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.

Naples' castles

We've been saving the castles for last -- mighty fortifications are so . . . evocative.

We're off to see castles today -- a bright morning outside the Hotel Il Convento on the Via Speranzella.

The Via Toledo on a fine morning

A street band is jamming up the traffic up a bit.

We're passing along the Piazza Plebiscito, with the church of San Francesco di Paola on the far side, across from the royal palace behind us.

A police presence at the royal palace and the Piazza Trieste e Trento -- a crowd of bicyclists in funny costumes just passed slowly along the main road, tying up the traffic with a kind of festive atmosphere and perhaps a cause or message.

A military presence, too. Bicycle demonstration or no, this seems disproportionate.

The Castle of St Elmo up on the Vomero hill, and the Certosa or charterhouse of St Martin just in front of it, with their national museums

Serious tanning. Zonker-level tanning.

A kiosk along the seafront Via Partenope (the ancient name of Naples before the Cumaeans destroyed the town and rebuilt it as the New Town, Neapolis)

The Castel dell'Ovo, very old -- it's been built over a Roman villa on the little island, which was transformed in the 400s into a monastery, and then in the 9th century into a great whacking castle. Its present form dates from 1503 in the repairs made after a brutal siege by Ferdinand II of Aragon (the fellow who sent Columbus to find America, created the Spanish Inquisition to destroy Islam and Judaism in Spain, and crushed Naples soon after).

The entrance to the Norman, Hohenstaufen, Angevin, and Aragonese castle is over on the right.

A nice winding stairway up through the works, perfect for riding your horse up it if the king wants to see you for a special mission. The views and exteriors here are fabulous, but the interiors are mostly taken up by administrative offices.

Better to get off your horse and lead it along through here

Knights' horses hate narrow stairways.

There's an art party going on on the top floor, but the free drinks table has already closed up.

That's the marina from the top of the Castel dell'Ovo. The port area across the bay was destroyed utterly by American bombers in 1943 and rebuilt only in the most utilitarian sense, so there's nothing to see over there unless you study port facilities for a living.

This is not the only medieval castle on the card today, so we're moving briskly along. To lunch.

The Castel dell'Ovo from the restaurant we didn't have lunch at.

A police presence

Lunch is over. Now, for the Castel Sant'Elmo, we're taking the handy funicolare rail car up the Vomero hill. There are three of these vertical subways making life much easier for everybody.

A brief walk from the funicular station and we're here, the Castel Sant'Elmo!

Built in the 1330s by the Angevin overlords, chiefly to intimidate the population (as most notably during the 1848 constitutional revolutions)

Labyrinthine walls ninety feet thick

Elmo's Penthouse, the Piazza d'Armi, with some kind of parade ground, carabinieri headquarters, a museum of modern Neapolitan art, and the greatest views obtainable anywhere.

Like this one, over the ramparts, and over the Certosa di San Martino down on the right, out onto the city

The port of Naples and Mt Vesuvius from the Castel Sant'Elmo

The Galleria Umberto in the centre. Castel Nuovo on the left, and the Palazzo Reale on the right.

The Castel Nuovo

Vesuvius, simmering, vibrating a little from time to time, steaming, getting ready

Santa Chiara in the centre, nicely recovered from the American incendiary bombs. Um, why were the Americans using incendiary bombs on a populated city, was that a good idea? Of course, there were Germans here and all . . . but still.

A view across the old town to where the Finance Bosses work on the far side of it.

The Museo di Capodimonte on its hill

The former Carthusian monastery and museum of St Martin just below the castle

On Elmo's castle roof, there's a museum of 20th century Neapolitan art.

There's little to my taste here, except the German Joseph Beuys' performance art, 'Here are lions'.

It's raining as we make our way back into the modern era and try to get down the hill.

Obscure motives

Very slippery steps

Night falls on the city.

Naples by night

Getting and spending and it's fun.

The next day, in the museum of the Certosa di San Martino, St Martin's church, we find an enormous former monastery that's religiously grand and artistically almost laughably over the top.

Note the bald guy with the duck in every other triangular panel round the ceiling. Perhaps he paid for the whole thing, or the duck did.

A nice garden in the cloisters, to relax and walk about in, ornamented by the skulls of your former friends.

This place is ornate and well presented, too much boastful religiosity perhaps, but on the other hand here's a nice barge, to lighten the mood.

And some 18th century carriages in the hallway. Very nice. Let's get out of here.

And have lunch in a promising-looking place that, alas, failed to meet our expectations. Failed utterly.

So here's a downtown restaurant to avoid at all costs. La Chiacchierata, mark that. 'Nuff said.

We're leaving tomorrow, I'm off for a last mnemonic walk round in the rain. This is the famous San Carlo theatre, opened in 1737; I wonder what's on.

Here we are: next week, it's music by Franz "Listz".

The Castel Nuovo in the rain

Five big towers and lots of big halls and apartments -- the French Angevins brought with them huge numbers of hangers-on and the Castel dell'Ovo got to be too small. So this was got underway in 1279, but it was the Aragonese Alfonso who got it into this form in 1443 . . .

. . . including his incongruous white marble Arch of Triumph, in honor of his triumphs.

A forklift in action on a rainy evening; it must be an emergency.

And so it is. The garbage piles.

XXX...L! Where do they buy mannequins like that? Are they all mannequins?

Naples by night

Kristin's making a last check of the e-mail in the WiFi room

We're leaving the Hotel Il Convento tomorrow on the EasyJet. THAT was a major unpleasant experience, but never mind.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 14 December 2010.

Naples and environs, 2010