In half term a group of Geography and Geology students went on a fantastic fieldtrip to Southern Italy to go and explore and learn more about three volcanoes. We started out by flying early on Wednesday morning to Sicily and went to the spectacular Alcantara Gorge (in the valley below where ‘The Godfather’ was filmed) where we trekked through the lemon and orange groves down to the waters edge. We then travelled to the pretty seaside resort of Giardini Naxos which was to be our base for the next few days and had a chance to eat our first gelato of the trip.
Thursday was Etna day and we went with our guide to the west foot of Etna and ascended to the cable car station at 2000m. We then took a cable car up to 2500m to see lava flows and got into jeeps to take us up to just below the crater at 2900m. There we were met by a special Etna Alpine guide who walked us around the crater. The weather was perfect and you could see most of Southern Sicily and our hotel resort from the summit, but it was a little bracing with the strong wind and snow underfoot. We then descended and walked around some ancient lava flows before returning to Giardini Naxos for another gelato and some down time on the beach.
On Friday morning we packed up and drove into the mountains. On our journey we were travelling towards Etna when we saw the white smoke and gas clouds we had been so familiar with the last few days suddenly turn brown. Part of the summit had collapsed. We stopped the coach and our volcanologist guide checked the Italian websites to check it was safe and then we went to Etna’s Mojo crater above the Alcantara valley and walked around the rim. More fantastic views seen and rock samples collected. After Lunch in Taormina and a tour of the World famous amphitheatre we then travelled to Catania for shopping and pizza. At the pizza restaurant we were given a pizza making demonstration and then some of us got the opportunity to try it out ourselves, making some of the pizzas for the group to eat for tea. We then flew to Naples and travelled by coach to Pompeii.
Waking up and looking out of the window at the walls of the ancient city with Vesuvius looming behind filled us with excitement for the day ahead. After breakfast we travelled to Herculaneum where our guide bought the old city back to life, although the skeletons in the old boat houses were a sobering and poignant reminder of the AD79 eruption. We then drove up Vesuvius almost to the top but high winds had closed the summit and so instead we went to Naples for a walking tour around the city centre and to explore the amazing tunnels of Naples. In our underground tour we were also taken down through a kitchen trapdoor to part of the old roman theatre in the basement where the Emperor Nero once performed. It really was a unique and fascinating walk through the many layers of Naples’ history. We then had free time in Pompeii before walking to the town square and a meal in the local pizza restaurant.
We were up early the next day to walk into the Pompeii ruins before the tourist buses arrived. It was an eerie experience as we took in the World famous site with our guide. When we got near to the Temple of Jupiter we met the crowds and so we went to see some of the treasures they had uncovered in their visitor centre. The afternoon saw us travel up to the summit of Vesuvius and walk around part of the crater rim. The clouds were rolling in at the summit but we did have a few lucky breaks so we could see down to the coast and Pompeii.
Monday saw us travel to the Phlegrean Fields and the Flavian amphitheatre at Pozzuoli where Spartacus used to entertain the crowds. We walked around the underground chambers where they held the beasts and prisoners and then walked to the ancient temple near the port. We were then taken on a coach tour of Naples and saw the Stadio San Paolo and houses of the rich and famous as we drove on the beautiful coastal road. A short shopping trip and gelato experience later we were sight-seeing again at the medieval Castel Nuovo. It was a full and action packed trip with many fantastic photos taken, bags of rock specimens collected and gelatos eaten.