Nature has granted man no better gift than the shortness of life. The senses grow dull, the limbs are numb, sight, bearing, gait, even the teeth and alimentary organs die before we do, and yet this period is reckoned a portion of life.
– Richard Harris, British novelist, from Pompeii
After yesterday’s frenetic pace, we decided to take it easy today, as did everyone else. It was a Sunday and many shops were closed and only small groups of tourists were on the streets. It seems that everyone was either at the coast on a boat, swimming, or sunning themselves, or at one of the resort towns nearby – Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi. We wanted no such crowds nor did David and Mike want to jump into a car anytime soon. We couldn’t blame them.
This Sunday was a special day because June 21st was Jacob’s 15th birthday, Father’s Day, and the summer solstice. What better way to spend it than at the Archaeological Museum looking at antiquities? The walk from the Majestic Hotel to Piazza Cavour took us through the colorful streets of Napoli – from the ritzy section of high-end boutiques to the city streets where litter, dogs and their feces, and street performers require pedestrians to watch where they are walking.
The Archaeological Museum is small, which is great because large museums tend to overwhelm me. We spent a few hours poring over the finds in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae, although most of the items were from Pompeii. The frescoes and mosaics were detailed and preserved. This we already expected from our time at the excavation sites. The Erotic Garden section was interesting to say the least. The pottery, silverware, and other daily life utensils were in amazing shape. I can only imagine the honor bestowed upon these great artisans who fashioned such exquisite and beautiful pieces of art. As Rick Steves recommended, the Archaeological Museum is a must-see companion piece to the excavation site visits.
After a lunch of panini at a cute sandwich shop called Cinque Baretteria, we deposited the kids back at the hotel and took a leisurely stroll through the city. On our walk, we found the pizzeria Brandi off of a side street, which had a sign that boasted it had created the Margherita pizza in 1886. We also found the oldest gelateria in Napoli, which goes back four generations. Even though we had gelati at the Tartoria soon after our late lunch, I had to have a gelato at this place. So far, I have tried cocco (coconut), pesca (peach), pera (pear), fragula (strawberry), hazelnut, amarena (dark cherry), cantaloupe (melone), lemon (limone), and Mediterranea (orange). My favorites are fragula and amarena.
We got some great views of Mt. Vesuvio and the ocean again. It was very hot under the Neapolitan sun, and any shade or breeze was welcomed. A late siesta was in order, as it’s safe to say that we were all still recovering from yesterday’s marathon through antiquity.
For our last meal in Napoli, our hotel concierge recommended Umberto, a nice restaurant that was only a 10-minute walk from the Majestic. As you can see from the group photo, the walls were decorated with large colorful paintings with themes of Mt. Vesuvio and the sea. The service was attentive and the food was wonderful, which is what we have to expect. We ordered gnocchi, Margherita pizza, meatballs, salmon, pork scallopini, and seafood risotto. I’m used to creamy risotto, but this risotto was al dente. I trust that this is how risotto should be made. The shrimp, mussels, and octopus were fresh and not overcooked.
I have to admit that when we first arrived in Napoli I was apprehensive and unsure about the safety of the area. And then when I heard that we were staying three nights, I wondered if that was too long a stay. But honestly, I didn’t feel unsafe or preyed upon at any time. I’m glad we came in fact. The ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were worth the trip by themselves. As I walked through I understood the fragility of mankind and was so curious about the life of these residents. I found myself wishing I could go back in time and walk through both cities as an observant guest. The visits have made me want to learn more about the cities, that fateful day, and the archaeological discovery and preservation. And as for Mt. Vesuvio? The trek was worth it for the view that was afforded at the top. Our time in Napoli was splendid and now I wish we had an extra day to explore more of its historical city streets and its neighboring cities. Ah, but that’s for the next trip to Italy.