The motorists have a game here in Napoli. The aim is, over the course of your journey, to (justifiably) sound your horn at other motorists more times than other motorists sound theirs at you. The taxi driver who brought us from the station to our hotel yesterday is particularly good at this game: I counted him beeping his horn 11 times on the ten-minute journey, but he in turn was honked at only about 8 times. I’m guessing that’s a pretty good score.
Apart from some confusion over the bill at our hotel in Rome (they seemed to want us to pay twice, for some reason), for which they later sent their best English-speaker to apologise and to offer to have themselves fed to the lions, and an hour’s delay on the train coming down here, our journey to Italy’s South was uneventful. In fact, exhausted from our morning battle with tourists as we’d gone to The Pantheon (brilliant bit of Roman architecture, well-preserved and only slightly spoiled by it’s re-consecration as a Christian temple) and an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s intentions (including a full size working ballista and a detailed scale model of their controversial interpretation of his plans for a tank), I slept through most of the train ride, only being woken late on, by Claire, when Mount Vesuvius appeared in the distance.
It’s big. Hell, it’s huge, and it dominates the view across the bay from our first-floor hotel room. The bay itself is a reminder of it’s might, having apparently been formed as the crater of a massive lava bomb from some prehistoric erupption. We sat in it’s shadow last night as we ate pizza and ice cream and drank beer at the foot of Castel Nuovo (oh yeah, it turns out that Italy’s third-largest city has loads of castles: presumably every time it changed hands over the last 1500 years the new occupants erected a new one), within earshot of a Radio Italia-sponsored free music concert. Altogether a nice evening until we got lost in the docklands and chased by a 40-strong pack of feral cats. In any case, we found a nice bar where were able to sample Limoncella, a local speciality liquor made that tastes just slighty like lemon cough syrup, if such a thing can be imagined to exist.
This morning, we’re going to visit Pompeii, which I’ve always wanted to, so that’ll be good.
As an afterthought, thought I’d share with you that relying on English being a widely-spoken second language may work in the North of Italy, but here in the South we’ve had to fall back on the Italian we’ve learnt so far on our trip – and that old favourite, the pointing-and-shouting method of universal communication – to get things done. An ability to mime, and no shame about doing it in public, will get you far wherever you travel, even Glasgow.