Napoli has a reputation as a city to avoid, something we discovered for ourselves to our cost. But with the small town of Pompeii situated just outside of the gates of the ruins, it begs the question of why anyone would stay anywhere near Naples.
Pompeii is your typical Italian town: one main street where the old Italian men sit talking watching life wander by. One town square, its edges lines with the requisite gelatarias, cafes and restaurants, and one central Catholic church, all home to a very welcoming set of people. Coupled with this was their friendliness in serving up dinner or creating from scratch sandwiches for us to carry with us into the ruins.
It transpired to be a Sunday morning when we decided to undertake the challenge of Pompeii’s ruins. As we headed across town, we had watched (bare-shouldered and short-shorted) as the faithful flocked out of church and into the surrounding cafes where they indulged in the sins of coffee, gelateria and pastries, and imparting the latest gossip to those not already in the know. Typically, I rather liked the idea of this catch-up session after church, a custom that has really only died out in my neck of the woods in the last 50-100 years as ensuing generations become more sceptical and less interested in waking early on a Sunday morning. What better time for the whole community to engage is what facebook now accomplishes so successfully and kick off a new week of sins to confess next Sunday. But then I’ve always liked the idea of catching up with friends and admirers over a coffee and fresh gossip and there can be nothing bad about the possibility of making it a weekly ritual… except perhaps the prerequisite of church.
That evening when we were more appropriately attired we headed back to the main square to watch the second phase of this ritual. And the crowds dispersed from the church doors and made their way slowly into the surrounding restaurants we reversed the routine and heading indoors for what can really only be described as a sticky beak.