Friday, March 27, 2015

Far from the madding crowd

I'm now reading 'Far from the madding crowd'. I saw the 1967 movie with the ravishing Julie Christie in the lead. This remake with Carey Mulligan is so beautiful. I only just now found out that Thomas Hardy had this serialized in 12 parts in Cornhill magazine, the editor at that time was Sir Leslie Stephen who had a hand in shaping the novel. Who was Leslie Stephen? He was the father of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and Cornhill magazine was started by Leslie Stephen's father in law, William Thackeray, another English literary great. I have a huge collection of books on the Bloomsbury group whose founding members were Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. I've visited Charleston farmhouse where Vanessa Bell lived for many years with her gay lover, the painter, Duncan Grant and with whom she had a child, Angelica Garnett.

Far from the madding crowd

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Santa Chiara, Naples

 This is a gorgeous church but from the outside you wouldn't think so. It had graffiti all around it and the neighbors walk their dogs in the parking lot and it is littered with dog poop.
 The cloisters has these beautiful frescoes.

 The yard is filled with beautiful majolica tiles.

The interior is beautiful but looking at the outside one doesn't expect much. Its sad that they have profaned such a beautiful and sacred place. If one does that what can one expect? Any blessings from the King of Kings whose house it is?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Naples duomo

Right next to the duomo is the Capella San Genaro where no photos was allowed but it is the depository of some of the ecclesiastical wealth of the church of Naples. Pope Francis was here recently. The blood of San Genaro is supposed to liquefy on the saint's day. The duomo or cathedral is beautiful but I've been in too many churches and was a little jaded.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Veiled Christ, Naples

It is a must see when in Naples, Italy. The capella Sansevero, a little chapel with incredible sculptures by Guiseppe Sanmartino. Its in a very obscure area in old Naples but is worth the trouble to hunt it down. In the center of the exhibition hall is this sculpture of Christ with a marble veil over it. It is so realistic that you feel you can almost lift that veil off. We were not allowed to take any pictures but as we left the chapel, there was this poster at the entrance and I snapped this photo. But I was yelled at by this over zealous attendant!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The blue grotto, a repost

There is actually nothing to the Blue Grotto. It's just a cave where because of the chemicals in the sea, the water is blue inside the cave. You go inside and look at the blue water of the sea and you say to yourself 'that's it?' Yes, that's it. The fun thing about it is the trip there. In this case it is definitely not the destination, it is the trip that is exciting. A few years ago we were heading south in Italy and we flew into Naples. Since we'll be in Naples, we lined up a few things to do while there. The Blue Grotto was one of them. We got up that morning in a dingy hostel near the train station, we met 2 Japanese tourists, young girls who said they were heading for the port to take the ferry to the Blue Grotto. We decided to tag along. From that on I have the greatest respect for the Japanese. They are thorough in their planning, they know what they doing and their execution is impeccable. As images of the Earthquake and Tsunami pictures are beamed to our TV, we see an absolutely dignified people, so disciplined (they won't gouge their fellow Japanese), they wait in line, they accept their fate and work to make things better for each other. They're amazing. For us who hasn't experienced their wrath as evidenced during WWII, we can admire them. My parents are not so sympathetic. I've never heard my mother expressed any anger over the loss of her family during WWII and the Japanese occupation. It is only my father's experience that we hear. They have no sympathy, they don't thing that Japan has ever atone for their actions during WWII. I digress.
We took the hydrofoil from Naples to the Isle of Capri, from Capri, we boarded a launch and was taken to  the mouth of the Blue Grotto. The entrance to it is very small and so we had to transfer to the little row boats that were waiting there, 2 to a boat. The boats man would then row to the entrance and with some action on a chain, pull us and the boat into the cave. That was the fun part. It was pretty hilarious. We do a short turn round the cave and out we go in reverse.
The world is one big amusement park, one gigantic Disneyland and the fun that one can have is limitless. The only problem is you can't do it in a day or on one entrance ticket. It takes a lifetime and many airline tickets to do it all or as many as one has the propensity for.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Naples, a city of decay

 I remember my first visit to Naples years ago. It was in better shape than today. I remember the various and beautiful architecture.
 On this day old churches are in decay and closed. This is the façade of an old church but it is in such a sorry state. Today we see ISIS blowing ancient monuments and it breaks my heart. My heart was broken after I saw this in Naples.

