Discover anew the world of Roman antiquity
Pompeii & Herculaneum explored in depth
Explore the ancient Greek city at Paestum with its wonderful Doric temples & museum
Pozzuoli and Baia also included
Relive the ‘Grand Tour’ of the Bay of Naples
Enjoy Lady Walton’s world-renowned garden, La Mortella, on the Island of Ischia
Visit led by world expert on ancient Rome
Excellent 5* hotel on the famed Bay of Naples
Sir William Hamilton was British envoy to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1764 to 1800. His period in office coincided with the ‘rediscovery’ of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and a host of other sites. By luck it was in the mid eighteenth century that the lethargic Bourbon dynasty authorised systematic ‘archaeological’ exploration of the extraordinary places within its control. Hamilton, an intelligent, sophisticated and particularly acquisitive individual, was ideally placed to make the most of such unprecedented opportunities. Sir William moved suavely about with royal approval, excavating and collecting until he had amassed the finest non-royal collection of antiquities assembled at that time. Choice pieces illustrating his collection of vases and other treasures were eventually published in a series of luxury folios, the most famous of which are the four volumes edited by Baron d’Hancarville between 1767 and 1776, his Antiquities Etrusques, Grecques et Romaines…
Nea polis, or “new city”, was built in the fifth century BC as the original Greek settlements on this beautiful bay became overcrowded. Even after the Roman conquest of the city in 326 BC, Naples clung to its Greek heritage. It is fitting therefore that we begin with a visit to Paestum, the ancient Poseidonia, the site of three magnificent Doric temples (dated between 530 - 450 BC), where we can sense the atmosphere of Magna Graecia, the wealthiest part of the Greek world, before it was absorbed by the Romans.
Herculaneum is the site of the first famous excavations of the eighteenth century, sparking off an intense interest in the archaeology of the ancient world. The contrast between this opulent city and the more commercial and bustling Pompeii will be obvious. Our visits to both cities will allow us to explore both the public and private sides of Roman life in detail. Special amongst our visits will be the intimate Villa Oplontis, said to be the home of Nero’s second wife, Poppaea, and the remarkable Flavian amphitheatre at Pozzuoli. We shall also visit the city’s Archaeological Museum, an unrivalled collection of antiquities giving insight into this opulent Roman world. In contrast there will be a leisurely day spent on the island of Ischia enjoying Lady Walton’s extraordinary garden, La Mortella.
We stay at the comfortable 5* Grand Hotel Santa Lucia, situated picturesquely on the shores of the Bay of Naples overlooking the Castel del Ovo. Our lecturer, Christopher Smith, is Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews and until recently, was Director of the British School at Rome. He studied at Oxford University and has written extensively on the early history of the city of Rome, the Etruscans and Etruscology, and also on Roman historical writing.
Day by day
- Day 1: Tuesday 8 October
- We fly from Gatwick with BA to Naples arriving early evening. We transfer by coach to our hotel, the 5* Grand Hotel Santa Lucia. Later in the evening there will be a group dinner in a local restaurant – wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners
- Day 2: Wednesday 9 October
- We travel south to spend the day visiting the remarkable Greek temples and museum at Paestum on the Gulf of Salerno. This was a Greek colony taken over by the Romans and then abandoned with the fall of the Empire. The three temples are the finest surviving examples of the Greek Doric style on the Italian mainland. There is also an excellent museum at the site, famed for its tomb frescoes and some splendid grave goods. There will be a group lunch at Paestum and on our return to Naples the evening will be free.
- Day 3: Thursday 10 October
- Pompeii needs no introduction - it remains utterly impressive in its mute testimony to so many aspects of Roman life, love and death. We spend a day making our way round many of the major surviving public monuments and a representative selection of the city’s private houses and also the famous Villa of the Mysteries. There will be a break for lunch, not included, and following our visit re return to Naples where the evening will be free.
- Day 4: Friday 11 October
- Ischia is a delight and following our busy day at Pompeii, we travel by local ferry to the island. On the far western coast of the island sits La Mortella, the international botanical tour de force which was the vision of Lady (Susana) Walton. What her friend Laurence Olivier called “nothing but a quarry” was transformed by the great Russell Page and Lady Walton into Southern Italy’s most luxuriant garden which we explore during our formal guided visit. A snack lunch is available on site, though not included. After some free time to enjoy the garden we return to Ischia’s picturesque port village and continue to Naples by boat. In the evening, we shall have a group dinner in a local restaurant.
- Day 5: Saturday 12 October
- This morning we travel the short distance to visit the Naples Archaeological Museum, which has an unrivalled collection of antiquities, including the most extraordinary finds from Herculaneum and Pompeii. There is also on display a second group of antiquities, ‘The Farnese Marbles’, originally excavated in Rome during the sixteenth century by Pope Paul III and his family, moved here in the eighteenth century. Lunch is not included and the remainder of the day and evening will be free to explore Naples.
- Day 6: Sunday 13 October
- The buried city of Herculaneum is a remarkable site, an amazing reminder of the awesome power of Vesuvius, unleashed when it exploded that fateful day, 24 August, AD 79. The British School at Rome has for many years maintained an ongoing conservation programme and, via special private access, we shall see the latest developments and revelations at the site. After some free time for lunch, not included, we visit the nearby Roman Villa at Oplontis, thought to be that of Nero’s second wife, Poppaea, famed for its opulent frescos. Back in Naples, we have dinner in an excellent local restaurant.
- Day 7: Monday 14 October
- On our final day we spend the morning west of Naples visiting two small, highly important sites around the Campi Flegrei. First will be Baia, a particularly evocative site where the Romans relaxed in their luxurious holiday villas; second is the extraordinary Flavian amphitheatre at nearby Pozzuoli, the third largest in Italy with its hypogeum intact and luckily accessible. We end our week with a group lunch in Pozzuoli after which we continue to Naples airport for our return flight to London Gatwick.
- Price: £2,485 per person
- Price without flights: £2,345
- Deposit: £300
- Single Supplement: £350 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
6 nights with breakfast at 5* Grand Hotel Santa Lucia in Classic Room
Upgrade to Deluxe Sea View Room £425 (per room)
Outward: BA2610 Depart London Gatwick (South Terminal) 1520 arrive Naples 1900
Return: BA2611 Depart Naples 1950 arrive London Gatwick (SouthTerminal) 2050
3 dinners & 2 lunches with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Christopher Smith, our tour manager James Hill & our local guide Pina D’Esposito
Travel to/from Gatwick, 2 dinners & 3 lunches
Weather Conditions for Naples in October are:
Average Temperature between: 14oC - 23oC / 57.2oF - 73.4oF
Rainfall: 130mm / 5.1inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.