Saturday, 18 July 2009

Some nice things happened on the way to the Forum

Someone told me: the first thing you do when you get to Naples… is leave. A bit harsh, I thought. Yes, it’s as hot as hell there in June: smelly, dirty and the traffic is awful [the advice being: just walk with confidence across the road, and they won’t run you down].
Yes, I agree, it’s all a bit of a shock to the senses. But once I was sat in the shade, up a narrow side street in the old town, eating the most divine pasta outside a non-assuming little restaurant, the bad side of this enigmatic city drifted away. And I relaxed then, as soon as I looked up the Italian for: Can I have the bill please?What a chattering, noisy, moped-menaced labyrinth Naples is. An intriguing, maze-like medley of streets unravelled before us: ancient, crumbling walls, balcony upon balcony above tight alleyways that revealed hidden bars and cake shops: the best coffee, the best pasta. And there was always time for ice cream.
We took a boat across the huge sweeping bay towards Sorrento, around the rocky and ruggedly beautiful Amalfi coast, watched, as always, by sleeping Vesuvius presiding grumpily over the entire populace. We headed up the giddy heights of Capri where the scent of flowers reached us on warm, silent air and we stared down vertigo-provoking cliffs, far above the azure waves, way above the circling seagulls.
And, next, to Pompeii, which was miraculously devoid of hoards of tourists. We were lucky: it was almost as if we had the place to ourselves. We walked the hushed, eerie streets, and unearthed the way of life of these ancient, ordinary, obliterated people: their order, their law, their desire for bathing, shopping, marketing, theatre and living the high life. They had shops for olive oil, shops for wine. They even had a – very well organised, I must say – brothel. Yes, the Pompeiians had needs, too.