This account will be continued as Trip to the Bay of Naples, Part Two
  TRIP TO THE BAY OF NAPLES
                         
                                             by Maureen Halsall



On Tuesday, March 30, 2004, Airways Transit picked me up at 12:15 p.m. for transfer to Toronto's Pearson International Airport.   Approaching Departures at Terminal 1--where the much-touted reconstruction project
was still incomplete--resembled threading one's way through an almost impenetrable maze.  Once inside the terminal, however, Alitalia's check-in proved to be quite swift, as did the subsequent Security check; and I soon reached station GG and was transferred by bus out to a field terminal by 1:50 p.m.  There I waited at Gate 525 for a late boarding at 4:45 p.m., followed by a further unexplained wait until the plane doors finally were closed at 5:20 p.m. 

AZ 653 departed almost an hour late; and, although the pilot made up a
little time crossing the Atlantic, the flight still took more than eight hours.
In fact, its duration seemed considerably longer than that on account of
the numerous wailing babies and the passengers who insisted on standing
in the gangways conversing with on another at the top of their lungs--
not to mention the child in the row behind, who kept kicking the back of
my seat.   Fortunately, my seatmate by the window proved to be a quiet
girl, who actually managed to ignore the racket and fall asleep.

On Wednesday, March 31, at 8:25 a.m. we landed (40 minutes late) at Milan's Malpensa Airport, descended by stairs to the tarmac and were bused in to the terminal, where In Transit passengers faced long lines at
the Security check.  Nonetheless, I managed to reach Gate A7 fifteen minutes before the posted boarding time of 9:25 a.m., only to discover
that this flight too was delayed. 

Finally, AZ 1283 took off at 10:40 a.m., almost an hour late, reaching
Naples' Capodichino Airport at 11:50 a.m.  Since my luggage proved
to be in the last batch placed on the carousel, it was not until 12:30 p.m.
that I emerged from Arrivals, to find a driver from the AVI Travel
Agency of Sorrento waiting impatiently to transfer me to the Nuovo Rebecchino Hotel on the Corso Garibaldi.

I chose this hotel because of its proximity to public transport. 
At the nearby Stazione Centrale, there is ready access both to
the Metropolitana (two-line Naples subway system) as well as to
the suburban railways which stop at the major archaeological sites:
the Circumvesuviana (running south to Sorrento, with stops at Ercolano, Oplonti and Pompei) and the Circumflegrea and the Cumana (running
north through the Campi Flegrei, with stops at Baia, Pozzuoli and Cuma).  What I had failed to realize was how sleazy (not to mention dangerous)
the district near the Central Station would be: haunted by thieves and
filled with hotels whose main business appears to be renting rooms by
the hour to the girls who stand in the street outside soliciting clients.

No communication from Italiatour awaited me at the hotel reception regarding either the the City Tour scheduled for the next afternoon
or the arrangements for my transfer to Capodichino airport at the
conclusion of my stay in Naples.   Later that afternoon, I succeeded
in extracting from Italiatour's sub-contractor, AVI Travel Agency of Sorrento, a brief fax containing the 1:30 p.m. pick-up time for the City
Tour on April 1; but the difficulty experienced in the process of
extracting this information persuaded me that it might be a good idea
to make arrangements for any future tours through a Neapolitan travel agency, preferably one in the immediate neighbourhood of my hotel.

The room to which I was conducted (Room 204) turned out to be small,
dark and stuffy, with one little window in the corner.  I rejected it, threatening to complain to Alitalia, and was assigned instead Room 210, which was was no palace either, but somewhat larger and much brighter
and airier--having french doors leading out onto a tiny balcony that overlooked a lively interior courtyard hung with laundry and strewn with litter.  Even within Room 210 there were some obvious problems, such
as the toilet flush, which took a lot of skill (and force) to master; but I decided to tough it out there and proceeded to unpack.

