A very cold 02:45 on the morning of Friday 10th February saw 38 students of Latin and Classics waiting for a coach in the car park of Chichester Festival Theatre. The early start however, meant a full day of “ruin viewin’” in Rome. A coach ride took us past the ancient and modern worlds living side by side: the modern hospital standing on the ancient foundations of the Roman temple to Aesculapius, god of healing; the bridge built before the days of Julius Caesar juxtaposed with Florentine and Rococo architecture; and the modern roads next to the Appian Way where so many slaves had been crucified after the revolt of Spartacus. In brilliant warm sunshine, we saw the sights of the Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi fountain and the breath-taking Pantheon. The bedtime story was the beginning of Book 1 of Homer’s Iliad.
After a frighteningly calorific breakfast on the second day we set off to see the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill; awed by the horror of a place whose 100 days of inaugural games, it is said, wiped out the North African lion and killed countless gladiators and criminals, and martyred so many Christians; and exhilarated to walk where so many who shaped the story of Western history had passed before us.
After our transfer coach journey to Naples, through the shifting geography of Italy (which brought enormous joy to Mrs Pegg) we arrived at the extraordinary Hotel di Capodimonte perched on a precipitous hill looking out over an extraordinary church and the city of Naples. In the evening two teams from across the year groups competed in a quiz run by the Year 13s.
Our third day was taken up visiting the house at Oplontis, believed to be owned by the emperor Nero’s wife, Poppaea with its dazzling murals of beautiful wildlife and fantastical theatrical architectural scenes. Boscoreale next showed us the more rustic world of a Roman vintner, with his great stone jars of petrified wine. After this we popped to a supermarket where we received from our coach driver a lesson in how to drive a coach to the millimetre with consummate professionalism. The afternoon took us to the glorious Naples Archaeological Museum where we roved and explored, taking great delight in discovering familiar sights from the Cambridge Latin Course and exploring some of the sheer beauty preserved from Pompeii and Herculaneum. That night we read the letters Pliny the Younger, an eyewitness of the eruption of Vesuvius wrote to the historian Tacitus.
Day 4 took us up Vesuvius. It is difficult to say who was happier – Ms Barnett in the Classical joys of Rome or Mrs Pegg with the geographical and topological excitements of Mount Vesuvius. The students were magnificent climbing to the top without complaint and with the weather set fair for us, enjoying looking all across the bay of Naples and the surrounding area. Some adroit manoeuvring by our extraordinary guide got us all delicious, freshly made margarita pizzas at a tiny café just next to Herculaneum Archaeological Park at a significantly reduced price. The afternoon was spent being guided round Herculaneum.
Day 5 was a six-hour tour of Pompeii where we saw the Amphitheatre; Palaestra; many houses of rich and super-rich; the extraordinary, and just opened House of the Vetii; the forum baths; the theatre; and of course, compulsorily, the house of Caecilius (of the Cambridge Latin Course) and so much more. Very late in the evening, we returned 38 exhausted students to their families with memories to last a lifetime.
Ms C Barnett, Teacher of Latin