It’s been a month since our Easter trip to visit our friends Jon and Amber in Naples and I am finally sitting down to write about the bulk of our travels. Our ventures in Naples were… well, a little bit creepy at times, but overall, fun!
Jordan had a long weekend off from work for Easter and so we decided it would be a good time to explore mainland Italy. We booked our trip about a week (or less in advance) and didn’t really have much of a plan, except to have fun. And, we did.
We had a really big wish list: Pompeii, Positano/Amalfi Coast, and Naples. The very first day we visited both Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast and on days two and three, Naples. I already talked about day one in two other posts, so I’m going to talk about days two and three here.
We woke up EXHAUSTED from day one, but early because we had things to see!! Jon drove us into downtown Naples and while trying to find parking, we drove into a street market. Common in Italy, but distressing none-the-less. Once he was able to navigate out of the tiny little market streets, we found a parking garage (with no market) and set out to explore Naples.
The first thing we did was take in the general atmosphere of Naples downtown and do a little window shopping! We had planned to go to the National Archaeological Museum, but the entrance line was down the street. We also attempted the Veiled Christ, but again, the line was wrapped around the block (because, Easter). As much as I love lines (I don’t love lines AT ALL), I was happy not to have to wait in these. So, if we ever go back, we will attempt again.
While window shopping and taking in the general scenery, we saw a man singing beautiful Italian songs from his balcony (see top, right photo). It was fun and romantic!
After our stroll and shopping, we stopped in at a little bar (aka pastry shop in Italy) to have a rum baba (small yeast cake filled with cream and saturated in rum syrup). We had eaten them before – but never in Naples. And, they were amazing. I had the pistachio filled one!
Note: not the only sexual statue we saw in Naples.
After our pastry stop, we stopped to check out the random little chapel
And the Naples Cathedral
And then things started to get a little creepy! We decided to make a stop at Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco (Saint Mary of the Souls of Purgatory)- also known as the church of the dead. Surprisingly, there was no line for this one! Upon walking in, it looked like just another church. Once inside, we had to pay an entrance fee to go to the church’s hypogeum, or underground crypt… Yep, that’s right – underground crypt. Here, the “Neapolitan Skull Cult” filled the crypt with the remains of the poor and unfortunate for whom were not able to be afforded a proper Catholic funeral. It was believed without a proper burial, their souls would languish in purgatory, so people went here to pray for them.
Photos were not allowed here, so I can only tell you about it – but basically there were skulls everywhere lining dark hallways and an alter – with skulls 🙂
We did however, visit two catacombs and a cemetery on day two. More on that soon.
After visiting the underground crypt, we visited Naples underground, where we got to check out the historic old city of Naples, which just so happens to be… underground!
At the end of that tour, we checked out some art and then headed out for dinner.
Day 3 – Easter
My main mission for this day was to check out the catacombs, because ever since I took an art history class in college, I’ve wanted to check them out! Luckily Amber and Jon were down, so the Catacombs of San Gennaro was our first stop.
San Gennaro is an underground burial site that consists of two levels. There were once three separate levels, but now, to my disappointment, there were no bodies there. So, we just explored the crypt space and art.
After visiting San Gennaro, we decided to walk a few kilometers to Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus. I know sounds really different. Kinda was though.
The Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus is located under the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità. So, as we walked into the Basilica, we actually walked into Easter mass.
Because it was a church service, I only snapped a couple of photos.
We stood in the back for the service. Even though I had no idea what they were saying, It was still a pretty amazing experience to be in one of the largest churches in Naples for Easter service! It was definitely a moving experience.
After the service, we went down into the catacombs for the tour.
These catacombs were WAAAYYY different than San Gennaro. Because there bones were of aristocrats and ecclesiastics… and well, the skulls were cemented in the walls, while the rest of the body was frescoed…. yep.
After that fascinating tour, we ventured to the last stop of the day before Easter Dinner – Fontanelle Cemetery.
This was a cemetery a little different than those I’ve been to before… it is in a cave that is filled with bones of victims of the plague and anonymous remains. Another place for “The Neapolitan Cult of the Dead” to come and pray.
The cemetery was HUGE and holds between 250,000 and 300,000 bodies, apparently.
After our busy day, we decided to head back to Amber and Jon’s car. Once we made the uphill trek back, we realized the garage we parked in was closed. So, we ended up going to the hotel next door to inquire. It was currently 3pm and the garage was scheduled to open again at 7pm. Odd hours right? Well, we had an 8pm flight to catch. So we ended up walking to the train station and quickly buying a ticket and r u n n i n g to catch a train. We then had to switch trains (this was our first time taking a train, by the way) and get a cab to John and Amber’s place. They were nice enough to find us a ride to the airport with a friend. So, we made it to the airport and they were able to get a ride back to get their car later that evening.
So, all that’s well that ends well, right?!