In the late afternoon, as I prepared to go out to purchase stamps and
a couple of big bottles of spring water, the desk clerk delivered what
proved to be the first of many lectures on how "pericoloso" (dangerous)
life is in Naples and how important it would be for me to remember to
carry very little cash and to keep even that well concealed.  So, I
secured a box in the hotel safe, where I left all my valuables (passport,
air tickets, the bulk of my funds, etc.) and then ventured out into the
noisy chaos of Naples, whose lawless traffic must be among the most terrifying in the world.  At the Alimentaria (food shop) where I bought
my water, the kindly proprietor again used the word "pericoloso"
before proceeding to demonstrate how to hide my purse in a plastic
carrier bag.

That evening, tired after a night without sleep, I went to bed early,
but was awakened frequently by my neighbours: two teenaged boys,
who finally settled down after midnight.

On Thursday, April 1, I was up at 7:30 a.m., breakfasted in the hotel--
which turned out not to supply lunch or dinner--and made my way to
Cima Viaggi, a travel agency around the corner in the Piazza Garibaldi 
listed in my guidebook as offering day-trips.  The Cima agent, Francesco, scribbled out on some scrap paper outlines of three twelve-hour day-trips
(at 150 Euros apiece) that would include all the sites in which I had expressed  interest:  
a) on April 2 - Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello
b) on April 4 - Caserta, Cumae, Lake Avernus, Pozzuoli, Solfatara
    and Baia
c) on April 6 - Herculaneum and Paestum.
Since Cima would not accept credit-card payment, I trotted over to
the Cambio at the Central Station to exchange my back-up travellers cheques into cash.  That left time for lunch at a Tavola Calda (one of
the many "hot tables"and pizzerias surrounding the Piazza Garibaldi).

At 1:30 p.m., a girl from di Sarno Tours turned up at the Nuovo
Rebecchino to escort me to a mini-bus parked in the Piazza Garibaldi. 
In fact, what that vehicle was doing was returning a group of tourists to
their hotels after a morning  tour to Pompeii.  Following half an hour of
these drop-offs, the driver, guide and I returned to the Piazza Garibaldi, where we met six Italian tourists from Mantua, changed to a larger bus
with a new driver, and finally at 2 p.m. set out on our City Tour. 

The tour started in the heart of Royal Naples, with the Palazzo Reale
(Royal Palace, begun in the early 1660's) and the circular basilica of
San Francesco di Paolo (1817, modelled after Rome's Pantheon) in
the huge Piazza del Plebiscito.  From there, we walked to the famous
Teatro San Carlo (burnt and rebuilt in 1816) nearby in the Via San Carlo
and to the grandiose, glass-domed shopping arcade known as the
Galleria Umberto I (1887) directly across from the theatre, where I
tasted  my first Neapolitan ice cream.  Not far away, we made a second
stop to photograph the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep), built by
Charles I d'Anjou in 1279 and called Castel Nuovo to distinguish it from
the older fortresses: the Castel Capuano and the much-photographed
Castel dell'Ovo, which forms such a prominent landmark on the Isle of Megaris in the harbour.  This was followed by a trip to the upper city
for a panoramic view of Naples and its harbour, with Vesuvius looming
in the background.  After that, we returned to the lower city for a taste
of Spaccanapoli (Split-Naples) in the heart of the Old City, where we
stopped in the Piazza Gesu Nuovo to admire the Guglia dell'Immacolata
(a stone spire carved in 1737, honouring the Virgin Mary) and also the diamond-point facade of the former Sanseverino palace (1470), the remainder of which building was destroyed in 1584-61 to make way for
the present Jesuit church occupying the site, the Gesu Nouvo.   We paid
a brief visit to the ornate Baroque interior of the Gesu Nuovo as well
as to the interior of the much simpler reconstructed Angevin Gothic
church of Santa Chiara (1340) directly across, which was almost totally destroyed as a result of Allied bombing on August 4, 1943.  After this,
we were driven to the ferry-dock, where our guide left us with the driver
to wait for a passenger returning from Capri.  Then all eight of us were
dropped off at our respective hotels, in my case at 6:15 p.m. just around
the corner from the Nuovo Rebecchino in the Piazza Garibaldi, where
I dined at the Iris Ristorante recommended to me earlier in the day by Francesco of Cima Viaggi.

