Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Italy Motorcycle Diary: 7. Piglet and Uovos

I grabbed a slice of pizza from one of the stands on the coastal road’s sidewalk. Cruise ships were docked in the distance and closer in, on the other side of the seawall, children and adults swam around rowboats and small yachts.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, one of the main destinations of my trip, was a mile or two away.
“Should I walk there?” I texted Paul. A moment before, I had turned down a cab driver after haggling with him in my new language, his price of venti for the trip sounding ridiculously high to me. “Map says 35 minutes.”
“You will be as drenched as I was – I am temporarily dry if I don’t move,” he replied. “Underground Roman/Greek tour kicked ass and was freezing cold.”
The next taxi driver quoted me a price of seven euro, which I accepted. I took note of street conditions. Scooter mania increased as we got closer to the museum – we barely missed nailing a crazy scooter rider as he sped past on the right. The taxi driver muttered something and shared a glance. He thought it was a close call, too.
Paul and I met at Piazza Dante. Unlike the piazzas I had visited in Rome, Venice, and Florence, this one felt completely unlike a tourist attraction. It was, though, and had a pair of the ever-present carabinieri with their assault rifles to prove it. I didn’t see any other tourists. A field of tables by some bars and snack places in one corner of the piazza had been abandoned by anyone with a lick of sense in the brutal heat.
Named after Dante Alighieri, who wrote “Dante’s Inferno,” it’s dominated by a 19th century statue of the poet. It felt like a working piazza – a lived-in, true public square that seemed ripped from the 1800s.
We found a bar across the street from the museum. Locals drifted in and out of the small shop as we sat at a counter and drank birra. We had fun trying to chat with the bartender. He told us he thought it had reached 45 that day, which is 113 Fahrenheit. We were skeptical. After a minute of pantomime and me straining for Italian words I knew, we figured out he was saying it was hot enough to fry an egg on the street that day.
We spent about two-and-a-half hours at the museum, which seemed like the bare minimum for an adequate visit. The museum is a treasure house of famous pieces, like the “Seated Hermes” and “Drunken Satyr,” plus many other pieces collected from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They have a large, finely detailed model of the excavated Pompeii that is breathtaking. Also well worth the admission price was the “Secret Room,” which wasn’t hard to find and contains remarkable examples of ancient pornography and polyphallic talismans.
A few items were missing and likely on tour somewhere else. One empty display stand with the label “Piglet” gave me an idea: I pulled up a photo on my phone of the Winnie-the-Pooh character, beloved by my youngest daughter, set the phone on the stand, and had Paul snap a photo to send to her. She adores Piglet!
As we came down the final set of stairs with two minutes left before closing, I told Paul the only thing I found disappointing was that the expansive Mosaic wing was missing the one thing I wanted to see the most – the celebrated, super-sized mosaic of Alexander the Great fighting Darius, the Persian king.
“What do you mean?” Paul said. “It was there. I saw it.” And when he saw my mouth hanging open, he added, cruelly, “It was incredible.”

Next: Spanish Quarter

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