Herculaneum / Comicon

Last Thursday morning the weather was nice and I had a great chance to visit more Roman ruins. This time I went to Herculaneum, another town devastated by the 79 AD Vesuvius eruption. Though smaller and less well-known than Pompeii, this town is far better preserved. Many of the buildings still have roofs and doors intact, as well as wood, thanks to the hotter ash that completely buried it.

I caught a train in the morning (the same train that goes to Pompeii) and got off in the modern town of Ercolano after 20 minutes. I strolled down to the ruins. The ocean lay beyond the ruins and Vesuvius loomed over my back.

I walked down the path and crossed the modern bridge into the town. In the picture below, the wall on the right is solidified volcanic ash and the wall on the left if the original town wall. This gave me a perspective for how deeply Herculaneum was buried and I was amazed by the quantity of volcanic ash.

I once again followed a self-guided tour laid out in my guidebook. My first stop was a beautifully frescoed building that belonged to freed slaves. The frescoes depicted scenes from the myth of Hercules, a common motif throughout the town.

I somehow got lost on the way to the next building but eventually found the House of Neptune and Amphitrite. The highlight of this house was a gorgeous mosaic bordered with seashells. Sunset-colored paintings still survive on the walls, as well as a couple of other mosaics of dogs chasing other animals.

I followed the rest of my self-guided tour but unfortunately many of the buildings it detailed were closed. When I reached the end, I still had much of the town to explore, so I wandered around, marveling at the art and how complete the buildings are.

Because the town is so small, I still had much of the day in front of me when I left. I decided to head to Napoli Comicon. When I planned my trip, I had no idea that my visit would coincide with the international comics festival, and I was delighted when I saw posters advertising it around town. I only had to get on the Metro Line 2 and get off five stops later.

I was in no way prepared for how crowded the Metro would be--it was the most packed train ride of my life. Hordes of Italian comics enthusiasts poured onboard and I felt bad for people trying to use the train for more normal purposes. It was surreal to see people dressed up as comic book characters riding the Metro. I was squished into a corner and it was a relief when we stopped at Campi Flegrei and everyone rushed out. Finding the convention center wasn't a problem; I just followed the group. A long line snaked around the entrance. People lounged about in costumes and vendors shouted about selling drinks for one Euro. I only had to wait in line for half an hour to get my ticket--nothing compared to my line experiences at San Diego Comic Con last summer (additionally, a 4-day pass was only € 12).

Inside, three large buildings bordered a grassy common area. I wandered around for a while, admiring people's costumes. It seemed like more people were dressed up than at SDCC. At the far end of the common area, a rock band was performing.

I headed into the main building and was shocked by how many people were inside. It was almost as packed as the Metro and I followed the wave of people through all of the rooms. A few panels with comic book artists and publishers were interspersed in the building, there were mostly stands set up by comic publishers and distributors. These stands sold comics (mostly Italian translations of foreign comics, but some local), figures, and other merchandise. I mourned not having more space in my duffel bag. I picked up a couple volumes of my favorite comic (in Italian) and was pleased to find that I understood most of it. I spent a couple more hours wandering around, enjoying being around Italian comic fans and seeing they ways that they are different (and the same) from US comic fans.

On Friday morning, I headed back to Comicon and had an even harder time with getting on the Metro. Two full trains came and went and finally I got on a train heading in the opposite direction, getting off a couple stops later, where the train originates. That way I had no problem getting on the right train. Once at Comicon, I did more of the same that I did on Thursday. I regret not getting more pictures, but the volume and density of people made it almost impossible to take a picture (in the picture above, people were more scattered because it started raining). I had a great time and was exhausted from walking around and being around so many people by mid afternoon. I headed back into downtown Napoli and had a more relaxing stroll through the historical district. This was my last day in Napoli for about a week and it was nice to soak up as much of it as I could.

Sam Mularz2 Comments