Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in America, and off to a wedding!

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived home in Newark, NJ after a very smooth day of traveling, and today I'm off again to California for Jesse and Carla's wedding! I probably won't have the internet long enough to write a blog post while I'm out there (I get home on Tuesday night), so when I get back, I'll post some Italy wrap-ups and figure out the fate of this blog.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On my way to the airport

Well, this is it - my things are packed, and I'm all ready to head out for the airport and start the process of leaving Italy! I wish my last night here could have been a bit more pleasant. The reviews weren't kidding when they said that Ivanhoe was a "party hostel", and apparently "party" means encouraging a bunch of kids who are all about 20 and under to head out to a bar, get incredibly wasted, and then head home at 2am, where they run around the hostel yelling. So out of the six hours I was hoping to get, I'm running on... maybe four?

I was intending to write a big post last night summing up the whole trip and all my feelings about it, but I think that's going to have to wait until I get home and have a chance to think about things a bit more. For now, it's heigh ho and off to the airport!

When I post again, I will be on American soil!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arrivederci, Napoli

Yesterday, to say goodbye to Naples, I went through a long walk through the old city, a lot of which ended up in my street art post of yesterday. I checked out some souvenir stores and bought an odd little Christmas ornament for the Christmas tree that Charlie and I will be putting up together for the first time in December. And then, I decided to take one of the city's famed funicular lines up to Vomero, a neighborhood on a hill that offers some of the best views of the city. The funicular car was pretty cool:

That's a diagonal train car, set up in stepped platforms so that you can sit in it and never feel uncomfortable as you're being hoisted up a steep hill at about a 45 degree incline. Neat! I didn't know what to expect from this ride, so I'm glad I decided to do it. Now I can add one more ride to my list of Italian train experiences.

And the view from the hill was indeed stunning:

That's Mount Vesuvius in the background, always watching over Naples, and waiting. I can't imagine what it must be like to live so close to a volcano with such a murderous past, and to see it there on the horizon, every day. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Neapolitan psyche.

So, to sum up, Naples is not as scary as everyone says it is. Sure, it can be dirty, and there's garbage and dog poop everywhere, and there are places in the city where you just shouldn't go, but as long as you avoid those places, you can have a wonderful stay here. I'm so glad that I decided to stay here for the past ten days rather than changing hostels every few nights - this girl is travel weary, and the single home base has really helped.

I have Giovanni to thank for so many of the great experiences on this part of the trip. Sure, I came here with my own agenda, and I was able to complete pretty much everything on it, but Giovanni's suggestions and recommendations added just that little bit of something extra. Great pizza, mozzarella in Paestum, extraordinary sculpture in the Cappella Sansevero, conquering fears underground in the Napoli Sotteranea, the Vesuvius Express bus, the amphitheater and volcano at Pozzuoli - thanks, Giovanni, for all of your help.

Well, that's about it - next time I post, I'll be back in Roma, and 24 hours from now, I'll be at the airport for my flight home!

Street art in Napoli

So, my day didn't provide all that much material for a blog post: got up, caught up on blogging about Capri from yesterday, played on the internet for a bit, then took one last walk around Naples to shop a little and get one last pizza. I'll sum that all up a bit later, along with my parting thoughts about my experience in Naples. For now, though, I wanted to bring you a selection of the pictures I've been collecting over the past few days of Naples' amazing street art.

Now, some people would walk around the city of Naples and see a city "blighted by graffiti", as one American blogger put it in an otherwise complimentary review that I was reading earlier this week. I don't see that. Sure, Naples is covered with graffiti, and a lot of it is that common-denominator "tagging" that is so ubiquitous everywhere and not particularly interesting. But in and among the leavings of less creative types, there are all sorts of amazing wall pieces, stencils, wheatpastes, and other types of artwork that turn a walk through the city into a tour of a free and whimsical modern art gallery. There's also a running battle throughout the streets between some sort of white power/neo-Nazi element and antifascist anarchists and communists who write over their slogans and turn their swastikas into pictures of other things. I haven't photographed much of this, but I've found it interesting, and I'm glad to see that my team is winning.

And now, on to the art, just a small sample from the streets in my immediate neighborhood (there are plenty more all over the city):

This little guy was close to the Cappella Sansevero.

And I couldn't get over the detail of this elephant - it looks like it really took time.

