The day came when we tired of the brilliancy and din of Naples, most noisy of cities. Neapolis, or Parthenope, as is well known, was founded by Parthenope, a siren who was cast ashore there. Her descendants still live here; and we have become a little weary of their inherited musical ability: they have learned to play upon many new instruments, with which they keep us awake late at night, and arouse us early in the morning. One of them is always there under the window, where the moonlight will strike him, or the early dawn will light up his love-worn visage, strumming the guitar with his horny thumb, and wailing through his nose as if his throat was full of seaweed. He is as inexhaustible as Vesuvius. We shall have to flee, or stop our ears with wax, like the sailors of Ulysses.
The day came when we had checked off the Posilipo, and the Grotto, Pozzuoli, Baiae, Cape Misenum, the Museum, Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, the moderns buried at the Campo Santo; and we said, Let us go and lie in the sun at Sorrento. But first let us settle our geography.
The Bay of Naples, painted and sung forever, but never adequately, must consent to be here described as essentially a parallelogram, with an opening towards the southwest. The northeast side of this, with Naples in the right-hand corner, looking seaward and Castellamare in the left-hand corner, at a distance of some fourteen miles, is a vast rich plain, fringed on the shore with towns, and covered with white houses and gardens. Out of this rises the isolated bulk of Vesuvius. This growing mountain is manufactured exactly like an ant-hill.
The northwest side of the bay, keeping a general westerly direction, is very uneven, with headlands, deep bays, and outlying islands. First comes the promontory of Posilipo, pierced by two tunnels, partly natural and partly Greek and Roman work, above the entrance of one of which is the tomb of Virgil, let us believe; then a beautiful bay, the shore of which is incrusted with classic ruins. On this bay stands Pozzuoli, the ancient Puteoli where St. Paul landed one May day, and doubtless walked up this paved road, which leads direct to Rome. At the entrance, near the head of Posilipo, is the volcanic island of “shining Nisida,” to which Brutus retired after the assassination of Caesar, and where he bade Portia good-by before he departed for Greece and Philippi: the favorite villa of Cicero, where he wrote many of his letters to Atticus, looked on it. Baiae, epitome of the luxury and profligacy, of the splendor and crime of the most sensual years of the Roman empire, spread there its temples, palaces, and pleasure-gardens, which crowded the low slopes, and extended over the water; and yonder is Cape Misenum, which sheltered the great fleets of Rome.