Classics Trip 2017


Departs: 27 March 2017
Returns: 02 April 2017


Rome & Sorrento

Staff member in charge

Mrs Heather Lumsden

Thirty-one pupils and four members of staff travelled to visit the key ancient sites in Rome, The Vatican and its Museum, Capri, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Mount Vesuvius.

Scroll down to read the blog.



One more sleep...

Please come to school as normal on Tuesday morning, but don't go to Registration - come to the Library with your luggage instead, where you will meet your group leader and hand over your Passport and EHIC card. There will be time to fill in your luggage labels before boarding the coach for a 9.30am departure to Edinburgh Airport.

Don't forget your - PASSPORT, EHIC card, EURO CURRENCY and your WRISTWATCH.

cura ut valeas, as they said in Pompeii..

Arrived safely...

We have arrived safely in Rome after a manic dash across, underneath and through Frankfurt Airport - thankfully Lufthansa had held the flight for us! Classic Margherita pizzas, with optional proscuitto, followed by tricolore ice cream was our evening meal in a small restuarant adjacent to the Hotel Noto. Breakfast is at 7.15am for our early departure to the Colosseum - we have a group entry at 9.00am, and we are looking forward to meeting Richard, our guide for the day!

unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno

Mad dogs and Englishmen...

Our jam-packed itinerary today could have taught even Virgil a thing or two about 'epic'. Leaving our hotel at 7.55am, we were one of the first groups to gain entry to a remarkably peaceful Colosseum, and here our guide, Richard, tore apart the myths and legends surrounding this great place, and instead backed his commentary with evidence from sources, and with images to illustrate how things may have looked back then.

We crossed to the Palatine Hill, just as the Colosseum was getting busier, and imagined this area's palatial past as we sat amongst the ruins which peeped through the acanthus leaves, the same leaves we were to see later adorning column capitals. Entering the Roman forum, it was time for the sun tan lotion to be applied, and from looking at faces across the table at dinner, a few spots were missed!

Our Higher pupils were kept on their toes with Richard's probing questions on Augustus' reforms, while the younger pupils were tested on their translation of Latin inscriptions. And after a typically Italian lunch, our afternoon comprised a four hour walking tour of some of the iconic sites of Rome, both ancient and more modern. Our ancient highlights included: the Pantheon (what does happen when it rains?), Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps (not so Spanish after all it would appear) and Trajan's Column. More recent sites included Mussolini's Palazzo Venezia, Da Vinci's local church, and to keep us Scots happy, the birthplace of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

After dinner, and a little shopping for supplies, we returned to our hotel over thirteen hours after leaving this morning. Bedrooms are quieter tonight!

panem et circenses

From the sublime to the ridiculous via The Vatican...

A "long lie" today, with breakfast at 7.30am, which still allowed us an opportunity to re-visit the Spanish Steps on our way into town with hardly another tourist in sight. Our Higher Classical Studies pupils were particularly looking forward to seeing Augustus' altar to Peace (Ara Pacis) in its new, purpose-built home, it having been reclaimed from a swamp over the course of several hundred years. They were not disappointed, and its light and airy setting showed-off the intricate carvings of Augustus' (and Mussolini's) powerful propaganda tool.

Some free time in and around the Piazza del Popolo allowed an opportunity to sample another flavour of ice cream, ahead of our visit to the Vatican, where we were delighted to rejoin Richard at the Vatican Museum. Having learned about Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel using an outdoor display, we weaved our way through the crowds and the priceless relics, guided by Richard's voice through our whispering headsets. The Chapel itself was very busy (for a Thursday in March!) but we were able to pick out the various features on the roof and walls thanks to Richard's tips. St Peter's Basilica was a highlight for many in the group - not only to see the bodies of enbalmed former Popes, but also to wonder at the scale and grandeur of the place. From here, we moved to sample some culture of a different kind, with a very popular dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. The burgers, fries and ice cream all went down very well, and a 15 minute walk brought us back to the hotel by 8.30pm.

