Thursday, April 7, 2011

Centro, Round Two

With only one day left to spend in the Naples area, Paige, Julia and I returned to the Centro area to finish up what we'd missed earlier in the week. The main goal was the art museum of Capodimonte, located in the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte. It was finished in 1759, and the building of this planned hunting lodge had grown so out-of-control that voila...a new palace instead. Being royalty  back then must have been grand. The museum holds paintings from the Farnese family, royal apartments, art produced in Naples, and an entirely unimpressive modern art collection, save one incredibly famous work: Andy Warhol's painting of Mount Vesuvius.

But first, we headed to Chiaia, that bastion of cleanliness and civility. I love taking guests to Chiaia. Since it neighbors Centro and the Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter, picturesque in a gritty way and one of the poorest sections of Naples), it's easy to get the whole range of big city Italy in just a few hours. Wandering through Chiaia, we could relax and spend our time taking in the beautiful buildings. Making our way down to the pedestrian zone and through it to Piazza Plebiscito, we took a turn toward the sea to enjoy lunch in a quiet restaurant with an ocean view. Then back to our touring schedule, where we stopped off at Galleria Umberto (the shopping mall with the glass roof), glanced over at Castel Nuovo (New Castle, built in 1282), then we were off for Capodimonte, making our way through the maze of alleys in order to get off the crowded, main streets and enjoy the delightful surprises one finds in wandering.

Galleria Umberto

Random, pretty little church we happened upon in Centro
Porcelain Salon - walls and ceiling are covered with porcelain
What luck - we arrived at Capodimonte and browsed the gift shop located at the ticket office for a few minutes...and when I stepped up to the register to buy our entry tickets, it was about 4:05pm, five minutes past the time when entry became free until the 6:30 closing. This is just more proof of my constant point to Nathan about how my shopping saves us money. This dates back to an old family joke - when my aunt was a teenager, she returned home after a day of shopping for items on sale. My grandfather took one look at her bag-laden arms and said, with a big sigh, "How much money did you save me today?" But back to art...frankly, my brain was on overload from all our touring and now, after I've also visited the Vatican Museum in the last two weeks as well, the art from Capodimonte is a bit of a blur. I know it was beautiful...and huge. I would like to return and take the audio tour in order to really do it justice. I know that it's larger than the Uffizi in Rome and has many comparable works, works by Titian and Botticelli and Bellini. The grounds are huge and are a site in and of themselves, and when we visited, a rousing soccer game was in progress on the palace lawn. We'd been walking for days and when leaving the museum, we faced a long walk to the bus stop, then a long walk to the Metro, then a potentially long wait for the Metro before the 30 minute ride home...and then a walk home, uphill...and it was raining (and no, none of that is a joke). We headed for the nearest taxi and got an outrageous quote. Deciding to just take the taxi to the Metro, for which we already had tickets, we got in, whereupon the taxi driver radioed in that he was taking clients to the Metro, then promptly renegotiated a price to take us all the way home. Hooray! It was late, and we had hot dates with our suitcases to pack for Capri.

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