The third port of call on our recent Adriatic cruise was Naples, Italy. This was also the third time I’ve been to Naples. The first time I went to Pompeii with my mom and sister, the second time I went to Capri with Mr. Q and my bff, so this time we decided to visit Herculaneum.
But our tour of Herculaneum was in the afternoon, so that left us the morning to do something else in Naples.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but we were lucky enough to have the ship’s port lecturer at our dinner table on this cruise.
Let me elaborate for those of you who may not be familiar with cruising. When you book a cruise these days you can usually decide between anytime dining or a set dining time of either the ‘early’ or ‘late’ seating. If you choose a set dining time, you can also choose to be at your own table for two (or however many are in your party) or you can roll the dice and choose to be seated with strangers. When Mr. Q and I travel alone we prefer late dining and as large a table as we can get. Mr. Q is a social butterfly/extrovert and the more, the merrier in his opinion. And the ‘late seating’ always gives me time for a nap before dinner 😉
I’m always a tad nervous about the possibility of ending up with unpleasant dinner companions, but so far we’ve always been lucky.
Once again, we were quite fortunate this time. We were at a table for 8 with three other couples. The first couple was from Canada and were retired from the travel business. The second couple was from Connecticut currently, however they had immigrated to the U.S. from Moldova (a former Soviet republic) back in the 90’s. I have to say, Nathan and Svetlana were the nicest people. We had to work hard to understand them through their still rather thick accents, but it was worth it. Mr. Q was in heaven because he loves Russian literature and Nathan was clearly a fan as well. The third couple, Ken and Leslie, were from England. We were well into our second dinner together before Ken fessed up that he was the cruise’s port lecturer.
How convenient to have the ship’s expert on our ports of call right there at our dinner table every night!
It certainly came in handy for Naples. When we asked Ken (not to be confused with my neighbor/handyman Ken) what we should do with our morning in Naples he recommended visiting the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.
He explained that all of the really good stuff from both Pompeii and Herculaneum is at the museum. Most of the items that you see at the sites themselves are reproductions. Naturally the originals have been sent to the museum to be protected.
Plus the museum is within walking distance from the ship, or just a short and inexpensive taxi ride away therefore it would be easy to visit in the morning before our tour.
So after breakfast that morning Mr. Q and I headed out on foot to the museum. It was a bit longer of a walk than we anticipated, but maybe that’s because we had to stop and have coffee at a small sidewalk cafe along the way. Italian coffee is the best!
I was highly amused by this poster plastered on the wall along our route.
I would never have admitted it out loud on the streets of Naples, but pizza with pineapple on it is pretty much the only pizza that I like. Shhhhh, don’t tell the Italians!
We were greeted just inside the door of the museum by a young man offering a personal one hour guided tour in English, but it was €60 which seemed a little pricey. In hindsight, we probably should have at least rented the audio guides which were only €5 each, but at the time we didn’t think we needed them. We hadn’t realized that many of the printed explanations in the museum would be written in Italian only. Luckily some of the more major exhibits were also explained in English, but I’m sure we would have gotten much more out of our visit with the audio guides.
Also just inside was this model.
It was roped off and surrounded by people working on it though. I wish I knew more about what is was, but I haven’t been able to find any info on it at all.
Of all the pieces in the museum, I was the most impressed by the mosaics.
It’s really hard to appreciate these in photos. The one above is only about 2.5′ tall or so, it’s not an entire wall sized mosaic as it may seem in the photo. So look again at how incredibly tiny those pieces are that make up the mosaic, and the detailed shading in the design giving it a three dimensional look. Here’s another …
I can’t even imagine the patience it would require to place all of those tiny little pieces!
These little niches likely held small statues, but perhaps they were the inspiration for the telephone niches of the 1950’s! Who else remember those?
They didn’t just have small mosaics in the museum, they had huge mosaics too.
This is the Alexander Mosaic. It was a floor in the House of the Faun at Pompeii and it dates to around 120 B.C.
We also stumbled across a section of the museum called the secret cabinet. Port Lecturer Ken had warned us about this area … or did he simply tell us that we should be sure to see it? I’m not sure which now. Believe it or not, until the 1960’s the items on display here were ‘only accessible to “people of mature age and respected morals”, which in practice meant only educated men’ (Wikipedia). I’m sure that Mr. Q and I are of a mature enough age, but not so sure about those respected morals.
Anyway, they let us in. In fact I was even able to take photos at will. I debated sharing a photo or two here, but I don’t want to end up on some sort of restricted internet list or anything. I also don’t want to offend the sensibilities of any of my readers. But if interested, be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry here to read more about the sorts of items that were found throughout Herculaneum and Pompeii.
We ran out of time to see anything more at the museum after that, so we grabbed a cab out front and headed back to the port for a quick lunch before heading out to Herculaneum. I’ll be sharing that next Wednesday, so if you’re enjoying these travel posts be sure to check back then!