|Doorbells Used in Pompeii and Herculaneum|
I wanted to go to Naples for the pizza.
We're not the only people to make the trek to this unprepossessing pizza spot just a few blocks from the Napoli Centrale train station. Movie stills from Eat, Pray, Love of Julia Roberts, with slice in hand, decorate the walls, and diners have their photos taken with the owner. When we left, the line stretched across the street.
But it's not my favorite pizza. Liz Gilbert's preference is fine, but give me thick, Sicilian pizza that has some heft to it. It's weighty stuff with a thick, airy crust and a medley of tomatoes, spices, and cheese on top. The best, of course, is in Capri at the Salumeria Rosticeria. I first tasted it seven years ago and found it again on this trip. Pizza like this you don't forget.
I could have lingered at the restaurant, but David was anxious to see the Museum and it was immediately obvious why this place was so important to him. The mosaics and wall scenes are remarkably detailed and colorful. The sculptures and bronzes are impressive and varied with many of the gods and goddesses represented. I was in awe that people could have created such fragile, delicately hued glass vases and jars almost two thousand years ago, because many of the pieces are masterpieces of craftsmanship. But the area that really astonished me was the section devoted to erotic art.
Evidently, wealthy Romans of the time had to include some erotica to have a well-balanced collection but many homes, even the most humble, contained some ribald pieces. Oil lamps and door bells were often phallus-shaped to ward off evil spirits. When we toured Pompeii itself, we read that shopkeepers had an unusual way of ensuring prosperity. They depicted, near the shop entrance, the god of fertility, Priapus, resting his enormous member on the plate of a scale.
I hope all those genitalia brought the ancient Romans prosperity, but they did little to ward off destruction. These incredibly diverse, sophisticated people who created beautiful art and cities that thrived were destroyed by the now benign-looking Mt. Vesuvius. David and I left the Museum with a greater appreciation for their history and sadness at their terrible fate.
Pizzeria da San Michele is a fifteen-minute walk from the train station. We Google-mapped walking directions and stopped frequently to ask passersby if we were on track. Get there before noon if you don't want to wait in line.
The National Museum is easily reached by taking the Metro from the Napoli Centrale train station. Get off one stop later at Piazza Cavour, go up to the street, turn right and walk a few blocks. Admission is 6.50 euros.