Friday 10th July Dave, Nina, Jemilla and Bede are holed up in Bali unable to fly out because of the volcanic ash from an eruption on a nearby island. I think there could be worse places to be marooned but it is an uncertain time for them. We spent the day in Naples looking at the terror of Mt Vesuvius’ destruction of Pompeii. Today we took the fast train (296kms/hour) from Rome to Naples, exactly 1 hour through beautiful mountain backed countryside green with many crops in the middle of summer. We spent most of the day in the National Museum of Archaeology which is a stunning classical building in its own right with a stunning 2 storey double marble interior stairway. The museum has two major holdings. In the C19th the discovery of Pompeii lead archaeologists to remove vast quantities of excavated mosaics, frescoes, bronzes, pottery, sculpture and materials of all sorts to fill eight large rooms of the most exquisite second century lifestyle caught in a moment of time. This was a good thing to do to preserve these precious artefacts but they are now of course out of context and some were damaged in the process. Copies of the mosaics and frescoes have been returned to Pompeii where walking on them can cause minimal damage. There is a current display of “Pompeii and Europe” which demonstrates the impact of the C19th discovery and excavation of Pompeii mainly through the eyes of Goethe, Stendahl and Lytton. In a curious way it resembles the passion many today have for the entombed lives of the Titanic disaster in the C20th.
The second major holding in Naples is the Farnese collection of Roman sculpture accumulated by one of the Papal families and now on display to the public. The Farnese Palace in Rome is now the French Embassy and not easily accessible but the impressive collection of huge sculptures is beautifully displayed in Naples. It includes busts of all the Suetonian emperors and massively huge sculptures of gods and important folk in early Rome. In addition the frescoes and mosaics from Hadrian’s villa, the ruin of which we walked in yesterday, are also displayed in the Naples museum. In the afternoon we wandered the streets of Naples not venturing too far in the heat and enjoying an April 18 English newspaper, the only paper in English we could buy although the Italian bookshops have many books in English. I found the Neapolitans to be very friendly and helpful. The city has a bad rep in Melbourne and I am sure there are parts
one should not venture into and I would not be driving there but it is an exciting and interesting city.