Tuesday, 7 October 2008


We didn't get as far as the Amalfi coast. But we made it to the Bay of Naples where we witnessed the inspired lunacy of Neapolitan driving, the warmth and volatility of southern Italians and explored the ruins of ancient Pompeii.

Vesuvius, the volcano which dealt out such overwhelming destruction on Pompeii and its neighbour, Herculaneum, still looms over the bay but dormant for many centuries, it now appears lost in its own memories rather than a source of any present menace. It's hard to imagine the mountain spewing out pumice, poison gasses and pyroclastic clouds in the warm October sunshine. Nowadays, its summit tends to be wreathed in clouds rather than smoke and fire.
Pompeii's preserved mosaics, frescoes and statues are all pretty impressive. But it's the city as a whole which exercises the greatest fascination. The streets with their cart tracks, the grid layout and the rows of dwellings, ranging from public buildings to shops, villas, cafes and whorehouses. More than two thousand years after its ancient inhabitants met their violent deaths, Pompeii teems with tourists rather than residents and if you close your eyes, the bustle and voices help conjure up an idea of the city as it once was. Without the fake shutter sounds of digital cameras and the SMS alerts of the mobile phones, though.

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