At 5.30 on Wednesday, the 27th April, the steward woke me to say there was a good picture of Vesuvius with the sun just rising behind it. As it was getting near the end of the voyage he was no doubt anxious to earn his tip, but I was so tired and sleepy that I felt more like kicking him than saying “Thank you”. However, I got up and watched the entrance to the harbour.
Naples is a very pretty city and quite the most picturesque of all I have seen on this trip. The town was already alive and it had an unusually active appearance, for there were ships of war everywhere.
I counted 24 submarines in one row and there were just as many destroyers in another row. As we tied up there were half a dozen cruisers at the other end of the pier. Shortly after we had berthed 33 large sea planes flew over the boat. It was most impressive and made one feel that the people of Italy had become a great power in the world, who would be better to have as friends than enemies.
After we got ashore we heard that there were over 200 boats assembled for a naval review which is to take place within the next few days when Hitler is arriving for an inspection with Mussolini.
There were many things in Naples which were unusual to us.
For instance, the police were dressed in bright, multi-coloured uniforms. Some of these were lido blue and others dark blue with red trimmings. Another point which struck us was the happy and prosperous appearance of the people. Men on the wharves sang as they worked and they had good voices too!
Everywhere the city was being cleaned up. New buildings were being erected, new roads were being made, old buildings were being renovated, the people were well dressed, the shops and departmental stores were well kept. One could not help thinking that Italy is prosperous at present.
Our main trip was through the city to the ruins of Pompeii. As we were to leave again at 3 p.m. we had to decide whether we would go to Vesuvius or Pompeii, and the latter was our choice.
After we left the city we got on to a new road which was only recently completed and is for motor traffic only direct to Pompeii. It was laid down by a private company and is to be held by them for the next 30 years. During this time a toll is collected and our driver had to pay 5/1 for the use of the road.
Practically all the way is through old vineyards where grapes for wine are grown. The country was very hilly, but that made no difference, for where the hills were very steep the ground was terraced and every available yard was growing something. Olive trees were plentiful and there were also many vegetables.
We stopped on the way to inspect a coral factory where cameos were being made from shells and coral. The work was beautifully done and it was marvellous to see such fine work done so quickly. There were many articles they had made which we wanted to buy, but a souvenir costing a few shillings was our limit. Then we arrived at the ancient city now in ruins.
After hearing about this place in my school days it seemed too good to be true to think I was actually there. A guide was allotted to us and he spoke very good English.
We went along the narrow stone roads worn by the chariot wheels in stone pavement.
We visited palaces, public offices, courts of justice, shops, churches and every other kind of building required for the ancient city, most of which are still required to be used, but there were one or two which I am glad to say are not required by us. We saw petrified bodies of persons who were overwhelmed as the molten lava came down upon them. They were still in the attitude of the moment when death came.
As we were seeing all this, Vesuvius was just behind and we were watching the clouds of sulphur and smoke rise from the crater. There is another city, Herculaneum, which was also destroyed at the same time and this is being dug out at present.
It was a wonderful morning. We returned to the hotel, and, of course,we had to try the Italian spaghetti and it was very good.
After lunch we visited one of the oldest cathedrals, part of which was built B.C. and contained many interesting Roman antiquities. Then we went to the museum and saw more of the relics from Pompeii, but it was only a very brief visit, as the boat sailed at 3 p.m. for our last port, Villefranche.