Log #34d Theft in Naples

April 17, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 34 Rome - Corsica - Sardinia, The Logs

Giglio Marina, Isola Giglio

April 17, 2005

Hi Folks,

Trapped here for a second day I had a chance to make up another log on our time in Ostia. I want to get my logs relating to our time in Rome off while they are fresh in my mind, as I will have many new adventures to summarize as we embark on our voyages this season. Today has been a windy rainy day in which we stayed on board rather than going up to the walled castello in the middle of the island.  We do not have a fondness for this island, and are looking forward to getting up to Elba tomorrow, hopefully, if the weather is OK.

I realize I may have sent duplicate copies of our change of address note, but sometimes the system does not respond as it should, frequently, and thus sent out another message.

We received over 28 messages of non-completed E-mails of our notice of change, some of which may have been just delays, and others of which were changes in ISP’s which we did not have registered. Whatever, please forgive any redundancy.

My next log will hopefully be of our trip up to Tuscany at Easter, then more of our travels in Rome. Timing will depend upon how our itinerary is going and the time I have to get these logs on the computer. Right now we are a few days behind schedule, and may have to make up time to rendezvous with some of our guests.

Tomorrow in Elba, hopefully.

All the best,

Aubrey


Log #34d Theft in Naples

Giglio Marina, Isola Giglio

April 17, 2005

Waiting another day for the occluded front to clear out gives me some time to work on the computer and my logs. We have just discontinued our AOL service, and had to set up our address book on Outlook Express. So far we are happy with the Vodaphone Mobile Connect card that when activated connects our laptop directly to the internet and to our Hotmail account, enabling us to send and receive E-mail and SMS text messages, as well as surf the net from Veleda. I can pre-write E-mail on Outlook Express off-line and send later. On the web, we have full access to whatever sites we choose. We can do our banking, taxes, read Canadian newspapers, and access a wide variety of weather information. Incidentally, we are using a good weather resource from one of our boater friends in Ostia. Doug and Judy Decker on Limerance have on their website (http://www.deckersailing.com) a series of weather sites that you can just click on to pull them up. Thus we are able to get up to date weather and forecasts for any place in the world. Thanks Doug.

Theft in Naples

Back in Ostia, we did a fair bit of traveling over the winter. We had an enjoyable four days with Maj and Claes, a Swedish couple on Casta Diva, in Naples. A two and a half hour Eurostar train ride from Termini in Rome got us into Stazione Garibaldi in downtown Naples. (Stazione Termini in Rome has just been re-named after Pope John Paul II in commemoration of his Papacy.)

The first afternoon we went to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. All the public museums are free to EU senior citizens over the age of 65, and thus a photocopy of my UK passport got me into most museums without charge. This archeological museum is extremely good, housing the best collection of Graeco-Roman artifacts in the world, including the Farnese collection of classical sculptures and mosaics and more sculptures, artifacts and mosaics excavated from the volcanic debris of nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum. We also saw the recently re-opened Gabinetto Segreto (secret room) which as our Lonely Planet guide describes, “The ancient smut on display includes an intriguing statue of Pan up to no good with a nanny goat and nine paintings depicting erotic positions, which served as a menu for brothel clients.”

Upon leaving the museum we were going to take a local bus ride which went along the waterfront area. However it was late afternoon, and the buses were jammed. We were squeezed inside the rear doors so tightly we couldn’t move. At the next stop some people got off, and a couple wedged beside us got out but went up to the middle doors which were less crowded. With a little bit of breathing space, as I shifted position, I noticed the fabric cover of our mobile phone on the floor as the doors closed. I pointed out to Judy that she must have dropped the phone. It was empty! Judy immediately realized she had been robbed by someone who removed both the phone and an enameled glasses case from her purse. She was distraught. She had kept her bag closed in her hands at her side, but in the packed bus could not move to look down at the thief whose hand went into the bag. Aarrgghhhh! It was an expensive Nokia 6310i on which I had a Bluetooth wireless service to link our laptop up for E-mail and the internet. We had been warned about pickpockets on crowded buses, and Judy had her bag in front of her, gripped at the top, but the thief still managed to steal the two items. She still had her wallet.

At the next stop, I noticed some people getting off through the middle doors, and thought that one of them was the guy who had been wedged up next to Judy when we first got on. I immediately got off, followed by Judy, Claes, and Maj. I tapped the guy on the shoulder and asked to see what was in the plastic shopping bag he carried. Of course he spoke no English. Maj and Claes were on the other side of him and Maj saw the maroon enameled glasses case sticking out of his pocket, grabbed it and said “He stole it!” She was quite angry at him, as were I and Judy. He immediately handed over the phone to me. Maj was like a tiger, very indignant with him. I said some intense uncomplimentary words to him and told him to get out of here. I didn’t want to start a fight or try to call the police, and just let him go. We were just relieved to get the items back.

Herculaneum and Pompeii

Next day we caught a commuter train (Circumvesuviana s.r.l.) to Herculaneum, one of the towns buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD in a river of volcanic mud 25 metres deep. We enjoyed this site more than Pompeii, as it was better preserved, and one can get a good picture of the more modest homes, streets, and businesses that once existed here. It was quite dramatic to see the 80 foot lava cliffs out of which the ruins were excavated. Only a small portion of the town has been cleared, as much of the remainder lies under the modern day Ercolano on the shores of the Bay of Naples.

