Tag Archives: ancient rome

Graffiti of Pompeii

There are thousands of graffiti recorded in the time capsule town on Pompeii, the town destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. They offer a glimpse into everyday ancient life in an unprecedented way. I hope you will find this list an amusing diversion or a useful resource for research.

Note – technically this list is a mixture of graffiti and dipinti. A dipinto is a drawn message or doodle, either made with paint, charcoal etc. A graffiti is incised into the surface, perhaps with a nail or tool. For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the word graffiti as a catch-all term, in keeping with the majority of guidebooks and websites.

I shall provide the location of each graffito wherever possible. Not only will this help tourists find them (if still visible,) but noting which types of graffiti appear where is a fascinating insight into the different neighbourhoods of the town. When I provide a building code, it breaks down into 3 sections. The first part notes the Regio, one of 9 zones of the town carved up by archaeologists. The second number notes the insula, or city block. The final number is the door number. So the House of the Surgeon is categorised as vi.1.10 – Regio 6, block 1, door 10. Some houses are known by a number of names, I’ll use whichever I think is the better known. A lot of buildings have multiple numbered entrances, I shall use the entrance closest to the graffito.

Where I can, I’ll also provide the catalogue number of each graffito in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Volume IV is dedicated to graffiti recorded in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The online database I use is the Epigrafik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby. This will be handy if you wish to read any of these in the original Oscan, Greek or Latin. If I can’t find a translation or attempt a clumsy one myself, I won’t include an example. This list is intended to be accessible for everyone (or at least those who don’t mind sexual themes or naughty language…) I’m not going to shy away from graffiti that use ‘naughty’ language as some books/sites do. The Pompeians weren’t prudes so I see no reason why I should be. However, perhaps you may wish to bookmark this page to read away from school/work…

If you spot any mistakes, can fill in some missing information or think I’ve missed a great example, just let me know.


If the graffiti is anything to go by, Pompeiians loved politics. The huge number of electoral slogans reminds me of my clogged Facebook timeline during our own modern elections. Official dipinti were written by professional scriptores, usually in red paint in an elegant script. Some of the others may be a teensy bit sarcastic…

  • I ask you to elect Numerius Barcha, a good man, as duovir. May Venus Pompeiana be favourable to your offerings. – CIL IV 00026, House of the Anchor vi.10.7
  • Numerius Veius, a good man. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir. – CIL IV 00045 Facade of a shop, viii.5.29
  • Numerius Veius Barcha, I hope you rot! – CIL IV 00075
  • Nymphodotus with Caprasia asks you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. CIL IV 207
  • All the late drinkers ask you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. Florus and Fructus wrote this! – CIL VI 581, Taberna Hedones, vii.2.44
  • I beg you to elect Marcus Epidius Sabinus duovir with judicial powers, he is worthy. May you elect one who is a protector of the colony according to the opinion of Suedius Clemens, the worshipful judge, and by agreement of the council on account of his merits and his honesty, worthy of public office. Sabinus, the theatre official, elects him with applause. CIL IV 768, Shop of Sabinus, i.4.18
  • Popidius Natalis, his client, with the worshipers of Isis, call for the election of Cuspius Pansa for aedile.  CIL IV 1011, Bakery of Felix, viii.4.27
  • The ball players ask that you elect Aulus Vettius Firmus aedile, worthy of public office. CIL IV 1147, Estate of Julia Felix, ii.4.4
  • Elect Gnaeus Helvius Sabinus aedile, worthy of public office. Masculus and all those who have a tail recommend him… CIL IV 7240 Caupona of Masculus, i.7.14
  • All the late sleepers ask for Marcus Cerrinius Vatia for aedile. CIL IV 575
  • Vatia for aedile: supported by the petty thieves… CIL IV 576
  • Vote for Isidorus for aedile, he licks cunts the best! CIL IV 1383, Brothel of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele vi.11.15
  • Lucius Popidius Ampliatus, son of Lucius, for aedile: supported by his client Montanus in conjunction with the brigands.  CIL IV 7851
  • Valens, you’re sleeping; you’re asleep and dreaming; wake up from your slumber and make Helvius Sabinus aedile. 
  • The neighbours of Lucius Statius Receptus urge you to elect him duovir with judicial power. He is deserving of the office. Aemilius Celer, his neighbour, wrote this. If you deliberately deface this sign, may you fall gravely ill! CIL IV 3775 House of Primigenia ix.8.8
  • Statia and Petronia beg you to elect Marcus Casellius and Lucius Albucius as aediles. There are excellent citizens for the perpetuity of the colony.  CIL IV 3294
  • Bruttius Balbus for duumvir. His actions will be fiscally responsible. Genialis supports this. CIL IV 3792 Shop, ix.2.20


Pompeiians loved a good gladiatorial spectacle. Theirs is the oldest surviving permanent amphitheatre in the Roman world. Politicians hoped to win over the citizens by sponsoring lavish spectacles and certain gladiators became ancient celebrities. It seems that ancient Campanians were quite willing to travel to see a good show, following their favourite troupes in the same way that modern sports fans go to away matches. That explains why the amphitheatre at Pompeii is so large for such a small town. Keen fans scribbled the results of fights alongside doodles of their favourite fighters.

Note – the term ‘Neronian’ indicates the gladiator trained at the Imperial training school in Capua.

  • The gladiatorial troupe of Aulus Suettius Certus, aedile, will fight at Pompeii on 31st of May. There will be a hunt and awnings. CIL IV 1189 The Eumachia, vii.9.1
  • At the dedication of the Games of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius… There will be a hunt, athletics, aprinklings, awnings. Good fortune to Maius, leader of the colony. CIL IV 1177 Forum Baths vii.5.2
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Decimus Lucretius Satrius Valens, perpetual priest of Nero and 10 pairs of gladiators of his son Decimus Lucretius Valens, will fight at Pompeii on 8,9,10,11,12 April. There will be a regular hunt and awnings. Aemilius Celer wrote this on his own by the light of the moon.  CIL IV 3884 Shop facade, ix.8.1
  • Celadus, belonging to Octavus, fought 3 won 3. CIL IV 4297 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Rusticus Malius – 12 fights, 11 wins. Marcus Terentius – 3 fights, 3 wins. CIL IV 4302 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls! CIL IV 4289 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Mansuetas the provocator will dedicate his shield to Venus if victorious! CIL IV 283, Quadriporticus viii.7.16
  • Faustus, slave of Ithacus, Neronian, at the amphitheatre; Priscus, Neronian, fought 6, victor; Herrenius, fought 18, killed CIL IV 1421 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Asteropaeus, Neronian, 107 victories, victor. Oceanus, freedman, 6 victories, reprieved CIL IV 1422 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.9
  • In honour of the Safety of the Emperor Vespasian Caesar Augustus and his House, on the occasion of the dedication of the altar, the gladiatorial troupe of Gnaeus Allius Nigidius Maius, Flamen of Caesar Augustus, will give games at Pompeii on July 4. Beast hunt. There will be awnings. CIL IV 1180 Large Theatre exterior
  • Oceanus, of free status, victorious 13 times, won. Aracintus, of free status, victorious 4 times, earned a reprieve. CIL IV 8055 House of the Ceii i.6.15
  • Severus, of free status, victorious 13 times, earned a reprieve. Albanus, left-hander, of free status, victorious 19 times, won CIL IV 8056 House of the Ceii i.6.15 Left handed gladiators were quite rare and would have drawn a large crowd.
  • Marcus Attilius. Marcus Attilius, fought 1, won 1, victor. Lucius Raecius Felix, fought 12, won 12, reprieved. CIL IV 10236A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Marcus Attilius, novice, victor; Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, reprieved CIL IV 10238A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Games at Nola given by Marcus Cominius Heres over 4 days. ‘The Chief’, Neronian, fought 13, 10 victories, victor. Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, victor. Creunus, fought 7, 5 victories, reprieved.  CIL IV 10237 Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Twenty pairs of Gladiators, belonging to Aulus Suettius Antenio and to his freedman Niger, will fight at Puteoli on the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of March. There will also be a beast hunt and athletic contests. CIL IV 9970
  • Sold to the wife of Decimus Lucretius Valens: Onustus, horseman of prime quality, Sagatus, Thracian murmillo, prime quality! CIL IV 8590 It would be extremely odd for a wife to buy gladiators on her husband’s behalf. It seems likely that this matron was in fact buying/hiring these gladiators for her own entertainment…
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, quinquennial, and their substitutes will fight without any public expense at Pompeii. Greetings to Gavillius Tigellus and Clodius. Greetings to Telephus, head gladiator instructor. Good luck, Diadumenus and Pyladio CIL IV 7991 House of Trebius Valens iii.2.1
  • Good fortune to Gnaeus Alleius Maius, the prince of the games! CIL IV 7990 Palaestra ii.7.7
  • Marcus Casellius Marcellus, a good aedile and a great giver of games CIL IV 4999 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Felix, belonging to Cassius, 13 fights 13 wins. Florus, belonging to Octavius, 14 fights 14 wins CIL IV 4378 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the 28th of July, Florus won at Nuceria, on the 15th of August, he won at Herculaneum CIL IV 4299 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the … Of May, the gladiator troupe of Ampliatus will fight at Formia. There will be a beast hunt, sprinklings and awnings. As the whole world desires to see my troupe, I shall provide games everywhere. CIL IV 1184 Gladiator Barracks viii.7.16
  • You have been victorious in every single one of your bouts! It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World! CIL IV 1111 Amphitheatre ii.6
  • Chariot fighter Philippus from the school of Tettius. 8 fights, 8 wins! CIL IV 4280 House of the Gladiators v.5.3



  • A small problem gets bigger if you ignore it… CIL IV 1811, Basilica, viii.1.1
  • What’s happening? Oh, eyes, you forcibly dragged me into the fire;
    Now, unforced, you flood my cheeks.
    But never can the tears extinguish the flame, t
    hey inflame the face and melt the spirit. Tiburtinus composed this. IV 4966, Odeon, viii.7.19
  • Once you are dead, you are nothing CIL IV 5279 House of the Centennial, ix.8.3
  • Nothing can last for all time: When the Sun has shone brightly it returns to Ocean; the Moon wanes, which recently was full. Even the fierceness of Venus often becomes a mere puff of wind. CIL IV 9123 Shop of Successus ix.13.4
  • Avoid giving killer looks to the wives of others with desirous expressions, harbour modesty in your mouth. CIL IV 7968A House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Remove lustful expressions and a flirtatious gaze from another man’s wife; may there be modesty in your expression. CIL IV 7968B House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Postpone your tiresome squabbles if you can, or leave and take them home with you. CIL IV 7968C House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • When an old man lies on his back, his bollocks cover his arsehole. CIL IV  4488
  • The one who buggers a man on fire burns his penis CIL IV 1882 Basilica viii.1.1
  • He who despises life easily spurns god CIL IV 5370 House of the Arches ix.7.20
  • Beware of wives! CIL IV 4238 Caupona V.2.3
  • The doorman should be awake for those who come bearing gifts. If, however, someone should knock on the door empty handed, the doorman should be deaf or sleeping with the latch firmly shut… CIL IV 1894 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Now, when anger is still fresh, it is time to leave. When grief has departed love shall return. Trust me! CIL IV 4491 House of Sextus Pompeius Axiochus vi.13.19


