***image1***Celebrating New Year’s Eve in “The New City” is a significant reminder that the people of Naples, Italy, are a people of eternal hope and fortitude living in the shadow of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. But they continue to thrive, in the buzzing of activity in the magnificent outdoor market places, the cafes and chaotic throng of automobiles that clog the streets.
The city of Naples was founded as a Greek trading center in 600 B.C. Although the city was later conquered by the ancient Romans, it still maintains the original Greek plan with three long, parallel streets that cross in the center of Naples and many small narrow streets connecting them like the web of an impetuous spider. The confusing street plan, which springs up from the port and climbs up every crevice of the surrounding mountains, would challenge even the sharpest of navigators and makes walking an easier and more enjoyable mode of maneuvering.
One day of driving in Naples will easily explain the German rental car policy, which does not allow cars to cross over the Italian border. Driving a personal car is an option, but it will come back bearing scars. Flight is the best option and rental cars are available at Capodichinno Airport or utilize the subway system.
The two distinguishing natural features of the area, the Bay of Naples and the currently dormant Mount Vesuvius, have affected every facet of the birth and development of the city over the ages.
The suburb of Pozzuoli is home to many of the lesser-known attractions of Naples, including two ancient Roman monuments, the Flavian Amphitheater and the Temple of Serapis, both of which were hidden by volcanic ash and were only excavated in the 19th century.
The amphitheater was built during the first century A.D. and had the capacity to accommodate 40,000 spectators, making it the third largest coliseum in Italy. The Temple of Serapis was originally mistaken as a temple when it was excavated in 1750 because the statue of Serapis, an Egyptian divinity, was found there. However, in reality, it was a food market built during the first century.
After passing a day touring and shopping in Pozzuoli, the Museo Archeoligico Nazionale in Naples is a great stop. This museum houses many of the treasures that were excavated from the surrounding ruins including Pompeii, Herculaneum, Cuma, the Flavian Amphitheater and the Temple of Serapis. Nearly all of the sculptures, frescos and treasures were removed here from their original sites for preservation and safekeeping. The museum is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and costs 6,50.
Another site not to be missed while strolling along the waterfront of the Bay of Naples is the Castel dell’Ovo. The castle owes its name, Castle of the Egg, to the legend that the poet Virgil, who was also a great sorcerer, placed an enchanted egg in a jar and protective metal case and hid it somewhere in the castle during construction. Only Virgil knew the exact placement of the egg and legend has it that as long as the egg remains inside the castle,
Naples will be safe from destruction. The castle is an imposing structure rising from the water and remained a royal residence until the second half of the 19th century.
Directly across the street from the Castel dell’Ovo is a trattoria called “I Re Di Napoli,” which offers a spectacular view of the castle and the bay. Dining on the second floor is especially interesting as there is a window cut into the floor offering an interesting view of the pizza kitchen below and is a delight for children and adults alike. The service is not fast, but the food is worth the wait.
It’s important to take precautions to secure all money and identification, and if someone is pointing a finger at their eye, they are giving a warning about pickpockets.
Naples is a delightful commingling of the ancient past and the present, a city alive – where life continues as it has for so many centuries.