The last place we visited during our stay at Naples was the Villa of Poppea at Oplontis. As you enter, you receive a little red book which gives you a very good description of each room in the villa. I really enjoyed this small yet fascinating site. Before it was buried when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, this was once a large residential place, thought to have once been owned by Emperor Nero’s wife, Poppea.
The villa is mostly intact. Lots of restoration has been done and is still happening, so it’s a lot easier to imagine how beautiful it would have been in its day, with detailed artwork on the walls and so much water and greenery. I love the feel of nature inside with the earthy colours and themes of their wall art as well as the indoor water features and gardens.
The first thing we saw was the atrium with an opening in the roof above a tub in the floor that collected rainwater. The kitchen had a row of small openings that were used to store the wood for the fire over which food was cooked. The Villa also had its own private baths, which were only present in the residences of the upper class. There were quite a few sitting rooms within the villa. The large sitting room that was used for eating would have had a great view of the sea. The villa also had a triclinium which was where guests ate lying down – the food was served in the centre of the room and the guests lay on beds around the three walled sides of the room. There was a huge pool out the back and a long corridor with benches along each side that was used by those waiting to use the pool or just resting. There was a public garden, a secluded private garden for resting, and some small roofless indoor gardens. The villa also had its own small wine press. The latrine was quite interesting. Even in private residences it seems the toilet was still accessible to multiple people at the same time. This one consisted of shelves made of wood sitting above a canal that was cleaned using a water filled tub at the entrance to the room.
We visited this site in the morning and it didn’t take us long. There were even less people here than at Herculaneum, so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.
After our visit we went back to Naples and spent the rest of the day relaxing and wandering around. One thing I did notice about Naples was the lack of public parks with lawns. They have plenty of public spaces, called piazzas, but these are fully cemented squares between the streets. We didn’t see much green grass while we were in Naples!
By this time we had gotten used to the dirty streets and busy traffic. The majority of the Neapolitan people seemed quite friendly. I never got over the way you could walk down the street and see right inside people’s houses through open doors or windows. Often there were people just standing around in doorways or hanging out of windows talking to each other or just watching the street. Many times we would look up and see an older person sitting on a balcony watching the world go by and this day we got a friendly wave from the man and his dog sitting above us. One time we saw two teenagers calling up to their apartment because one forgot his phone, so a girl three stories up put the phone in a basket and lowered it down to the street level on a rope. The phone was removed and the basket went back up for the next time something was forgotten! Most people seemed to know each other and the streets were filled with the sounds of friendly hellos (or should I say ‘ciaos’) exchanged between shop keepers and pedestrians. Apart from the crazy traffic, life seemed to go at an easy pace there, with business owners and customers often getting into long conversations that seemed to have nothing to do with buying or selling. People just seemed happy to chat with each other in general.
So, while there were plenty of negatives about Naples, there were also plenty of positives. It is amazing to see the economic difference between the cities in Italy, particularly between the south and the north. We very much enjoyed visiting Naples, as it seemed less touristy than other places in Italy. Every time we left the house was an adventure and we felt like we had quite an authentic experience here.