If the preceding account of my introductory City Tour seems terse and
the following illustrations of it sparse, the reason is that my focus for
this trip was on Pompeii, Herculaneum and the other ancient sites of the Campanian plain, where I took many more photographs and hence plan
to enter upon a much more detailed account of the truly spectacular
Classical antiquities unearthed there over the past couple of centuries.
                                         Palazzo Reale
                            San Francesco di Paolo
  Via San Carlo, Teatro San Carlo and Galleria Umberto I
Castel Nuovo and detail of the unusual Triumphal Arch (1443-68) inserted between the entrance towers by Alfonso of Aragon to celebrate his conquest of Naples in 1443
   Naples shorefront from above, including the Castel dell'Ovo on the Isle of Megaris
            Guglia dell'Immacolata, Gesu Nuovo facade and altar, Santa Chiara
                 The Ferry Dock, wth Vesuvius in the background.
On Friday, April 2 at 8:00 a.m., I was met outside the Cima Viaggi
office by Paolo, the Neapolitan taxi-driver assigned to drive me on all
three of my long day-trips outside of Naples.  Although Paolo's English turned out to be as limited as my own Italian, he proved very eager to
help and especially concerned about the security of both my person
and my belongings.  For instance, on several occasions he urged me
to place my handbag on the floor between my feet, lest it be snatched through the cab window by some opportunist riding pillion on a passing Vespa.

En route to Pompeii, we stopped for ten minutes to visit a cameo
factory at Torre del Greco, again in Pompei (the new city, spelled
with only one "i") to purchase stamps at the post office and pay a
brief visit to the 19th-Century Sanctuario della Madonna, whose bell-
tower stands over 250 ft. high and whose altar painting of the Virgin
of the Rosary with Child is a focus of pilgrimage on account of its
purported healing powers.
Finally, at 9:45 a.m., we arrived at the Porta Marina entrance to the
excavated city of Pompeii, where I discovered--to my great surprise--
that the admission fee is waived for senior citizens (over 65). 
Before proceeding to recount my visit to the site, however, it seems
appropriate to insert here a brief outline of some aspects of its history
and its importance for our understanding of the Classical world.

Pompeii is situated on the Campanian plain: a geologically unstable
area, marked by frequent seismic and volcanic activity.  Before Mount  Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, however, it had been quiescent for so
many centuries that vineyards stretched far up its slopes almost to
the cone and numerous habitations nestled at its feet.  In fact, few
even suspected that Vesuvius actually was a volcano until it blew
its cone and buried the surrounding settlements, including various
country villas (such as the luxurious one at Oplontis) and, of course,
the neighbouring towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.

Fortunately, one eye-witness to the cataclysm that occurred on
August 24, A.D. 79 set down an account of the event in a couple of
letters to the Roman historian Tacitus.  Pliny the Younger, aged about
17, was staying with his mother's brother, Pliny the Elder, who at that
time was commander of the naval base at Misenum.  He describes in
the first letter how his mother sighted a cloud, shaped like an umbrella pine, rising from the mountain and drew it to his uncle's attention and
how his heroic uncle then sailed off in an effort to rescue a friend at Stabiae, where the darkness proved denser than night, pumice stones rained down upon his head, and he finally ended up asphyxiated by sulpherous fumes.  In the second letter, Pliny the Younger describes
how, as he himself continued engrossed in his studies after his uncle's departure, the buildings began to totter and the sea was sucked away (leaving sea creatures stranded), while a fearful black cloud on the landward side was rent by forked and quivering bursts of flame. 
Persuaded by a friend of his uncle and with ashes falling all round
them, Pliny and his mother fled out of Misenum into the pitch-dark countryside, where--in an attempt to avoid being trampled by the
hordes of fugitives--they sat down in the fields, surrounded by the
shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouts of men. 
When at last the darkness thinned and the sun shone out, it was
yellowish as it is during an eclipse; and, looking around them, they
were terrified to see everything changed, buried deep in ashes like snowdrifts, while tremors continued to shake the ground.

