On a late cold Thursday evening in February, 23 excited Sixth Form Students and three equally-eager staff (Sheila Coull, Mike Skinner and Carol Lawrence) stood waiting to be taken by coach to Edinburgh airport to begin the grand tour of Italy.
When we arrived in Rome, we had our first meal at the La Faginetto’s restaurant.
The next day found us standing in amazement at the vastness of the ruins of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. The huge statues and ancient Roman relics seen during our afternoon visit to the Capitoline museum were equally impressive and awe-inspiring. Many a wish was made and coins thrown when later in the evening we had found our way to the Trevi Fountain.
Sunday found us visiting the Colosseum, again admiring the vastness of the place and the labyrinthine remains of the rooms beneath the arena floor and trying to imagine what horrific sights those ancient stones had witnessed and what cries from both gladiators and spectators had echoed around that huge amphitheatre.
Our long walk was followed by a refreshing visit to one of the best-known ice-cream parlours in Rome, frequented by Italian politicians.
The following day was a visit to The Vatican City. Many found the vastness of St Peter’s Square and the splendour of the Basilica overwhelming.
A few braved the 320-step climb to the top of the dome where their efforts were rewarded with spectacular views over Rome. The highlight of the afternoon was the visit to the Sistine Chapel and seeing the ceiling decoration painted by Michelangelo.
We spent the following day ‘roaming’ (pardon the pun) amid the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It was amazing to see two Roman towns – with shops, villas, theatres, amphitheatre, baths, forum and the remains of inhabitants – frozen at the moment they were completely and tragically engulfed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in August 79AD.
We also climbed to the summit of Vesuvius before going to Naples and the Archaeological Museum, where we could better appreciate the original intricate mosaics and beautiful wall paintings taken from the villas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.
The weather was unkind to us on the last day but it did not detract from the enjoyment of seeing the picturesque, cliff-hugging towns as we were driven along the winding coastal road to Amalfi.
A trip to remember.
By Carol Lawrence,
classical civilisation teacher