In the Red: Just hire a set of wheels if you want to see Naples and die


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The Independent Online

When you hire a car, the representative of Avis or Hertz hands you a sheet, on which is a drawing of a generic jalopy. You then perform a forensic examination of the car and mark any, well, marks on the drawing.

This is so you can prove that you didn't cause those particular blemishes when you finally return the motor in half-a-dozen bin bags. As a rule, thankfully, hire cars are in pretty immaculate nick, so there is little for you to sign off.

However, as I mentioned last week, in Naples, undamaged cars are about as rare as bluebottles at a spiders-only disco, so when our hire car arrived at our hotel, we were not surprised to see that it was anything but spotless, even though we were paying close to €600 (£478) for it. Nevertheless, it was a choice little piece: a scarlet, convertible Fiat Barchetta.

We were then faced with two daunting tasks: firstly, to fit two biggish cases and three bits of hand luggage into a boot designed to accommodate nothing bigger than a bottle of Frascati and a couple of hilarious anecdotes. Secondly, we (actually, just me) then had to drive the damn thing out of Naples. And, having seen the way the locals drove during our taxi ride from the airport, I wasn't confident we could avoid eating our lunch later through an IV drip.

Having crammed three pairs of pants and a baseball cap into the boot, we were forced to store the rest of the bags behind my wife's seat, which meant that for the remainder of the journey,her face was smeared against the windscreen. "You okay?" I enquired. "Mmfffmmmphh," she replied. I nervously eyed the screaming blur of traffic to my left, suddenly glad I'd had the foresight to enter the address of the nearest burns unit into the satnav, and we set off, somewhat cagily.

I fear I do not have the vocabulary to do it justice, so I shall just ask that you close your eyes and scream as loudly as you can. Now ask the person next to you to scream as well. This sums up quite nicely what it's like to drive through Naples.

I remain convinced that the only reason I was allowed to leave the city alive was because, Italians being as they are, I was driving a sexy red car with a sexy woman in the passenger seat.

If I had been driving a brown Mondeo in the company of Basil Brush, you may never have heard from me again.

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