Thursday 29 June 2023

San Lorenzo Maggiore and La Neapolis Sotterrata, Napoli

This morning we extended our walk around Porta Nolana and the market. The gate dates from the 15th century and the road through passes by our apartment. Now it is  an area that specialises in  market quality jewellery, scarves and clothes.  The market is active every day and is especially noted for its seafood.

Later in the day we were enjoying Napoli street food for lunch when I noticed that  almost everyone was stopping opposite us and taking a photo. I could see why when I stood up. According to the sign it is a doll hospital... and much more, I suspect.

Walking along via San Gregorio Armeno is a lot of fun. Known for its miniature pieces to go in the traditional cork bark nativities, you find all sorts of other local curiosities. This stall below caught my attention with their heroes all represented - San Gennaro, Maradona and Osimhen.

Our destination today was the Monumental Complex of San Lorenzo Maggiore and La Neapolis Sotterrata. The Basilica of San Lorenzo (St. Laurence) is the second oldest church in Naples, having its beginnings in 533-555. But its real attraction is its subterranean  history of the evolution of Napoli. Through various layers of well preserved history we can see how people lived and worked from the 5th century B.C 
until the end of the 18th century. The earliest parts are Greek and Roman, and the newest structures the Franciscan monastery. The cloister is built over the ancient streets.

Once underground and into the archaeological site we came into a narrow street of Roman age with many rooms used for commercial purposes. The treasury and then the two roomed shops clearly show what they were used for - a furnace, dying and washing tanks, baker's oven. 

Later we came to the covered market with stalls and display benches.

This diagonal brick work is over 2000 years old and is constructed without cement.

There is evidence of canals made to control water and also some larger rooms that had tiled floors and frescoes on the walls. These are thought to be meeting rooms.  

It always amazes me with what is below the surface. So much wonderful historical remmant still waiting to be studied in further detail, but in the meantime preserved for eternity.

Back into the cloister we were able to visit several other features of the later period. Through 14th century doors we entered the Capitol Hall built in the 1200s. This was the monks meeting room and has extensive wall and ceiling decoration by  Luigi Rodriguez which depicts the family tree of the Franciscan Monks Minor Order.

Another room housed a huge Nativity scene in the Italian style with moving parts and illumination. Saint Francis was the creator of the first nativity scene.

This is but a small part of a collection like nothing I have ever seen before. Walnut shells have been used as bases for a miniature representation set of stories from the Bible. They were so intricate.

On to the  Room Sisto V, the old refectory of the monks. More ceiling frescoes by Rodriguez, the theme here was the seven Christian virtues,  four minor virtues and maps of the provinces.

In 1442 this room was used by the Neapolitan Parliament and many important historic events took place in this room.

There are museum collections upstairs, these jugs date from the 1400s.

Finally we came to the Basilica, a huge space and rather austere, it has a spectacular number of side chapels that create all the colour and feeling needed. This tomb and frescoe are from the earlier period of the church.

When we stepped out the front door of the Basilica, there right in front of us was a big sign advertising Aperol Spritz, and a waiter only too keen to find us a seat. We accepted and he asked us where we were from. When we said Australia he beckoned over an Indian colleague, seemed fair to us!, and he informed us chips were free. That is quite common in Italy so we were happy with that.

Well, that wasn't what we were expecting but we weren't complaining.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

A Quick trip to Rome and a Slow trip Home

Today was Kel's appointment day to collect his temporary passport from the Embassy in Rome. We didn't have to leave the apartment until 10.45 am so we stayed indoors in air conditioned comfort. So here are a few photos showing the curious life of living in inner city Naples. The first is the front door to the building; note the strange door and the graffiti.
The second gives a close up of the door, the step over board and the iron gate.
Inside the floors and stairs are all marble, it has been a lovely building once.
The third photo shows how the insides of these old palazzi have been renovated to a high standard.

We have two beautiful little balconies but this one overlooking part of the Norlana market is the favourite. As well as the cute little fold down table it has the most entertaining views.


The very helpful young lady at the Embassy suggested that we travel with Italo rail when travelling from Naples to collect the passport. Italo is a private company that runs very fast trains at competitive prices. It certainly was fast! We covered approximately 230 kms in one and a quarter hours, smoooth, comfortable leather recliner seats, wi-fi and vending machines selling all sorts of coffees, cold drinks and snacks.

The photo shows us almost flying at 300 km/h.

The process was seamless today. From train to Metro, 700 metre walk, gelati stop and arrived right on time at the Embassy. A repeat of all the security checks and the new passport was in hand.

We returned via the Metro to Termini Station where they have a new, huge food experience hall and stopped for some lunch. What a fantastic place. We had already ascertained that returning to Naples on the fast trains was going to be too expensive so tried to get seats on the 3.59 Regionale but there were no seats available. So it was a long wait for the 4.57 Reg. The train was huge (at least fourteen carriages), it was packed and the air con didn't seem to be working. Once the train started to move water started dripping from the ceiling, then it became heavier, the floors were awash and we were all getting wet.

The pics below were taken early on, it got much worse, the water flowing on to the next carriage. Eventually the conductor asked us to move as it wasn't save: it seems it was safe to stand hanging on to the centre pole on a long distance train. We did get seats eventually, and arrived back in Naples at 7.40 pm. Quite a bit of time difference between the two trips.

So after all my praising the Regionale trains they let me down today. It was entertaining and cooled down the carriages, and we survived to tell the story.


Tuesday 27 June 2023

Naples, San Gennaro and Football

Historic inner city Naples is a city almost covered by graffiti, very little of it of any artistic value. Amongst this overwhelming sight are a couple of street art treasures, and that was our goal this morning.

First on our list was San Gennaro by the artist Jorit, painted in 2015. This painting is fifteen metres high and has gained a huge following amongst the locals because San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples and the locals are very devoted to him. They attribute many things to his care of them, most famously from the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 1647 and the plague in 1669.

The next work was by Banksy which was stencilled onto the wall of a pizza shop in Pza. Girolamini in 2010. Entitled Madonna with a Pistol, it has ironic meanings between ecstacy, apparitions and a gun being held over your head. Another interpretation concerns organised crime and religion, however no specific meaning has been proven.
It has been protected under plexiglass since 2016 and many people came by while we were there as it is the only known Banksy still in Italy. A couple of others were painted over (which is the nature of street art) before his work was recognised,

It was impossible to photograph the work because of the reflections on the glass.

Last year our host in Naples told us that we must learn about San Gennaro because to understand him was to understand the Neapolitan people. All people from Naples have two passions,  San Gennaro and football. Today we saw that.

On May 4th the SSC Napoli football team won its first A Series title for 33 years, and only their third ever. To say they are estatic to be the Italian champions would be an understatement. Maradona has been their hero all those years but now they have a new one.  Victor Osimhen, a Nigerian with a bleach blonde top to his dark hair kicked the goal that sealed the win.

Almost two months on the decorations are still everywhere, and to prove their great passions those decorations are a mix of azzurro (light bue) and white, Maradona, Osimhen and Saint Gennaro.

The decorations don't look like coming down soon.