Pan and the Goat: The Romans had remarkable taste in garden statuary, such as this 24″ high marble depiction of Pan getting frisky with a member of the genus Capra at the National Archaeological Museum. (Photos by San Suzie.)
Despite warnings in every Italian guidebook that we would be pick-pocketed, run over by a motorino, threatened by camorristi, or just plain hosed by restaurant owners and taxi drivers, last weekend we decided to go to Naples to pay homage to the birthplace of the pizza and the baba au rum. A 2,800 year-old seaport founded by the Greeks, conquered by the Romans, Spaniards and Bourbons (the Neapolitans are quick to tell you that they are a thousand years older than Rome), Naples is the veritable promised land of high and low culture. It’s a place where you can see two of the greatest Caravaggio masterpieces (1 and 2) within a stone’s throw of graffiti-covered baroque buildings whose stucco is literally falling to the ground.
Our plan was to grab a few of the sublime slices at the nearly 300-year-old Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba and then head over to the archaeological museum to ogle the Roman pornographic art — contained in a titillatingly hilarious permanent display known as the Secret Cabinet. (Boy, did we get an eyeful!) In addition to admiring all the ancient erections, there were plenty of other things to take in during our visit to Naples as well: the glittering Mediterranean, the medieval castles (complete with round turrets and crenelated tops), the volcano that destroyed Pompeii and the hundreds of cioccolato caldo stands where you can stuff your face with sfogliatelle, ricotta cheesecake, and mini-babas for about $2.
In Naples, you can not only see the life-sized bust that houses the actual lopped-off head of San Gennaro (a.k.a. Saint Januarius) at the Duomo, but also admire a vial of his blood that miraculously liquifies at various times of the year. All this in a city where motorino drivers, piled three to a bike, drive so unnervingly fast, you are encouraged to look both ways even when crossing the sidewalk — or face a martyrdom of your own.
Click on images to supersize. More after the jump.
We then made our way over to the historic erections at the National Archaeological Museum, where we spent an inordinate amount of time in a separately-housed erotica section, the Secret Cabinet — doing “research,” of course!
Proof that the Romans were as thoughtful in their scrawl as we are in ours: The ancient graffiti on this Pompeiian mural reads along the lines of, “Taking a shit makes you feel lighter.” Wise words, indeed.
The masterpiece of all masterpieces: Caravaggio’s The Seven Acts of Mercy, inside Pio Monte della Misericordia. We were probably still drunk on Baba when we saw this.
Vesuvius in the distance. Is it my imagination, or is that mountain smiling?