There are so many wonderful museums in Naples and the surrounding area, but it gets a little difficult when trying to find the time to visit all of them- especially when you have a kid who isn’t old enough to appreciate or understand it all, and a husband who isn’t really a fan of museums but will go if he has to or if I want him to. So when an opportunity comes along to visit a museum when your husband has time to watch the kid in the evening, you take it! It’s even better when one of your girlfriends decide to join in as well! I spent a weeknight exploring as much of the Naples Archeological Museum with a tour and a guide that we’ve used often- Aldo. The amount of history and knowledge that this man holds in his head is astounding! From studying sculptures, to coins from Pompeii, to artifacts that were found on the U.S. Naval Base during excavations, and more, we barely touched even half of this museum!
As odd as it sounds, I had one particular point of interest that was on my list to see here, but it really wasn’t kid friendly… The Secret Cabinet. And as luck would have it, the room was open and Aldo took us in! For Italians, this is something that is not considered abnormal. But for Americans, this would be considered embarrassing and/or not something for display! I remember a family of two adults and one child trying to get in line for this room and the guards were telling them that it wasn’t possible. They said anyone under the age of 12 was not allowed to enter. Aldo said that was crazy because as children they are taught about all of this and already know it. It was just an interesting perspective to see as an American. Anyway, a little history on the collection that you will see that is shown in The Secret Cabinet of the Archaeological museum:
The discovery of numerous “erotic” artifacts and frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum from the mid-18th century onwards revealed an aspect of ancient culture which was unexpected and embarrassing for society of the time which considered the Roman empire as an ethical model for contemporary kingdoms. The theme of love, regarded by the ancients as a natural and pleasurable aspect of life, became the subject of censorship by the Bourbons, not merely as a result of bigotry but also as a reaction to the rumors of licentious customs at Pompeii and in the kingdom, spread by less learned visitors and travelers. Room XVII in the Museo Ercolanese in Portici was devoted to objects considered to be “obscene” and was only accessible with special permits. In the atmosphere of restoration, at the instigation of the Duke of Calabria and the future king Francesco I (1825-1830), a “Cabinet of reserved objects” (Gabinetto degli oggetti riservati) was created on the first floor of the Real Museo Borbonico. Only adult male visitors were granted entry after receiving prior authorization. The fame of this unusual collection spread and, within the context of Garibaldi’s insurrection which foreshadowed the fall of the Bourbon dynasty in 1860, the room was reopened. Following Italian Reunification, the new director Giuseppe Fiorelli reorganized the collection according to scientific criteria, excluding any irrelevant objects, and defined as “pornographic.” He enlarged the collection with the purchase in 1894 of the large mosaic pygmies from Rome, and made it fully accessible. After many vicissitudes, the Cabinet was finally reopened in 1976, only to be closed again due to restoration work on the rooms. The collection was rearranged in 2000 with materials from the Vesuvian area into various themes (mythological painting, garden decoration, painting from the brothels, and amulets).
Our time here was a great introduction to the museum, and although it was only about a 3 hour tour, that was long enough. It was sweating hot and the museum didn’t have air conditioning! We were ready to go! There was about a 30 minute break to grab some food or a drink before heading out, so my friend and I thought we’d check out the little concert happening in the middle of the museum. What could be better than some fresh air, music, and a limoncello spritz!
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!