After a pleasant stay in the UK for three weeks or so, we decided to head off once again for warmer climes. As we were driving to the airport last Tuesday morning it became apparent that we’d just made it in time – all the news concentrating on Kate and the Royal Vomit.
We didn’t get the Egypt jobs (gutted!) and we’d always fancied living and working in Italy so here we are.
Naples was our first stop en-route to Sicily – well, the Parkin curse factor should ensure that either the Mafia or a volcano gets us; more fodder for a good blog.
It rains a lot down here: everywhere you go there are either brolly sellers or discarded brollies in amongst all the other crap that is strewn over the streets and pavements. Dog-dump dodging is part of the everyday stroll technique – not that many people do stroll, there being the overabundance of cars and motorbikes. It’s not as scary as Vietnam in that respect, though Helen begs to differ!
Some things about the place: almost constant sound of emergency vehicle sirens in the streets (these were very unusual in Vietnam); cheap and easy transport; friendly hotel/shop/restaurant people; great pizzas (well, they would be, wouldn’t they?); Pinot Grigio in the shops for €3 (I didn’t know that the Italian ‘grigio’ means ‘grey’), and the local red wine for €1.50; mad traffic but, bizarrely, they obey zebra crossings!
General air of seediness: there are some very dodgy characters hanging around street corners, we saw soup kitchens and the streets never seem to get cleaned. There are lots of illegal street sellers (mostly Africans) with bags and other leather goods playing a ‘catch me’ game with the police: when the fuzz turns up, they bundle up their goods in a sheet and walk around like suspicious-looking, jolly swagmen.
At this time of year the local tradition of making cribs (‘Presepi’) is in full flow. The cribs and a huge variety of miscellaneous figures and objects are sold in the old town. The locals buy additional bits and pieces every year and build miniature towns and Christmas scenes in their homes, often forcing the occupants out onto the streets.
Pompei pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/100342402825089704103/20121206Pompei
A half-hour’s train journey from Naples takes you to Pompei under the shadow of the volcano Vesuvius. Those of us old enough will remember that fateful day in AD79 when it erupted and covered the whole town in a couple of feet of ash. The townsfolk dusted themselves off, coughed and breathed a sigh of relief only to be confronted 10 minutes later by the deadly pyroclastic flow travelling at 80 kph which killed every living thing except, of course, the feral pigeon.
What you may not know is that, although the old town has been preserved as it was after the catastrophe, a new town has sprung up alongside and you can get the train to the new place or directly to the ruins. We, naturally, alighted at the new place by mistake and had to walk across town to the famous place. As we were walking a helpful, old guy came up to us and asked: “Ruins?” to which I had to reply: “Well, we’re not as old you, cheeky bugger!”
Surprisingly, there were a few visitors who didn’t have cameras – a Korean nightmare! Thankfully, later we saw many Korean visitors with camera apparatus overload.
Pompei is well worth a visit and, for my money, knocks the other old Roman sites into a cocked hat. We’ve just about got the full set of these places: Pompei, Troy, Carthage, Leptis Magna & Sabratha so we can stop there. One interesting point of note: in all these sites one finds Black Redstarts in abundance – what’s that all about?
Fondo and Sperlonga
An hour and a half on the Rome-bound train (bargain price of €6) and we’re in the Lazio region. We visited the brother of a good friend of ours and his Italian girlfriend – both English teachers. OK, so it was a bit of a busman’s holiday but we were treated to traditional local food of pasta, tomatoes, fruit, ratatouille and peppers, mozzarella and parmesan etc. Cliff reminded us of the big story back home in Blighty – apparently all the Italian media are talking about is ‘Il Royal Baby‘.
The posh coastal resort of Sperlonga was almost deserted at this time of year and all the better for it.
We booked ourselves on to the Saturday night ferry but it was cancelled at the last moment due to rough seas so we had to walk around the town looking for another hotel – most were fully-booked. It’s times like this, dragging cases, when the romantic notion of cobbled streets is somewhat less appreciated. We managed to sail on Sunday’s overnight crossing.
We’re in Sicily now and looking for jobs here, however, today I had a phone interview with the British Council for jobs back in Tripoli, Libya. Helen had her interview yesterday; we won’t know the result until next week so, who knows what next? According to our interviewer, Tripoli has fewer entertainment options these days than when we were last there. It sounds like a real riot!
Wait… what’s that rumbling sound?
11.12.12, Palermo, Sicily.
Pictures from UK in last two months: