Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rome's Villa Farnesina

We spent most of Monday driving from Paestum to Rome, setting up camp at our old friend Prato Smeraldo, near Laurentina and the EUR. We stored the camper at Prato Smeraldo in 2011, and also camped there for the weeks we toured Rome that year. It is a short bus ride and then a quick metro ride to the heart of the city. On Tuesday we went into the Eternal City and did the Villa Farnesina, which we had missed in 2011, and then the English tour of St. Peter's, which we figured would get us privileged access as well as insight. Maybe an indulgence or two. Figure again.
The Villa Farnese was the (Cardinal) Farnese villa across the
river from the Farnese Palace; it was built in the early 16th
century for Agostino Chigi, banker for Popes Julius II and
Leo X, and later acquired by the Farneses; it main claim
to fame, other than beautiful Renaissance architecture and
grounds, are the frescoes by Team Raphael; above, the
Triumph of Galatea

"Stop with the music or I shoot off your Johnson!"

Still in the Loggia of Galatea, there were other interesting
frescoes, not by Raphael, that did not escape my critical gaze,
although I still have not come up with a good caption for
this curiosity

Moving right along, we are now in the Loggia of Cupid and
Psyche, the impressive ceiling of which was done by Team

Up closer of the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche; note the
wings on the airborne creatures


Now in the Room of the Frieze, which is the little strip
running around the top, mostly the deeds of Hercules; what
impressed us was the drapery all around, in many of the
rooms, all of it illusionary painting

Nice alabaster torchiere

Nice marble staircase

Nice marble door off the staircase

In the Hall of Perspective Views, more illusional stuff

More ditto, by Baldassare Peruzzi

Graffiti left by Charles V's soldiers, sacking Rome in 1527

And lastly, in the Room of the Marriage of Alexander the
Great and Roxana, The Marriage of Alexander the Great and
, by Giovanni Bazzi, who went by the possibly
unfortunate name of Sodoma

Although it is certainly the most heavily advertised sight on
this side of the river, we weren't convinced it was worth the
5 euros

Although the grounds were nice

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paestum, 2013

In the south, there was one more place we wanted to see one more time, remarkable Paestum. We saw it in 2011, after Turkey and Greece and just before Sicily. There are many Greek temples in those places, but none are in as fine a condition as the three 6th century Doric temples at Paestum. (Doric because they hadn't invented Ionic or Corinthian yet). The Greeks began colonizing the Black Sea and all over the Mediterranean in the 8th and 7th centuries, not long after Homer. The 2011 Paestum post is at
Columns of the Temple of Hera, with those of the Temple of
Apollo behind...sunset; interesting to remember that these
structures were built generations before Pericles, Socrates,
et al.

Temple of Hera illuminated


Temple of Apollo; not pictured because it was at the other
side of this sizable walled ancient city: Temple of Athena;
see 2011 post

At Paestum's excellent museum; the Lucanians--successors
to the Greeks--painted the insides of their sarcophogi; here
is "The Diver," inside lid, said to celebrate a passage to a new

Pompeii, 2013

We visited Pompeii Scavi, the ruins, twice in 2011, and left some of the longer posts I have done, starting at We like classical stuff. A lot. We visited again on Friday, spent most of the day, saw lots of sites we'd visited before but also got to see several new ones. Specific sites open and close without notice, but the people at the information desk generally know of special openings and closings. Thus, they might tell you the House of the Village Idiot will open today only at 2PM, and, if you wait outside, sure enough, by 2:30, someone with the mother of all key rings will show up, unlock the padlocked doors, and proceed to his/her next showing. In our experience, apart from a few of the perennial favorites, that's how the really good stuff is presented.
We proceeded straight-away to our perennial favorite, the
Villa of the Mysteries, which we found to be undergoing
research, restoration, etc.; this is the main room, three walls
of which are covered with some of the best frescoes in
Pompeii; it was a treat to see them with ample light and also
to watch all the calibration, measuring, photographing going
on; it was fairly early in the day, the Villa is well outside the
walls, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves

Details from the Villa of Mysteries


Ditto again; Dionysan Mysteries, BTW, not Dashiell Hammett

Speaking of city walls, we walked them a bit,
hoping for a short-cut; we'd never paid much
attention to them before; so here is what a
Roman city wall looked like in the 1st century

Mosaic in the House of Apollo

House of Amorini Dorati

Ditto; snakes were good luck charms...

Many people wonder why the House of the Faun takes up
nearly an entire block; I like to tell them, well, there are the
Haves and there are the Have Nots; the residents of the House
of the Faun obviously were Haves; it says so on the door

Temple for worship of household goods, no,

In the Stabbian Baths

After years of work, now finally open

In the House of Menander...there's Menander

Frescoed atrium garden wall at Menander's

Special place...we'll be back

Naples Out-takes, 2013

Just a few...
Perils of museums leaving windows open...a mosquito is about
to bite this Vestal Virgin on the lip...

Miniature in the cameo room

Spare parts area out behind the museum

Stupid Satyr tricks: do not try this back home on the farm; from
a group of visiting English school boys, Vicki heard someone
ask "But why would you want to do that to a goat?"

Stupid American tricks (at Pompeii, next day)

Vending machine outside a farmacia...

A Walk In Naples, 2013

So we decided to walk from the Museum of Archaeology back to the Garibaldi Stazione and our train back to Pompeii. Naples is intense. The urban part is URBAN. But we had done this before and knew we would enjoy it again.
In the bookshop district, outside a place called
Descartes and Dante...

Many old structures, including this torre,
built from a variety of re-cycled materials

Alley scene; there are no streets...just
boulevards and alleys


One alley had dozens...scores...of miniatures shoppes, as
above...a video I made for our grand-daughter is at

We had dinner at Michele's, another old pizzeria that is said
to be Naples' oldest and most, the Margherita;
the Marinera, no cheese,  is the only other flavor; seriously

We got back to Pompeii early enough to have a nice long visit
with Al and Carol from Colorado, the fifth US couple RVing
in Europe we have met in the past seven months; in the
previous four years we have seen only Rick and Kathy from
South Dakota (Texas? California? where are you two really
from?); Europeans must think there's an invasion underway;
anyhow, it's especially nice to be able to talk to people who
understand this mode of life and travel...

Naples' National Archaeological Museum, 2013

After an administrative day, we took the Circumvesuviana to Naples and then the subway to Naples' National Museum of Archaeology.  The Museum is where the major items from Herculaneum and Pompeii are kept and displayed. Frozen in time, Herculaneum and Pompeii are the clearest and closest pictures we have of our classical past. In addition to Herculaneum and Pompeii, the Museum also displays the Farnese sculptures, that is, the Roman sculptures discovered in quarrying Caracalla's Baths, in the 16th century, to build St. Peters. They constitute one of the greatest collections of classical sculpture, both Roman and Roman copies of Greek. Our past posts from this Museum are at, and, If you care anything about the classical world, this is a special place.
The Farnese Hercules at Rest, 12-15 feet high

The Farnese Bull, one piece of marble, the
size of your living room

Plate-sized, the largest cameo so far known

Detail from among the scores of Pompeii

A dancer, one of the scores of bronzes at
Naples...that is, one of the scores of
bronzes to have come down to us from the classical world