A few days in Naples

My brother’s partner, Penny, had some leave to take from work, but Peter didn’t; so Penny and I decided that we’d have a few days away. Naples seemed to fit the bill; we could find flights that arrived within minutes of each other and we had a good chance of decent weather in March.

Penny booked the accommodation; it was amazing – a beautiful apartment on the 6th floor of an old block, overlooking the bay of Naples and with a view of Vesuvius! There was even a concierge, who chatted away to us in Italian, seemingly unconcerned that, beyond good morning, pasta and pizza, our Italian was somewhat limited. If there was something we really must understand, he’d drag someone in off the street to translate for us.

A colleague of Penny’s comes from Naples, so we had a list of good pizzerias to try, along with a recommendation to try fried pizza. It sounded disgusting, but actually was delicious. The pizzas were so huge that we never ordered more than one between the two of us.

Friends I’d spoken to were horrified at our choice of destination – they said it was busy, filthy, etc, and it was! The traffic was unbelievable, scooters weaving their way in and out of fast moving cars, lorries, buses, everybody hooting their horns; you felt you were taking your life in your hands every time you crossed a road, even on zebra crossings, which the drivers largely ignored. And yes, there were overflowing dustbins outside the shops in town…… However, there was such a buzz about the place; people were so animated, so full of life. We loved it.

We’d booked a guided tour of Pompeii on the Saturday afternoon; a good job we didn’t book earlier as it took us all morning to work out the trains. At last we arrived, found somewhere to eat and were ready for some serious history and culture.

Pompeii was fantastic; our guide was very knowledgeable and more than happy to answer questions, he even managed to keep two very loud Americans in check. It was incredible to think that the frescoes on the walls and mosaics on the floors have been in place for over 2000 years, they’re in such good condition. Some parts of the mosaic floors resemble crumpled pieces of fabric, following the form of the earth as it moved and buckled on the day of the eruption in 79AD. There are plaster casts in glass cases, made from bodies found, intact, during the excavations, as well as fast food outlets, bakeries and  brothels.

Once the tour was over, we took the train to Ercolano, a modern town around ancient Herculaneum. Having been to Pompeii allowed us to interpret better what we saw in Herculaneum, which was a richer suburb of Pompeii all those years ago. It was getting dark by the time we left, the thought of the long walk back to the station was too much, so we took up the taxi driver’s offer of a “special deal”; yes, we were charged more than we should have been, but our feet felt it was worth it.

All too soon it was time for me to take the bus back to the airport, Penny had an extra half day before heading back to London.