These guys make me smile, and also make me think that somebody must be a fan of Joan Miro.

This epic wrestling match is just around the corner from Giovanni's hostel....

....and I'm wondering if the same artist is responsible for this guy, only a few blocks away. I've been looking at the wall pieces a lot more closely over the past few days in preparation for writing this post, and I'm starting to see patterns.

And actually, this one might be by the same Miro guy, above.

I liked how this artist turned an ordinary seat/planter into something more interesting - there were a whole bunch of these lined up in a row, and each one was decorated with a series of whimsical fantasy animals.

And this is just wonderfully nutty:

Sexy lady turns into CREEPY EYEBALL SNAKE!!!

And a two-fer:

That stencil of the monk being pierced by arrows (a reference to Saint Sebastian?) appears all over this neighborhood, so the artist must have felt pretty strongly about it. There are a lot of repeat stencils around here, and it's kind of a scavenger hunt finding them all.

And more Seussical nonsense:

Fun, fun, fun.

And a little detour into something a bit more naturalistic:

I suspect that this might have been "legal" street art, because of the way it so completely covers the metal door. Actually, I suspect this for a lot of the closed shops that I've seen over the past few days with fabulous street art on their shutters - it seems that the graffiti medium has seeped into and merged with sponsored advertising. Guess I shouldn't be too surprised, because the same thing is happening all over the world.

And with all that, is it surprising that the Master decided to visit and leave some of his work in this city?

I know I posted the Banksy last week, but I thought it would be worth mentioning again. This city has something of an anarchic character, and the work of its street artists plays a part in that daily rhythm.

Not sure if I've changed any minds with this post, but I know Charlie will be happy at least! He's been bugging me to post some street art. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

If I were a movie star, I'd buy a house on Capri

Ah, Capri. I realized pretty quickly after planning my trip to Naples that I would have to spend a day out on Capri at some point, partly because it inspired so many artists who painted out there, but partly because I wanted to see it for myself. Now that I've been there, I'm really glad I made the time to do it, even though getting there was much more of a pain than I had expected.

Yesterday morning, I didn't have a blog post to write, and I had taken care of anything else I had to do the night before, so I was free to leave relatively early - I think I was out by 9 or even a little before, which is pretty good given my track record this week. I followed Giovanni's advice, walking down to the port and taking some photos of street art along the way (they will appear in a future post), but then when I got there, I realized that I had no idea where to buy my ticket, and there were no signs to make this clearly obvious. And then, my ankle suddenly went all wonky - I think I may have strained it on Mount Vesuvius the other day, and it chooses to remind me of this at inconvenient times. So for the better part of an hour, I wandered up and down the shoreline, stopping in different ticket offices and getting nowhere. Finally, a kind man pointed me in the right direction, and I was able to buy my ticket (after standing on another long line - I think lines will be one of my major memories of Italy!).

I stood out in the sun for about twenty minutes or so waiting for the boat, because there was no shade, and the crowd kept getting more and more intense and pushy with anticipation. When the boat finally arrived, I had a decision to make: sit on top in the bright sunlight and the wind, and risk a bad sunburn, or sit in the enclosed cabin below, and risk seasickness. I chose the latter:


I chose wrong. I was desperately, desperately seasick on the way over to Capri. The ride was about an hour, and became increasingly choppy as the relatively small boat made its way out of the Bay of Naples and into the open sea. Seasickness is caused by confusion between your eyes and your inner ear - your inner ear informs the brain that your body is moving, but your eyes perceive the boat around you as stable, even though it is actually moving. This makes your brain super confused, and nausea is the result. The best thing to do when you're seasick is apparently to stare at the horizon or other land (I didn't realize this yesterday) and the worst thing to do is to sit in an enclosed cabin, because the walls, seats, windows and everything else around you add to the confused signals that your eyes send to your brain.

I was only in the cabin for about twenty minutes when I started to feel awful. I staggered out onto the back deck, which was a little better, but I couldn't get close enough to the railing to get a good breeze. I ended up curled up in a corner on the stairs leading to the upper deck, my head in my hands, and I may have whimpered a bit. At one point, one of the workers on the boat came up and handed me a plastic bag - I must have looked like I could use it. I managed to keep everything down until we reached shore, but I was pretty intensely miserable. Once I got onto the island, it took me a while to feel normal again.

