Memorable time spent in a city that’s teeming with life

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
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There’s a fairly well-known expression that goes ‘see Naples and die’.

I’ve never been quite sure what it meant, worrying that once in Naples I would die, or once leaving it I would die.

It made me think that this concentration of people must be similar to how life was in medieval times – the rubbish, the stink, the noise, the life.

But now, having spent time in the most amazing Italian city ever, I’ve redefined my understanding. It can only mean die happy once you’ve been there.

My husband and I nipped over to Naples for a long weekend. It’s long been an ambition of mine to visit Pompeii – the city buried under ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.

I was prepared for the awfulness of Naples, next to Pompeii, because even if you’ve never heard about the dying bit, you’ve probably heard about the crime, the rubbish and the danger for tourists.

Maybe, as it’s one of the largest cities in Italy, Naples does have its fair share of crime. But I saw next to none.

I sucked in the sweet, heavy pungency of hash on more than one occasion, and my husband was tailgated through turnstiles for the Metro – when someone else presses up closely behind you to get through barriers without paying.

He then learnt the skill and did it to me several times when we came across pay-as-you-go toilets and only had one 50 cent coin between us. But I hardly think that would attract the attention of Interpol.

Yes, I saw rubbish, piles and piles of it spilling up and over industrial-sized bins, much like Vesuvius spurted her lava.

But I also saw the bin lorry at midnight, making its rounds. And it didn’t take long to work out that, with the narrow cobbled streets, courtyard apartments and number of households, there is nowhere to keep wheelie bins like we have.

Naples teems with life, people living on top of people, their homes spilling out on to the street. There are shops with fresh fruit piled high, shell fish, un-shelled fish, hanging meats, breads, cakes and all manner of foods.

It made me think that this concentration of people must be similar to how life was in medieval times – the rubbish, the stink, the noise, the life.

I loved every second spent there, though I was thrilled to return to the quiet of the apartment. If you’re thinking about visiting Italy, make time for Naples.

LET’S NOT LOSE SOMETHING THAT CAN MAKE US GREAT - CULTURE

Continuing the cultural theme, I very much enjoyed the Shakespeare celebrations on the 400th anniversary of his death in the form of the RSC live on Saturday night.

There were some wonderful moments – the discussions around Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ perfectly summing up the attitude of every school child to Shakespeare (mild distrust), and some odder moments (Brush Up Your Shakespeare was misogynistic claptrap at its worse).

It was wonderful to see so much British talent on stage – old and new, female and male.

Shakespeare is rightly a national treasure, which is why it so important that we demand continuing support for the arts – and support for arts subjects within schools. Let’s not lose something that can make us great – culture.

JUST IMAGINE CARRYING ONE OF THOSE AROUND AS LUCKY CHARM

Did you know that the Romans were into pornography?

There’s a museum with a secret room in it (Naples again) that contains all sorts of interesting items which were recovered from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sources.

The room houses a collection (hidden until the 1970s unless you could prove you were of stout enough character to view it) showing some of the most extraordinary scenes.

There are even multiple plaster casts of a certain part of the male anatomy (this seemingly brought good luck – imagine carrying one of those around as a lucky charm).

I loved this room on so many levels – its absurdity, its secrecy and the fact it was thronged with visitors.