Naples has a reputation in Italy as. . . well. . . excessive. Everything Rome is, particularly the negative things, are supposedly magnified in Naples: big, dirty, noisy, bustling etc.
It's hard to judge a city on a single afternoon, but it certainly felt different from Rome -- more Mediterranean, I suppose. Maureen said that with its crowded, narrow, chaotic streets it had an almost third world feel too it. I'm sure the Neapolitans wouldn't like that characterization, but something about it rang true to me.
We arrived in the late morning and did a quick walking tour of the historic center, including a palace that the Jesuits (naturally) had turned into a church.
We had a lunch of unbelievably good pizza (a Neapolitan invention) that made Denis sad because he said that now he would never like pizza in America again. Then we browsed in the various shops, which had peculiar Punch (as in Punch and Judy) figures that we supposed to bring good luck (this one apparently brings pizza as well), strange figurines that seemed to be people being consumed in the fires of hell, and the famous Neapolitan Christmas creche figurines, including US presidential candidate to put next to baby Jesus.
Late in the afternoon we toured the incredible collection in the Archaeological Museum, ably guided by Dr. Laura Flusche, who teaches art and architecture to the Loyola/CUA students in Rome.
The Museum contained many artifacts from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, which were expropriated by the Farnese family in the 16th century and eventually ended up in Naples. Particularly striking were two sculptures of young boys running
and the famous Farnese Bull:
The other highlights were the artifacts from Pompeii. Particularly magnificent was the mosaic of Alexander the Great defeating Darius of Persia.
After that we headed off around the Bay of Naples, seeing some of the famous Neapolitan garbage along the way. We arrived in Sorrento and continued our adventures, but I'll let someone else tell that part of the story.