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Adventures in Southern Italy

Between 23-27th October 32 pupils and four staff led by Jeremy Boot explored the geography and antiquities of southern Italy. On the first day the group travelled west from Naples to the area called Campi Flegrei (burning fields), a zone of volcanic activity that saw a powerful eruption 39,000 years ago and which is still active today. They visited Pozzuoli and its famous ruin The Serrapeum, the Roman resort of Baiae, much of which is now under the sea and climbed our first volcano, Monte Nuovo. Breakfast the following day was a highlight – the view from the hotel provided a look at the ruins of Pompeii with Vesuvius glowering in the distance. They visited Herculaneum and Vesuvius, where the summit views of the Campanian plain were stunning, and where pupils were able to see flows from previous eruptions including the last in 1944.

On the third day our coach driver demonstrated considerable skill in negotiating the tortuous roads along the Amalfi coast – it was well worth it though for the incredible views and the visits to the Emerald Grotto, Amalfi, and the Villa Cimbrone which has possibly the most dramatic garden location in the world.

On day four, the group went underground in Naples to visit the ancient water cistern, almost 2500 years old and still used until the late 19th century. In one Neapolitan house they watched as the guide rolled back an innocent looking bed to reveal the entrance to a Roman theatre, hidden from view until the 1980s when its use as a hide for contraband cigarettes was exposed.

On day five the group walked out of our hotel and into the ruins of Pompeii, lacking only one thing, a guide, as the one that had been booked hadn’t turned up. Step forward Lawrence Plum, who saved the day with a highly entertaining account of Roman life and customs.

The visit was a great success in stunning weather and returning to 3 degrees centigrade was something of a shock for the party. The memories of this remarkable area will live long in the memory.