My birthday falls just before Christmas and as my special treat I chose to go to Naples. Despite having explored Pompeii on more than one occasion, and also Herculaneum, I had never had the opportunity of seeing central Napoli. An Italian friend recommended that it would be better to drive to Naples, although I had been contemplating taking the train from Formia Station.
We set off, having entered the details of Naples Archaeological Museum into our SatNav. As we entered the centre of the city we got a real taste of driving in this metropolis. We found it difficult to follow some of the SatNav’s directions and ended up getting a little lost which was somewhat disconcerting. Whilst trying to find our way, Paul found that he had to keep his wits about him, due to the volume and frenetic pace of the traffic. Of course Napolitan drivers rarely use their indicators to forewarn others of their intentions and Vespas zip chaotically amidst the surging flow. It was basically a free for all – indeed driving in Naples is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Eventually we managed to get back onto the right track and we finally succeeded in finding our way to the Museum. The gods must have been smiling on us, as we were very fortunate to find a parking spot just opposite the museum.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the most noteworthy archaeological museums in the world. The building itself, was originally constructed as a cavalry barracks, before being converted to house the centre of the University of Naples in 1612. The Bourbon Spanish King, Charles III, established the museum in the 18th century and subsequently the building was extended to accommodate a prize collection of Roman statues, that he had inherited from the Farnese family of Parma. These are now known as the Farnese Collection.
The museum is of a considerable size, so we opted to concentrate on viewing the Roman section which contains a multitude of interesting artifacts that were buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. We commenced on the first floor, a section which houses frescoes that once adorned the homes of wealthy Romans who lived under the shadow of the volcano.
Then we moved on to the mezzanine floor, to a section housing many fine Roman Mosaics. I was astounded by their intricate detail and the artistic skill of the mosaicists. Here are some of my favourites …
Also located on this floor is what has become known as the “Secret Room”. Here there is a collection of Roman erotic or sexual items mostly excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Next we moved to the ground floor which holds the Farnese Collection of statues. There is a long room which contains busts and statues of several of the Roman Emperors.
The Farnese Collection also contains many wonderful marble statues of mythological characters. Many of these magnificent works of art are in fact Roman copies of classical Greek sculptures. Some are colossal in size.
Being a lover of canines, I absolutely adored these Roman statues of dogs dating from 1st / 2nd century AD.
The museum also contains an array of other Roman artifacts such as bronze statutes, ceramics, glassware, vases, engraved copper and gems, parchments, tools and implements, coins, and sarcophagi to name but a few. The basement holds the Borgia Collection of Egyptian relics and epigraphs.
The museum is open 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. everyday, except Tuesday. Ticket information
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott
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