Coast

Our time in Naples (pics) was all too brief.  And the subject of this post encompasses way too much but we’ll give it a try.

Unfortunately, the time we allowed for sightseeing in Naples coincided with rain and in fact during one particular downpour there was pea sized hail included.  According to our reading, Naples has had some difficulty in the recent past with high unemployment resulting in many of their young people leaving for better opportunities elsewhere.  Also, there were some instances of social unrest in the past couple of years.  Perhaps this explains why the city seems a little less cared for with trash strewn about in the streets.  But it seems to be vibrant and economically active.

Cappella di San Gennaro

One of the must see sights is the Duomo or Cappella di San Gennaro.  The main attraction inside is the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro.  In here is the heralded dome fresco by Giovanni Lanfranco along with numerous precious metal busts and statues plus several paintings with St. Janarius as their subject.

Pompeii

As everyone knows, this ancient city was essentially wiped out as the result of an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD.  It was buried under a deep layer of lapilli, droplets of molten lava that solidify as they fall to earth.  This left most of the structures standing and allowed archeologists to develop a deep understanding of this city of some 20,000 people.  Most of the people had been relocated years earlier due to a massive earthquake which struck in 63 AD causing extensive damage, however some 2,000 people were killed by the Vesuvius eruption.

Pompeii

Some of the most interesting structures were the public baths.  They had developed ingenious methods to heat water for the baths and pools.  In addition, they built large rooms with raised floors and a space in the walls for the circulation of heated air providing an almost sauna like “hot” room.  The bath houses had changing rooms with niches for storing clothing and personal items, a cold bath area, tepid bath and hot bath areas.  There are separate sections for male and female bathers.

Before visiting Pompeii I had no appreciation of just how large this city is.  You can spend many hours walking the streets, visiting some of the extensive private homes, public spaces, administrative offices, a 20,000 seat Roman amphitheater and Teatro Grande, a 5,000 seat performance theater.

Pompeii - 5,000 seat theater

Pompeii is a relatively easy day trip from Naples.  We were staying just 2 blocks from the train station.  You take a Circumvesuviana train which stops just outside of the entrance to Pompeii.  The train ride is about 40 minutes south of Naples.

Positano (Amalfi Coast)

Positano

John Steinbeck wrote in May 1953 in Harper’s Bazaar : ‘Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.’

Positano

From the first time I saw pictures of the Amalfi coast I have wanted to see it with my own eyes.  We allowed ourselves a taste by taking a day trip from Naples by train to Sorrento, then bus to Positano.  The pastel colors of the houses stacked upon each other mix with the wisteria and the brilliant blue of the ocean.  I feel sure we will return for a more extensive visit.

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