Of the 20,000 inhabitants of Pompeii (so much nearer to the volcano
than Misenum), some 2,000 probably lost their lives--struck down by
falling stones, asphyxiated by noxious fumes, suffocated by drifting
ash, or trampled in the panic of flight.  Men, women, children, slaves,
dogs and other animals died in the buildings, in the deadly places of
refuge, in the streets, and on the roads leading out of town away from
the fiery mountain.  The buildings gradually filled up with the debris
of the eruption: first a pumice layer 3 metres thick, then a layer of
ashes 2.5 metres deep, and last, accumulating over the passing years,
a 2-metre mantle of soil; and Roman Pompeii ultimately disappeared
from view beneath this mound.

Before its destruction by fallout from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
on August 24, A.D. 79, Pompeii was a prosperous little seaport. 
When the fury of the volcanic conflagration was over, it lay covered
by a sea of ashes and lapilli (small fragments of pumice stone), from
which emerged the upper parts of those buildings that had not been
totally destroyed.  These served as guideposts to the inhabitants who returned to dig among the ruins and, still later, to searchers for
treasure and building material; but the frequent earthquakes, the
eruptions of Vesuvius and eventually the incursions of the Saracens
led to the complete abandonment of the area by the 11th Century. 

It was not until 1748 that excavators began to uncover the remains
of the city, inspiring a renewed interest in and active imitation of the stunning examples of Roman architecture, art and decoration found
there.  Wondrous treasures were dug up at Pompeii, illuminating the
life of so many centuries ago in new and fuller ways.  These included       wall-paintings, mosaics, statues and other objets d'art, fine jewelery
and toilet articles, and also more humble household items (such as
braziers, beds and stools) and even such unexpected finds as the
omnipresent phallic images (thought potent in warding off the evil eye)
and ephemera like political graffiti and advertisements of various kinds (including the erotic paintings discovered above the bedchamber doors
in one "lupanar" or brothel).  Fortunately, not all of these discoveries
are scattered about the civilized world in the hands of private collectors;
but some are still in situ and many have made their way into the Museo Nazionale in Naples, where I was privileged to view them the very day after my visit to the ruins of Pompeii.  

