Friday, April 14, 2006

Rome and Naples

Any faithful followers will have noticed a gap in the blog over the last week, partly due to the lack of internet points in Naples, and partly due to me feeling really lousy with sinus and not sleeping or having appetite etc!
I will try to quickly make up some ground here. My sinus woes really started the first night in Rome after the day in Assisi. Whether it was all the altitude changes in the train on ears that already had a cold, or whatever, I don't know. But anyone who was waiting to hear lots from Rome or Naples, life has been relatively quiet here the past week!
I did go to the Vatican Museums on the Friday as planned. Glad I did, but very claustrophobic when you have a blocked nose. Should have gone a few hours later when the queue had disappeared and the place was less crowded!
I had seen the 'School of Athens' by Raphael, as well as the Sistine Chapel some 25 years ago and was keen to see the restoration. I was interested to find that I thought the Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo's Last Judgement wall were smaller than I had thought, but that all the creation /Noah paintings etc on the ceiling were a lot longer! Michelangelo was certainly such a master to do all this, with such originality and fluidity of form.
I went to Palm Sunday Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore, round the corner from my hostel, where I heard such wonderful music on Christmas Eve three years ago. There was a procession of all the clergy /choir etc out of the sacristy and out to the front of the Church. Followed by a brazen tour guide with a stupid toy, who swept her group out following the clergy, video cameras ready for action. So when everyone began waving their olive branches, her silly toy was waving up there too. Modern tourism huh.
There was of course some joyful music as they processed in for Hosannah. There was a mournful, plaintive kind of tone to the rest of the singing, all unaccompanied. Quite unlike anything I had heard before.
I left for Naples Sunday lunchtime and stayed at the youth hostel there. I shared the room for three nights with three absolutely lovely young women from Denmark. They had just finished school and are taking a few months to travel. They were great friends and gave me a lot to laugh at.
Next day, despite sinus, I decided I had planned to walk along the crater of Vesuvius and I was going to do it! Caught the train to where the Erculaneum ruins are, then 10 Euro for the return shuttle bus trip to the top, plus 6.50 Euro to walk the crater. Ride uphill was interesting in itself. They took some steep back streets. People were cultivating on the steep slopes. Best thing about the local shuttle buses was we got to park right by the entry. I was tired and lacking energy, but I walked slowly and got to the crater rim. Very nasty looking crater: you could see how the mountain had been ripped so violently apart. Then you could look down and see the city of Naples perched quite nearby on its slopes.
I explored the ruins of Herculaneum next and really recommend these to anyone. A pyroclastic flow swept through here, suddenly burning and burying, so there was not all the damage from falling scoria etc first causing collapses as at Pompeii. So a lot more of the buildings are taller. There are lots of fresco bits still there and evidence of suddenly blackened timber. The ruins are surrounded by present day houses. There must be more of these ruins underneath them. I don't think I could live there knowing that!
After a day's rest I tackled Pompeii. Had been there once before, but on a quick guided tour on a wet cold winter's day. So it was nice to have some sunshine, even if there was a chilly breeze. The site is immense. I wandered in and out of all sorts of villas and gardens, then down the the gladiator's theatre at the far end of the site. I ate lunch in some peaceful sunshine, trying hard not to be disturbed by the AudioGuide account of the animal and human gladiator fighting that occurred here! A great place to explore for all ages. Not too crowded at this time of year. Had a really touristy glass of fresh squeezed orange juice outside to finish off with and it was delicious!
Now back in Rome. Hope I will manage to do and see more over the next few days. But want to be in the best of health for my week in Ticino, so may pace things.
Easter wishes everyone!

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