Next morning Emma and Johnsey were up early to catch the train to Pompeii. Originally the rest of us planned to have a morning in Sorrento, before sailing back to Stabia at around twelve, but the weather forecast for high winds in the afternoon put paid to that idea. We set out after breakfast instead, with a very quiet little dog, which slumped on the lap of each of us in turn. The four of us had visited Pompeii two years ago in September and had been awed by the scale of it all, but sapped by the heat. This must be the best time of year to go, much cooler and Emma reported that the ruins were riven with poppies.
We had planned to go into Castellemare and eat in the sushi restaurant, but could not raise them on the phone to ask about the dog. When Emma and Johnsey had passed it on the way back from the station the shutters had been down and we began to wonder if it opened on Sunday night. It was rather a long walk to find out. As I was rather sullen at the prospect of having our last night together on board eating out of tins we resolved to try a nearby restaurant on the other side of the railway. We had not tried this one before having been put off by the mixed online reviews. There were only two, one saying it was marvellously authentic, the other that entering it was akin to a scene from Deliverance. Our first impressions erred on the Deliverance side. There appeared to be a shanty arrangement of low buildings at around a small car park, illuminated by Christmassy fairy lights in the shape of stars. A large man stood at the door looking us up and down and calling over his shoulder in Italian, not moving to let us in. We asked if there was a problem with the dog. This made him laugh and suddenly the atmosphere lifted. He announced the dog was fine and indicated the problem was with the waiter. The large man’s job was to mind the car park and the young smiling man who arrived behind him should have been manning the door. I think the delay had been them arguing about who spoke English with most confidence. The waiter led us through into the building, past what looked like a butcher’s counter down a corridor of large refrigerators, with the kitchen on the right and an empty dining room on the left. We then turned left and threaded through a narrow passage behind the dining room and came out into a covered outdoor seating area, where locals sat eating and children ran about playing. He showed us to a table for six and furnished us with menus in English.
The proprietor came out with glasses of complimentary Prossecco and bid us welcome. The menu was varied and full of interesting dishes we have not seen elsewhere. The food was obviously fresh home cooked produce; the chef came out with the waiter and they worked out what we were ordering by counting down the dishes as we pointed. The chef shook his head if we had asked for anything out of season or out of stock. There were still choices for everyone. The food was very reasonably priced, so much so we ordered a starter each, but the portions were so generous it was immediately clear they were for sharing. Next time we will order less and maybe have room for desert. The whole evening was a joy, a fitting end to the holiday.
Lara thought the proprietor had been impressed by John’s selection of local wine and indeed, after the meal, he asked if John wished to see his wine store. What I had taken to be a shed in the car park turned out to be a purpose built wine cave, still smelling of new wood. Inside methodically ordered bottles ranged all around sporting luggage tags and a large ham on the table spoke of wine tastings. John is keen to visit again.