  • Stranger, my bones beg you not to pee at my tomb: if you want to do the deceased an even bigger favour: take a dump! You see the tomb of Urtica [= ‘Stinging Nettle’]: go away, shitter! It is not safe for you to open your buttocks here. CIL IV 8899 iii.5.4
  • Secundus took a shit here.  (This was written three times on the same wall…) CIL IV 5243 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Lesbianus, you poop and you write, ‘Hi, everybody!’ CIL IV 10070 Shop of Nicanor ii.3.9
  • This is Martha’s dining room, as she shits in this dining room. CIL IV 5244 House of the Centenary ix.8.3 The graffito was found in what is thought to be the slave’s quarters.
  • One day you will understand how I feel. When I need to have a shit I’ll come and shit! CIL IV 5242 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Shitter! Beware misfortune! CIL IV 3832 Caupona of Tertius ix.7.2
  • To the one defecating here.  Beware of the curse.  If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy! CIL IV 7716 House of Pascius Hermes iii.5.1
  • We have pissed the bed, I confess. We have erred innkeeper, though if you ask us why; there was no chamberpot! CIL IV 4952 Unnamed house viii.7.6


  • Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here five days before the nones of October in the year that Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus were consuls (2nd October 78 BC) CIL IV 1842 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here.  The women did not know of his presence.  Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.  CIL IV 8767 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Glyco was here with Martialis while the sun was boiling, we were thirsty. CIL IV 89 Tomb 18 Porta Ercolano necropolis
  • We two dear men, friends forever, were here.  If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus. CIL IV 8162 Bar i.7.8


  • Sabinus, my beauty, Hermeros loves you! CIL IV 1256 House of the Tragic Poet vi.8.5. This is just one of many graffiti about love/sex between two men.
  • No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Let everyone one in love come and see.  I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins.  If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club? CIL IV 1824 Basilica viii.1.1
  • If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow.  So, force me to die since you force me to live without you.  Your gift will be to stop torturing me.  Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away. CIL IV 1837 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if the god should wish me to go on without you! CIL IV 1928 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I’m hurrying to you, my Sava. Try to love me! CIL IV 2414 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Methe of Atella, slave of Cominia, loves Chrestus. May Venus Pompeiana smile favourably on their hearts and let them always live in harmony. CIL IV 2457 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Whoever loves, let him flourish.  Let him die who knows not love.  Let him who forbids love die twice over.  CIL IV 4091 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.26
  • If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make far more haste to see Venus.  I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go!  Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet.  You are mine… CIL IV 5092 House of Poppaeus Sabinus ix.5.11
  • Oh, if only I could grasp my gentle arms around you and and give kisses to your delicate little lips. Come now, my little darling, entrust your pleasures to the winds. Believe me, the nature of men is fickle. Often as I have lain awake in a wasted night, I think on these things: many whom Fortuna raised high, now suddenly rush headlong, and fall, overwhelmed by her. Thus, just as Venus joins the bodies of lovers in a moment, daylight divides them and you will separate their love. CIL IV 5296 ix.9.f
  • Marcellus loves Praenestina, but she doesn’t care for him CIL IV 7679 House of Pinarius Cerialis iii.4.b
  • (Written by Severus) – “Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper’s slave girl named Iris, She, however, does not love him. Still he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye”(Answer by Successus) – “Envious one, why do you get in the way. Submit to a handsomer man and one who is being treated very wrongly and good looking”(Answer by Severus) – “I have spoken. I have written all there is to say. You love Iris, but she does not love you!” CIL IV 8258 Bar of Prima i.10.2
  • Secundus says hello to his Prima, wherever she is.  I ask, my mistress, that you love me. CIL IV 8364 House of the Cabinetmaker i.10.7
  • My Ceres, may he who loves prosper, who forbids love may he perish badly. I loved Leda, but in a manner in which it was acceptable. Greetings, Tiberius Claudius. I loved Leda – the girl from Samos. CIL IV 9202 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.23
  • A blonde girl taught me to scorn brunettes. I will scorn them if I can; if not… I will reluctantly love them CIL IV 9839 Vineyard wall i.11.10
  • Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls.  I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them.  Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this CIL IC 1520 House of the Scientists vi.14.43
  • Lovers are like bees; they live a honeyed life! CIL IV 8408a Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • If only that were true… CIL IV 8408b Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world! CIL IV 3061 House of Caprasius Primus vii.2.48
  • If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should take a look at my girl friend! CIL IV 6842 House of Pinarius iv.16.15
  • Greetings to Primigenia of Nuceria.  I would wish to become a signet ring for no more than an hour, so that I might give you kisses dispatched with your signature… CIL IV 10241 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Sarra, you are not being very nice, leaving me all alone like this! CIL IV 1951 Basilica viii.1.1
  • A woman has borne a son of her own; he isn’t mine and doesn’t look like me, but I wish he was mine and I was wanting him to be mine. CIL IV 1877 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Juvenillia was born on Saturday in the second hour of the evening, Aug 2nd. CIL 294 vii.3 Juvenilla was therefore 3 weeks old when Vesuvius erupted.
  • Let him constrain the winds, he who rebukes lovers! And let him him forbid the waters of a stream from continuing to flow! CIL IV 1649 Shop, vii.6.35


  • Hedone says, “You can get a drink here for only one coin.  You can drink better wine for two coins.  You can drink Falernian for four coins.” CIL IV 1679 Bar of Hedone vii.2.44
  • Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on an drink from the sea! CIL IV 3494 Bar of Salvius vi.14.36
  • What a lot of tricks you use to deceive, innkeeper. You sell water but drink unmixed wine!  CIL IV 3498 Workshop of Potitus vi.14.37
  • I fucked the barmaid! cil iv 8442 Caupona of Sotericus i.12.3


Whilst the Romans did have an unwritten code of morality, it seems that their attitude to sex was open, not to be matched until, perhaps, the 20th century. Erotic images taken to the museum in Naples were kept in a secret, locked room that was only opened up to the public in 2005. Whilst the modern idea of constant orgies is inaccurate (and influenced by the early Christian church,) erotic images and graffiti were not limited to brothels and dive bars and were found in the grandest of houses. There is no Latin term for homosexuality as it was not seen as particularly remarkable (even Julius Caesar had an affair with the King of Bithynia,) although a Roman citizen should always seek to be the penetrator, not the penetratee. Fellatio, cunnilingus and heterosexual anal sex were common and frequently advertised by prostitutes. Hookers could be hired for the price of a loaf of bread or beaker of wine, although those with particular talents or services could charge a lot more. Prostitution was legal and regulated and by no means a career solely for women. Visiting prostitutes was not frowned upon and was vastly preferable to seducing another man’s wife/daughter. Some clients even left glowing (and not so complimentary) reviews!

  • Thrust slowly!  (found above a doodle of doggy style sex) CIL IV 794 House of the King of Prussia vii.9.33
  • Atimetus got me pregnant CIL IV 10231 Tomb, Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • I don’t care about your pregnancy, Salvilla; I despise it. CIL IV 8384 House of Minucius i.10.8
  • Fortunatus will fuck you really deep. Come and see, Anthusa! CIL IV 1230 House of the Surgeon vi.1.10
  • Here I’ve finally screwed a beautiful girl, praised by many, but inside there was a mudhole. CIL IV 1516 House of the Scientist vi.14.43
  • My life, my sweetheart, let’s play for a moment, let’s imagine that this bed is a field and that I am your horse… CIL IV 1781 Basilica viii.1.1
  • It is much better to fuck a hairy cunt than a smooth one: it both retains the warmth and stimulates the organ. CIL IV 1830 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right. CIL IV 1863 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Order your cock, it’s time for love! CIL IV 1938 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Restitutus says: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy cunt!” CIL IV 3951 Tavern of Verecundus i.2.23
  • Fortunatus, you sweet soul, you mega-fucker. Written by one who knows. CIL IV 4239 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.e
  • My lusty son, with how many women have you banged? CIL IV 5213 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Cock, you are enormous! CIL IV 7089 v.7.4
  • Matrenia with the hot ass CIL IV 8473 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.13
  • Palmyra, you horny beast! CIL IV 8475 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.1
  • Dionysios is allowed to fuck whenever he wants CIL IV 8897 Shop iii.5.3
  • Crescens declares his penis hard and huge! CIL IV 10085b Imperial House ii.1.10
  • Jucundus fucks badly. CIL IV 8715b Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Here I have penetrated my lady’s open buttocks; but it was vulgar of me to write these verses. CIL IV 9246b Villa of the Mysteries
  • Virgula to her friend Tertius: you are so dirtyminded! CIL IV 1881 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Fortuna licks arseholes. CIL IV 4954 House viii.6.5


  • If anyone sits on this bench, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii. CIL IV 1751 Porta Marina
  • If anyone’s looking for tender embraces in this town, he should know that here all the girls are available. CIL IV 1796 Basilica viii.1.1
  • 15 June, Hermeros fucked here with Phileterus and Caphisus CIL IV 2185 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Phoebus the perfumer is the best fuck CIL IV 2184 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Garlicfarticus’ fucked well here whom he wished CIL IV 2188 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Here Harpocras had a good screw with Drauca for a denarius. CIL IV 2193 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • He butt fucks Aplonia, gives it good, Nonius, fucking… CIL IV 2197 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • When you hand over the money, Batacarus, then I’ll fuck you in the arse! CIL IV 2254 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Restituta with the pretty face CIL IV 2202  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Mola the fucktress CIL IV 2204  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Felicla, slave born of the household, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4023 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Menander, nice manners, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4024 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Successa, slave born of this household, costs 5 asses. She has pretty manners. CIL IV 4025 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Felix costs four asses. Florus ten. CIL IV 7339 unnamed house i.10.3
  • Afillia costs 2 and a half asses CIL IV 7764
  • Communis: 3 asses, Successus: 3 asses, Nicephorus: 2 asses, Amunus: 4 asses, Cresimus, house born slave: 4 asses CIL IV 3964 Bakery i.3.1
  • I’m yours for 2 asses CIL IV 5372 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Athenais costs 2 asses. Sabina costs 2 asses CIL IV 4150 House of Jupiter v.2.15


  • Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you.  Salvius wrote this. CIL IV 2375 House of the Citharist i.4.5
  • Let Damoetas surrender to me and he will be happier than Pasiphae.  Zosimus wrote this. CIL IV 3299 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Weep, you girls.  My penis has given you up.  Now it penetrates men’s behinds.  Goodbye, wondrous femininity! CIL IV 3932 Bar of Innulus and Papilio i.2.20
  • I have buggered men CIL IV 4523 House of Orpheus vi.14.20
  • Albanus takes it up the arse CIL IV 4917 House of L. Caecilius Phoebus  viii.2.36
  • Lucius Habonius injures Caesonius Felix when he makes him suck his cock CIL IV 10232a Tomb 12 Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Vesbinus is catamite, Vitalius fucked him CIL IV 2319b between vii.2.16 and vii.2.17
  • Cosmus, slave of Equitia, is a great catamite and cocksucker who keeps his legs apart! CIL IV 1825 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I want to bugger a boy CIL IV 2110 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18


There dozens of references to cunnum recorded in Pompeii. Here are just a few…

  • Satyrus, don’t lick cunt inside the opening but outside the opening. CIL IV 2400 House of M Epidius Sabinus ix.1.22
  • Saturninus, don’t lick cunts! CIL IV 3925 Caupona and brothel of Demetrius and Helpis Afra i.2.19
  • Isidorus, slave born in the household, from Puteoli, muff diver. CIL IV 4699 between vi.15.22 and vi.15.23
  • Theophilus, don’t lick cunts against the city wall like a dog! CIL IV 8898 Shop, iii.5.3
  • Asbestus licks cunt CIL IV 763 viii.4
  • Centius licks Dionusia’s cunt CIL IV 1425 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Fronto openly licks pussy CIL IV 2257 Lupanar (brothel) vii.12.18
  • Glyco licks cunts for two asses. CIL IV 3999 Bakery i.3.27
  • Maritimus licks cunt for four asses. Virgins are free of charge CIL IV 8940 Shop, iii.7.1


It’s not a shock to find scores of graffiti mentioning blow jobs, ranging from tips, reviews and prices.

  • Rufa, may life be as good as your cocksucking! CIL IV 2421 Corridor of Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Sabina, you suck cock, but you do it so badly! CIL IV 4185 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.1
  • Secundus, a cocksucker of rare skill CIL IV 9027 House of the Peristyle vii.6.28
  • Lick, girl!the mouth is not despised by anyone who is ready to come with the hand! CIL IV 10197 House of the Ship Europa i.15.3
  • Romula sucks her man here and everywhere. House of Marcus Fabius Rufus vii.16.22
  • Veneria sucked the cock of Maximus through the whole grape harvest, leaving both of her holes empty and only her mouth full! CIL IV 1391 Lupanare of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele VI.11.15
  • Go down with your mouth along the shaft, then still licking, withdraw it upwards. Ah, there, I’m coming! CIL IV 760 Stabian Baths
  • Euplia sucks cock for 5 asses CIL IV 3330
  • Narcissus is the greatest cocksucker CIL IV 1825a Basilica viii.1.1
  • Felix sucks cock for one as CIL IV 5408 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Lais sucks cock for 2 asses CIL IV 1969
  • The man who shits a dick, what would you think he dined on? CIL IV 1884 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Myrtis, you give great head CIL IV 2273  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18


  • Epaphra, you are bald! CIL IV 1816 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before! CIL IV 1820 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Phileros is a eunuch!  CIL IV 1826 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Samius to Cornelius: go hang yourself! CIL IV 1864 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Epaphra is not good at ball games. CIL IV 1926 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Good fortune to the Puteolans; good luck to all Nucerians; the executioner’s hook to Pompeians and Pithecusans CIL IV 2183 Amphitheatre
  • Euplia is slack and has a huge clitoris CIL IV 10004 House of the Floral Cubicula i.9.5
  • Lucius Statius Philadelphus, freedman of a woman, is a thief! CIL IV 3990
  • Servilius is n love, he shouldn’t be allowed the chance. Go lick a cunt, Servilius. CIL IV 4304 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Chloe says goodbye to Symphorus. Naeve should drop dead, he really should. CIL IV 4430 House vi.7.1
  • Erotaria, you jealous old bitch! CIL IV 9945 Tomb, Porta Nocera Necropolis


  • A copper pot has gone missing from my shop.  Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 sestertii.  20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief. CIL IV 0064 Shop viii.5.33
  • On April 20th, I gave a cloak to be washed.  On May 7th, a headband.  On May 8th, two tunics CIL IV 1393 Unnamed house vi.11.13
  • It took 640 paces to walk back and forth between here and there ten times CIL IV 1714 vii.1.40
  • Epaphra, give the paintbrush back CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Health to whomever invites me to lunch! CIL IV 1937 Basilica viii.1.1
  • On April 19th, I made bread CIL IV 8792 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • If you wish to waste time, spill millet and pick it up again CIL IV 2069 House of Holconius Rufus viii.4.4
  • Since 14 days before the Kalends of April our wages have been overdue CIL IV 6733 Bakery 6733



O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin. CIL IV 1904 Basilica, viii.1.1



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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 2

19 April 2016

My last day in the Veneto region begins with grey rain, a sombre reminder that soon I return to a damp Britain. Mercifully, since I’m staying right by the amphitheatre, I only have a short walk to the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano. This epigraphic museum was founded by Scipione Maffei in 1714 and the collection has slowly grown ever since. It features inscriptions in Greek as well as Etruscan and Latin. The museum is right next to the Gates of the Bra.

After an hour or so the rain has disappeared and I’m impatient to the amphitheatre, which has been sitting there, tempting me, since I arrived yesterday morning.


The amphitheatre was built in the 1st century AD. There was a further, outer ring that has since been mostly lost following the earthquake of 1117. It reached as far as the lamppost in the right of the photo. By the time of the earthquake, the amphitheatre was already nearly a millennium old.


What is visible here would actually have been enclosed, the arches housed stairways up to the seating and walkways circling the seating areas.


The only existing part of the original facade stands on the side farthest from the Piazza Bra.


The arena is used for performances each summer and I’m lucky that there aren’t more areas shut off for modern staging. Musing as I always do as to why the Romans insisted on making their stairs so bloody steep, it’s time to explore.

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The amphitheatre could hold 30,000 spectators for gladiatorial games and beast hunts (such as the hunt staged by a widower for the funeral of his late wife, much to the approval of his friend Pliny the Younger. Pliny commiserates that the panthers had not arrived from Africa in time due to bad weather.) It was built circa 30 AD making it half a century older than the more famous Colosseum in Rome. It is the third biggest Roman arena, smaller than only the Colosseum and the amphitheatre of Capua (slated to be on my 2017 travel list.) It’s one of the best preserved I’ve yet seen and this apparently is due to uncommonly careful preservation over the centuries and solid construction. Like Rome and Capua, Verona boasted a Gladiator school and Games held here drew crowds from the entire region (useful, as the entire population of Roman Verona could not entirely fill it alone.)

We know the names of some of the gladiators who fought at Verona. A secutor named Aedonius died in his eighth bout, aged 26. A retiarius named Generosus boasts on his tombstone that he, a native of Alexandria, fought 27 times in Verona. He managed to retire with enough money to live well until he died, comfortably in his bed. Another retiarius, Glaucus, was from Modena. He fought eight times, defeated in his last. His tomb was put up by his wife Aurelia and his devoted fans. His funerary inscription warns the reader to thoroughly read their horoscopes. Don’t trust Nemesis, she will deceive you! He died aged 23 years and 5 days.

In 312 AD the forces of Emperor Maxentius barricaded themselves inside the amphitheatre and were besieged by Constantine, fresh from successfully defeating their comrades in Turin and Milan. Ruricius Pompeianus, Maxentius’ praetorian prefect, slipped from the city to raise more troops to defend Verona and returned to fight Constantine on open ground. Even with his new recruits and the large garrison in the amphitheatre, Pompeianus was defeated and killed in the battle. Contantine went on to finally defeat Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Constantine depicted the siege of Verona on his triumphal arch in Rome three years later.

Shortly after Christianity became the official religion, pagan Games were banned and the amphitheatre lay disused until after the fall of the Empire.  The Goths likely used it to stage entertainments, and when Verona was under the rule of the noble Scaliger family (aka Scala) (1226-1387) the arena was used in a more judiciary sense. Legal disputes could be settled with duels, except that instead of sword fights, the two sides chose a wrestler to represent them. Dante attended at least one such event, and described it in The Inferno.

No record exists of Christians being martyred by the Romans in the arena (although it is of course likely,) but Alberto I della Scala had nearly 200 patarini from Sirmione burnt at the stake inside the arena in 1278. Two years before, he made it illegal for anyone but prostitues to live inside the amphitheatre arches (a millennium after their Roman forebears had also plied their trade here,) and closed off the auditorium. In 1310, Alberto made it an offence to break through the doors into the auditorium or to urinate and defecate there, punishable by fine. Later, under Venetian rule, these laws were expanded to include punishment for anyone who tried to remove the fabric of the amphitheatre for building material. It wasn’t until 1537 that prostitutes were evicted from the arches, which now became workshops and stalls for craftsmen. The arena started to be used for tournaments which continued until 1716. The arena was then used by travelling troupes of comedic actors, dancers and musicians. Bull baiting also became popular, although Goethe was of the opinion that the arena was better suited to soccer. Following the French invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte twice watched bulls being hunted by dogs inside the arena (when he wasn’t using the building as a prisoner-of-war camp for captured Austrians.)

In 1820 the craftsmen in the arches were evicted so that restoration work could take place. After this, the arena was used for more genteel entertainments, such as acrobatics, horse racing and music. Opera was first performed in the amphitheatre in 1856. Ten years later Victor Emanuele II visited the arena for a festival celebrating the annexation of the Veneto into the Kingdom of Italy. There is an equestrian statue of him in the Piazza Bra. Operatic performances became more popular and numerous following a performance of Aida in 1913 and continue annually to this day. It also now hosts rock and pop concerts.

It’s a pleasant stroll down the Via Roma to Castelvecchio, the enormous manor house cum fortress built for the Scaliger family in the fourteenth century. It is possibly on the site of a Roman fort. Work was begun under Cangrande II della Scala, ironically the fortress didn’t prevent his assassination at the hands of his own brother. Completed following his death, Castelvecchio was still an effective deterrent against the House of Gonzaga in Mantua and the Sforzas in Milan.

