While in Italy we have been travelling in two groups – the green group and the purple group. It is because of the size of our pilgrimage group; we won’t all fit on one bus. Everywhere we have been we have separate guides who show us around and give us the history of the place so it’s really only at rest stops, Mass and meal times that we get together.
In Venice and Assisi we also stayed in separate accommodation (don’t mention the green group’s Assisi accommodation to the purple group as it’s still a sore point)!
Today saw our groups split entirely as the green group flew to Warsaw, Poland and the purple group stayed in Rome or visited Pompeii.
I was lucky enough to be on the trip to Pompeii with about 30 other pilgrims. I was really excited to see the ancient city, or as Bishop Bill called it at breakfast, ‘the Gold Coast of the Roman Empire’! Pompeii dates back to the late 7th century BC so ancient is definitely the right word.
We drove past Naples, which is the 3rd largest city in Italy. Like Rome, there are apartment blocks everywhere. Our guide, Salvatore, explained that 62% of Italians live in apartments as houses are too expensive for most people.
The eruption that buried Pompeii under ash occurred in 79 AD. Excavation of the site began in the 1700s. The last eruption of Mount Vesuvius was in 1944. Today around one million people live around the base of the mountain but the volcanic activity is monitored around the clock and detailed evacuation plans are in place.
Unsurprisingly, it was hot. But we were so taken with the amazingly well preserved paintings and interesting information about how the people of the time engineered the buildings and their daily life, we barely commented on it. You can actually imagine the chariots speeding through the streets; you can see the marks made over the years by their wheels on the huge boulders that form the roads.
Every year almost 3 million people visit this place and it’s not hard to understand why. It is spread over 66 hectares, 49 of which have already been excavated.
When we reached the Temple of Jupiter with Mount Vesuvius rising majestically in the background, we were amazed and the cameras certainly got a workout. A temporary art exhibition is currently on show around the site and it actually enhanced the experience because it blended so beautifully with the remains of the city.
Of course, while we were on the tour, Salvatore had organised a beautiful lunch for us – salad, bread, spaghetti, ice cream and a drink for 13 euro (bargain). Sal has connections and he’s not afraid to use them. We are going to miss Sal and Silvio. They have been absolutely wonderful companions on our journey and have taught us so much about Italia.
Tomorrow the purple group will fly to Katowice, Poland and then travel in to Krakow to be reunited with our fellow pilgrims. Let World Youth Day week begin.
When you see a pedestrian crossing in Italy DO NOT assume that any car will stop for you. You basically have to become your own lollipop lady before daring to step out.
“What interested me was the House of the Menander, the home of Nero’s second wife, Sabina. You could see how beautiful it would have been with an amazing courtyard surrounding the rooms and a fresco painted using expensive blue paint. This room could be seen from the road so that everyone walking past could know that the person living there was a prominent person.”
OBSERVATIONS: Looking forward
“I’m really looking forward to going to Austria because it will be really pretty in the summer. World Youth Day is going to be amazing to see all the different people, hear all the different languages and see Pope Francis.”