Monday, August 9, 2010

I take Giovanni's walking tour

I got a bit of a slow start to the day today, since I was working on dealing with any potential vampiric insects who might be hoping to live the good life in the USA via my luggage. The current situation is that my bag is unpacked out on the terrace, my clothes are out there too, and all of my non-clothing items have been inspected and are currently residing in drawers in my dorm room. I shook my backpack for a long time this morning, and nothing fell out, but I'm not quite satisfied yet. I want to examine it with a flashlight a bit later, and then maybe spray it with something. I'm also going to wash all my clothing in hot water.

Since I got a bit of a late start, and since the Museo Archaelogico is closed on Mondays, I decided to take the walking tour provided to me by Giovanni, the wonderful proprietor of this hostel. I'm already starting to see the city through his eyes, and I can see why it is wonderful. I'm thinking that I'm going to stay in Naples for my entire visit to this region, rather than hopping around next week.

Anyway, my first stop was the Duomo di San Gennaro, built on a site than once housed the oldest church in Naples, and before that, a temple of (I think) Serapis:

A lot of the churches in Naples were redecorated during the Baroque area, and thus have lush interiors consisting of multicolored stone, swirling sculpture, and gilded coffers. I'm finding these Baroque interiors a wee bit tame in comparison with the riotous color of Bernini or the undulating forms of Borromini that I experienced in Rome, but these experiences are still enjoyable. I didn't go into as many churches as I would have liked today, because most of my walk took place during the afternoon window when most churches are closed, but I'll definitely check out the churches I missed in subsequent days.

I really liked this sculpture, down in the crypt:

He was about life size, and just set up among the chairs that are used for services in the little chapel. I found him very effective, even if his drapery looks a little like intestines down at the bottom.

After leaving the Duomo, I checked out a work of art from a much different era:

My first Banksy (other than the Village Pet Shop and Charcoal Grill)! For those who are unfamiliar, Banksy is a British graffiti artist, whose identity is currently unknown, but whose work is world famous. He leans toward the anarchistic politically, so Charlie and I are definitely big fans! If you want to learn a bit about Banksy and see some of his other work, which is often hilarious, pointed, and thought-provoking, the Wikipedia article is a good introduction.

I haven't quite figured out what this one is all about. Banksy's work is the spray-painted stencil on the left; on the right is a homemade shrine of a type that appears all over Naples. Does anyone recognize the work of art that Banksy is quoting (I don't)? There used to be another cool Banksy in Naples, which showed Bernini's St. Theresa in Ecstasy writhing in agony after eating fast food, but sadly, another, lesser street artist painted over it.

I can definitely see why Banksy would want to be represented in Naples - this place is a paradise for excellent street art. If I were going to walk all over the city and photograph great wall pieces, I wouldn't have time to do anything else. It's pretty cool - Charlie, you and I will have to come back together someday.

Anyway, let's back things up a few hundred years. After some pizza for lunch (the pizza here is just scumptiously divine - I've had it twice already, and it's cheaper and better than anything in Florence or Rome), I went to the Capella Sansevero, another stop recommended by Giovanni. This is a small, privately-owned chapel designed by Raimondo di Sangro, prince of the Sansevero family and well-known Freemason and scientist. No pictures were allowed in the chapel, which is a tiny gem of colored marble and ridiculously excellent sculpture.

The showpiece of the chapel is the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino:

You might want to blow that picture up so that you can take a closer look, or check out some of the other details available online. The conceit here is that the dead body of Christ is covered with the most diaphanous and translucent veil, which clings closely enough to his body to reveal the anatomy underneath, including the wounds of the Passion. Incredible stuff:

But then I saw this:

MMMPH! Urt! Eek! Ahh.... *faint*

Where was I? Oh yes. This is one of several allegorical figures representing various virtues around the chapel, this one representing a sinner freed from the net of sin, and sculpted by Francesco Queirolo. Just look at that netting, all carved from marble... or maybe don't, because I think I can feel myself getting faint again.

After leaving the Cappella Sansevero, I continued along my merry way and encountered this:

What the heck is this marble exclamation point of insanity? In form, it more or less resembles the kinds of vertical monuments you see in town squares all over the western world, but in Naples, these ordinary monuments take on a tinge of the hallucinatory. I'll have to find out more about what they represent, and photograph them some more.

And then there was the bizarre facade of the church of Gesu Nuovo:

The interior is your standard Baroque colorism, adapted to a Greek cross plan, but the exterior is startling. Apparently it's the last remaining bit of a palace that was demolished at this site to make room for the church - the exterior wall of the palace was repurposed for the church. Odd.

I had the best stracciatella gelato I've experienced yet in this building:

This is a covered marketplace that was built toward the end of the nineteenth century, about the time of the reunification of Italy. The glass and iron barrel vaults take advantage of new technology, but the decoration and architecture borrow comfortably from earlier styles.

Then there was this huge piazza, which appears on lots of Neapolitan postcards:

Apparently it was trying to emulate St. Peter's and the Pantheon all at once. I'll have to go back some morning to get better pictures and explore the church, because I bet it's neat inside.

Does this sculpture remind you of anyone?

To me, it looks rather creepily like Harpo Marx.

Then I looked ahead of me on the walking tour, and suddenly the entirety of the Bay of Naples was visible before me, and I got my first look at Vesuvius!

Dar she blows! (Or not? Let's keep our fingers crossed.)

And then I looked behind me and was surprised to see an old friend:

Oh, hello, Augustus! Have you been following me?

Sometimes I like to find big things, and then climb them:

And then I take pictures from the top:

So, that was my tour for today. I'm starting to think that whatever recommendations Giovanni gives me, I'm going to follow them, because so far I'm having a pretty awesome time in Naples. Tomorrow, I'm going to the Museo Archaeologico, which means my date with the Doryphoros, the Farnese Hercules, and the pornographic Pan and Goat! It will be a big day.

1 comment:

  1. Hey:-), I can see that you enjoyed walking tour so much. The place is also quite interesting. Certainly, I will make some plan for this place. Cheers!!
    italian vacation