Pit stop at Pompeii
Tourists have been complaining about the refreshments provided at, or near, Pompeii since the mid nineteenth century. The careful Murray's Handbook to Southern Italy warned visitors in the late 1800s to be careful about the prices at the Hotel Diomede (a convenient watering hole near the entrance to the site, just outside): better to fix a price with mein Host before you sit down to lunch; else you might find yourself seriously ripped off.
For the last few decades there has been a decent restaurant in the middle of the ancient city, not far from the Forum. It came courtesy of the allied bombing which smashed holes in Pompeii in 1943 (it had been reported that the enemy was hiding out there). One of those holes was not made good after the war, but found a new use in providing for hungry visitor (plus one of the few loos on the sites). It wasn't ever brilliant -- but it did offer a decent plate of pasta rather cheaper than the modern equivalents of the Hotel Diomede just outside the site.
Then a couple of years ago, it was closed.
I am back in Pompeii this week for the first time since finishing my Pompeii book (doing a preliminary trip for a BBC documentary on the city). And there is indeed a new franchised restaurant opened in the old location.
Don't get your hopes up. It is an "Autogrill" -- the big Italian motorway service station company. And they have converted the charming old building into something that looks for all the world like a pit stop on the Autostrada del Sole with plasticized fast food to match (take a look at the decor in the pictures, best if you click on them to see them full size)
OK, this may sound dreadfully snobbish, I admit. But I dont much like my ancient monuments feeling like the Corley Service Station, or its euro-equivalent. It is what you get, though, if you take the Berlusconi approach to 'heritage' and just franchise the whole thing out to the highest bidder.
Dont just tell me that you think it looks bright, breezy and fun.