Utilised as a barracks and prison by the Venetians (who added cannon,) French, (Napoleon always stayed here when in Verona,) and Austrians, the building is suitably intimidating. Castelvecchio became a barracks under Italian rule before becoming the home of the Civic museum in 1924.

Next to Castelvecchio is the Arco dei Gavi.

Walking north-east along the Corso Cavour I reach the Porta Borsari, a Roman gateway into Verona.

Further along is the Piazza della Erbe. This is the site of the Roman forum and remains the heart of Verona. It’s a truly beautiful space and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

At the thinner end of the Piazza is the late-Renaissance Palazzo Maffei. This was once the site of the Capitolium, hinted at by the statues of Roman divinities decorating the balustrade (the statue of Hercules is thought to be Roman and from the original temple.)


Palazzo Maffei


Domus Mercatorum AKA Casa dei Mercanti

The Merchant House (Domus Mercatorum) was built by Alberto I della Scala in 1301 (although the Gothic crenellations are a a 19thC addition,)  and provided a home for guilds of merchants.

More eyecatching are the tower houses that now feature shops and restaurants on ground level. Look above the parasols and the houses of the Piazza are covered in frescoes.



The rear of the Mazzanti houses


The Fountain of Our Lady of Verona was commissioned by the Scaglieri family in 1368. The statue is originally Roman and was found a few metres away in the ancient Capitolium.The basin is also Roman in origin and comes from a bath complex.


The Berlina (right) was erected in 1207 (although this is not the original,) and is almost impossible to photograph as it is usually a convenient bench for the hot and weary. The new podesta (governor) and judges would sit here to be sworn in. It was also used as a pillory for criminals and the severed heads of executed thieves could be displayed on it.


Il Palazzo Comunale and the Torre dei Lamberti




At the base of the Torre dei Lamberti, head through the Arco della Costa to the Piazza dei Signori

As I wander in, the Piazza dei Signori is as calm as the Piazza delle Erbe is bustling.


The Palazzo del Podestà stands on Roman ruins and was built by the Scaliger family as a residence. Dante stayedhere during his exile from Florence. Under the Venetians it became a seat of the judiciary and a new archway (complete with Lion of St Mark) was built to replace the original entrance.


The Palazzo del Consiglio was built 1475-92 and is usually attributed to a Dominican monk cum architect named Giocondo. Council meetings were held here. The five statues on top represent five famous Veronese men during the Roman period: the poets Catallus and Aemilius Macer, the architect Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder (who died in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius,) and biographer Cornelius Nepos.


A medieval tower of the  Palazzo di Cansignorio AKA Palazzo Capitano





The facade of the Palazzo della Ragione


The Torre dei Lamberti looks down on the Scala della Ragione


Just off the Piazza dei Signori are the Scaglieri tombs. They’re suitably impressive fro a family that ruled Verona for nearly two centuries.


The top of the tomb of Cansignorio della Scala


The tomb of Cangrande I della Scala is placed above the door of the Church of Santa Maria Antica.

Cangrande I first came into power, aged eighteen, at the suggestion of his brother Alboino. Whereas this does seem young, he had already successfully led Veronese troops into battle aged fourteen during a war against Ferrara and, upon the signing of a peace treaty, offered his little brother co-rulership in 1308. The brothers were allies of the Holy Roman Empire and soon became instrumental in asserting Ghibelline prominence in the region. In 1311 the brothers were chosen to head the Imperial army and successfully liberated Vicenza from Paduan rule. Cangrande was forced to miss the coronation of Emperor Henry VII to be with Alboino, who died of illness later that year. Alboino had two legitimate sons, but Mastino and Alberto were still only toddlers. Cangrande was now the sole ruler of Verona.

Cangrande I was noted for his good nature (although his temper was infamous,) and his ability to befriend people of all backgrounds. He enjoyed debate and fostered a court of poets, painters and academics. He was patron of Dante, who was exiled from Florence and spent a good deal of time in Verona. Dante even heaps praise on Cangrande in his Divine Comedy. Cangrande was deeply religious and devoted to the Virgin Mary, and always fasted for two days and week.

Cangrande I was a great military leader and successfully asserted Veronese control in the region, consolidating and expanding territory. His first act as sole ruler was to assume control of Vicenza with Imperial approval, filling the power vacuum left by the defeating Paduans. When Henry VII died two and a half years later in 1313, the Paduans soon attempted to retake Vicenza, marching overnight to launch a surprise attack in 1314. When Cangrande heard the news he immediately rode out, arriving in Vicenza in a mere three hours. He mounted a war horse and, swinging a mace, led his troops into battle. His lack of hesitation and his courage led to a decisive victory. A peace treaty wherein Padua acknowledged his rule over Vicenza was signed a month later. Hostilities with Padua did continue until 1320 when Cangrande found himself so outnumbered (and himself wounded by an arrow to the leg,) that he signed a peace treaty. A military man at heart, Cangrande was never going to be completely contented living life at court and was back waging war by 1322. In 1328 finally assumed rule over Padua. Less than a year later he was in a solid position to assume control of Treviso, another city that had long been in his crosshairs. A writer named Niccolo de Rossi dryly remarked that Cangrande would be ‘King of Italy within a year.’ Cangrande besieged the city and, low of supplies, the gates were quickly opened. However, Cangrande had fallen ill, and died, aged 38, four days after he triumphantly marched into Treviso.

His body was carried back to Verona where it now lays in the tomb pictured above. With no legitimate sons, his nephews Mastino and Alberto inherited his titles and rule of the cities Cangrande had conquered. Mastino had Cangrande’s doctor hanged shortly afterwards.

In 2004 an autopsy was carried out on the mummified remains of Cangrande. He was 5’8” and had a strong physique. Analysis of faecal matter and liver tissue revealed fatal amounts of digitalis, a poison derived from foxgloves. Stomach samples revealed that the poison had been masked with chamomile and mulberry. Nearly seven centuries after his death, Cangrande I was revealed to be a murder victim. The Duke of Milan and the Republic of Venice both had reasons to curb Verona’s aggressive expansion whilst not wanting an outright war, however Mastino, Cangrande’s own nephew, was himself ruthlessly ambitious. Did he bribe the doctor to poison his uncle, only to hang him before the doctor could implicate him?



Tomb of Mastino II

Whatever the truth, Mastino II della Scala most definitely benefitted from the death of his uncle, and if Venice or Milan were responsible in hopes for a quieter Verona, they were disappointed. Mastino persevered with the policy of Veronese expansion, taking over  Brescia, Parma and Lucca within six years.Unfortunately, although Mastino proved to be a capable general he lacked the eloquence, grace and mercy of Cangrande I.

Florence , Siena , Bologna , Perugia and the Venetian Republic formed an anti-Veronese League shortly after Lucca fell. Mastino was able to defend himself for a year, but the League kept growing, with Milan, Ferrara, Mantua and the Papal States quickly condemning Mastino. In 1337 Padua, the city that Cangrande had taken 16 years to conquer, opened her gates to a Florentine-Venetian army and Mastino’s brother Alberto was taken to Venice as prisoner. Mastino II watched in horror as city after city fell to the League. By April 1338, the armies of the League reached the walls of Verona. Besieged, Mastino started to see traitors and plotters everywhere. In August he murdered his uncle Bartolomeo, Bishop of Verona,running him through with a sword in front of the Bishop’s Palace. A rival of Bartolomeo’s had whispered to Mastino that the Bishop was betraying Verona for Venice.  Mastino, on top of being besieged, now found himself excommunicated.

The walls proved impregnable, but the siege was costly. In 1339 Mastino II had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with humiliating terms. The Scala family would be reduced to ruling Verona and Vicenza, the other cities were distributed to members of the League. His brother Albert was released from his Venetian prison and was allowed to return home. The brothers never did reclaim their former glory, dying in 1351 and 1352 respectively.


Tomb of Cansignorio

Mastino II had three legitimate sons, Cangrande, Paolo Alboino and Cansignorio. Cangrande II inherited Veronese rule upon his father’s death. He has the dubious honour of being the target of assassination not only from his two brothers but his illegitimate half-brother Fregnano as well.

Cangrande II was infamous for his tough rule that nearly crippled an already weakened city. He was ruthless, ambitious and utterly merciless. After three years in power, Cangrande II visited Bolzano. Fregnano took the opportunity to seize power in Verona and proclaim himself ruler with the aid of the Gonzaga family. Cangrande II hastily returned to Veronaand a bloody battle was fought on the Ponte Navi on February 5th, 1354. Fregnano fell into the river Adige and drowned. Days later, his bloated corpse was fished out and put up on display in the Piazza delle Erbe.

Increasingly paranoid, Cangrande II constructed the Castelvecchio and surrounded himself with Teutonic knights loaned to him by his brother-in-law, Ludwig of Brandenburg. It did him no good, in December 1359 Cangrande II was ambushed by his brothers Cansignorio and Paolo Alboino, who murdered him near the church of St Euphemia. The remaining brother ruled together until 1365, when Cansignorio accused Paolo Alboino of treason (likely a trumped up charge,) and had him imprisoned.

Cansignorio now ruled Verona alone, a city now devastated by war, famine and disease. The glittering court of Cangrande I was a distant memory as the bright talents in arts and literature sought patronage elsewhere. He soon set about trying to restore some former glory, with ambitious building plans drawn up and taxes raised to pay for their execution.

Cansignorio was apparently not a physically strong man, and died in 1375 aged only 35. On his death bed, however, he arranged for the assassination of his imprisoned brother Paolo Alboino, so that there would be no obstructions to his own bastard sons assuming control. Bartolomeo, in a mirror of the previous generation, was stabbed 26 times by his younger brother Alberto in 1381.

The three main tombs of the Arche Scaglieri mark the rise and fall of a dynasty, if only all who viewed them now realised how much blood was spilt by their owners.

My fascination with medieval violence sated, I stroll to the nearby Porta Leoni, another roman gate that lies at the end of the old cardo maximus road. Less is left standing than the Porta Borsari, but excavations underneath the modern road have been left uncovered to view.

I have just enough time for a stroll to soak up as much Veronese atmosphere as possible before my final stop.

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I’ve fallen in love with Verona from ground level so it only makes sense to view the city from above as my time left slips away. For a small fee, it’s possible to get an elevator up the Torre dei Lamberti.


