Day 1: After dropping our bags off at the hotel we walked through the streets of Rome in search of gelato at the Trevi fountain. On the way we passed beautiful fountains, the Quirinale hill and the baths of Diocletian; on reaching the Trevi fountain we enjoyed a gelato and threw our coins into the fountain to bring us back to this fascinating city again.
Day 2: Another early morning even though we had had a very busy first day in Rome! Our knowledgeable guide met us at the Colosseo. We discovered much about this monumental amphitheatre before visiting the Palatine hill (the residence of the Emperors) and the Forum Romanum (the ancient hub of the city) where great men such as Caesar, Cicero and Pompey would have been seen. Later we walked to the Pantheon, where we had a good look around, marvelling at the architectural brilliance of the Romans, and pausing for a much needed Italian coffee. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Day 3: A bus ride out to Ostia Antica; the ancient harbour town where Rome’s grain supply landed from all over the Mediterranean. After walking along the ancient cobbled entrance to the town and visiting the baths we were treated to a demonstration of the superb acoustics in the theatre by Miss Baylis. We ate our packed lunches in the forum at Ostia, in the shadow of the temple to the Capitoline triad, before boarding the coach for our return to the city. Back in Rome we visited the Ara Pacis Augustae, the monumental altar built by Augustus to demonstrate the peace and prosperity he had brought to the empire after years of civil war. Next a spot of shopping was on the cards! We walked along the Via Condotti to the Spanish steps, where we spent some time browsing the shops and eating another much needed gelato.
Day 4: It was time to depart from Rome and head for Sorrento. On our way we stopped to visit the ancient town of Pompeii. Before our visit to the site we enjoyed some authentic pizza in a local restaurant.
The casts of the Pompeiians were incredible and it was emotional to see their facial expressions in their last moments. We paid a visit to the amphitheatre and the palestra, (the exercise ground) before walking along the streets peering in at tabernae and houses. Most were amazed by the quality of the preserved buildings, which even included graffiti and frescoes! We stood for the obligatory picture outside Caecilius’ house before wandering through the necropolis of Pompeii on the way to the Villa of the Mysteries. The villa was just outside the walls of the ancient town and would have belonged to a wealthy family. We enjoyed viewing the frescoes detailing the events of a woman’s initiation into a mystery cult. On our way back to the hotel we had our first glimpses of Vesuvio domineering the landscape. Some were even lucky enough to have a view of Vesuvio from their balcony!
Day 5: In the morning we visited Herculaneum, another ancient town preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. The vibrant colours of the frescoes as we walked through the houses and public buildings brought the town to life. Here the layers of mud which engulfed the town preserved even organic material such as door posts and balconies. The boat houses with the skeletal remains of the inhabitants of the town were a chilling reminder of the horrific consequences of the eruption. Fearless of such events we spent the afternoon hiking up Vesuvio, stopping frequently on the way to admire the views of the beautiful coastline, take pictures and perhaps most importantly to catch our breath! At the crater we were joined by our guide who told us about the eruption of AD 79 and the most recent eruption in 1944. Reassuringly we also learnt that the volcano is monitored 24/7 and that there has even been a practice evacuation of the surrounding area!
Day 6: Our last day in Italy! We met early in the morning to walk to Sorrento, where we could go shopping and get some lunch in the old market area of the town. Once back at the hotel we boarded the coach for the Villa di Poppaea at Oplonti. The villa was a holiday home thought to belong to the family of Poppaea, the Emperor Nero’s wife. As you might expect from the property of such an illustrious family it was incredibly grand with beautiful frescoes in a range of colours and designs adorning every wall. There was even a swimming pool and baths for the inhabitants and visitors of the villa. It was then, sadly, time to wave goodbye to sunny Italy.
A huge thank you to all those who participated in the trip, both the girls, who were a credit to the school (and we often received compliments on the way they conducted themselves) and the wonderful staff, Mrs Smart, Mrs Stone and Miss Baylis, who not only accompanied the trip, giving up part of their Easter break but also helped with the organisation. A fabulous trip all round!
By Miss Symons