     Satellite Photo of the Campanian plain, with Vesuvius just right of centre
          Bacchus standing beside Vesuvius, symbolizing the fertility of its vineyards
                          (Note that the volcano has not yet blown its cone.)
                                 Pompeian Victims of the Eruption of A.D. 79
                                  Sketch Map of the area around Mountt Vesuvius
Passing by the Suburban Baths and entering the walled city through
the Porta Marina, I stopped in the Temple of Apollo, (575-550 B.C.,
but renovated in the 2nd century B.C.), before proceeding to the 2nd-century B.C. Basilica, which once housed law courts and business        activities (at the far end is the raised tribunal, where the magistrates
sat).  From there, I entered the Forum, with its white limestone double portico and the huge plinths on which once were displayed statues of
the Imperial family and leading citizens.  On the east side were the            1st-Century Building of  Eumachia, priestess of the guild of the fullers,
the Temple of Vespasian, and the Macellum or Market, where, on the north-eastern wall (behind a victim displayed in a glass case), are
frescoes done in the fourth (last) Pompeian style.  Finally, I passed by
the 2nd-Century B.C. Temple of Jupiter (elaborated after the founding
of a Roman colony here in 80 B.C. into a Capitolium dedicated to
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), which closes off the Forum on the north
side, and entered via two Celebratory Arches into the Via di Mercurio.  
One look at the tourists and school groups mobbing the streets to the
east of the Forum confirmed me in my determination to head north-
west towards the Porta di Ercolano and the Villa of the Mysteries
outside the old city walls. 
           The Porta Marina, with its two entrance-ways: pedestrians to the left
                                     The Temple of Apollo
                                               The Basilica
                                         Entering the Forum from the South
          The Forum's Double Portico and Colonnades, with empty statue plinths
     The Ornate Portal of the Building of Eumachia, priestess of the Fullers' Guild
             The Sacrificial Altar in the so-called Temple of Vespasian
  The Macellum (Market): a style 4 fresco and a victim of the eruption of A.D. 79
The Temple of Jupiter flanked by a Celebratory Arch, leading into the Via di Mercurio
Although I had hoped to see a great deal of Pompeii on this visit, with
just over two hours before I must meet my driver on the other side of
the site, the prospect did not look too hopeful.  In the end, I saw about        one-quarter of the excavations, beginning with the buildings in the
south-west sector and continuing into the north-west sector, before
I was obliged to hasten east through the streets of the ancient town
to where my taxi waited in the Piazza Anfiteatro, just outside the Porta
Nocera (to follow my route, see the plan below, which I have divided
into its western and eastern halves, beginning bottom left on the
western half and ending bottom right on the eastern half).
                                 Approaching the Porta Marina
At the threshold of the House of the Tragic Poet on the Via di Mercurio,
it was possible to view the famous Cave Canem (Beware the Dog) mosaic; but the house itself was closed.
The House of Sallust on the Via Consolare turned out to be open.   One
of the oldest houses in Pompeii (dating from the 3rd centuty B.C., the Samnite period), its atrium, with the traditional impluvium for collecting rain-water, exhibits a splendid example of first-style wall decoration. 
The defaced fresco on the far wall of the garden supposedly represents
Actaeon being mauled by Diana's hounds; but I could not swear to it.
The House of the Surgeon, further up the Via Consolare, also dates
from the 3rd century B.C. and has a particularly fine example of the impluvium of that early date.
Continuing north-west, you pass through the Porta di Ercolano and, immediately outside the city walls, traverse the most famous necropolis
at Pompeii en route to two suburban villas.
The first of these luxurious villas is the Villa of Diomedes, built in the
2nd century B.C, with its front entrance opening directly onto the large
peristyle (a garden surrounded by a colonnade).  A staircase leads
down to the lower floor of the villa, built over a cryptoporticus (semi- subterranean vaulted corridor) which was used as a cellar.  The bodies
of the wife and daughter of the owner were found in the cryptoporticus, where, along with 16 servants, they had taken refuge from the falling pumice stones (up to 20 centimeters in diameter)--only to suffer asphyxiation from the later ground surge of volcanic ash and hot gases. 
Modern vulcanologists tell us that in such an ash storm you cannot
breathe, the inside of your mouth is burned, you hear your hair sizzle. 
The fine Vesuvian ash from the ground surge buried the victims and,
as the bodies turned to dust, provided lifelike moulds for future plaster casts of each individual's last moments of agony.
Further out beyond the city walls lies the famous Villa of the Mysteries.
This 2nd century B.C. villa derives its name from a splendid continuous fresco in the second style, dating from renovations carried out around
60 B.C.  Running around all four sides of the triclinium (diningroom) is
a series of scenes that appear to illustrate a female initiation connected
with the cult of Dionysus, seen on the damaged east wall, drunken and
slumped in the lap of an enthroned female figure (perhaps Ariadne).
Given acceptance of the probable theory that the scenes represent
a cult initiation, the sequence of events appears to run as follows. 

North wall, first scene: the bride (or initiate) enters; a small boy is
reading a sacred text from a scroll, guided by a woman (perhaps his
mother); a third woman carrying cakes walks toward the second scene. 

North wall, second scene: a priestess, seated with her back to us,
removes a cloth from a basket while an attendant pours purifying water
over her hand; gazing off toward the third scene, Silenus fingers a lyre.

North wall, third scene: a young satyress suckles a goat, while in the foreground a woman wards off some evil and whips a protective
covering over her head.

East wall, first scene: a young satyr gazes into a bowl held by Silenus,
who looks back with displeasure at the previous scene, while Dionysus sprawls in the arms of a much damaged figure (Ariadne?).

East wall, second scene: a kneeling woman with a long torch over her shoulder prepares to unveil some purple-shrouded object (a phallus?);
while to her right a winged female figure endeavours to shut out this sequence with one hand as she raises a whip in the other hand to strike
the young woman in the next scene.

South wall, first scene: the young woman being flogged lies sprawled
in the lap of her companion; to the right a naked woman clashes her
cymbals in delight as a fully clothed woman extends a thyrsus (the
symbolic wand of Dionysus).

South wall, second scene: an attendant arranges the bride's hair while
an obliging Eros holds her mirror).

West wall, final scene: a woman (the bride? her mother? the mistress
of the villa?) contemplates the preceding sequence of events.
This account will be continued as Trip to the Bay of Naples, Part Two