We are in our second year travelling around Europe in a camper van and for the first time ever experienced violence and hostility when we were attacked in Pompeii.
It all started on a sunny day in southern Italy, we had found a great spot to spend the night in preparation to visit Pompeii the following morning. We were going to be sleeping on a supermarket car park, which had a dedicated area for campers, just a 5 minute walk from Pompeii’s entrance.
Before settling in for the night we decided to take a short trip to the nearest free internet café to do some reseach into our next travel destination. Upton returning at around 11pm we found that the supermarket had shut and huge gates locked us out of our spot. Great! Now we were faced with trying to find somewhere else in the busiest time possible (Italians seem to be nocturnal in the summer) in the middle of a big city.
As luck would have it (or not) we found somewhere close by, a quiet residential street. We planned to spend the night there and move back to our spot first thing in the morning when the super market re-opens. As we drove into the area town houses became high rise flats, old men sitting outside homes became young boys doing wheelies on bikes and pretty floral arrangements replaces with piles of stinking rubbish. It wasn’t pretty but surviving here one night was certainly doable, or so we thought.
The boys on the bikes seem to take an interest in us as we were getting ready for bed (putting curtains up ect) one boy rode past us and bared his teeth at us in a rather intimidating way before riding off quickly. We didn’t think much of it and jumped into bed before switching on a podcast about Pompeii to listen to in preparation. We talked about whether we were safe here and judging by our previous travelling experience of nothing but friendly welcomes or peaceful curiosity we decided we would just fine.
An our later we were woken by a very loud thud on the side on the van.
I stuck my head out the window while Joe jumped out of bed and into the cab to see what was going on. We both saw the same thing. The two boys from earlier, the obvious culprits. The second they saw us they began shouting abuse and gesturing at us with their fingers before laughing and riding off at speed. We didn’t react, we just watched them ride away. We still don’t know what they threw at us but we are assuming it was rubble since there was so much lying around. Joe somehow instinctively new that it wouldn’t end there and quickly made preparations to leave. I wasn’t so sure and slowly got out of bed and wandered around the outside of the van inspecting for damage.
Within 60 seconds we herd ranting and raving approaching. We looked down the street to see a group of about 15 boys and men approaching quickly. I watched in disbelief for a few seconds before hastily jumping in the passenger seat and locking my door. Two were on a scooter and four in a car, the rest on foot and of course the two boys on bikes following behind. Joe rammed the van in first and quickly began turning around ( we had to do a 3 point to to get out ) The group began to surround the van shouting abuse, posturing, throwing rubble at our windows and sporting the Nazi Salute.
We lived in Manchester for 5 years and saw our fair share of street violence but never had we experienced anything directed at us. It seemed like the longest time but finally we had turned around and were on our way out. We were followed by the scooter, car and bikes for a while (who continued to pelt us with rubble) before looksing them at a motorway junction. Joe managed to stay calm and drove us to safety before pulling over.
We couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was sick with shock and physically shaking. We did a quick inspection of all the windows before moving on in fear that they might find us again. They were clearly ready for violence as if it was a sport to them.
We spent the next few hours in search of somewhere safe to stay, we saw a green area on the map and hopelessly drove in that direction hearts still beating fast from the ordeal and desperately trying to rationalise what happened by discussing it at length. We were driving further and further away from Pompeii becoming completely lost and at one point ended up half way up versuvious at some sort of army check point. We quickly turned around, the last thing we wanted was to be interrogated by the Italian army.
We later found ourselfs parked on a newly built large garage forcourt. We briefly discussed the idea of staying there the night before I noticed a glass security office with lights on. I approached to ask if we could possibly stay the night only to see the security guard facing me through the glass, yet he was fast asleep, cctv screens blaring behind him.
I gently knocked on the glass, not a murmur, I knocked louder and louder and louder until I was worried about waking up the rest of the village and decided to give up. I returned to the van to see our drivers side front wheel looking very soft. Great. Pelted by rocks, lost, security guard in what can only be described a chromotosis and now a flat tyre, had the thugs slashed our tyres too? Luckily (or not- again) we had parked within reach of an air pump. I unravelled the hose and pressed the trigger on the nozel and watched the pressure gage. I dropped! I reattached the nozel and tried again, and again it dropped. We went from having a soft tyre to a completely flat tyre in a matter of seconds…what the hells going on here?!?
It was all becoming a bit of a joke when suddenly a car pulled up along side the fuel pumps. We hadn’t realised the station was self service pay at pump until now, except this couple hadn’t pulled up to fill up on fuel, they had something else in mind.
We began discussing our options, It’s 2am, we are lost, we cant wake the security guard to ask for help and now we have a flat tyre. Lets face it, we’re not going anywhere.
Meanwhile the couple had opened the doors of their car, turned their music up to max ( slow Italian love songs) and began dancing arm in arm around the forecourt. I started to wonder if I was having a bizarre dream. 10 minits later they were having rampant and noisy “relations” in plain sight meters away from us. Don’t forget the security guard is still sitting there and still asleep. I wish I saw his face when he checked his cameras the next day, a couple of hippies settled in for the night and an over excited couple making love on the floor. there’s a guy that’s not keeping his job for long!
It was one of those nights, one of those long strangly eventful nights that never end. One of those disastrous bizarre nights that leave you not knowing where to laugh or cry. I had cried already so this time I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Convinced we had a puncture we had resigned ourselves to sleeping there and planned on calling our emergency brake down cover first thing, we also disgust whether we should tell the police about the earlier onslaughtEventually the couple left, the security man still hadn’t woke up and our tyre looking flatter by the minute. We jumped in bed a got a few hours sleep. The bad luck didn’t end there I’m afraid, somehow without realising it during the stress we had ended up parking over what we can only imagine was a sewer drain. The stench was so unbelievable that it actually woke us up when the wind blew in the right direction. We were also woken by the security guard who had finally regained consciousness and was now circling the van and peering through the windows, gravel crunching under his shiny boots.
It was probably one of the worst nights sleep of our lifes, forget the sleep, worst night of our lives entirely!
We were miles away from Pompeii and no longer cared.
The next morning We scrapped the idea of visiting Pompeii anytime soon and focussed on getting ourselfs out of this place and catching up on some rest.
Thank goodness ,Everything was a million times better in the morning! The nozel on the air pump had been replaced, the one I used to flatten the tyre must have been broken. Turns out we didn’t have a puncture at all! No more being stuck here, no more having to call break down cover and having to wait hours for a response and upon a better day light inspection, no damage to our windows either. We did find a pile of rubble that had been thrown at us (a sickening reminder) it had become caught in our tail lift. We tossed it aside.
The security guard was nowhere to be seen and been replaced by staff that had turned up to man the station, instead of telling us off one man asked us if we had enjoyed a good sleep. We pumped up our tyre, filled up on fuel and left the god forsaken garage forcourt without looking back!
A few days later we had relaxed, gotten over our ordeal and planned to revisit Pompeii. We had spent our time roughly an hours drive away in a good spot with free camper facilities and next to an amazing amphitheatre. Things were back to normal and our eventual day at Pompeii was fantastic! It was a reminder of no matter how bad things seem, when the darkness of night fades and a new day is upon us, everything can 100 times better!