In Naples they told us the erotic art pieces in the “secret room” were amazing. They were so erotic, in fact, that they were banned from view during many periods throughout their long history. As late as the last century the collection was only accessible to “men of mature age and respectable morals” who, of course, were willing to pay. This hide and seek went on until the 1960s at which point the exhibit was again closed only to be officially reopened in 2000. Even today children cannot enter without an accompanying adult.
As any one knows, one way to make something desirable is to make it difficult to obtain. Naturally, off we went in search of the “secret room” in the National Archeological Museum in Naples with its extensive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities; sadly the only sight we had time to visit before heading south.
They have two officials guarding the artwork, one at the entrance and one in the hall containing the collection. The guard discouraged us from lingering over the phallic symbols by prodding and ushering us towards the exit. I almost felt like a teenager caught doing something illicit and risqué.
Throughout southern Italy I found that the locals had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with their magnificent erotic art. In the “secret room” the guards behaved like they were being coerced into exposing visitors to something distasteful. In another town we learned that the local religious authorities ordered the nude statues surrounding a fountain to be covered! Imagine putting a loin cloth on Michelangelo’s David.
Besides the “secret room” another art piece attracted me at the museum; the 2000 year-old portrait of Terentus Neo and his wife posing as Roman aristocrats. The real story is this couple, although wealthy and successful, were low-social-status bakers masquerading as upper-class Roman citizens. I felt a little sorry for them. They could very well have become upper-class due to diligence and hard work. Nevertheless they have gone down in history as imposters. No justice.
THE CAPITAL OF PIZZA
As a key objective of this trip was a culinary adventure, and we were in Naples, we were obligated to have pizza Napolitana. Pizza is a big deal in Naples. Long established restaurants vie for the title of “The Best Pizza in Naples.” There are several pizza restaurants right outside the museum. I can say without reservation that this city’s pizza definitely lives up to the hype.
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Read the other installments of the series: SEVEN DELICIOUS ADVENTURES IN SOUTHERN ITALY