And with that, it’s time to walk down the streets that still follow the ancient Roman paths down to the amphitheatre, pick up my backpack and head to the airport. On the plane home I decide that my daughter will be old enough for a trip in October when we will both be celebrating birthdays. And so I start planning a trip to Greece…


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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 1

18 April 2016

I wake up in a tiny B&B a mere few dozen yards from a huge Roman amphitheatre. Life is good. I don’t usually mention the restaurants and hotels that I use, but the owner of the B&B Principe All’Arena is such a charming gentleman that I will happily endorse him here for any traveller to Verona with a limited budget. He was easily the warmest host this trip.

I was adamant that I was going to include Verona on my trip. The city predates the Romans, becoming a colony around 300 BC. The Romans have lured me here; the architecture left behind from the various rulers who followed are a delightful bonus. It’s a Monday, the day when Italian museums traditionally close. Verona is blessed with numerous beautiful churches for me to explore instead. First however, I need to spend a bit of time soaking up the ancient atmosphere outside the arena.

First church of the day is the Basilica San Zeno. I purchase a Verona Tourist Card instead of delving around for a handful of coins, particularly since the Verona card will grant me access to everything that I’ve come to see.


There has been a religious structure here since the 4th century AD when a small church was built next to the tomb of the eighth Bishop of Verona, a North African man named Zeno. Zeno was made a saint after his death (sources differ on whether his death was a martyrdom,)  and became patron  saint of Verona. The original church was replaced with a romanesque basilica and monastery in the 9th century, but what we see today is the result of a rebuilding and enlargement following an earthquake that hit Verona in 1117.

I can’t recall visiting a church with an open, split level before. The presbytery is higher than the rest of the church, whilst stairs lead down to the crypt beneath. It’s a beautiful effect in an already beautiful church.


13thC  statues of Christ and the Apostles line the balustrade separating the nave and presbytery levels.

I decide to head into the crypt first, optimistically claimed by some to be the wedding chapel of Romeo and Juliet…



The coffin of St Zeno



The crypt is a church within the church and each of the 49 columns has a unique capital.



The basilica is decorated with several frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries. They depict religious scenes for the benefit of the illiterate congregation.




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Bronze panels decorate the door


After San Zeno I walk back east, passing Castelvecchio and the arena on the way to the Church of San Fermo and Rustico.


Firmus and Rusticus were Christian martyrs, tortured and beheaded under Emperor Maximian for refusing to make pagan sacrifices. The church is supposedly built on or near to the site of their execution.


The upper church


The pulpit and frescoes date from 1396


This structure encloses the choir



The lower church is accessed via stairs in the right transept.

Walking north along the River Aldige it’s a short walk to the Basilica Sant’Anastasia. The rather plain ( and technically unfinished) facade hides a truly beautiful interior.


The building of the Basilica began in 1290 and was mainly finished by 1323 with further building completed between 1423 and 1481.


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It’s only a short walk to the Cathedral and I’m disappointed to find it temporarily closed to the public. As a consolation, the Baptistery and Church of St Helen are still accessible.

The Chiesa Sant’Elena is on the site that Saint Zeno laid down the first Christian church in Verona.

The Chiesa di San Giovanni in Fonte was originally the cathedral baptistery. The octagonal font is carved from a  single block of stone and dates to the 13th century. The reliefs depict scenes from the Annunciation to the Baptism of Christ.


After a spot of lunch, keeping a wary eye on a grey cloud threatening to turn black, it’s time for the ancient theatre and archaeological museum accompanying it. I’m not surprised to find it closed, it is becoming somewhat of a curse for me whenever I visit Italy to find the things I most want to see shut or covered in scaffolding.

Grumpy, I decide to climb up the Scalinata Castel S Pietro, a stairway up the hill to an Austrian barracks built over an older castle that had been built on the site of a Roman temple. Naturally, to add to my frustration, the Castel is inaccessible behind chain link fences because of some renovation works. The panoramic views from the piazzale and the glimpses of the theatre on the way up are enough to cheer me up, though…

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A few hours now sadly left free, I wander around Verona before choosing a restaurant just off the Piazza Bra by the amphitheatre. The restaurants facing the piazza look touristy and expensive but mine, Le Cantine de l’Arena has al fresco seating tucked in the Piazzetta Scaletti Rubiani where I can happily dine on gnocchi with walnuts in a gooey Monte Veronese cheese sauce whilst gazing at the arena as the night gets darker.

I can’t resist a bit of night time photography on my last night of the trip.



Palazzo Barbieri


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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 14

18th May 2015

5.30 am

Oh sweet baby Jesus, that alarm is early. My bus to Piazza Armerina leaves in one hour. Thankfully I deliberately sacrificed a nicer hotel for a spartan one situated a short walk from the bus terminals. This gives me ample time to puke in the bathroom sink, apparently. Terrified that I’ve caught some horrible disease from my mosquito bites the day before my flight home, I nevertheless decide to drag myself to the bus terminal and force myself to Piazza Armerina, refusing to spend another afternoon cooped up in the hotel watching Grey’s Anatomy dubbed into Italian like I did yesterday afternoon. It will be worth it. I hope. And the weather seems to have cleared up, the storm clouds having spent themselves out overnight.

The journey from Catania to Piazza Armerina takes 1 hour and 45 minutes. Arrival at Piazza Aremina can be confusing, especially as everyone else on the bus was a Sicilian using the service to commute. Don’t expect an announcement that you’ve arrived at the right place and don’t assume that the stop is at a terminal. I miss my stop and have to walk back to it, if you’re going to Armerina as a tourist, get off at the large square that has a yellow petrol station.

From there you can catch a minibus service that shuttles you to arguably the only reason to visit at all, the Villa Romana del Casale.

The villa is late 3rdC AD and evidently belonged to someone with wealth and status. Landslides covered up the entire complex in the 12thC and it wasn’t rediscovered until the 1920s. What archaeologists found was a collection of mosaics so beautiful and masterfully created that they’ve become world famous.

When I visit, only the triclinium seems to be closed off. Not bad considering how many things I’ve been blocked from so far on the trip…


The octagonal frigidarium, the cold pool of the private baths

The octagonal frigidarium, the cold pool of the private baths

Slaves depicted on the floor of the massage room where they would have worked.

Slaves depicted on the floor of the massage room where they would have worked.

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The Palaestra. The floor is designed to show a chariot race featuring the four teams competing in the Circus Maximus

The peristyle

The peristyle

The highly decorated floors of the porticoes around the peristyle

The highly decorated floors of the porticoes around the peristyle

Mosaic floor of the 'Room of the Dance' - a guest bedroom

Mosaic floor of the ‘Room of the Dance’ – a guest bedroom

The Room of the Fishing Cupids - part of the guest wing

The Room of the Fishing Cupids – part of the guest wing

The Diaeta of the Small Game Hunt - a south facing winter living room

The Diaeta of the Small Game Hunt – a south facing winter living room

Detail of the Small Game Hunt depicting a wild boar. I adore the expression of the man at the top...

Detail of the Small Game Hunt depicting a wild boar. I adore the expression of the man at the top…

The Ambulatory of the Big Game Hunt separates the peristyle from the Basilica and the private quarters of the owners

The Ambulatory of the Big Game Hunt separates the peristyle from the Basilica and the private quarters of the owners. It depicts exotic animals from all over the empire being captured and transported to Ostia

Ostriches being loaded onto a ship at Carthage

Ostriches being loaded onto a ship at Carthage

A rhino being captured on the Nile Delta

A rhino being captured on the Nile Delta

An  elephant being loaded onto a ship at Alexandria

An elephant being loaded onto a ship at Alexandria

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A tiger and a gryphon are caught in India

A tiger and a gryphon are caught in India


The Vestibule of the Little Circus - an amusing image of chariot racing, only with birds instead of horses. The four factions are represented by child charioteers

The Vestibule of the Little Circus – an amusing image of chariot racing, only with birds instead of horses. The four factions are represented by child charioteers

A semicircular atrium with an impluvium for collecting rainwater

A semicircular atrium with an impluvium for collecting rainwater

The portico around the semicircular atrium depicts cupids fishing

The portico around the semicircular atrium depicts cupids fishing

Vestibule of Eros and Pan

Vestibule of Eros and Pan

The Diaeta of Arion - the private living room of the mistress of the house features a beautifully intricate depiction of the myth of Arion. Arion was a bard from Lesbos who, whilst travelling by sea, was robbed and beaten by the sailors. They granted him one last wish and Arion asked to play his lyre one last time. The music he produced was so beautiful that dolphins were attracted to the noise. Arion threw himself into the sea where the dolphins saved him and took him to safety on the Peloponnese.

The Diaeta of Arion – the private living room of the mistress of the house features a beautifully intricate depiction of the myth of Arion. Arion was a bard from Lesbos who, whilst travelling by sea, was robbed and beaten by the sailors. They granted him one last wish and Arion asked to play his lyre one last time. The music he produced was so beautiful that dolphins were attracted to the noise. Arion threw himself into the sea where the dolphins saved him and took him to safety on the Peloponnese.

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Arion doing his thang

Arion doing his thang

This vestibule depicts Ulysses (the Latin name for Odysseus,) offering the cyclops Polyphemus wine. Once drunk, Ulysses  will blind Polyphemus in retribution for devouring some of his shipmates.

This vestibule depicts Ulysses (the Latin name for Odysseus,) offering the cyclops Polyphemus wine. Once drunk, Ulysses will blind Polyphemus in retribution for devouring some of his shipmates.

The Basilica, the largest room in the house, is where the master would conduct official business

The Basilica, the largest room in the house, is where the master would conduct official business

Cubicle with an erotic scene

Cubicle with an erotic scene

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The villa has a shop and cafeteria area, it’s well worth buying the hefty guidebook by Luciano Catullo to help you make sense of the villa and the mosaics. Otherwise there is a little collection of stalls and food trucks by the coach car park for small, cheap souvenirs and panini.

If, like me, you’re travelling independently, the shuttlebus back to Piazza Armerina will pick you up at the same bus stop as you were dropped off. A nice little touch is that it also has a little stop outside the cathedral of Piazza Armerina for your daily dose of Baroque.

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 13

17th May 2015

After a blissful daytrip visiting Noto yesterday from Syracuse, I’d returned to Catania in the evening for the final hotel.

I’d planned to wake early today and ascend Mount Etna, but I feel horrifically nauseous and tired. I desperately hope I’m not falling ill… Besides, the weather has taken a turn for the worse and even if I make it up the volcano, I won’t be able to see anything more than three feet in front of me. After attempting to sleep in for a while longer I’m loathe to waste and entire day, so I venture tentatively out into rainy Catania to sample some ancient delights.