But was it worth it? I think so. After sitting for a while and drinking a bottle of water, I decided I was ready to see Capri's upper reaches. Capri is a very hilly island, and there is a funicular line leading from the marina up to the town. Initially, I decided to take this transportation, so I waited on a long line in the sun for a while. When I got close to the front of the line (maybe 10 minutes), I realized that this was the line for people who already had tickets, and if I wanted to buy tickets, I would need to wait on another line. So, that was that. I didn't really want to get into a moving vehicle at that point anyway, and I figured a good walk would clear me of the last bits of my nausea.

So I found the pedestrian walkway to the top, and started up:

Walking around on Capri is pretty awesome. I'm not sure how anyone gets around any other way, because I didn't see too many roads, and I didn't hear traffic at any point when I was on the pedestrian paths (and one would - these little Italian motorcycles are LOUD). Most of the pedestrian paths look just like the one above - paved with large stones and flanked on both sides by walls, with openings on either side into private villas and gardens. The gardens are all marked by painted ceramic tiles, some bearing the name of the owner or the house, and as my souvenir of Capri I bought a ceramic tile to take home.

When I got to the main piazza of Capri after climbing for about 15 minutes, it was time for lunch. I selected this restaurant:

It was right on the edge of the bluff, and the view of the water and island below was just spectacular. I ended up paying more than 17 Euro for a meal that would have cost me less than half that in Naples, but I decided not to worry about it too much. At this point in the trip, I am well under budget, and I needed the chance to relax and let the atmosphere of Capri capture me after the stress of traveling there.

I had my Fodor's guide for Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast with me, and after lunch, I decided to try the walking tour that it suggested for the eastern side of the island. Generally, I'm kind of over Fodor's guides - I've had a lot of stupid experiences on this trip trying to use their directions, and I don't think they do a good job of providing really useful information - but it was all I had, and actually, in retrospect this particular walking tour was pretty good.

The tour took me along the northeastern part of the island, up to the ruins of Tiberius' villa, then down to two natural features, an arch made of stone and a grotto, and finally along a bluff where I could get full views of the coastline on the southern end of the island, and back into Capri Town. On the way to the villa, I kept catching mysterious glimpses of the gardens behind the wall:

I found all the columns, pergolas, and plantings truly enchanting. It is very expensive to live on Capri, and I don't think you could afford it unless you were a movie star or a CEO or a Mafioso or something, but if I had the money, I would love to live on this island. There's also a real sense of privacy - my impression was that the people living behind these stone walls could be anybody, and I would never know. Maybe I did walk past some famous people yesterday, but I would have no idea if that were true. Capri seems like a secret place, and I can see why it has inspired so many people.

It was a long upward climb to get to Tiberius' villa, but the view was so worth it:

And this was only one direction! I took lots of pictures, and stood for a long time to absorb all 360 degrees of the amazing view. I've noticed at a lot of points on this trip that hymns have come into my mind as the only way to describe things I'm feeling, and yesterday it was "For the Beauty of the Earth." Easily, this was a trip highlight.

And on the way back down the hill, I found some friends:

Tee hee.

After leaving the Villa Jovis, I was off to visit the island's natural wonders. I'm not going to post my pictures of the Arco Naturale, a giant rock hollowed out by wind and waves, because my vantage point was much too close for my camera to do anything interesting, but I bought a postcard that I'd be happy to show anyone who asks. After the arch, I walked down hundreds and hundreds of stairs to find the Matermania Grotto, a cool cave that was once a site for worshiping the goddess Cybele:

Is it funny that I walked into the cave and immediately thought of Bilbo Baggins and the goblins? It seemed like it would be a good goblin cave.

After the cave, it was a long walk on a very up-and-down path along a bluff, looking out at lovely things like this:

And I finally managed to snap a decent picture of one of the little lizards that seem as numerous in Italian tourist sites as squirrels are back home:

All in all, a successful day. After my walk, I did a little souvenir shopping and bought that pretty tile, and then headed back down the hill on the same pedestrian pathway to the harbor. When I got back on the ferry, I wanted to head upstairs, but the guards wouldn't let me because they said it was full, and indicated the lower cabin. I refused to go down there, and ended up hanging out on the back deck for most of the ride back. After a while back, I noticed lots of people were sneaking up and down the stairs, so I headed up, and found myself a comfortable place to stand by the railing for the rest of the trip back. I snapped this cool picture of Mount Vesuvius:

And I avoided a repeat of the seasickness in the morning! Seriously, I don't know why these boats even have enclosed cabins. They don't do anybody any good.

