Thursday, October 29, 2015
Life is about death, as a dear friend said to me this week. Certainly if you are a Buddhist. But even if you are not, every day is sweet because our days are numbered, and we will all die.
And it's just because life is about death that we need to make sure we live! Which for me means experience. Rich, fascinating, delicious experience. Experience such as can be found in Naples - where the locals say "Vedi Napoli e poi muori" or "See Naples and Die".
So next week I am headed to Neapolis, literally the "new city" of the Greeks (because when it was founded by the Greeks in 2nd century BC it was replacing the old city of Cumae, just to the West, which had been founded 600 years earlier). And it's been continuously occupied since then...meaning it's been Greek, and Roman, and Byzantine, and Norman, and Angevin, and Bourbon, and Fascist, and then pummeled by the Allies, and now recovering... and I am skipping a few rulers in between.
The resulting city and it's surroundings are a feast for the soul. Whether you love the terracotta red wall art of Pompeii, or the almost vulgar decorations of baroque churches, or the visual beauty of the art in the Capodimonte. Whether you are a lover of pizza (the margherita pizza was invented there for Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889 - see the red, white and green!), or fish so fresh it looks you in the eye before they cook it, or volcanic red wine or the sweetest tomatoes. Whether you enjoy hot water springs or cool autumn Amalfi beaches. It's glorious and inspiring, poor and dangerous, and one of the most stimulating places you can explore.
So, in preparing to die one day, Naples is a must, and this time I'm spending a week in the area (rather than the 3 days I've given it in the past).
Goethe said it well - and he, and the scandalous fashionista Lady Hamilton, made Naples a must stop on the Grand Tour for the young elite gentlemen of English society wanting to get a classical education (and it's reassuring to know they would often also get educated in the ways of women and wine on the way). I'm following in the footsteps of the poet Virgil, the great Lord Nelson, Caravaggio and thousands more. It's going to be fun following their ghosts.