The Roman amphitheatre is largely covered by urban sprawl, but at least I can see some of it which is more than I managed in Syracuse. There is a sign that suggests that it’s possible to go down onto the arena floor, but the chain and padlocks on the gates indictae that once again Sicily has thwarted me. Still, what’s left does give an impressive hint at what the 16,000 seater amphitheatre would have looked like.

IMG_5098 IMG_5093 IMG_5101 IMG_5104 There is also a theatre. It’s thought to be originally Greek, but the Romans renovated it in the 2ndC AD. It survived by the gradual covering of medieval houses that used the seating as foundations. They’ve since been slowly removed.

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Looking sideways at the staging area, the remains of the skene (backdrop building) on the left

The aditus (in Greek) or vomitorium (in Latin,) - the entrance tunnels for the audience to reach the seating in the cavea

The aditus (in Greek) or vomitorium (in Latin,) – the entrance tunnels for the audience to reach the seating in the cavea

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I don’t know if the orchestra area dries out in high summer, but I’m rather pleased to see it partially submerged like this. It’s definitely atmospheric!

The weather worsens and I’m forced to retreat to my hotel before the skies open. Just as well, I have a ridiculously early morning wake up call for tomorrow, my last full day, and I am still feeling strangely peaky. An early night will have me feeling better, surely…

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 11

15th May 2015

Ortygia, the island upon which Syracuse was founded in 734 BC, is small and perfect for wandering around at a leisurely pace. Remnants of 2,700 years of continuous occupation crowd the quaint streets, begging to be accidentally discovered.

The Temple of Apollo is usually first up for visitors to Ortygia as it is situated on the Piazza at the end of the main bridge onto the island. It is the oldest Doric temple in the whole of Sicily, dating right back to the beginning of the 6thC BC.

The temple was converted into a Byzantine church, then a mosque, then a church again under Norman rule and then a Spanish barracks. A model in the Syracuse museum helpfully helps us recreate what it originally looked like.

Model recreating the Temple of Apollo on Ortygia

Model recreating the Temple of Apollo on Ortygia

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I headed to the Cathedral next, lured by the call of more ancient columns.

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Syracuse Duomo

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The Duomo hides a secret past behind the Baroque facade. The church recycles a temple to Athena built in 480 BC. Founded to commemorate Syracusan victory over the Carthaginians at the battle of Himera, the temple stood on the acropolis of the town. For the first glimpse of the ancient past of the Cathedral, simply glance at the side of the church where the Doric columns still stand, the spaces between now filled in.


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The cella walls are in tact, if punctured with arches to create a typical Christian nave when the temple was converted.


The cella wall with added archways on the left, the columns with gaps filled in on the right. The space between on each side of the building create aisles for the Christian church.


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Whilst I wish I could see the temple as it was, the Cathedral is undoubtedly beautiful.

Model recreating the Temple of Athena

Model recreating the Temple of Athena


The Piazza Duomo is a beautiful open space showing off the beautiful architecture I’ve been craving.

Beneventano del Bosco Palace

Beneventano del Bosco Palace

the Senate Palace

the Senate Palace

the Senate Palace, built over a temple to Artemis

the Senate Palace, built over a temple to Artemis

The Archbishop's Palace and the Church of St Lucy alla Badia

The Archbishop’s Palace and the Church of St Lucy alla Badia

I love that the focal point of Ortygia is still on the site of the ancient acropolis. This space has been the heart of Syracuse for 2,700 years.

The Romans besieged Syracuse from 214-212 BC. Once victorious they were able to gain control of Sicily entirely. The siege was long and difficult for the Romans, and inevitably once the city fell the soldiers wanted to take retribution by looting and pillaging. The Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus understood this and did not prevent them from ransacking the city or burning buildings down, but according to Plutarch Marcellus nevertheless wept to see such a beautiful city destroyed under his own orders. I’d scoffed at this story the previous day whilst wandering around the scruffy mainland area of the city, but standing in the Piazza Duomo I finally understood.

Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier at the end of the siege (against the direct orders of Marcellus,) aged 78. The soldier found him working on an invention at his home and, annoyed at the interruption, Archimedes irritably told him to bugger off. It didn’t go down well… The soldier was probably unrepentant as Archimedes had spent the past three years creating inventions and machines to kill as many Romans as possible, including huge cranes with hooks that could topple over and sink ships and mirrors designed to reflect sunlight in laser beams to set ships on fire.

Nevertheless the Romans could not deny that the man was a genius and that he deserved his place in the history books. He was honoured with his own piazza in Ortygia in 1878. In 1907 and beautiful fountain depicting the goddess Diana was added, designed by Giulio Moschetti.

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Diana Fountain, Ortygia #sicily

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A more famous fountain named after a mythological Nereid is next to the sea.

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Arethusa was the daughter of Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea. She was a beautiful nymph who dwelled in Arcadia. One day she bathed naked in a clear stream. The stream was actually the river god Alpheus, who fell passionately in love with her. Because Aretheusa wanted to remain a virgin and serve Artemis, Arethusa refused Alpheus and fled but he gave chase. Artemis turned Arethusa into a stream that flowed from Arcadia under the ocean to Ortygia. Alpheus followed, and mingled his waters with hers.

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At the very southern tip of Ortygia is a fortress dating back to 1240 AD named Castello Maniace. It’s been developed and adapted over the centuries to keep it usable in times of war, last updated in 1838. Anyone who knows me well will testify as to how excited I get by forts, so I was thrilled to visit.

IMG_4880The inside of the keep contains an amazing room filled with a forest of columns that takes up the entire ground floor. I really wanted to see it, so naturally it was closed for restoration. Grr.


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I don’t make a habit of mentioning restaurants as usually I’m on such a budget that I eat cheaply, skip the odd meal and generally neglect to make dining a priority. Today, however I decided should be a #treatyoself kind of day.

Not far from the Castello Maniace is the Osteria Da Mariano. They’re tucked away on a narrow street, decorated in a simple, rustic style and offer old fashioned dishes that have been filling Syracusan bellies for generations. I’ve found that as a woman dining alone I can be a bit of an oddity to the social eaters that are Italians. However, the waiters here never once gave me a pitying or questioning look and made sure I was treated like a princess. The food is magnificent and they brought me a glass of moscato and some Syracusan sweets to finish my meal with, just because they’re lovely. If you ever go to Ortygia, go to Osterio da Mariano!

I ended my day with an hour long boat trip circumnavigating the island and ended up with some lovely views. Heaven.

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 8

12th May 2015

I’m eagerly escaping the noisy, grubby confines of Catania for the posher, more affluent tourist town of Taormina. It’s a relief to get on the bus and it doesn’t take us long before we’re driving through beautiful countryside, my mood getting brighter the greener my surroundings. I defy anyone not to be increasingly elated as the bus leaves the coast at Giardini Naxos to ascend Monte Tauro, providing beautiful views as it passes Isola Bella.

Taormina would bankrupt me if I stayed for the whole fortnight of my trip, but at least they take their wealth here and plough it into making the town as beautiful, tidy and welcoming as possible. My hotel may cost nearly twice as much as the spartan hovel I just left in Catania, but it is cosy, comfy, beautifully decorated and has an air conditioning unit that doesn’t leak. Plus, I’m more than happy to pay extra for a view like these, from the rooftop breakfast terrace:

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My hotel balcony, directly above the Porta Messina

My hotel balcony directly looks onto the Porta Messina

Strabo writes that the first Greek colonists to Sicily founded their first city at Naxos in 735BC. Diodorus Siculus writes that the tyrant Dionysius I seems to have defeated the Naxians in 403 BC and handed their lands to the native Siculi, who chose to settle on Monte Tauro instead and name the new town Tauromenion. Within a couple of years Dionysus wanted Tauromenion for himself and, unable to successfully capture it through force, managed to acquire it in a peace treaty with the Carthaginians 392 BC and promptly evicted the Siculi.

In 358 BC, after the death of Dionysius, a new ruler named Andromachus virtually refounded Tauromenion by inviting the descendants of the Naxians (who had dispersed all over the island,) to settle there. Andromachus was a fair and wise ruler, a sharp contrast to the war mongering tyrants that Sicily was known for. He welcomed Timoleon, a Corinthian statesman, to Tauromenion in 344 BC so that the latter could use Tauromenion as an operational base from which to travel to the Corinthian colony of Syracuse and try to rectify the political problems caused by tyrants there. Timoleon drove tyrants from much of Sicily but was so impressed with Andromachus and his democratic method of ruling that Andromachus was allowed to remain.

Agathocles succeeded Timoleon in Syracuse and did eject Timaeus, the son and successor of Andromachus, from Tauromenion. Timaeus went to Athens where he wrote histories of Sicily and Greece and invented the method of working out chronology by matching events with Olympiads.

A local leader named Tyndarion took charge instead and was one of the Sicilian city leaders on the Greek eastern half of the island that invited Pyrrhus of Epirus to Sicily in 278 BC in order to drive out the Carthaginians, who had an habitual difficulty in staying content on their western half.

Before long Tauromenion fell under the dominion of Syracuse and remained as such until Sicily became a Roman province in 201 BC following the end of the Second Punic War.

In the First Servile War (134-132 BC,) Tauromenium, as the Romans called it, became a popular stronghold for rebellious slaves, strategically situated as it was halfway up the mountain. The rebels were besieged by the consul Publius Rupilius. The slaves managed to hold out for a long time, teetering on the brink of famine. In the end, a rebel slave leader called Sarapion betrayed the rebel cause and the citadel fell into the hands of Rupilius, who massacred every single survivor.

The strategic placement of Tauromenium was also too tempting to pass over for Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great. Sextus Pompey vehemently opposed the Second Triumvirate of Octavian, Mark Anthony and Lepidus. After the Triumvirs and successfully eliminated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC to avenge their assassination of Julius Caesar, their attention switched to Sextus Pompey who had spent the two years since the death of Caesar building up a strong navy and army on Sicily and was using them to control how much grain was transported from Sicily to Rome. Neither side being able to strike a decisive blow, an uneasy truce was declared. Mark Anthony took the opportunity to attack Parthia, and before long Octavian restarted his initial goal of defeating Sextus Pompey without him.

After many setbacks and near two naval defeats (the first in 37 BC and then again in early 36 BC,) Octavian, assisted by Marcus Agrippa, managed to defeat Sextus Pompey in 36 BC in two naval battles.

