When Vesuvius buried Pompeii under six metres of ash and pumice, it sealed in not just a Roman town, but a way of life. Richly coloured murals, lurid graffiti, intimate impedimenta, ruts in the road: spend a day here and the details quickly accumulate, until Romanitas very nearly becomes a living, breathing concept once more. The trick, however, is not to see the site in isolation. In the company of Dr Nigel Spivey, Senior Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at Cambridge, we also ascend Vesuvius, to better understand the geography of the catastrophe, and visit Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum in Naples.
We meet at our hotel in Naples at 1pm, before driving to the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio, and walk to the rim of the crater to discuss the two-phase eruption of the volcano in AD 79. Enjoy magnificent views over the Bay of Naples, before returning to the hotel for an evening lecture.
The day is spent at Pompeii, one of the most enthralling archaeological sites in the world. The whole panoply of buildings and facilities of a medium-sized Roman town is on display here, with several key sites recently restored, including the beautifully frescoed house of Marcus Lucretius Fronto, and the town’s main market, the Macellum. Lunch is provided.
Herculaneum suffered most from the volcano’s pyroclastic surges of superheated rock, dust and gas. Temperatures are thought to have risen beyond 250°C, and the harbour town was buried to a depth of twenty metres. However, the state of preservation of some of its buildings is even better than in Pompeii. We spend the morning here, before transferring to the extensive remains of an imperial villa, possibly belonging to Nero’s wife Poppea.
The National Archaeological Museum in Naples houses many of the most remarkable finds from Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples and beyond – from the Alexander mosaic to an exquisite set of marble sculptures from the Villa of the Papyri. The collection also includes extraordinary sculptures from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome – notably the Farnese Bull and the Farnese Hercules. The trip ends at the hotel by 1pm.
Dr Nigel Spivey
Senior Lecturer in Classical Art & Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, Nigel is a specialist in Etruscan Archaeology, Greco-Roman art, and the Ancient Olympics (he was himself a three-time champion at the Varsity athletics match). He presented a five-part BBC/PBS series, How Art Made the World, as well as an investigation of New Testament archaeology, Digging for Jesus, for ITV. His many books include Etruscan Art, Understanding Greek Sculpture and Enduring Creation: Art, Pain and Fortitude. His 2004 monograph, The Ancient Olympics, is now in its second edition.
"Nigel Spivey is a highly professional, knowledgeable and patient guide who goes the extra mile – having dinner with the group meant we could ask him even more questions" (participant on Archaeology in Pompeii in 2017)
£895 per person sharing in a double room. £1,060 for one person in a double room.
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, one lunch, transport by private coach, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary. Please note flights are not included.
Palazzo Salgar, Naples (4 star).
There is a lot of walking to be done – in places, over rough ground. The gentle climb to the crater of Mount Vesuvius requires a good level of fitness. Pompeii and Herculaneum are both quite tiring.
Between 5 and 28 participants.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.
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