The Perse School

Pupils take in the sights and sounds of the Bay of Naples

28 Apr 2014

At the start of the Easter holidays, 45 pupils from Years 8, 9 and 10 joined five staff for the Classics Department trip to the Bay of Naples.

On the way from the airport to the hotel, the group stopped at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples itself, where finds excavated from local sites, including the famous “Alexander Mosaic” (a GCSE Ancient History visual source), whetted the appetite for the rest of the trip.

Pompeii was the focus for our second day, and pupils were able to imagine themselves as inhabitants of the doomed city as they explored the amphitheatre, theatre, baths, forum, streets and houses – including, of course, that of the star of the Cambridge Latin course, Caecilius. In the afternoon a short visit to the suburban villa at Oplontis, decorated with lavish wall paintings, gave pupils the chance to see how the very wealthiest members of Roman society once lived.

On day three the group ascended Mount Vesuvius, gaining expansive views over the whole Bay of Naples and a close look at the crater of the volcano that had brought destruction in AD 79 to Pompeii and to Herculaneum, which the group visited after lunch. Herculaneum, “Pompeii’s little brother”, with its higher state of preservation than its neighbour, gave pupils the chance to see mosaics, carbonised wood and the skeletons of some of the volcano’s victims.

The area known as the Phlegraean Fields, to the west of Naples, were thoroughly explored on the group’s last full day. There pupils saw the large amphitheatre at Pozzuoli where they could explore underground passageways that had once been used to store wild beasts for the arena; the nearby Solfatara volcano, with its bubbling mud pools and sulphurous fumaroles, allowed them to understand just how geologically active this region remains. After lunch pupils visited the site of Cumae, an early Greek colony visited in myth by Aeneas, and then Misenum, where the cavernous water cistern known as the Piscina Mirabilis left everyone dazzled by the standards of Roman engineering.

The group stayed in Sorrento throughout the trip, and there were several opportunities for pupils to enjoy some time for shopping, especially for ice cream – a good supplement for the excellent pasta and pizza enjoyed for our meals. Evenings on the trip included quiz night, during which pupils and teachers engaged in a battle royale, and a card and board games evening.

Everyone returned from the trip slightly suntanned after an enjoyable and stimulating few days. The Classics Department now looks forward to this October’s trip to Rome, and to next Easter’s trip to Greece.

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