I last drove through Naples in September 2001 and it is one of my least favourite parts of Italy. Many of the towns along this coast are tatty, untidy and dirty and this city leads the way. They may have ‘resolved’ their refuse problems but it still litters the city, stacked in the most unlikely places. Consequently we immediately headed for an area which was once the height of sophisticated elegance and civilization – Pompeii. When I was in my teens, this place meant only one thing to me, Frankie Howerd and the cast of characters from Up Pompeii! – Lurcio (played by Howerd), his master Ludicrus Sextus, his master’s wife Ammonia, their son Nausius and my personal favourite, their daughter, Erotica. The double entendres of Talbot Rothwell’s script were much more innocent than the explicit images and symbols of real life, red light Pompeii. This classic form of British comedy can be traced back to the music halls but sadly all of the characters perished under the volcanic dust of Frankie Howerd’s demise.
In a nerdy fashion I can still get quite excited by the grooves on canal bridges left by the ropes of horse drawn narrowboats. By comparison, on the streets of Pompeii, you can walk in the perfectly preserved tracks of Roman Chariots; remarkable. Whatever your preconceptions, nothing prepares you for the site’s sheer scale and unique state of preservation.Enough of ruins already.