Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Nor was this all on the holiday programme, for in Rome one of the finest hotels, the Quirinale, had been transformed into another very popular New Zealand Forces Club. Here conditions were really on luxury lines, and the city had boundless sources of interest. Tours of the City of the Seven Hills were among the many amenities provided free of cost in divisional transport with experienced guides. Leave to Rome was arranged as liberally as possible, and the field ambulances were able to release large quotas of men for day leave. Three-day leave to the lovely island of Ischia was also reinstituted. This wooded island off the Bay of Naples, with its ancient castles and pleasant beaches, provided a place of relaxation from the strain of war conditions.
Mount Vesuvius was climbed on numerous occasions by the members of the staff of 2 General Hospital. From the rim of the crater one looked down into a huge cavity of forbidding appearance, but all around was a panorama of marvellous variety and beauty: to the north-west the city of Naples, and beyond, the Isle of Ischia; then the majestic Bay of Naples, bordered to the southwest by the Sorrento Peninsula and the Isle of Capri. Close to the foot of Vesuvius in the south was both old and new Pompeii, while away to the north and east, across wide plains checkered with cultivated fields and vineyards, extended the rugged Apennines.
The Sorrento Peninsula was a popular place for leave for a while, but it was not long before restrictions were placed on going there. Sorrento was an attractive, straggling village of one main street, meandering happily along craggy cliffs high above the sea. It commanded a superb view of the shimmering Bay of Naples. From there an hour's trip in a launch took one to the Isle of Capri, page 366 with its famous blue grotto and the heights of Anacapri. Farther round the rugged coastline were Amalfi, Ravello, Maiori, and Positano. This last village was built on an inlet, with a tiny, sandy bay cluttered with half-painted fishing smacks. Houses perched precariously on the cliffs were outwardly unprepossessing but within were spotless and wonderfully cool. Positano had a magical charm as a ‘honeymoon haunt’ for some of the staff of 2 General Hospital, for in this as in other hospitals hardly a month passed but some of its female staff were married.