Day 11 – Saturday, November 8
It was a very early start for us this morning. With the need to leave the hotel in Athens and drive to the airport for our flight to Rome, our wake-up call was 2:30 a.m. We left the hotel by 3:30, got the airport in plenty of time, and arrived in Rome about 7 a.m. We were greeted by sunny skies (with eventual temps around 65) as well as our guide, Gabriela. We loaded up our bus and began the 3 hour drive south to the ancient city of Pompeii. We stopped half way for our first taste of Italian cappuccino coffee. We drove past Monte Casino Abbey, established in 529 AD by San Benedicto. In WWII, it was famous for the Allied bombing of the site in September, 1944 (thinking the Nazis were there).
We arrived in Pompeii at 11:15. Here, Vincento, our local guide, showed us this famous site that as destroyed by the ash cause by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. About 20,000 people lived here in the 1st century. Excavations of the site began in 1748, and still continue to some extent. Among the 68 acres of ruins we saw the city theater, a number of the 300 shops and houses, many colorful frescos, mosaics, the theater, and the forum. Most daunting was to see the plaster casts, representing those who were buried alive by the 25 feet of ash that fell. Pliny the Younger offers us a moving personal testimony of what he saw from the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius erupted.
After a great lunch (with many ordering pizza and/or pasta), we returned to Rome. Arriving around 7 pm., we checked into our hotel, enjoyed dinner together, and an optional walk following dinner to St. Peter’s Square.
Day 11 – Sunday, November 9
We plan to visit the following sites in Rome: St. Peter’s in Chains, Coliseum, Roman Forum, the Catacombs, and St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls.