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Historic Classics trip to Italy captivates pupils

Twenty nine Fourth Year to Sixth Form Classics pupils enjoyed a week-long trip to Italy where they visited a host of historic locations and expanded their subject knowledge.

After the first morning travelling to Rome and acclimatising, the pupils visited the Ara Pacis Augustae – an altar dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace. The monument was commissioned by the Roman Senate to honour the return of the Emperor Augustus to Rome after three years of war. In the evening they visited the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona. The Pantheon is a circular temple which has been much added to over the years but it is chiefly famous for its stunning domed roof. The Piazza Navona was once a hippodrome but is now a pedestrianised area with pavement cafes and Tom Hanks saves one of the priests from drowning in this fountain in the film ‘Angels and Demons’.

The next morning the first stop was the Colosseum, an oval amphitheatre built from travertine, tuff and brick-faced concrete. Thousands died here – prisoners, slaves and animals, domestic and exotic – while thousands more watched. The building is as much a monument to the cruelty of an arrogant and vicious population as it is to Roman engineering.

From there the party walked to the Baths of Caracalla. The huge size of the remains of the baths is very impressive and it is a good place to marvel at the scale of ancient Rome. Caracalla was an emperor in the third century AD and these enormous baths were his gift to his city.

The following day the travellers left Rome and headed to Sorrento via Tivoli where they visited the Villa Adraina. This magnificent complex of buildings gave the pupils an insight into the way a Roman emperor lived. Hadrian was not the most decadent of Rome’s leaders but his home is testament to his love of art and his pride in the various countries of the Roman Empire.

Day four saw the pupils spend the day at Pompeii, the ancient city known for being buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Boys and girls had an eye-opening time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site and it is an experience that will last long in the memory.

The next day the group travelled to Herculaneum, the ancient Roman town which was also destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows, before going to the Virtual Archaeological Museum – a centre of culture and technology which has more than seventy multimedia installations.

On the penultimate day of the trip, pupils ventured in the morning to Oplontis to see the villa of Poppaea Sabina, the mistress and later wife of the notorious Emperor Nero. In the afternoon they travelled to Paestum. This site was settled by Greeks and named Poseidonia and three Greek temples dominate the wide coastal plain. With the flight home early on day seven, the final activity of the trip was a meal at Leone Rosso where the pupils looked back on an enlightening and informative trip.

Reflecting on their trip, the Sixth Form students said: ‘We found our trip to Italy fascinating since we got the opportunity to visit such iconic and awe-inspiring ancient sites.

“During our time in Rome we not only learnt about the classical world, but experienced the amazing language and culture too – especially the gelato!”

“To visit sites that we have learnt so much about was more than we could have ever imagined. It was not just the famous Colosseum and Pompeii that took our breath away, but the smaller experiences like finding the dying Gaul statue and seeing the paintings in the Villa of Mysteries which were equally as memorable.

“It was an unforgettable trip and we were lucky to have teachers who were not only enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides but who also made the trip enjoyable.”