Visited the Paestum Archaeological site. Founded in 6th century BC by the Greeks Paestum, first called Posiedonia after the Greek God Posiedon, was one of the biggest cities of the Mediterranean. It is over 2000 years old!!
It cool to see the well-laid out streets with housing areas and temples and public sporting areas - bathing, amphitheatres etc.
The temples were incredibly well preserved and very impressive.
Then we took a drive to a sea-side village it was nice lots of flash yachts and boats. Mum’s navigating found us winding through the narrow streets of a cliff top village only to get ourselves a bit lost and more or less ending back where we started an hour later but it was still fun and we gave the locals great entertainment.
The next day after an unscheduled tour of Naples back streets (quite a challenge) we finally found Herculaneum (or Ercolana as the Italians call it) It is about 2.5ha excavated out of the estimated 20ha city buried on the 24th August 79 AD under about 16m of mud and lava. This was a city where wealthy Romans came for seaside holidays and the houses were very big. We walked around the original streets and went in houses - some of them with beautifully painted walls, mosaic floors, huge atriums. There were public baths for men and women, restaurants (as everyone ate out in those days) shops and sporting gymnasiums. We all enjoyed it . Mind boggling how you go about digging a city out of solid rock and they are still doing it!
In the afternoon we drove up to see Mt Vesuvius. You could drive nearly to the top but then they stuck a car park and charged you for that and also to walk to the top. Dad, Liam and I walked up to the crater rim, it was incredible, the crater was huge and had bits of smoke coming out of it quite scary!! I got a rock from the top for a souvenir =].
Next day we drove to our camp we had booked near Rome and met up with our very good friends from home Ju and Ali McLeod. As you can imagine there was a big night catching up on stories so we were a bit late heading off to Rome on the train next morning especially since the everyone except Liam and I had started on all sorts of alcoholic drinks.
On arrival in Rome the first place we visited was Basilica di Santa Maggiore which had a very impressive and elaborate interior. Dad dressed himself up in scraps of material to get in and ended up looking like a ragged Buddhist Monk. Next was the Colosseum, it was very hot and the middle of the day but luckily the queues weren’t too big. I acted as our tour guide .
The Colosseum was 6 levels high, and the poor people were on the timber at the top. The Senators names were enscribed on blocks around the ring, and wild animals and their victims were delivered to the ring by a series of lifts and trapdoors, for everyones entertainment. It looks just like in the movie Jumper and there was an Italian movie being filmed while we were there =].
Unlike today the shows were free for everyone( The NZ Rugby Union has a lot to learn about keeping the masses happy), and this massive structure held up to 50000 people and was completed in 80AD.
We wandered through the Roman Forum, past Caesars Funeral Pyre, and it was amazing to imagine how grand this area would have been back then.
The 2000 yr old Pantheon was incredible, ancient looking from the outside, and beautifully preserved on the inside. Experts still wonder how the massive dome of poured concrete was erected without support.
Raphael the artist who contributed most to the works of the Vatican is buried here.
We also took in the very touristy Spanish steps with about 20 horse and carriages at the bottom giving people rides and the amazing Trevi Fountain ( I threw my coin in =]), and then made or way slowly back to the main station , having a lovely authentic Italian meal at a back street restaurant on the way, and got back to camp after midnight.
We had covered most of central Rome’s sights on foot and the next day we planned to take in St Peters and the Vatican.
We spent all the next day in St Peters and the Vatican Museums , taking in the huge array of treasures and art works. The Sistine chapel wasn’t as touristy as I expected and had huge murals painted on all of the walls it was gorgeous and this is where the cardinals gather to elect a new pope when the old one dies but it wasn‘t nearly as impressive as St Peters. This was SO big like a few rugby fields! It was all marble and just completely amazing I absolutely loved it. At the back of the cathedral is St Peters tomb. Ju and I went into the Vatican treasures place. It held beautiful gold crosses and ornaments given to the Catholic church by foreign Kings and Queens. Also saw St Peters chair and The robes of the late pope. There were remains of great saints ect enshrined in beautiful bronze caskets. Also a incredible gld and crystal cross that has remains from Jesus’ wooden cross!!! Just WOW!!! I would go back there any day it’s just one of the most amazing things I have EVER seen!!!!!!!!!!
We found Rome clean and easy to get round, and the unlimited artesian water spouting out of drinking fountains everywhere was a real bonus in the 30 degree heat.
Tourist numbers seemed well down although not peak season.
Next morning we were off to our next base, Umbertide, after watching the ABs play Italy on the Camp TV.