Saint IndignitatisDwight Peck's personal website

Naples and the Amalfi coast in autumn 2010

Awaiting US midterm election results in a grimly upbeat mood

Kristin used to hang out on Capri and the Costiera Amalfitana, in the old days, but we've never been, and it's time. So here we go for a couple of weeks in fall 2010 for the off-season prices.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.


We've been to Pompeii, and now it's time for the other incinerated ex-town.

We're off to the rail station, but first, there's this.

The beautiful Galleria Umberto I, which occupies the whole block between Via Toledo and Via San Carlo and the royal palace

Very nice marble floor on it, too. Impressive. Now we can go to Herculaneum.

Ercolano is reached by the same Circumvesuviana train that got us down to Pompeii without mishap, and then you just walk down a few blocks through the undistinguished town to the excavations, and you're there.

Herculaneum got wiped by the same Vesuvian eruption that polished off Pompeii in A.D. 79, but whereas Pompeii suffered mostly from ash and toxic gases, Herculaneum was swamped by 20 metres of volcanic mud, which protected the place admirably from the elements until the 18th century "proto-archaeologists" got at it. Thus much more has been preserved, once the mud was chipped out, including timberworks, multistory buildings, tupperware still on the shelves, and what not.

Vesuvius may not be finished with this place yet. It's still active, and the Italian authorities are trying to provide incentives to induce people in the mountainside villages to relocate voluntarily.

This is part of the public baths, in an elaborate complex that stood on a vast, open terrace that originally faced out over the seashore, as it was at that time (but not now).

We're in the public baths. Herakleia was originally a Greek town, founded (we're told) by the greatest of the Greek demi-god heroes, Herakles, or Hercules, but subsequently developed under humans -- the Oscans, Samnites, and then the Romans. Chiefly a resort town for wealthy Romans, it was never a commercial power, but no one knows the extent of the buried city, since most of it is still under modern Ercolano.

Kristin and her audio-Maecenas, guiding her through the Roman underworld, like Virgil to her Dante

More of the public baths, with the ugly old lava mud still trying to blob in through the door.

The Casa del Rilievo di Telefo or House of the Relief of Telephus. Nice impluvium.

The street called Cardo V Inferiore -- the cardines are the cross streets griddily intersecting the Decumani main streets and, in this case, leading down towards the sea; Cardo V Superiore is farther uptown. "V" refers to some numbering system of neighborhoods that an early archaeologist thought up.

Frescoes and mosaic floor in the House of the Deer, a fancy rich guy's house that would have been overlooking the sea front at the time

Cardo V Superiore (as predicted), with a palaestra or sports complex off on the right.

A welcoming sight, the Grande Taberna, or tavern, across the street from the sports hall. The marble counter holds pots that would have had hot meals ready to eat.

Ancient Romans allegedly ate out a lot, whilst whirling along the street on business, much like Neapolitans now run for the bus trying to stuff a slice of pizza down the pipe, and there are luncheonettes like this all over this small town.

Another look at the palaestra or sports complex across the street. Wrestling. Boxing. Mostly things like that.

The Decumanus Inferiore, the more seasidish of the two main streets -- the other is the Decumanus Maximus, just uptown.

Another taberna. Even today, they look convivial and welcoming.

Dinky little impluvium

The Decumanus Maximus, with lots of shops, workshops, and small inns along the road.

A glance down Cardo III Superiore (I think)

Nice impluvium

Kristin roaming about the Casa del Salone Nero

The Casa del Salone Nero without Kristin roaming about in it

This is the well-preserved College of the Augustali, local HQ of the cult of the emperor. The young men, freedmen but not citizens, who were admitted to the cult lived here and presumably spent lots of their time hailing Caesar professionally.

The lads' dorms would have been ranged round the interior, but here's where they really got their serious emperor-worshipping done.

Most of the wall paintings seem to have to do with naked lads. Perhaps that's not so surprising.

Cardo IV Superiore

Nice impluvium in the House of the Mosaic Atrium. A hole in the roof of the main hall of every Roman house let rain in to the marble impluvium or central pool, which stored it in a cistern underneath.

Mosaics in the atrium in the House of the Mosaic Atrium

Kristin ironical in the ladies' baths

Nice impluvium

As Kristin's admiring the two-story Casa a Graticcio opposite and I'm struggling to catch up, that coachload of French high-school kids is racing up the Cardo to get in before us, and they won.

But I waited till the kids left. They were only interested in each other and their cell phones anyway, and ran right through the place in mere seconds.

We're getting ready to leave, passing round the seaside-facing front of town, with the sacred terraces in the front-centre with temples to pretty much Everydeity, the patrician House of the Deer above that to the right, the modern town of Ercolano on the horizon, and Vesuvius looming.

That's the rich guy's terrace villa on what used to be the sea front, the Casa di Cervi or House of the Deer.

A Lumi-zoom straight up Cardo IV Inferiore, past the house with balcony, Ercolano, and the back part of Vesuvius

As we're leaving, Vesuvius is still looming.

A look down into the sport halls as we exit and start back up the street to the rail station

Herculaneum is evidently included in the Neapolitan garbage situation, or they've got their own.

Garibaldi would have sorted that out by now.

Torre del Greco, dejected. Kristin is a fan and collector of coral and the world-famous Museum of Coral is here, in an otherwise pretty awful town on the Bay of Naples. We forewent the bus ride up Vesuvius in order to see the coral, but after wandering around Torre del Greco in mini-buses to find the museum, there was no one there. No reason, no note on the door. Kristin asked a distinguished gentleman what was up, and he broke into abject apologies that nothing works anymore, there's no reason, the buses don't run, the museums don't open, it's all since Berlusconi came in.

But, in the end, we made it back to our Hotel Il Convento in the Via Speranzella, and some Nastro Azzurro.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 10 December 2010.

Naples and environs, 2010