Sextus Pompey fled to Miletus where within a year he was assassinated by a Roman commander loyal to Mark Anthony.Lepidus then made the incredibly foolish decision of turning against Octavian and ordering him to leave Sicily, Lepidus claiming it for himself. Knowing who was stronger, Lepidus’ troops abandoned him. Octavian graciously spared Lepidus his life, stripping him of all political power and allowing him to live out his days in exile.

Octavian repopulated Tauromenium with people loyal to him, expelling those who had supported Sextus Pompey. The town thrived under the Imperial age, becoming famous for its wine. Amphorae marked TAVR have been found in Pompeii. Juvenal also points out that Tauromenian fisherman caught the nicest mullets!

The town is small and perfect for strolling around, it’s impossible to get lost here for long.

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Piazza IX Aprile gives such breathtaking views of the coast and Mount Etna

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Piazza IX Aprile, with the Torre dell’Orolorgio on the left and the church of San Giuseppe on the right

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Gorgeous mosaic within the walls of the Torre dell’Orolorgio


The 13thC Cathedral San Nicola

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Corso Umberto


The fountain in the Piazza Duomo

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In 1899 an Englishwoman came to Taormina with a dream to build a large pleasure garden. Florence Trevelyan constructed the Villa Comunale gardens and filled them with follies and rare plant species. It is well worth slowly exploring, especially in the last afternoon.

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I’ve left the main draw of Taormina until last, a monumental grand finale to a beautiful day.

Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint how old the ancient theatre at Taormina actually is. What exists today is purely 1stC AD Roman but the older fashioned Greek design and characteristics hint at a rebuild on an earlier structure. I’ve deliberately delayed my visit until late, so that I can be confident of avoiding the hordes of coach groups that notoriously descend on one of the most iconic attractions in Sicily during the middle of the day.


The retaining wall to the seating area (analemmata) gives a hint as to how huge the theatre is. It has steps leading to the seating areas (cavea.)


Gazing up at the back of the building behind the stage (skene.)


View from the stage (pulpitum)


The only surviving skene building on Sicily, originally with a second level, now lost


The modern, wooden stage seems to replace an ancient one that was probably removed in the late Imperial age to accommodate circus games and gladiatorial combat.

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 4

8th May 2015

Should you travel as I did from Trapani to Segesta by ‘Tarantola’ bus, make sure you sit ont he right hand side of the bus on the way there. I’d sat at the little Trapani bus terminal by the train station in anticipation today, because this was to be my first day in Sicily seeing one of the amazing temples that the island is famous for. Approaching Segesta after a 50 minute journey, I got my first tantalising view of columns peeking from between the trees.

I’d caught the 0800 bus from Trapani in order to arrive at Segesta before it became clogged with coaches of daytrippers and I’m glad I did. The main attraction is the Doric temple, away from the acropolis, so I figured it would be best to get the temple seen first. As it turns out, most tourists didn’t bother making the ascent up to the acropolis at all, which was a shame.

The wonderful thing about Segesta is that as the visitor climbs the up the hill to the temple itself, there are no modern buildings visible. Even the gift shop and cafe below have been carefully blocked out by some strategic greenery.

The temple is built on what must have been a very ancient place of worship for the Elymian population, the first people to settle down in western Sicily. The temple was probably built on top of a much more ancient wooden shrine and most archaeologists date the founding of the stone building to around 420BC. At that point in time the Segestans were cosying up to Athens and this may explain the Greek style of architecture, in fact they may even have invited an Athenian architect to build the temple.

The temple was destined to remain unfinished, perhaps due to a breakdown with Athens. A greek colony to the south of Sicily called Selinus (Selinunte,) had been aggressive towards neighbouring Segesta since at least 580 BC. In 415BC Segesta was in danger again and called upon Athens for help defending herself. Athens, keen to win spoils and keep a close eye on Syracuse, responded by launching the disastrous Sicilian Expedition, led by three generals and composing of 140 warships.

In the meantime the Selinuntines had called upon Syracuse for back up, who were considerably larger and stronger than the Athenian force. When the first Athenians reached Segesta they were dismayed that the city was not as rich as they had claimed and would not be able to provide the money promised for military assistance. The three generals, Alcibiades, Nicias and Lamachus, squabbled over which action to take. Should they abandon the cheeky Segestans to their fate, or, since they were in Sicily already, fight a few battles before returning home?

Alcibiades received word that he was wanted back in Athens to face trial for destroying religious statues. After he learned that he’d been sentenced to death in abesntia, he secretly sailed to Sparta in order to seek refuge there, offering Spartans valuable information of Athenian forces to aid Sparta in their war against them in return for a safe haven.

Nicias decides to attack Syracuse which resulted in an indecisive first battle. The Spartans, always friends of the enemies of Athens, decide to send a force to aid Syracuse. Nicias sends a desperate letter to Athens saying that the expedition should either be recalled or massively reinforced, believing himself unable to now break Syracuse with the forces he had left.

If he had been hoping for an invitation to come home he did not receive it. Athens sent 73 more ships to Sicily with 5,000 hoplites under the command of Demosthenes and Eurymedon. Upon their arrival they were immediately attacked and Demosthenes agreed with Nicias that defeat was inevitable unless the Athenians were all allowed to go home.

Just as the fleet were about to set sail fro Athens there was a lunar eclipse, which the priests convinceed Nicias was an omen that the fleet should delay sailing for a month. The fleet, anchored in harbour for so long, was too tempting a target for Syracuse to ignore. Hemmed in, the Athenians didn’t stand a chance of escape. Athenian ships were rammed and sank by the Syracusan fleet, any Athenian ships that managed to beach themselves ashore were met by a Syracusan army who slaughtered the crews and seized the ships.

This second battle was again indecisive as the Syracusans lost almost as many ships in the melee as the Athenians had.

A few days later the Athenian survivors attempted a final stand on land, but the third battle ended in disaster. The battle swung quickly in the favour of Syracuse. Nicias and Demosthenes were executed and the survivors, numbering only 7,000, were kept prisoner in quarries just outside Syracuse where, if they weren’t sold into slavery first, they were left in the quarries without shelter to burn in the sun and slowly die from starvation, thirst and disease.

The crushing defeat stunned the Athenians back home. Neutral states in the First Peloponnesian War now hurried to back Sparta. By 404BC, unable to recover from the losses in Sicily, Athens fell to the Spartans bringing the First Peloponnesian War to a close.

Meanwhile, in 409BC Selinus takes another shot at Segesta. Thoroughly abandoned by the embittered Athenians, Segesta turns to Carthage. Carthage decisively defeat the Selinuntines and Segesta accepts Carthaginian dominion in return. A Greek temple now seems unnecessary, even out of place. The building work, which had been delayed during the conflict, was never completed, though neither was it demolished.

What is left is a temple with unfluted columns and no cella walls. The roof is not missing, it was never built. It is, however, undeniably beautiful.

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The unfinished temple @ Segesta #sicily

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Early morning rays @ Segesta #sicily

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No friezes or pediment statuary were ever added.


As the temple was never completed and never had a cult statue or altar, we cannot be sure which deity the temple was supposed to honour.

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The stone tabs for helping to lift the blocks into place were never removed as they should have been.

The stone tabs for helping to lift the blocks into place were never removed as they should have been.

The acropolis is on a separate hill to the temple. There is bus that leaves every ten minutes or so from the ticket office to the summit. On a hot day it is well worth taking advantage of this, even if, like me, you may have to share the bus with a very noisy class of Italian teenagers. A cheap ticket can be purchased from the site ticket office.

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The main attraction of the acropolis is the theatre.


The theatre is 3rdC BC with Roman expansions added circa 100BC.

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It is quiet and peaceful up on the acropolis (once the teenagers leave!) but all too soon it is time for me to get the bus back to Trapani. Sicilian buses can be a bit of a nightmare. If the driver is making good time and you are waiting half way along his route, you had better be waiting at the bus stop early to catch him, he will not wait for the advertised time for you. On the other hand, buses are often late. I am quickly learning to start waiting early but expecting to be late. Unfortunately this bus is late today and as I wait by the roadside I am overcome with nausea. I have enough time to dash behind a bush to lose my lunch before the bus eventually arrives and I shakily take my seat, cursing myself for not wearing a hat all morning.

After an uncomfortable journey back to Trapani and a lie down at my hotel I have recovered enough to head to Erice, or Eryx as the Elymians would have called their main city.

There is a cable car up to Erice from Trapani, but I decide instead to catch an AST bus from outside the train station yo the mountain instead. I’m really thankful I did. The bus obviously takes a little longer but takes the most scenic possible route, dropping off schoolchildren to the Trapani suburbs along the way. The ascent up the side of the mountain is simply gorgeous, with hair pin bends allowing gorgeous views of the sea as you ascend from either side of the bus. It is completely idyllic.

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The view from Erice #sicily

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Eryx itself was the Elymian capital, although remained thoroughly Punic in influence and didn’t go through the Hellenic phase that Segesta did.

Various legends describe Erice as being founded by Aeneas and other Trojan refugees and/or that it was ruled by King Eryx, son of Aphrodite, who hosted Herakles in the city but lost it to him in a wrestling match.

The town joined Dionysus I of Syracuse in 397BC but was reclaimed by Himilco for the Carthaginians within a year. Pyrrhus defeated the garrison of Erice in 278 BC during his crusade to liberate Sicilian Greeks, but by the First Punic War the town is again under Carthaginian control. Hamilcar destroyed the city in 260BC and moved most of the population to Trapani. The Romans still thought it important enough to capture however, and Hamilcar Barca was forced to try and capture it back. He succeeded in taking the town but not the garrison. Despite doggedly besieging the Romans, Hamilcar Barca was forced to abandon his efforts, and Erice, after his countrymen were brutally defeated at the battle of the Aegadi Islands in 241BC, a battle he may well have watched unfold from his viewpoint in the town:

During peacetime the Romans had little interest in Erice, save for a famous temple there that was already ancient by their time. Founded circa 1300 BC, the temple would be revered by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans alike. Dedicated to Aphrodite/Venus (who the Carthaginians seemed to have aligned with Astarte,) worshippers flocked from all over the Mediterranean. Those wishing to commune with the goddess could do so by spending time with the sacred prostitute-priestesses.

Because of the Aeneas myth, the Romans (who had also fancied themselves as descendants of Trojan survivors,) made sure that the sanctuary never suffered too much, even if the town was not considered of much importance.

Unfortunately for Venus, the Norman invasion of Sicily brought with it a desire to utterly destroy the pagan site and the sanctuary was obliterated, replaced with a Norman castle. Traces of the sanctuary can be spotted however, as the stonework was recycled into the fortress walls. The castle survives and, whilst it’s not as exciting to me as an ancient sanctuary, is still beautiful.

