Today, we finally got to see the National Archaeological Museum, and were delighted that most of the galleries were open.
The greater part of the museum’s classical sculpture collection largely comes from the Farnese Marbles, important since they include Roman copies of classical Greek sculpture, which are in many cases the only surviving indications of what the lost works by ancient Greek sculptors looked like.
Interspersed in all the galleries were contemporary works based on major superheroes and mythological characters from our own day. Very witty.
But what we really came to see was the treasure trove of art and artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum. They inspired great lust and the thought that maybe they wouldn’t mind if we took just one? My goodness, they had a beautiful life in those days. We started with the mosaics.
And then there were the paintings and Greek pottery, all in a room that was a work of art in itself.
The everyday items of ancient life were also featured here, and many looked quite familiar. Take away the lead content, and you have some modern utensils. Amazing to see glass objects that survived. More mosaics and paintings just made us want to completely redecorate when we get home. Sigh.
And then there were more bronzes, along with the famous Tomb of the Diver painting. We hope to see the inside of the tomb tomorrow.
After lunch, we took the funiculare to see an amazing view of Naples and an equally amazing monastery representing the high point of Neapolitan baroque. Built as a Carthusian monastery in the 14th century, the church and its rooms contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture, woodwork and marble work of the 17th century. (Certainly the original monks had a much simpler home.) The church itself might almost be said to be…well, a bit too much.
And just look at some of the other rooms.
The good news is that whenever the monks got tired of man-made wonders, they had only to walk on their many terraces to see the splendors of nature – the Bay of Naples and all that surrounds it, along with our dear Mt. Vesuvius ever-present in the background. What a life.
The museum also houses a collection of rare Neapolitan presepi, nativity scenes from the 18th and 19th centuries. They seem so lifelike, as in if the nativity had happened on a street in Naples, you would have been hard-pressed to find the infant Jesus.
And speaking of the streets of Naples, we saw even more of them today, and colorful they were. It’s just about time to say good-bye to this ancient city, which will be far too busy to notice we have left.
Don’s Food Corner
After a lifetime of eating all kinds of different types of pizzas — from California to Chicago Deep Dish to New York’s Original Ray’s to, um, Pizza Hut — you can’t imagine how curious we were to go hit a pizzeria in Naples billed as one of the best places to taste the REAL original pizza. And today we made it. Of the several in Naples that often make the “Best Pizza in the World” lists, we found our way to Gino Sorbillo Pizzeria on colorful Via Del Tribunali.
We got there early before the huge crowds had gathered to line up to get in and which we had to work our way through when we left. We were first greeted by a photo of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s visit to the pizzeria. Then, after being seated, we were presented a menu with an extensive list of various different types of pizzas. Since we weren’t certain exactly how all these different variations would work on a selection, we stuck with the basic — slight variations on the Margherita pizza of tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. Jo’s choice added some little fresh bufalo mozzarella balls and mine had a few drizzles of pesto sauce. As with almost every meal we’ve had since arriving in Italy, the fresh brightness of the tomato sauce and the equally freshness of the cheeses were present on these pizzas.
But the revelation — and the reason this pizza tasted like none we’ve ever had — was the texture of the crust. Although it was clearly baked at a high temperature and featured lots of charring on the crust (both on top and on the bottom), it was in no way crusty. It had a thin crust but it was chewy, nearly soft, all the way through. You could not pick up a slice on its own. You either have to eat it with a knife and fork or fold the whole thing in quarters and eat it almost like a folded-up sandwich.
Was it the most fabulous pizza we’ve ever eaten? I wouldn’t go that far. It was great and it was interesting when you think that all other types of pizzas have used this basic idea to build on to create seemingly endless variations on the (wonderful) idea. I can safely say, however, I have never encountered anything quite like it anywhere. Sometimes you’ll get pizzas that are crispy on the outside edges and then soft in the center part. When that happens, I always consider the pizza an unbaked failure. The pizza at Gino’s was uniformly soft from the outer edges all the way to the floppy center. I would consider that consistency of texture a success.
While each pizza looked huge and was at least 14 inches across, each was just a filling meal for one and cost $8.
Now that we’ve sampled what is considered a highlight of the pizza scene in Naples (and previously in crispy thin-crust pizzaland of Rome), we’re looking forward to what Sicily has to offer. Stay tuned.