“Lucky, lucky, lucky me!”, as the song goes. A translation job took me to Naples last week, but not in the way you might think. A month or so ago, I translated an article on the delights of Naples, and was overcome with desire for Italian pizza, ice cream and coffee and adventures. The article described an exciting destination, crammed with art, history and photo opportunities, so I bought a cheap flight from Valencia and a couple of hours later, I was landing in Napoli.
This city is ideal for an action-packed cultural break. Overlooked by Vesuvius – snow-capped when I arrived – this cacophonous, sprawling city sweeps along the Bay of Naples lapped by the Mediterranean Sea. I spent the first three days enjoying the superb collection of paintings in the Museo di Capodimonte and the magnificent Roman sculptures at the Naples National Archaeological Museum. In the evenings I dodged the crazy scooter drivers and tripped over cobblestones in the streets of the old town, nipping in and out the many splendid churches and historic buildings along your way. But it wasn’t all romance. Naples is also the ninth most-densely-populated city in Europe, the streets are strewn with litter and the motto seems to be, “If it stands still, spray graffiti on it”.
After logging 50,000 steps on my iPhone, I was relieved to jump into my hire car and get away from the city centre. Vesuvius was out of bounds – closed because of ice and snow – so I made for Pompeii, an extremely well organised site with plenty to see. Strolling along the cobblestones of the ancient streets I did my best to imagine the Roman men and women who had once occupied these houses and squares. Some buildings and facilities, like the baths, are in good condition, and it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like. However, for some reason I had expected there to be burnt and petrified human sitting around tables, lying in bed, walking along the street and so in the houses, which, of course, is not the case! There were a few bones in a glass case, but the grimacing mummified bodies I had imagined were nowhere to be seen… which, I suppose, is just as well!
The next day was spent driving along the Amalfi Coast, reputed to be one of the world’s most stunning drives. This 50-kilometre stretch of coastline runs along the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula and it is not for nervous drivers. If you visit, I strongly suggest you go on an excursion, because even if you can handle the hairpin bends, you won’t be able to park, so all you can do is drive and drive, and then drive back to your hotel… which is what I did.
I wonder where my next ‘translation trip’ will take me?