07 June 2016
Classics study trip to Pompeii 2016
We set off with great anticipation one Friday morning to catch our flight from London Gatwick. After a safe and quick journey we arrived in Naples to gasps of astonishment as we realised that elsewhere in the world there existed a season called summer. This warm, clear weather continued throughout our trip and made for some stunning views, especially during our drive along the Amalfi coast.
We soon settled into the Hotel Astoria, which was an absolute delight. The positioning of the hotel meant we had only to walk for about ten seconds the next morning when we went to the station to travel to the excavations of Pompeii. We were completely unprepared for the sheer size of the town, as we were able to walk around and visit shops, houses and temples whilst Mr Carr told us details and stories of every place we visited (soon earning the title of The Walking Encyclopaedia).
That evening after a delicious dinner at the hotel a large part of the group, including Mr Grant it must be noted, took to the bars of the town to watch the Madrid Derby which caused some conflict among the more passionate fans.
On Sunday our plans took us first to the Solfatara where many of us were literally overwhelmed by the smell of sulphur emanating from the bright orange rocks. Despite this assault on our noses it was amazing to see this natural phenomenon, along with boiling mud and the seemingly hollow ground. For the rest of the day we visited several other sites of note including the caves of the Sybil (the mythical Roman prophetess) at Cumae. In the evening we were treated to the Vico Equense charity food festival, where we indulged in some of the most amazing Italian food and sampled just about everything, from pasta to carpaccio to doughnuts.
Monday brought with it a road trip along the winding roads of the Amalfi coast, which heralded beautiful views. Amalfi itself was bustling and exciting whilst we were equally enthralled with the magnificent cathedral. Our final stop of the day was at Paestum to see the ancient temples of Athena and Hera, which are even older than the Parthenon though not quite as famous. It was quite unbelievable how well preserved they were and how despite their age, they have never had any restorative work but are still standing as strong as when they were built. That night brought with it a quick but tasty supper back at the hotel followed by a trip to Sorrento by train to experience the nightlife.
On Tuesday we journeyed to Capri by boat and hiked up the island to Tiberius’s Palace. The palace was breath-taking in its completeness and complexity although most of us were a little preoccupied in the 30°C heat and scorching sun. A short bus ride across the island to Anacapri brought us to the Villa San Michele, the home of Swedish physician Axel Munthe which is built on the foundations of a roman villa, to the same design as the original building. When back on the mainland, some of us headed back to Sorrento for a little more shopping whilst others relaxed back at the hotel. That evening we were treated to a delicious meal in a pizzeria, after which thank-yous were said and prizes awarded to each of us for individual ‘accomplishments’ including ‘best goat impression’ and ‘most content to be bored by Mr Grant’.
Our last day took us to Mount Vesuvius and Herculaneum. The day started with wind and rain during our hike up Vesuvius where we marvelled at the vastness of the great mountain with its steaming crater and rivers of rock. By the time we reached Herculaneum, however, the sky was back to its usual bright blue and the temperature was climbing rapidly. Only a third of Herculaneum has been excavated and the rest lies under the modern town, which will not be moved any time soon! It is extremely well preserved because in contrast to the toxic gases and six metres of ash that covered Pompeii, disintegrating wood and asphyxiating the residents, Herculaneum was covered by 24 metres of pyroclastic flow, which is essentially burning mud. This preserved the buildings much better and although we don’t have any casts of the residents we can see some perfectly preserved carbonised wood, bright coloured mosaics and painted façades. After this, by now feeling quite weary after our many escapades we began the long drive to Rome to fly back home.
Miss Harmer, Mr Grant and Mr Carr were wonderful throughout and worked hard to ensure an amazing week. I think it is safe to say that everyone thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Bay of Naples and it could not have been any better.