So I think this was my last major excursion for the trip - today, I'm going to walk around Naples and say goodbye, and tomorrow I'll be heading back to Rome for one last night before I catch my plane on Tuesday morning. This has been a lovely trip, but I am definitely ready to head home.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A ride out to the Fields of Fire

I really did have big plans to go to Baia today and check out the ancient Roman plaster casts that were found there, and I am still really interested in that topic, but I had a few complications. First, I was pretty tired after waking up so many times during the night, so it took me a while to write my post about yesterday. Then, I ended up hanging around for a while with a couple of Australian girls who left today for Sardinia, and one of them let me copy her 4 seasons of Dexter while we chatted (I'm in for a bloody good time - literally because there will be lots of blood!). Then, it turned out that because today is the Feast of the Assumption, it's a public holiday in Italy, and almost everything is closed. And finally, I found out that the museum with the plaster casts is nowhere near the archaeological site of Baia or the train, so I decided that I didn't really want to risk looking for a bus that might not come and maybe getting lost just to go to a museum that might not be open. So I needed a new plan.

So I decided to head out to Pozzuoli, one of the major towns in the Campi Flegrei, literally "Fields of Fire" but referred to as the Phlegrean Fields in English, because English loves a weird word. It's easy to get to Pozzuoli by Metro - it's the last stop on the line that runs right past Giovanni's hostel. And there are two sites within easy walking distance of this stop: a well-preserved amphitheater dating to the Flavian period, and the entrance to Solfatara, a giant, supposedly extinct volcanic crater that still constantly leaks steam. This sounded like a doable and interesting itinerary to me, so I decided to try it out.

But first, for lunch, a calzone:

I thought I needed to try a calzone in Italy, because the only other one I've ever eaten was in a small town in Colorado, which I thought didn't do the genre justice. The verdict on this one - it was quite tasty, but I don't think the calzone will ever win my heart away from pizza. Looks pretty in a photo, though!

So, after lunch, it was time to start on my journey. Now, the Metro in Naples is weird. There are no turnstiles and no ticket machines at any of the stops, and no one ever checks for tickets, but you have to buy a ticket from a tobacconist, and you have to get it validated, because if you don't and you are caught, you pay a fine. I arrived at the station today only to find that the usual store where I buy my ticket was - you guessed it - closed for the holiday. I looked around, but I couldn't see anything open anywhere, so I did the only thing I could think to do. I hopped the train without a ticket in the direction of the main station (only one stop), bought a ticket for each way there, and then got back on the train heading in the other direction. Did anyone ever appear to take my ticket? Nope. Naples is strange.

So, when I finally arrived in Naples, I was rewarded with a trip to the Flavian Amphitheater, which was quite neat. It's going to be hard to convey what it was like in pictures, because I didn't have a hovercraft (probably would have been full of eels anyway) or a wide-angle lens. Here's the most my little Fuji could capture at once:

That may be 1/8 of the actual area, so just multiply that little piece by eight.

There were also cool arches and such:

I was a little unclear, but I think the sign was saying that this niche was once part of some kind of mini worship space.

The coolest thing was being able to stand right in the middle of the amphitheater:

When you visit the Colosseum, it's big and impressive, and you can imagine yourself as a spectator of the events as you walk along one of the major crowd thoroughfares in the stands, but you never really get any idea of what it's like to be the gladiator, especially because the entire arena floor of the Colosseum has been pulled away to reveal the warren of rooms and tunnels underneath. Here, though, you get to stand right in the middle and feel the sweep of the stands all around you - I kind of felt like grandstanding for the imaginary crowd's approval. Okay, I'm silly.

After leaving the center of the arena, I walked around the outside perimeter for a bit, snapping a few pictures of the awesome arches. At this point, the amphitheater was ranking around "pretty cool" on my mental Scale of Awesome for tourist sites, but the next part bumped it up into "Totally Awesome and Special":

I noticed a ramp that led down into the lower level of the amphitheater, which is full of rooms and corridors that once would have held animal cages, prisoners awaiting execution, gladiators preparing for battle, you name it. The whole structure is composed of masonry arches as pictured above, and you really get the sense of being in a place that has a truly bloody history.