After lunch at a local pizzeria we went to Pompeii, again by train. This was a much larger city, with more of it excavated. There was the dramatic forum, two theatres, major and secondary streets, the wheel ruts worn through the stones, a necropolis, magnificent remains of houses of the wealthy, and the smoothly worn passages of the ancient aqueduct supplying the city’s water. I took a picture of one of the corpses found in the ruins. The actual corpse was not there, but the space in which the body existed beneath volcanic ash was pumped full of a type of plaster of Paris which then filled the cavity, taking on the shape of the deceased. From all parts of Pompeii one could see Vesuvius dominating the skyline, brooding over the demolished city as if to say, “Don’t get too complacent!”

Other Tours and Impressions of Naples

The third day we took the bus down to the Campi Flegrei (Fields of Fire), which consist in the main of the Solfatara Volcano just behind the town of Pozzuoli southwest of Naples. This crater, a dormant volcano, is a wide expanse of sandy beige soil which still reeks of hydrogen sulphide, with a molten lake of bubbling mud, and several large and small fumaroles, brilliant lime green and sulphur yellow crystals decorating the orifices, expelling noxious gases and steam from the bowels of the earth. One of the fumaroles has been harnessed with a stone structure to provide a sudatorium, a sauna or sweat room in which hot gases and steam are supposed to have healthy benefits. The smell reminded me of Espanola, where I used to live in northern Ontario, a pulp and paper town where if the wind blew the wrong direction a noxious odour pervaded the community. You knew you had lived there too long when visitors would ask, “What’s that smell”, and you replied, “What smell?” However, the ancients believed the gases, steam and mud had positive characteristics and spas dominated the area for hundreds of years.

Wandering into Pozzuoli, we visited the ruins of the Flavian Amphitheatre built by Vespasian in about 90 AD. It is the third largest amphitheatre in Italy, but disappointing after the Colosseum. I never cease to be amazed at the construction capabilities of the ancient Romans to produce such large projects. We wanted to go on to Cumae to the cave of the Cumaen Sybil but there was a rail strike that day, and no trains were running beyond Pozzuoli.

On our return to Naples we toured Castel Nuovo, the “new castle” built originally in 1279. Its four turreted bastions dominate the ferry port and a large marina at the waterfront. It has been converted into municipal offices and art museums. Even though possessing a grand entrance gate, large courtyard, dry moat and its dominating four bastions, I was disappointed in that little of the castle architecture or intrigue was left. However, in one of the art galleries I saw a painting of Garibaldi being welcomed into Naples in 1860, hundreds of troops lined up in colourful formations in the piazza. The interesting aspect for us was that the piazza in the painting was dominated by the wedge shaped Palazzo Doria D’Angri located a few blocks from our hotel Albergo Sansevero Degas in the ancient part of Naples. The Palazzo, recognizable from the painting, now houses a fine restaurant where we had a lovely meal amid the palatial décor of high vaulted ceilings with white marble cherubs framing classical baroque pastoral paintings, the walls lined with wide floor to ceiling mirrors bracketed by Corinthian columns, all illuminated with crystal chandeliers; a most exquisite setting.

Our hotel was booked in advance from our Lonely Planet guide, and located on the third floor of a courtyarded palace that once belonged to Edgar Degas, the French impressionist painter. It was a moderately priced room, for Naples, costing 90 Euros a night ($145.00 Canadian) with private bath and a good continental breakfast. Our room overlooked the Piazza Gesu Nuova with its religious monument to the Virgin Mary, named after one of the two medieval cathedrals facing the square. It was interesting while having breakfast to watch the square come alive with people wandering across the piazza, going to work, stores opening, tables being set out or wiped off at local trattorias, a few street beggars taking up their daily positions usually near one of the churches, some musical buskers getting settled for the day, a few mongrel dogs cavorting around, pigeons on the monument and church ledges, and increasing traffic of cars and motor scooters darting around the pedestrians. I could visualize in my mind a classical painting of this piazza 100 or 200 years ago with people going about their daily routines in this small local hub of the community; and the same picture could be painted today, the timelessness and continuity still there.

A humorous aspect of our hotel was the pay-as-you-use elevator. It only cost 10 cents per use. After using it a few times, we wondered if we could beat the system. We did! When going up, one of us would climb up the four flights of stairs (in Europe the ground floor is not the first floor, but the second floor is the first floor), while the other three of us got inside at the bottom. The person at the top would then call the elevator to that floor. Below, the door would close (with us inside), and ascend to the top floor, opening the inside door to allow us to get out. Childish but funny!

We took one of those Hop On Hop Off double-decker bus tours, sitting at the front in the open air top level of the bus. It was disconcerting to see the traffic darting in and out; motor scooters zigzagging around cars on all sides; pedestrians defying trucks and buses asserting their right to cross wherever they feel like; vehicles parked haphazardly anywhere, on corners, sidewalks, driveways, and double parked all over the place; all accompanied by the cacophony of faulty mufflers, roaring motorcycle engines, blaring horns, and too frequently the undulating sirens of ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

The vistas across the Bay of Naples are magnificent. The mountainous Sorrento Peninsula extends out to the south with the fabled Isle of Capri at its seaward end, a mountainous gem in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Vesuvius dominating the eastern shore. The northern arm of this large bay is also mountainous but of volcanic origin. The tectonic activity of this juncture of the European Plate and the African Plate produced the chain of the Flegree Islands, Procida, and Ischia, and extending northwesterly to the Pontine Islands of Ventotene, and Ponza; all of which are of volcanic origin and which we visited in Veleda on our way up to Rome last fall (see logs #33n and #33o). The Bay of Naples has scenery of outstanding grandeur. I found I liked Naples better than Rome, as Naples seems a more human city with its small but busy piazzas and grand views over the Bay of Naples; whereas I find Rome more daunting, the Eternal City of ruins, churches, monuments and fountains, chained to unending history, a grandiose living museum.