This are the gorgeous marble inlay in the altar and in the framing of the painting. Look closely at the painting, it is not painted by the old masters. It is a modern piece of work, this church has been turned into an art gallery. Upon entering we saw a huge sign of a real estate agent, she was hawking her wares in the church. So sad.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ramblings in Naples, Italy

 I'm amazed as how they could weave together bunches of tomatoes into this. Its so pretty.

 The street scene outside our hotel which was next to the train station. Every day scores of North African immigrants display their stuff for sale. It can get quite scary but we were used to it. I read a blog yesterday, the blogger said she loved photographing beauty and decay. That's what it is, decay has a certain quality to it too.

There were cute little souvenir shops and pastry shops everywhere. I do love Naples, Italy. Many writers in the past has been to Naples, Charles Dickens, Goethe, Hans Christian Andersen, just to name a few.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Eating in Naples

 It was in Naples a few years ago on our first visit to Naples that we discovered this Sicilian favorite, arancino which is actually a fried rice ball filled with stuffing. Its great as a street food. Subsequently on our visits to Sicily, we ate a lot of arancini, mostly for breakfast. We would order a coffee and an arancino each and eat standing at the bar with a whole bunch of Sicilian men. Here in Naples we got to eat arancino again without being in Sicily.
 Pizza was invented in Naples though we didn't have time for it this trip but on our last trip we ate it at the restaurant where they invented it.
 Yeah, prize winning pizzas.
 Its hard work being a tourist especially when we tried to squeeze as much in as possible. Here it was time for a cappuccino and a rum baba. For some reason the Neopolitans has adopted this French pastry and made it their own. It is just brioche soaked with rum syrup, artificial rum.

 How about some cannoli filled with ricotta cheese and alpine strawberries? So delectable!
 Some Sicilian cassata, anyone?
 And the star or the piece de resistance, sforgliatelle, of course. I don't know why I haven't heard of it on our first visit. I did checked in on Tripadviser and everyone was touting sfogliatelle. So when I saw them I had to try the. I'd go to Naples just to eat sfogliatelle, its that good!
You can find Sicilian food anywhere in Italy, you can only find sfogliatelle in Naples which means there will be more trips to Naples in the future. Naples is just one hour away from Rome by train and there is this huge shop across the street from the train station that just sell sfogliatelle and rum baba! I went to buy some, approached the cashier and said to him 'sfo-glia-telle' he said, 'bravo' meaning I got it right!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Naples, Italy

 Naples is not for the faint hearted. It is dirty and grimy and full of seedy looking people. This was our second time to be in Naples and for some reason I like Naples. But things have changed in the few years that we've been away. There is now a huge North African immigrant population and they are so visible, probably because we were near the train station. They set up market around that area but they don't bother us. I was looking for our old hostel which was next to the train station but couldn't it when one of the hotel people offered us a room for 50 euros a night and we took it. It was low season. Things have changed in Naples and it wasn't for the better.

I remember more beautiful churches and architecture on our first visit. This time more things have closed, they don't have the funds to keep everything opened and restored which is very sad. Would I go back to Naples? Yes! There are still lots of reasons to go back to Naples.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hans Christian Andersen

I'm now reading everything written by and about Hans Christian Andersen. Its going to take a very long time because he was prolific in his writing. I got interested in him because I'm going to Denmark this June and will pass through Odense, his birth place. I found in him a lot of fascination. I do remember his fairy tales growing up but to read some of his other stuff is wonderful. He wrote for both children and adults. I've never been in Denmark but from what I can gather from his writing are the elements of Danish life and environment that has influenced his work and I hope to see them in person when I get there.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Martina Franca, continued

 Nice old white buildings and narrow lanes makes this town a pretty little detour. If not for the wind and the cold, we would have loved to stay longer. We had lunch, snapped a few pictures, went back to the train station and left to return to Bari for the night.

We left Matera morning and arrived in Bari, took another train and we were in Martina Franca. I love Southern Italy. I really would love to spend more time, just wandering in every little town and absorbing the atmosphere. Maybe next time.