Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's raining in Naples, but after a day of walking around medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, we are happy to have found a small internet cafe close to our hotel. Naples is quite an experience. We are staying in the old part of town where narrow streets are barely wide enough for a single car to pass. Naples takes its name from "neo-polis," from the Greeks meaning "new city", as Naples was once a colony for ancient Greece. I think the Greeks laid the streets in these old massive cobblestones of marble, a tradition which continues to today. I did laundry and hung it out to dry, looking directly across the street at another building, just about 8 feet away. The medieval period did not want to waste any space!

The Italians are passionate people. If they're not arguing, they are gesticulating, bargaining, hugging, laughing. Here we see many cafes, as in Greece, but the atmosphere is different, or at least in Naples, so far the climate is somehow small town in the middle of a very busy city. I can't get used to the motorbikes that everyone rides -- with little more than a beep to tell you to get out of the way. We saw 3 people on one moped nearly go head-on with 3 people on another moped. They stopped just in time, hugged, laughed, and continued on their way. Cars are about the same. The drivers can turn on a dime and back up at speed. It truly is pedestrian beware!

Shops close up between 2 and about 4:30 pm, so everyone can go home for lunch and a long siesta. I like the siesta part, but overheard some tourists say they hadn't had a square meal in quite a while because they didn't know that the restaurants didn't reopen until 7:30 pm.

Yesterday, we visited the Archaeological Museum here in Naples and were entranced by the mosaics from Pompei. I have been fascinated by Pompei for many years but I never realized how big Pompei was or how much had been covered by volcanic ash. Now, tomorrow, we go to see the real thing. Excavations have uncovered hundreds of murals, temples, mosaics, and even a theater and stadium, modeled after any Roman town. Today, we skipped from the ancient past to the medieval period up to the Baroque. I think we visited 5 churches, and we saw two weddings today -- complete with bride in floor length gown -- and admired religious art and architecture. Our last church somehow combined several styles. It's billed as a Renaissance church, but because it is constantly being updated, and closer to the size of a cathedral, we were overwhelmed by intricate marble inlay of every color -- everywhere we looked! Major white marble sculptures, detailed painted ceilings in the style of Michelangelo, and tall columns combining Corinthian with every style -- from simple to bulbous, lots of gold and silver, many flowers, in short, we were overwhelmed! But what impresses me most is the deeply spiritual feeling that pervades each church, despite the tourists tromping in and out.

The writing goes well, the camera -- despite a sometimes jammed cover -- is still working well, and we've already found a few used bookstores in Rome for next week. We're doing well on the road, but now are a little more cut off, since all the TV channels are in Italian, no CNN at all, our only news is online. Expenses are up for hotel rooms (you don't want to know), but being adaptable, we buy fruit from street vendors, yogurt from the little corner store, and head out for "real" pizza or a hot meal once a day. All is well as we hear from home. The bread is good here. Visit the Harvest Bread Company in Corvallis and think of us. Fondly, Beth

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