Secret Compartment Rocks

Speaking of rocks, I saw some rather interesting rocks in Pompei. Obviously, we went to see a lot of rocks in Italy, especially what with all these ruins and archaeological sites. But sometimes what you need is just a little rock camouflage.

Soundbox Rock (at Il Principe, a restaurant in Pompei)

spy rock

Powerplug Rock (at Pompei Scavi)
Yeah, I am thinking I should investigate further on how to hide things inside rocks or make secret compartments inside rocks…

See also:

The Colosseum

I feel obliged to dedicate a post to images of the Colosseum in Rome just because the photos turned out so spectacularly. That day in Rome, we had a vague plan to visit the Colosseum and set off in the general direction of it. It was rather fortuitous that we arrived about an hour before closing time, so we were let in even though it started emptying out soon after, as they began chasing people out of the amphitheatre. Also, a bird shat on my head a few moments after we had arrived at the building. I’d like to think that is a lucky sign.

Anwyay, the result was that it got more and more empty until we were close to being the last people in the building and there were no more tourists crowded up every square inch of the grounds, but some grumpy staff eventually came hunting us down and made us get out of the ruins.

The Colosseum – From the Outside:





The Colosseum – From the Inside:







Alright now back to the normal programming.

A Non-Trip to the Museum: Following Some Random People on the Train in Naples


This could have been a story about a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli). However, there had been some oversight on my part. Having forgotten to google its opening hours in advance, we had not realised that TUESDAY was the day that museums and galleries would be closed in Naples. So we could not go to the Museum. And there was nothing that could be done about it since we also were due to leave Naples the next day.

So this is what we did next. We went to the Metro station below the Museum…

Stazione Museo Corridoio


There was an interesting comprehensive list of things NOT to do on the escalator. Oh, no pointy umbrellas? And no bare feet allowed? BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BAREFOOTED CHARLIE CHAPLIN ESCALATOR DANCE EXPERIENCE? Hmmmmmm.


Unfortunately, there was no english description or text explaining what we were looking at along the walls of the Metro entrance, so for now, I will simply describe this as the expression that one has when one has just been unexpectedly shat on by a pigeon. I guess I had a similar expression when I was suddenly shat on by a pigeon upon entering the Colosseum. Looks like I’m in good company with the ancients…

There was also quite a bit of art in the Metro.
Again, sorry for lack of label due to lack of english description.


Metronapoli to Piscinola (Linea 1)
Since we did not have a guide book or any other backup plan, whilst standing at the platform, we decided to follow some people on the train. We saw these two youngsters and thought it would be funny to see where they were going to, in the hopes that they would bring us somewhere exciting or at least different from what we had been seeing in Naples.

The “Marks”

The Mark’s right hand
There had been a delay, so the crowds for this train had begun to build up. Due to how packed the train was, we ended up standing too close for comfort to our two “Marks” so we decided we had to play it cool by not trailing them too closely later. The shorter of the two left the train much earlier, but we decided to continue on until the taller Mark decided to leave, which was at a station called “Rione Alto”. He took the lift before us, so we missed him at the surface, although we did glimpse him a little bit later…

It didn’t really matter to us that we had kinda lost our mark at the station, for when we got to the surface it became very clear to us what his purpose of travel had been for. He had been going home! It looks like our marks were going home after an afternoon out near the Museum and this was a deeply residential area of Naples. But that’s pretty cool too, because that’s where most people might live. I mean, not everyone is going to live in the historical district of Naples, and I guess this is part of the fabric of a more mundane daily life in Naples…


More of Rione Alto

Kitchen Gadgets for sale


Toys for sale



Monumental pasta for sale


And so folks, in case you’ve had too much of all these historical/heritage posts,
this is what a normal day in a residential suburban part of Naples looks like….

Finding Pompei

So here is an account of an adventure to find POMPEI. When we were in Naples, TEAM FIRE decided to make that little effort to go up to visit Pompei since it was not so far away on the train. We started by trying to find the train station by “feeling” from where we were staying in Naples. Luckily, G’s “feeling” was generally accurate and we miraculously got to the train station (phew!), which when we got there, seemed unusually quiet (but this was normal actually).


Here’s a microscopic map of the train lines from Napoli above the Biglietteria (Ticket counter). I don’t think the counter lady understood what we were saying. Anyway, we decided to take one of the lines that was headed to Poggiomarino, because it went in the general direction of where we were trying to get to.


We were slightly disturbed by the fact that there were only a few services on the listing, and at the time we could not determine if the paucity of trains was related to this STRIKE NOTICE sign. But it appears the trains just don’t come very often.


