Burned, buried and brought back to life

A look back (first published 17 February 2015): discovering the secrets of the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum, now in the National Library in Naples, Italy.

The Phraser

Library of Naples Library of Naples
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli

It’s never a good idea to judge anything by appearances.  Here’s an example.

Mid-autumn of last year I was new in Naples.  The language was a challenge and I still didn’t know my way around.  The city seemed hectic and disheveled.

Then, on a wet Wednesday in November, I was invited on a trip to the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli.

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Carols in a church that has seen it all

A look back (first published on 12 December 2014)

The Phraser

Christ Church in Naples all prepared for its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Christ Church in Naples all prepared for its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

We could have been in England – the pure voice from the shadows behind us lifted the words into the church, floated them high above the candlelit pews and on towards the altar.

“Once in Royal David’s City …”

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We thought it would be obvious …

A look back (first published 25 November 2014): I think this piece should have gone under the heading “In Search of Vesuvius” because that is how it begins.

The Phraser

Vesuvius from the Castell dell-Ovo Vesuvius from the Castell dell’Ovo

We should have known better – nothing is obvious about Vesuvius.

The volcano has sat across the bay from us all summer – big, blue and balmy.  It reclines like some artist’s prop, a balance to the curve of sea and islands, a backdrop for the scuttle of life on its slopes and down to the shore.

It looks benign, the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, perhaps even a villa or two.

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The road to Pompeii

A look back (first published 25 September 2014)

The Phraser


The thing about Italy is that it is both so antique and so alive. You can choose to be statued to a standstill or else to let the days wash past in seafront sunshine and pizza.

Mid-August, temperatures white-blue, we ripped ourselves out from under the umbrellas of apathy and girded up the little Fiat for an expedition to Pompeii.

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Two years with the Commonwealth Ladies of Naples, Italy

View over Naples, Italy

View over Naples, Italy

Go to any city and there will be groups meeting.  Usually the difficulty is finding your way into them, especially if you’re a newcomer and you don’t speak the language.  Not so in Naples, Italy.

I arrived here two years ago, and luckily it wasn’t long before I was introduced to the Commonwealth Ladies.

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Italy: Naples raises its voice to defend its rights over San Gennaro

Mural of San Gennaro near the Duomo in Naples, Italy

Mural of San Gennaro near the Duomo in Naples, Italy

A threat has been made to the heart of an old city, to a unique relationship between the people and their saint.  The partnership has lasted through centuries of invasion, violence, disease and volcanic turbulence … but now bureaucracy wants its say.

The challenge is to the arrangements in place for the care of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, and his glittering collection of treasure.

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In search of a book in Naples, Italy

Books and Naples, Italy are old friends

Books and Napoli are old friends

Step in amongst the books in this ancient city and it’s hard to avoid the big names on almost every corner. My search for just one novel was busy enough.

Start on the Lungomare and there’s the castle known, thanks to Virgil, as the Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg).

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