fredag 27. september 2013

Ercolano and San Martino

Water fountain in Ercolano
I took the "Circumvesuviano" –the train that circumvents Vesuvius– to Herculeanum, or Ercolano this morning. It took approximately 30 minutes from Garibaldi Station in Napoli.

Ercolano's "burial" in AD 79 was deep enough (30 m of volcanic ash covered the whole town) to preserve the upper stories of many buildings, and also wooden objects such as beds and doors. Remnants of food were also found on the site.

It was amazing to walk along ancient streets and imagine life as it existed two millennia ago in this Roman town, once a Greek settlement (Herakleion) from the 5th c BC.

Eavesdropping in Ercolano
I joined a group of German students who were on an excursion with their history teacher as guide, and it made my visit all the more educational, even though my German is getting rusty.

The most famous of the villas at Ercolano is the Villa of the Papyri which has four terraces stretching down towards the sea (the sea level was much higher then). The villa had a library with 1785 papyrus scrolls (carbonized by age), hence the name. These Papyri were discovered by workmen in the 1750’s. The scrolls have ancient Greek philosophical texts and other topics. They are stored in the National Archeological Museum and the Biblioteca Nationale di Napoli, where there is an entire section devoted to the Herculaneum Papyri.

See pictures from Ercolano

San Martino
I returned to Napoli in time for the aftenoon tour of the National museum of San Martino. My guide was none other than Giustino, my tireless cicerone.

View from San Martino
The Certosa di San Martino (a former monastery) and San’ Elmo fortress are the most visible landmarks i Napoli, located on top of the Hill of Vomero. Inside the monastery complex are impressive terraced gardens, cloisters, the Chiesa delle Donne and a charterhouse.

The former living quarters of the prior and the monks have been converted into this impressive museum dedicated to Napoli's history and culture.

Among the many unique exhibits are the famous Napolitan nativity scenes, of which Cucinello’s crib (from 1879) is considered to be the world's largest with more than 150 people, animals, angels and a few hundred miniature objects (see link to photos at the bottom of this page).

Tavola Strozzi
Of the many paintings on display here is the original Tavola Strozzi (from 1479), an oil-on-wood painting of Napoli seen from above, facing the port of the city. The present skyline is still the same.

Impressions from Certosa di San Martino