Everyone who goes to Temple Rome over the years has seen or heard of professor Jan Gadeyne. As my art history professor, he leads my class and I every Thursday morning through a new ancient site, talking our ears off for 3 hours about every detail there is to know about wherever we are. This weekend was the infamous “Death March” weekend, in which my fellow students and I embarked on a 5-city adventure through many ancient sites. These cities included Terracina, Sperlonga, Pompeii, Paestum and Naples. With Jan’s words from the day before still fresh in our minds, “This weekend is going to make the Afghanistan War look like a frat party,” we hesitantly loaded the bus at 7 am on Friday morning. Day one included a trip to Terracina, Sperlonga, and Naples. We visited many ancient villas and archaeological museums. The views were incredible, and we even enjoyed a break at a quaint little town in Sperlonga, right by a breathtaking view of the ocean.
The weather was beautiful and there was even a newly wed couple celebrating with family and friends. It was the perfect break we all needed from Jan’s rigorous tour schedule. After our final stop in Naples, where we spent a few hours taking notes about the entire museum, we were more than ready to head back to our hotel in Paestum. The hotel in Paestum was a small, family owned hotel right by the ocean. It was owned by two brothers who welcomed us in with big smiles. After putting our stuff into our rooms, we realized we were all starving, so we hurried down to dinner as a group. The dinner was delicious! They made a delicious 3 course meal, including delicious bread, pasta, pork, chicken, and dessert. Some students enjoyed local wines that were served or a delicious hot chocolate or cappuccino. With the sounds of Frank Sinatra filling the air, it was the perfect way to end the night. After heading back to our rooms and enjoying some Italian X-Factor on the TV, we fell right asleep, preparing for the long day we had ahead of us. Saturday morning we woke up to a delicious breakfast and headed out the door at 8 am. We toured some amazing ancient villas that gave us a spectacular view of Mount Vesuvius.
After this we headed onto the buses to go to Pompeii. This is the point when the dreaded rain began, and it didn’t stop, in fact it only picked up.
It continued throughout the entire day, completely soaking us on our day-long venture through the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Jan wasn’t going to let the rain stop him, so we carried on! Around 4 o clock, towards the end of our trek, the rain finally stopped and we were overjoyed that we could actually fully enjoy our surroundings.
The preserved houses of the elite in Pompeii that we toured were amazing – people back then really knew how to live lavishly! We even got to see some of those people, at the very end of our day. After seeing them, it made me feel a little better about the day…at least we made it out alive!
After getting on the bus, we were all relieved to take off our soaking wet shoes and start to dry off. When we got back to the hotel, we changed into dry clothes and headed down for another delicious dinner full of seafood, pasta, and delicious desserts. We headed straight to bed and woke up this morning exhausted and ready to finish the weekend. Today, we went to Paestum and visited an archeological museum and saw some amazing unrestored temples that we were all in awe of. We finished our trip with some delicious gelato made with buffalo milk and in between sleeping on the way home we saw some amazing views of the mountains and the Italian countryside. It was so beautiful to see mountains right outside the window that reached higher than the clouds.
With pages upon pages full of notes, some local wines we bought as souveniers, and a long but fun weekend full of memories- we finally made it back to Rome. We survived the Death March.