Our last day in Naples wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Piazza Plebiscito and Castel Nuovo. After escaping to the Royal country home at Caserta it was time to see about city living. Piazza Plebiscito is the largest public square in Naples. Once upon a time cars were allowed to park in the square but no longer. The Royal Palace sits on the east end of the square and opposite is the Church of San Francesco di Paola.
We didn’t go into the Royal Palace. Partly because we were tired and didn’t want to mar the memories of the morning in Caserta. Seeing these last few monuments were just places to check off. It sounds terrible but does anyone have 100% enthusiasm for every major building, monument or ruin in a historic city? I did take pictures of all the former Kings of Naples which were too amusing. More
The Royal Palace of Caserta, Reggia di Caserta, is a marvelous place. It was begun in 1752 by Charles VII of Naples with his architect Luigi Vanvitelli. The Bourbon King wanted a new royal court that was protected from sea attacks. Modeled mostly after Versailles, but also the Royal Palace in Madrid and the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Caserta reflects a mixture of Late Baroque and early Neoclassism on a large scale. Not all the rooms are open to the public but the ones that are clearly convey the palace’s splendor.
The park and English garden behind the palace are tremendous in size. When we finished touring the palace we headed towards the park. Looking at how far the fountains were from the palace we decided to rent bikes to make a quicker tour. Whoever came up with the idea of renting bicycles to tourists is brilliant. If I was wearing a period dress I could have been in a deleted scene from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
The fun has to end sometime. Here are the last few glimpses of Panarea before we took the ferry back to Naples. There are no reserved seats on the ferry. Your ticket gets you onboard but it’s your job to stow your luggage and find a decent seat. We waited at the harbor for the ferry. Everything was calm until the ferry arrived. The frenzy began when the gangplank came down. People swarmed towards the ferry like the harbor was on fire. One man shoved his wife and kids ahead of him onto the gangplank and then passed three pieces of luggage over other people to his family. At first I thought, “just go with the flow, there’s no rush.” Unfortunately we realized if we didn’t join the scrum we’d be the last ones onboard.
A 50 something year old Italian couple sat in front of us. There were only two of them and a few bags spread over four seats. A young woman asked if all the seats were taken. The older woman said that she had a knee problem and needed to extend her legs across the seats so sorry, no seats available. A few more people tried but they were also denied a seat. The ridiculousness continued when we pulled into Naples. The man stood up gathering his things. All of a sudden the woman threw her newspaper at him and started yelling in Italian. Apparently their small dog peed all over her bag and he hadn’t bothered to notice or care. He wanted to have a nice lunch but she didn’t want to do anything so boring and ordinary. Her whole day had been ruined. It’s amazing how quickly your vacation bubble can disappear and that peaceful, relaxing time seems miles away. Fortunately Panarea had made a vivid impression that I wouldn’t forget.
Although there are other Aeolian Islands to explore we limited ourselves to the nearby faraglioni or stacks. The closest ones to Panarea are Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Bianca and Lisca Nera. Every day we went out to one of them. Each is distinct in its shape and accumulation of rock.
I felt most comfortable swimming close to the stacks. A few times we were farther out and the water was a darker blue. On one side we had our little boat and if you turned around all you could see was the horizon and the sea. It freaked me out. Suddenly I had a feeling of being alone in the open ocean and I felt tiny. Fortunately I just had to turn around and swim back to the boat for my sense of security to return.
Sometimes we could see fish and tiny jellyfish or medusa. If there were a lot of medusa in the water we waited until they passed. Once I thought they were gone and jumped into the water. I must be a medusa magnet because even though bf was in the water, I was the only one who felt 4 or 5 tiny sharp pricks around my shoulders and the back of my legs. When I got out of the water I had red, itchy welts. I was glad the medusa weren’t bigger.
I loved the contrast between the blue colors of the water and sky. After swimming for a bit I’d towel off and lay down in the boat studying the water, rocks and sky. Simple pleasures.
Did you think I was going to post only once on Panarea? There’s too much to share. Here we’ll focus on the flowers and homes. Stay tuned for volcanic rock, turquoise waters and houses with names!
Panarea is the second smallest of the volcanic Aeolian islands that hover north of Sicily. The other islands are: Stromboli, Vulcano, Salina, Lipari, Filicudi and Alicudi. To get to Panarea we took a five hour ferry ride from Naples. One third of the island is occupied with 300 or so residents. The rest is a nature preserve. Your feet, golf carts, bikes or scooters are the only modes of transportation. We had no cell phone, internet or TV in our small rented house. Of course there are hotels, like the famous Hotel Raya, and other homes for rent. Groceries, wine and liquor are available from the markets near the harbor. Dining out is not a problem as there are plenty of restaurants. Our concerns were few. A typical day consisted of putting on a swimsuit, applying sunscreen, packing lunch and taking off in a boat for the day. We’d return around 6 or 7 for a shower, aperitif and then stroll to dinner. Aaahhh island life. More
The morning had been devoted to the worship of beautiful things and after lunch we visited the Church and Cloister of Santa Chiara and marveled at Cristo Velato, The Veiled Christ in the the Chapel of Sansevero. My favorite part of Santa Chiara was the majolica cloister and courtyard. I probably wouldn’t make it in this convent long. I would be too wrapped up in the vivid colors, scenes and designs instead of focusing on my appointed mission. I’m more a Fraulein Maria than the Mother Abbess. More
The same day we visited the National Archaeological Museum we went up the hills of Naples to the Capodimonte Museum. We were on the hunt for a Caravaggio but also to see another gem of a museum. I was so excited when we came upon the Guido Reni painting of Atalanta and Ippomene. Why? Because it is the cover illustration for Richard E. Spear’s book on Reni, The Divine Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni and Spear taught at my alma mater Oberlin. Hurrah! I was never aware of where the painting lived and to discover it just hanging on the wall was thrilling.
The whole museum is filled with great paintings and drawings. If you have any interest in Michelangelo, Raphael, Masaccio, Botticelli, Perugino, Mantegna, Bellini, Jacopo de’Barberi, El Greco, Il Parmigianino, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Carracci, Goya, Francois Gerard, Angelika Kauffman, Elisabeth Vigee le Brun or Matteo di Giovanni, then you must visit Capodimonte. Thank goodness for the royals, rich families and papacy for commissioning and buying art. More
When you look at a massive marble statue you wonder how the artist conceived it. How many sketches of a model in different poses were made? Was a there a clay model? How much polishing was required to get the marble just so? The question on my mind? Are those sandals real or made up and why hasn’t any contemporary shoe designer made them yet?
These sculptures tower over you. You look up trying to catch the subtleties and your eyes wander down and around ending at the feet. The feet could have been bare, simple, strong Greek feet, but no there are these fantastic sandals.
Yes there are gladiator sandals today but nothing with this level of embellishment. Naturally if sandals like these were real they would cost more than I could spend. I’ll just watch “300” instead and admire the uh, sandals there. Mmmhmmm.
From Jodhpur we went as far West as possible without entering Pakistan to Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City because of the yellow sand of the Thar Desert that surrounds it and the yellow sandstone of all the buildings there. You can stay in Jaisalmer Fort but we stayed outside the city, only a 5 minute drive away. The fort is an endangered monument and the water that pumps through the city, around the fort, is causing it to self-destruct. In some small way I thought not staying in the fort was a good idea.
Jaisalmer was founded in the 12th century and served as a stop for trade caravans. Now tourism is its main source of revenue. There are plenty of camel and desert treks you can take. There’s even a festival in January and February. We opted out of the camel rides and stuck to exploring the city. More