So we got on board a delightful train ride that took us past Vesuviana, the progenitor of Pompei’s destruction…


G decided that we should alight at the station POMPEI despite a footnote on some tourist guide he had, saying we should PROBABLY stop at POMPEI SCAVI because stopping at POMPEI would involve a significant walk to the excavation site. This is an accurate assessment of the situation. You should probably stop at Pompei Scavi if you want to go to the archaeological sites immediately. However, if you would like to get ever so slightly disturbingly lost for an hour or so inbetween, you may wish to alight at POMPEI (spelt with one i)


There are a few things to be noted when trying to walk from Pompei Station to the Pompei excavation site. One is that none of the public maps make sense, so its best to download a map on your phone before you get there (there is no free wifi anywhere either). Secondly, there are NO PUBLIC TOILETS. Whatever you do, don’t drink all the water in your bottle whilst on a long walk looking for Pompei. THERE WILL BE NO TOILETS TO BE FOUND ANYWHERE. (The constant search for the nonexistent bathroom appeared to be a running theme in our journeys through Italy…)


A Map of the area. Not entirely helpful in explaining where we were.


Paninoteca. In Italy it seems it is acceptable to append -teca or -teria to the end of anything to make it a shop dealing with such a product. Confiteria. Gelateria. Osteria. Cioccolateria. Pasticceria. Trattoria. Discoteca…

Finally we reached the gates of Pompei Scavi. The tickets for adults are 11 Euros.


It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the basis that the eruption and subsequent burial of the two towns had unexpectedly captured a very detailed picture of life and society at a very specific moment of time during the Roman Empire, frozen in stone.


When you arrive this is the first thing you see. Warning, as we observed on our initial approach into the amphitheatre, that this poor stone sign has been molested and rubbed by hundreds of tourists who think its okay to touch every single thing. PEOPLE: IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO FONDLE THINGS IN A MUSEUM OR HISTORICAL SITE WITH YOUR GRUBBY UNWASHED HANDS. Adults should teach their children to treat ancient things with respect. And any adults who don’t understand this themselves should be slapped in the face with…. a day-old italian spinach pastry pie in a oil-stained paper bag. These items only managed to survive thousands of years because they were kept away from moisture and exposure and the palms of sweaty tourists.

But I guess Heritage tourism is a slippery slope. Pompeii apparently receives over 2.5 million visitors each year, and without tourism bringing in the revenue I can imagine it might be harder to justify the costs involved in maintaining the site in a decent condition. Yet you can imagine with such intense wear and tear and exposure to the elements, it must also be rapidly deteriorating…

SAP 1987
SAP stands for “Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei”

The town of Pompeii and Herculaneum stand in the shadow of Mount Vesusvius, and Pompeii seems to have been a commercial town with fairly sophisticated infrastructure (aqueducts! amphitheatre! huge roads!). The huge roads are indeed the original roads, and the stepping stones were made to facilitate human crossings.


Stepping Stones


Ghost town




In-between what used to be buildings


Inside a house


Town ruins

Bricks which one eventually comes to realize might be characteristic of buildings built in the 1st century AD.
Saw similar bricks used in other very very ancient things in Naples.


Ornate Interiors


Wall detail




Ancient Stoves
Minor quaking had been normal for the area, apparently. The area had been shaken by an earthquake before that, destroying some of its temples, and finally was completely covered during an catastrophic eruption on 24 August (AD 79). Vesusvius erupted, engulfing the town of Pompei and Herculaneum with volcanic ash and mud.






Temple Ruins
If you’re like me, you probably came here for the, how do we say this, “human interest” element. And a day-trip to Pompeii means you really do have to run through it pretty quickly. So I will just cut to the money shot: the warehouses of items recovered from Pompei. There were no english signs but I’ll assume that some of these may be replicas as I understand the originals should probably be at the Archaeological Museum of Naples (or other museums in Italy):




I was really very tired and cranky by this point so I stopped taking pictures of things and so from this point onwards there are only pictures of me pointing at things, taken by G.



Pointing at a spy rock


Pointing at a lock on a shed


Pointing at some marble


Pointing at a stone stove


Pointing at the number 13


Pointing at an arch


Pointing at some sign


Pointing at a no entry sign


Pointing at some flowers


Pointing at a picture of a missing man pasted outside the gift shop


Pointing at some cactus

[Photo credit: G]



I should add that I saw my first poppy at Pompeii. Somehow I had never seen a poppy in my time living in London, which meant I had NEVER SEEN A POPPY IN MY ENTIRE LIFE UNTIL THIS MOMENT. I was always aware of what poppies looked like because they would sell paper poppies on pins for one of those war rememberance days but honestly I somehow had never seen a real one before. (AMAZINGLY THEY DO LOOK LIKE PAPER POPPIES!!!)

Italian Funeral Notices

There are many things one will see in Naples and other parts of Italy. One will see lots of disturbingly damaged cars (see previous post); many disturbingly dead pigeons and birds (in some cases I don’t even know how they got killed so horribly, was it some sort of wacko Ripper di Pigeon that got at them??), and also, many of these curious posters that look like party posters but aren’t….


