Villa Vergiliana: a day at Paestum

Day four of our visit at the Villa Vergiliana was a very relaxed one, to be honest. Alas for me, there was a different bus and an altogether different driver for the two hour trip to Paestum, all along the busy ringroad around Naples and quite a bit further into the direction of Sorrento. I was feeling rather queazy when I got of the bus, but the ever so beautiful landscape strewn with Greek temples and remains, made me quite well in no time. As usual, Leon provided us with very interesting information concerning the buildings and the surroundings, and we all enjoyed the peace thoroughly.

After the picknick we moved to the museum, where he gave us a short guided tour, and left us to explore on our own for a couple of hours.

I ventured into the precinct again, on my own, enjoying an icecream, and gave some Italian students a nice story to recount to their friends :-p Apparently they had an assignment, being seniors in high school, to explain in English to the tourists what their assigned building/monument was all about. So I let one of them explain to me all about the little amphitheatre, helped by his friends whenever he was stuck in English, up to the moment when he declared that it had been restored by the Flavians in the 2nd century before Christ. At which point I raised an eyebrow, and asked him if he was sure about that date. He was, he confirmed. So I went on to explain that it was definitely àfter Christ, and that I was a Latin teacher. He turned bright red, and said something about BC sounding the same as PC in Italian. So I switched: “Linguam Latinam loqui possimus, si velis”. They all started laughing, and said ever so quickly that it was okay, and that they would be fine the way it was! I’m pretty sure that, when I left, they were talking about the mere odds of having a Latin teacher as a tourist…

Anyway, I really didn’t feel like leaving the place, even though it wasn’t quite as peaceful anymore as in the morning, due to the massive amount of Italian teenagers who had arrived, and who were very good at what teenagers are best at, being laughing and making noise… So I went back on the bus, into the Neapolitan traffic, and alas, I wasn’t so lucky this time. By the time we hit Pompei to pick up two of ours who had visited the town instead, I was, as Adrian described it, violently ill. Another hour stuck in traffic really wore me out, and I went to lie down as soon as we hit the Villa. Half an hour of sound sleep worked wonders for me, and so I could easily participate in the wonderful activity that was planned before dinner. We all went up to the roof, and we in turn read out the poem we had been making about our trip. I must admit, I was seriously impressed by everything I heard. Especially Adrian’s poem about a slave being left behind on the shores of Pompei struck a nerve, and when Daan started to sing a song about a dad who is waiting in the vaults beneath Herculaneum for death to come, and says goodbye to his little daughter, both Dana and I were in tears.

I tried to write a sonnet, but I had to finish the last verse in a couple of minutes, after I had been woken up by the gong to indicate that it was time to go up on the roof.

In Virgil’s land the green hills lay,
and some are even mountains.
Beneath a veil of clouds of May
the sea, the lakes and fountains.

A Virgilian group of people came
to explore the Latin treasures
only to find the poet’s name
amidst so many more pleasures.

Now here we stand beneath the stars
and think of all the ancient wars
the Romans fought of old

And we will think back with a sigh
– our hearts will leap up really high –
of all the stories told.

It truly was a magical moment of bonding, there up on that roof of the villa… Thank you, Leon, for making that possible.

The rest of the evening was spent talking and having fun, just sitting around in the main room. Most of the participants were due to leave the next morning, hence the “last evening” feeling.

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