And there were lots of random pieces of architectural masonry around:

Do you think anyone would mind if I stole these two Corinthian capitals? They'd make awesome end tables.

After finishing up at the amphitheater, it was on to Solfatara, which wasn't too far away, but was up a pretty steep hill. Today was one of those incredibly humid days where, even though it's not all that hot, you're immediately covered with a layer of sweat as soon as you step outside. By the time I got up the hill, I was pretty exhausted, but thankfully there was an open snack bar at the top where I could purchase some water (but no "volcanic" rocks - I can spray paint my own rocks at home, thank you very much!).

Solfatara is pretty neat. The whole Campi Flegrei area is affected by seismic and volcanic activity, most of it now in the form of bradyseim, or the gradual uplift or sinking of the earth's surface. (This is why a lot of archaeological sites in this area are currently underwater - it's not because the Romans were fish!) The Solfatara volcano is supposedly extinct, but that doesn't stop it from releasing steam, hot mud, and other things at various slow rates. It didn't take too long to walk around the crater, but I got to experience all sorts of geological marvels in that short distance.

For instance, this mud pit:

As I watched, the surface constantly roiled and bubbled, heated by some source well below the surface. Apparently, the mud is highly enriched with all sorts of beneficial minerals, and is used to make a string of high-end beauty products. The smell is terrible, though - reminded me of that time when Mike and I discovered Fart Lake in Yellowstone. (Sorry if I'm not getting all the geological lingo down pat - this is an art history blog!)

Then there were the fumaroles:

This one was emitting steam that could apparently reach temperatures up to 320 degrees Fahrenheit, with enough sulfur to turn the rocks surrounding it a lovely shade of Cheeto-orange. I really like the English text on the sign, which warns of "BURNING DANGER" (It's a hunk-a hunk-a burning danger!). Thanks for warning me, but I don't think I want to go anywhere near the farting Cheeto rocks. I'll just stay over here.

And here I am in the crater:

I've sure gotten my share of visiting volcanoes this weekend!

And finally, one gratuitous picture of the lovely Mediterranean:

Tomorrow, come hell or high water, I'm going to Capri. Can't believe I'm down to my last few days in Italy! I'm kind of looking forward to be back Stateside, where I can understand all the conversations around me and get free drink refills in a restaurant. It's been something trying to learn how to nurse one tiny can of Coke through an entire meal after being used to the American system. Anyway, I digress. I must try to get some of my things in order so that I can actually leave at a reasonable time tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Herculaneum, limoncello, and a pilgrimage to the top

Looks like I'm continuing my slow posting this week! I'm pretty tired this morning too - it's raining, so it's pretty dark outside and inside, and I didn't sleep well after lots of shenanigans by my upper bunkmate, who must be an only child and also perhaps an heiress of some kind, due to her inability to be quiet in a room full of sleeping people. Oh well - I'm switching rooms today, so who knows what tonight will be like?

Yesterday, my plan was twofold: visit Herculaneum, and then take a bus part of the way up Mount Vesuvius and climb the rest of the way. I got a bit of an earlier start than usual (yay me!) and was at Herculaneum by about 10:30. I had talked to Giovanni about this trip beforehand, who had some definite opinions about the whole thing, i.e. that Pompeii is "nothing but crushed houses" and Herculaneum is much better preserved and easier to understand. While I'm not sure I agree totally with the first part (I think it's funny, though), the second part is definitely quite true. The first thing that impressed me is that Herculaneum is SMALL:

I'm standing on one end of the site, and those multicolored houses that you can see at the horizon are actually the modern town of Ercolano - so the whole scope of the Herculaneum excavation is understandable from a single viewing location. That is definitely not true of Pompeii.

Herculaneum is also filled with all sorts of beautifully preserved and evocative spaces, like this arched space in the Suburban Baths:

I really got the chills walking through the baths, because the level of preservation is such that you almost feel as if the complex has been sitting dormant for decades, rather than millennia, and that the original inhabitants might come back to reclaim it at any time. The Baths are right near the entrance to the site, which goes past some warehouses where more than 300 skeletons have been found. I didn't see the skeletons, but they were definitely on my mind as I walked into the baths.

