Here is a small preview of my trip to Naples this last week. If you were planning on burglarizing my house while I was gone, you have missed your chance. Below is Herculaneum, one of the cities buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius 1,900 years ago. Pompeii is certainly larger, with more elaborate buildings, but Herculaneum has better views from outside the excavations.
The Amalfi Coast is a famous tourist destination, and for once, it is very justified. This is a view out of the window of the bus as we drove between Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi. The bus driver was navigating the curves of this treacherous road with one hand. Impressive.
Naples has a much more laid back attitude about stray dogs. They’re everywhere, are all well-behaved, and just sort of lie around. You generally don’t see that in America.
The Faraglioni are impressive rock towers that jut out of the sea on the north side of the island of Capri. I had the nature trail almost entirely to myself, which was wonderful on an island known for its tourist trade.
Many Neapolitans who walked by me as I photographed the closed McDonalds probably wondered what I found so funny about it. Probably it was the sign in Italian that said it was “closed for inventory.” More like it went out of business because no one in Naples would eat there. A triumph for good taste.
Paestum, an ancient Greek city south of Naples, is beyond incredible. The temples preserved at the site are perfect examples of Doric temples. Amazing food in the region made this one of my favorite days in the Naples region.
Naples also has active volcanoes in its area, and the Solfatara Crater in Pozzuoli, to the west of Naples, still has dramatic sulfer jets shooting out of the floor of the volcano. You can walk right up to the jets and stick your hand in, if you want. I love Europe because there are so many things you can do there that are forbidden in the US. Like walking to within feet of a scalding hot jet of hot sulpher.
I made it out to the Romans baths at Baia, finally, and it was well worth the effort; I had seen pictures of this dome decades ago, and to finally see it was a special moment.
Another highlight of my trip was seeing the fabled Grotto of the Cumaean Sybil in Cumae, to the west of Naples. Famous for her role in Virgil’s Aeneid, legend has it that the sybil gave people their fortunes in these tunnels. In reality, the tunnels were from the ancient Roman naval base, but it’s fun to imagine.
The royal palace at Caserta is like something out of a dream. While not as large as Versailles, its setting on the slopes of a mountain give the entire setting the feeling of being in a dream.
What does this have to do with St. Louis architecture? Not much, but in select posts in the future, I will tie lessons I learned in Naples and its built environment to lessons we can use here in St. Louis.