Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back to Cumae

I got a little sidetracked while writing about my aunt and uncle's visit to the nearby Cumaen ruins. Since I wrote so recently about the ruins themselves, I thought I'd just share a few photos of our day spent in my neck of the woods.
Driving to the Cumae ruins, we pass under Arco Felice, an ancient entrance to the Cumaen city - it's fun to stand at the ruins of the city now and look far off into the distance at the arch. We look over many farms and fields, and it's one of those, "what lies beneath" moments. Driving underneath this arch, we drive over the top of cobblestones that are part of the original ancient street.
Standing among the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, looking out at the beautiful sea view and the mountainous island of Ischia (original home to the first Cumaen settlers on this site), it's easy to see why they picked out. Miraculously or through some feat of unexplainable, Italian zoning (?what?), much of the area in front of Cumae has remained undeveloped, so standing here, visitors can really get a feel for what those citizens so long ago saw themselves - we hear the term "window to the past" so often, yet this place truly seems to be such a thing.
My aunt and uncle sitting on the sides of a Christian baptismal font. Built in about the 6th century BC, this place was a Greek Temple (today called the Temple of Jupiter, but I don't know that historians actually know the recipient of the worship). The Greek temple was reworked into a Roman Temple a few hundred years later, and then a Christian Basilica. A small Christian cemetery was found within the church and nearby to the old baptismal font.
Temple of Venus, located in Baia. This temple is quite literally, on the side of the road through Baia - and right across from Monkey, a yummy coffee/gelato/hot chocolate bar. This "temple" is yet another example of older historians naming every big ruin they came across as a temple. The Temple of Venus is actually a huge thermal room, built in the early 100s. It was most likely connected to the thermal baths (now ruins) on the other side of the road - I'll have more about them later. The outside was once covered in blue, glass tiles - can you picture how beautiful this must have been!
Via Panoramica, obviously named. We have Lago Miseno in the foreground, the Pozzuoli Bay behind it, and far in the distance, just a smudge on the horizon on the right side (possibly doesn't even show at this small size) is Mount Vesuvius.
We had a wonderful, relaxing day just driving around this historic area. Although we started to have a little problem that was quickly handled Italian style. As we left the Cumae ruins, carrying our bag of former sandwiches from Gennaro, some self-appointed rule-enforcer ran up to the guard working the entrance pointing at our bag and telling him we ate in the ruins and he needed to check our bag. Check our bag - are you kidding me? The guard looked at this lady with disgust, looked at me, and asked, in Italian, "Did you eat in the ruins." I looked at his face, caught his cue for my response, looked at our empty bag, and then looked back at him with complete shock and a huge, "Eat! Noooooo!" He looked back at the lady, shrugged, and said, "See, no problem." We trundled off with the lady glaring at us. I'm amazed sometimes at the rules Italians want to enforce. We spent over two hours in the ruins and we were the only people there the entire time. Eating a sandwich and then packing out your trash - not okay. Throwing that same plastic bag out the car window on the road driving away from the ruins - perfectly acceptable. In fact, go ahead and add a mattress, sofa, and a few thousand plastic bottles while you're at it.

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