I really loved the polychrome decoration in the House of the Relief of Telephus:

The columns along that colonnade are faced with marble and then painted, and the paint survives, which is amazing. I also love the striped pattern on those two brick columns - this sort of inventive use of different shades of brick appears in houses all over Herculaneum. My Fodor's guide includes the line that some of these houses almost feel like one could move into them, after a little renovation, and while I think that's an exaggeration, I can definitely understand the feeling.

I thought about Katie Wood a lot at the House of the Stags:

Katie presented the sculptures in this courtyard during one of our Roman sculpture classes, and they are pretty awesome. These are plaster casts - the originals are in a museum somewhere - but it was still cool to see the casts in situ. I was kind of amazed at how small they all were, because somehow I had imagined the groups of the stags being attacked by dogs as much larger than this. As it is, they worked well in this house, which is actually quite an opulent one.

Herculaneum is also proud of its thermopolia, listing several of them in the little guidebook and walking tour:

You're all probably pretty familiar with these by now, considering they're everywhere in every archaeological site. I had a bit of a new thought yesterday, though - I hadn't thought much about the awesome crazy-quilt mosaic of marble on these counters, but now I realize that they're probably cheaper leftover building materials that still add a bit of class and durability to the establishment. I'll have to think about this some more.

This awesome mosaic was in the House of Neptune and Amphitrite:

It's in terrific shape, and I especially love the shell border. I had to struggle a bit to look at it - there was a small tour group, and the guide really wanted to push in front of me, and did so rather deliberately, but when I got my chance to look, it was totally worth it.

Here's the House of the Beautiful Courtyard:

This photo illustrates an important architectural feature that is almost unheard of in Pompeii but appears all over Herculaneum: surviving second floors. We know that most of the houses in Pompeii would have had second floors, but because few of them survive, we still have all sorts of questions about how the space in Roman houses was organized. I'll have to read a bit more about Herculaneum to see if anyone has really done anything with all this extra information.

Another amazing survival in Herculaneum's particular environment is wood:

This is the House of the Wooden Partition, and that partition has been standing in this house since antiquity. The partition was intended to create some privacy between the public and private spaces of the house - the head of the family would have met clients in the atrium and other front rooms, while family life would have taken place in the back rooms behind the partition. I wonder if anyone has written about the public/private situation in this house - I'll have to check my books after I get them out of storage.

And one last shot of Herculaneum:

There's Vesuvius, hulking above it all, a sleeping menace, and my destination for the second half of the day.

Before heading up to Vesuvius, I had some pizza for lunch. I was getting sick of pizza in Rome, but I have a renewed interest thanks to the fact that it is really delicious down here in the Naples area. This particular pizza wasn't as good as some of the ones I've had in Naples proper, but was still respectable. I also took the opportunity to have my first taste of limoncello:

Pleasant, but awfully strong! I think I'm going to buy a bottle to bring home with me as an occasional after-dinner treat.

After the limoncello, it was time to head up to Vesuvius (good thinking there, Sarah). I reached the bus stop just as the bus was leaving, but the driver waited for me to get my ticket and hop on, which was really nice of him. It was more of a ten-passenger van than a bus, and as we wound up the narrow roads, I really developed an appreciation for this driver's ability to get this old, creaking, manual-transmission bus all the way up the volcano. We had a definite language barrier, but I think we were friends by the time he dropped us off at the lower parking lot before the final climb.

Here was the view up the trail when I first started out:

Not the worst climb I've ever done, but a bit steep, with lots of switchbacks and very soft, dusty soil. I saw plenty of idiots attempting this in flip-flops or worse, which is just asking for twisted ankles and such.

As I walked up the hill, I was treated to many gorgeous views of the Bay of Naples:

It was a bit of a cloudy day, so the view wasn't as crystal-clear as it could have been, but I think I was glad because there was absolutely no shade on the trail. I would have been baking on a clear day; as it was, there was a pleasant breeze that was quite refreshing.

Here I am at the top, with the crater behind me:

And here's the crater, from a different vantage point:

These pictures don't really do justice to the sublimity of the experience. Walking along the crater's rim, there was a drop-off on one side into the crater, and on the other side down to the Bay of Naples. You kind of feel like you're walking into the sky, but then you remember that the volcano was once twice as high, before the eruption that buried Pompeii, and looking up into the sky to imagine that extra height is just dizzying. I'm so glad I did this - definitely a sight to remember.

Well, that's it for now - I need to figure out what to do with the rest of my day today!