We leave Rome tomorrow having embraced its arches, ambience and artisan gelato. The Metro has been stressful, but has been successfully navigated, especially by "Metella's Minions" who always seem to get a seat! Having all thrown coins in the Trevi Fountain, I suspect we shall all return someday.

Roma locuta, causa finita

And if you close your eyes does it almost feel like you've been here before...

Another early start in Rome as we had to eat, check-out and walk to our pick-up point by 8.00am. Traffic was light and we made very good progress on our way to Pompeii, stopping for lunch at a nice hotel on our driver's recommendation. It was with great anticipation that we entered the excavations as this is the setting for the much loved Cambridge Latin Course Book 1 and a key Unit in the National 5 Classical Studies course.

Here we split the group in two by age, and employed the services of two local guides who led each group through the network of streets of the ancient city. Imagine the excitement when the younger group arrived at Caecilius' House - the setting for many lessons, but still no sign of Metella! The groups also enjoyed learning about the amphitheatre, forum, palaestra and a variety of shops, while also seeing a baths complex and the plumbing system. Vesuvius looming over the whole scene reminded us of the epic trek which awaits us on Sunday. 

The traffic was much busier as we headed towards Sorrento, with 18km taking over an hour, but our journey was rewarded by the lovely Hotel Il Faro, sitting by the water's edge. There was time before dinner for a quick swim in the Med for a few brave souls - for the more sensible, there was a lovely calm night and a colourful sunset.

audio, video, disco

Capri, without the VIP

With Camilla Parker-Bowles encountered by another school group at Herculaneum, we headed to the beautiful island of Capri with high hopes of spotting an A-list celeb or two. Our search may have proved fruitless, but the island certainly did not disappoint.

We boarded the Hydrofoil outside our hotel and 30 minutes later we landed at the scenic Marina Grande. Two narrow minibuses transported the group to the heights of Anacapri - on the way, we marvelled at the skills of our drivers, weaving their way through the island's tiny streets. Some ventured even higher still, boarding the single-seater chairlift to the highest point of the island, the summit of Monte Solaro, from where we saw evidence of volcanic activity in the surrounding area. Others opted for some people-watching in the town square, refreshed by the now requisite gelato.

liana, our guide for the day, then esorted us down to Capri town and to one of the most scenic spots of the trip so far - the Gardens of Augustus. Here we learned how the island has attracted leading figures throughout the centuries, from Tiberius (who ruled the Roman Empire from his villa here) to Lenin, who reputedly plotted revolution there. Apparently Beyonce also summers here!

Our day ended with some shopping in Sorrento - lemon-themed gifts seemed to be the order of the day (spoiler alert!) - parents, please try to look suitably surprised!

si vita tibi citrea det...

Through hardship, to the stars...

All this week, the forecast for today was for heavy rain, and it was with some trepidiation that we drew the curtains this morning, but apart from a sharp shower in the afternoon, we managed to remain dry - Jupiter must have smiled on us today,

Once again our driver negotiated the winding streets and mountain roads that took us to the car park 1000m up Mount Vesuvius. From there we snaked our way through the dusty volcanic landscape, observing lava flows below us, until we encountered the start of the crater rim. Occasional puffs of steam reminded us that although the volcano looked benign, there was activity below. Some of the group were disappointed not see a pool of boiling lava!

After a long, downhill journey, we encountered the final historic site of our trip. Nestled beneath modern housing, the Roman town of Herculaneum is more compact than the Pompeii site, and in many ways it is better preserved, thanks to the nature of the volcanic debris on this side of the Bay of Naples. Here the buildings retain evidence of wooden structural features which had been charred by the pyroclastic flow, and the pupils were moved by the plight of the mainly women and children who suffered the full impact of the thermal shock in the boathouses as they waited for boats to take them to safety. It is safe to say that the stories told by our guides had quite an impact on the pupils.

Flight details for tomorrow

per aspera ad astra

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