Francesco Fischetti? Who’s Francesco Fischetti?
Why is Jesus’ logo on top? Is he having a church party? What do all these words mean?
Oh… oh wait… OH NO… Agenzia Funebre? Is that like…. an italian funeral agency?
Is the man actually having…. a Funeral Party???

Eventually we figured out they were… funeral notices. Apparently they don’t always put funeral notices in newspapers in Italy, they print it on a sheet of white A3 paper and stick in the area where the person had lived. For a city with tiny corridors and a particular configuration of streets that its entire citizens cannot avoid walking through daily, I think this is a fantastic method of spreading the word.

Anyway, uh… enjoy this collection of funeral notices from Naples and the adjourning area of Pompei…










When I saw the variety of posters, I immediately imagined that people in Italy must be collecting photos of funeral notices, making templates and creating their own “MAKE YOUR OWN PARODIC FUNERAL NOTICE” webapps for laughs (but in Italian. Oh, the hitherto unexplored world of ITALIAN MEMES!). Or if not then we should get in on that action… But what I really want to know is: where did this “tradition” start and who designed it? Who chose the fonts? Why are all the fonts more or less the same? Is there a guidebook or rule on how you can design a funeral notice? Its the same thing I wonder about funeral notices in newspapers. Who designed them in the first place? Who created this “convention” of funeral notices in Italy?

The Cars of Napoli

I’ve finally met my match – Naples has been the first city in which I did not see a single surveyor mark on concrete. Because I did not get to see much modern concrete in it. It seemed as if everything was ancient stone. We had the fortune of staying with our very lovely airbnb host, Gianni, in a historical part of Naples. We were situated along Via del Tribunali, an ancient road used by the Greeks and later the Romans, which meant that nearly everywhere we wandered in the vicinity of the flat was built upon exceedingly ancient cobbles, and by cobbles I do mean the unwieldy, ankle breaking sort. The kind that’s black and absurdly rounded with centuries of wear and tear, set in with deep grooves.

These ancient roads also seemed scarcely suitable for cars, the sound that the cars make on them is horrific; to be honest until I had come to Italy I had not fully comprehended the extent to which cars could seem like a scourge on society in an old historic city. The ancient streets were not designed to accomodate cars at all, and since the area was already so precious and historic, no severe modifications were to be made to the roads besides a series of metal dividers that might be inconspicuously erected along terribly tight passageways and corners in order to protect pedestrians. Nevertheless one still felt seriously threatened upon hearing the amplified roar of vehicles over the hardened cobbles; pedestrians could still expect to come within a hair’s width of the vehicles that wound dangerously and speedily through the streets of Naples, as if they had no fear of death.


The metal dividers were frequently squashed and bent, scooters and cars sped through tiny single-lane streets at break-neck speeds, local pedestrians continued on their merry way and milled about in all directions next to endless traffic whilst us mild-mannered city-cupcakes stood removed and plastered along the edges of the buildings, being horrified at what seemed to be a complete disregard for common sense and road safety.

And in some cases, no lines at all… OH! Let me guess, so we can be hit from all directions?
Not only were the drivers incredibly reckless, another thing we noticed in Naples was the severe state of damage that had been inflicted on the drivers’ everyday cars. The amount of damage to cars being tolerated by their owners was staggering. You would never see a car with such damages running on the roads of Singapore (or most cities). But it seems the only bar to having a car in Naples is simply having a car that still runs.

Common car window repair technique


Common front damage


Common body damage


Bog-standard rear end damage


“There, I fixed it.”


From another day: another fixed rear window…

Most of the photos from this post were taken one on particular random road. Nearly every single car was damaged. This was a little bit after we had seen a car collision, and both cars had paused, and I had expected the drivers to come out and exchange numbers. But nothing of the sort happened. It being Naples, a little accident was almost instantly forgotten, and I realised the drivers were only trying to find a way to maneuver themselves away from their collision point so they could continue on to their respective destinations. We were stunned. On the next road, we saw a long row of parked cars and observed them, and came away with the assessment that almost every car seemed damaged in some way. And most seemed to be running…. well, most…

“Oops, crashed my car again, no biggie, guess I’ll just leave it next to a dumpster…”
I don’t really want to know who or what they’ve been hitting with their cars but let’s say I don’t think I’d ever want to drive in Naples looking at the state of all the cars there. I think Naples wins the prize for having the “Most Horrifying Drivers in the World”. And the “Most Badly Damaged Cars Which are Unaccountably Still Running on Roads”…

Had the opportunity and good fortune to visit the Venice Biennale 2013 at the end of May, hence the long hiatus from writing here. I just got back from travelling through Venice, Naples and Rome, so after I gather myself… even more epic posts to come!