After breakfast the next morning, we walked through the city and along the waterfront, to the Castel dell’Ovo, or Egg Castle, the name coming from a legend about the Roman poet Virgil who was said to have put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg been broken, the castle would’ve been destroyed and a series of disastrous events in Naples would have followed.
The view from the castle was breathtaking. In one direction, you could see Mount Vesuvius against an unearthly blue sky, a puff of white cloud ascending from one of its peaks. Down below was the curve of the bay, and behind us a panorama of the city. We stood there looking out but without much sense of what we were looking at, nor about what we were standing on. I tried to imagine the castle bustling with soldiers and knights. I tried to picture the kings and queens and courtly activities, the music, the ignored screams of the captives that had once been held here. The place was now just a shell of its former self. An ancient, salt-and-weather-beaten shell. A conch shell devoid of the conch, with its ear to the sea but no song left in its throat.
It’s spirit was gone. It’s zen-moment-in-time had been had.
We were standing on the crusty and discarded remains of some insane metagalactic historical machine that whirled forever onward, paying little heed to man’s meagre creations. The machine had us. All we could do was play our assigned roles, and thereby serve it, oiling its Kafkaesque gears and adjusting the cables as we were supposed to.
We stood in the shadows of the castle with the wind in our faces, watching the seagulls sail over the glistening rocks, the bright, ethereal-blue skies like something out of a Raphael painting.
The air around us seemed to be vibrating.
Vesuvius was alive, snorting in its depths. The gulf of Naples brooding with all its secrets and the buildings of the city slouching toward perdition.
Everything was waiting for a second coming. Axis mundi. The tiger with the slow moving thighs.
We went to Sorbillo on the waterfront for lunch and had a pizza that might possibly have been the best I’d ever had – pizza was invented in Naples, it’s a little better than Dominoes. We then got espressos at a popular little cafe near the Palazzo Reale, and walked the streets, taking in the sights and the people. I was looking for the omnipresent yet ever-elusive Pulcinella. Not the mythical one from the old plays. The modern-day embodiment of him. Pulcinella is described as the voice and direct expression of the Neapolitan people. A public servant, often lazy and careless, always humorous. I knew several of them in the States via my tool rental shop. Here, I looked for him among the waiters, the shopkeepers, the cab drivers, the house painters and so forth. But my time was so limited I wasn’t able to find him. It was now late afternoon, time to cool down at the hotel for a couple hours.
There’s an art to taking a vacation. The art is to never neglect relaxation time. I only had two days in Naples, which wasn’t nearly enough to see everything I wanted to see. Two weeks probably wouldn’t have been enough. But I had to somehow make do with what I had while not overexerting myself. When some people go to new places on limited time, they often spoil the event with the feeling that they need to see everything, eat everything, take photographs of everything, and be everywhere all at the same time or the trip is a bust. Not me. I learned long ago the value of the return to the dark room in a strange city as temporary reprieve from the mob.
Two hours later, we felt completely rejuvenated. It was dinnertime. We walked through the bustling, narrow little scooter-buzzing streets to a place called Pizzeria Da Attilio.
A bottle of red house wine. Another pizza that bordered on the transcendent, and a winding down of the night at a little cafe on Via dei Tribunali where we drank Limoncelli Spritzes and I sketched the Pulcinella that had been eluding me all day. Unfortunately, he’s eluding me again today. I have tried to upload the sketch several times but the internet has been slow all evening and it won’t take. That might be a good thing though because I’m not quite finished.
See you tomorrow for day 3 from Pompeii and Positano.