Il Castello di Venere

Il Castello di Venere

Modern Erice is small and only home to about 300 residents, the numbers of people swelling enormously when the coaches arrive each day. I was grateful to be there towards the end of the working day when the crowds were thinning and I had several on the narrow, steep streets to myself.

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One touristy thing I simply cannot skip is a visit to the most famous cake shop on an island famous for their sweet tooth. Maria Grammatico Pasticceria can be smelled before it is stumbled across, luring the hungry traveller in with the most tempting smell of baking treats imaginable. There is patisserie, and then there is Maria Grammatico.

Maria lost her father as a child and her family struggled to survive in post WWII Erice. Her mother sent her to a convent, aged only 11, where she spent the next 15 years working hard and learning the art of making pasta di mandorla from the nuns. Upon leaving, Maria returned to Erice in 1963 and opened up a little bakery. Her hard work and beautiful cooking paid off and the bakery is now world famous.


My two choices! One is filled with a delicate lemon custard, the other with Marsala-wine tinged cream cheese. Both incredible!

I’ve uncharacteristically yet to have been tempted by anything sweet on Sicilian menus so far but even I can’t resist. In fact, the pastries are so affordable and inviting that instead of trying to choose one I have two. I’m not even sorry!

Having eschewed the cable car on the way up to Erice, I decide to catch it for the descent if purely for the views of Trapani and the Egadi Islands. I’m punished by the excessive wait for a bus back to the train station (the cable car base is not exactly central) but I manage to take a few photos in the dying sunlight as compensation…


And now for an early night. Having seen Segesta today I am paying a visit to Selinunte, home of their bitterest enemies, tomorrow. It will be a Saturday and public transport will be more challenging than usual. As it turns out, I’ll need all the luck I can get…

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The Sicilian Expedition Travel Journal – Day 3

7th May 2015

There is little that gets me more excited than a shipwreck. It is with great excitement then, that I board an early train from Trapani to Marsala.

Some tourists may flock to Marsala for the famous wine, I’m instead itching to see the earliest warship ever found on the sea floor.

Marsala is the modern town that sits on top of the Carthaginian settlement of Lilybaeum. After the tyrant Dionysus of Syracuse razed the nearby Phoenician settlement of Motya in 396 BC , the Carthaginian Himilco took the Motyan refugees and turned Lilybaeum from a small village into a naval stronghold and thriving port. The city was so well fortified by 350BC that in 278BC Lilybaeum was the only city not to fall to Pyrrhus of Epirus as he attempted to drive all Carthaginians from Sicily.

In 264-241BC it was the turn of the Roman Empire to try and oust Carthage from power. In 242BC Rome decided to tae the fight from land to sea and built up a powerful fleet to match the notorious naval power of Carthage. Under the control of the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, assisted by the praetor Quintus Valerius Falto, the Roman fleet blockaded Lilybaeum and nearby Drepana (Trapani.) Carthage sent a fleet of 250 ships to break the blockades but lost the crucial element of surprise. The Roman fleet sailed out to meet them in battle by the Aegates Islands (now known as the Egadi Islands) on March 10th, 241BC. The Romans smashed the Carthaginian forces, sinking half of their fleet. Soon after Carthage forced Hamilcar Barca to sign a humiliating peace treaty with Rome bringing the First Punic War to a conclusion. The Romans celebrated by building a temple that I saw last year in Rome, and Hamilcar’s son Hannibal began to dream of revenge…

The Temple of Juturna dates from the 3rd Century BC. It was built by a naval commander called Gaius Lutatius Catulus after he won the final naval battle of the First Punic War against Carthage in March 241BC. The Battle of the Aegadian Islands (off of Sicily) was instrumental in bringing the Carthaginians to a surrender. Juturna is the goddess of wells, springs and fountains.

The Temple of Juturna dates from the 3rd Century BC. It was built by a naval commander called Gaius Lutatius Catulus after he won the final naval battle of the First Punic War against Carthage in March 241BC. The Battle of the Aegadian Islands (off of Sicily) was instrumental in bringing the Carthaginians to a surrender. Juturna is the goddess of wells, springs and fountains.

Fast forward to 1969. Amphora, bronze battering rams and even armour still litter the sea floor off of the Egadi islands. The captain of a dredging ship finds rare wooden fragments, and within two years the hull of the ship becomes exposed. A four year rescue mission followed, bringing the ship to the surface for the first time since 241BC.

It’s a pleasant walk from Marsala train station down to the Baglio Anselmi museum which is situated on the seashore on the edge of the archaeological park.

The admittedly scant remains of the ship are displayed in a large hall. The fact that the majority of the ship has been lost is so unsurprising that few could surely be disappointed, particularly when they see what is exhibited from the wreck in cabinets alongside.IMG_3473 IMG_20150507_105945-01 IMG_3486


Bronze nails that attached lead sheeting to the hull of the ship.


The museum also displays ancient finds from the surrounding areas.


Rope fragments from Carthaginian rigging


A cannabis stash found on board (!!!)


Archaeologists have been able to learn a huge amount about the ship despite only recovering a portion of it. There are marks along the wood suggesting a pre-fabricated design, the wood itself being young and freshly cut when the boat sank. Knowing that the Carthaginians built a brand new fleet in haste to respond to the new Roman naval threat it makes sense that they would build their boats IKEA style!

Lack of equipment for long voyages and no sign of cargo also rules out the possibility of an unlucky merchant ship. The design suggests it is a liburnian, a smallish military kind of ship that was light, fast and equipped with a bronze ram. It would have had a bank of oarsmen and one mast with a single sail.

I’d love to see someone plough some money into this museum and reconstruct a scale model of the ship that could easily be displayed in the large courtyard of the museum building. It would be magical to see the wreck and then wander around a complete boat to compare. Perhaps if I ever win the lottery I shall offer!

The rest of the museum houses finds from Marsala (Lilybaeum) herself, from the Punic era through to Roman occupation. The Romans continued to use Lilybaeum as a prosperous port and town. Cicero served here and throughout western Sicily as quaestor in 75BC. Cicero made such an impression on the locals that in 70BC they chose him to prosecute Gaius Verres, their former governor. Verres had extorted the Sicilians, despoiled their temples, stolen any artworks and possessions that caught his fancy, and used the Spartacus revolt to illegally charge perfectly loyal (and valuable) slaves with sedition, sentence them to crucifixion and demand huge amounts of money from their masters to expunge their ‘crimes.’

Cicero made such a blistering attack on Verres that Hortensius, his advocate and at that point the most respected orator in Rome, suggested that Verres should make no reply and slink off into voluntary exile as even Hortensius couldn’t hope to salvage his reputation. Verres fled to Massilia (Marseilles) and Cicero became famous overnight as the greatest public speaker in Rome. Cicero would become a legend, Verres would never see Rome again, both men would be added to the proscription lists by Mark Anthony and executed within months of each other in 43BC, (Cicero for being a very real threat and vocal critic of Mark Anthony and the power that he was accruing, Verres, fittingly enough, for possessing some statues that Mark Anthony coveted!)

Venus of Lilybaeum

Venus of Lilybaeum

IMG_3503Heading out into the blazing sunshine I was excited to visit the archaeological remains of the ancient city. The Archeological Park is large but unfortunately badly signposted. Most signs have faded and cracked under the Sicilian sun and are completely illegible, I can’t even tell if they once displayed English translations. As before when I’ve travelled in May, the site gardeners have not yet cut the meadowy grass and flowers which in places reach shoulder height and often obliterate the views of the ruins. The one mercy for the traveller is the regular fountains with potable water spread across the site. I lost count of how many times I refilled my water bottles with cool, clean water, hot as it was in the middle of the day. Still, can’t complain much as what I did see made me happy.

The decumanus maximus was the main road in the city, leading straight to the shore. Following it inland the visitor will notice that it leads seamlessly into the Via XI Maggio, still the main artery through Marsala.

The decumanus maximus was the main road in the city, leading straight to the shore. Following it inland the visitor will notice that it leads seamlessly into the Via XI Maggio, still the main artery through Marsala.

Roman public baths

Roman public baths

Mosaic from Insula I, a late 2ndC housing block

Mosaic from Insula I, a late 2ndC housing block

Mosaic from Insula I, a late 2ndC housing block

Mosaic from Insula I, a late 2ndC housing block

Temple of Isis

Temple of Isis

Ruins seen, I take the pleasant walk through Marsala back to the train station. It is ridiculously pretty!

The Garibaldi Gate

The Garibaldi Gate, formerly known as the Sea Gate


Via XI Maggiore


Via XI Maggiore

It’s time to head back to Trapani. My crippled kidney must be making me even more sluggish than usual in the Mediterranean heat, because as soon as I get back to Trapani I need a nap.A siesta later and I’m ready to get gloriously lost wandering the streets of the old town.

Trapani was founded by the Elymians as a port for Eryx (modern Erice) which was situated on a nearby mountain. It was known in antiquity as Drepana as it is located on a curved promontory (Drepanon being the Greek word for ‘sickle.’

Here you can see the sickle shaped promontory that gives Trapani it's name. This view is taken from Erice, in the distance the Egadi islands can be seen, where the Marsala warship fought and sank.

Here you can see the sickle shaped promontory that gives Trapani it’s name. This view is taken from Erice, in the distance the Egadi islands can be seen, where the Marsala warship fought and sank.

Nothing remains of the ancient city, but Trapani is too beautiful for me to mind. It is wonderfully pleasant to wander through Baroque streets in the early evening whilst sipping a granita di limone.

14thC Church of Sant'Agostino

14thC Church of Sant’Agostino

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The Senatorial Palace, or Palazzo Cavaretta

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The Fountain of Saturn

The Fountain of Saturn

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After a pleasant walk and some pasta ‘con il pesto alla Trapanese’ it’s time for an early night, as tomorrow I continue the Elymian theme of this afternoon…

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Rome Travel Journal – Day Ten

9th Oct 2014

My final day in Rome. Tonight I fly home, tomorrow is my birthday. I’ve got mixed feelings as I finish packing up my bags. I adore Italy and there is still so much to see (despite how much I have managed to cram in on this trip) but I’m missing my husband. And besides, my feet are SHREDDED.

In my itinerary I deliberately left this last day blank. If my schedule went without a hitch I could fill this day with unexpected extra sites. If I had to skip something earlier, today would be catch up. As it happens my schedule for day 6 went completely to pot and so my blank day is now pretty full.

I paid a little extra for an evening flight so that I could still cram as much as possible into my last day. That also means that I have luggage to drag behind me. I heave my case (how did it get so much heavier?!?) to Ottaviano metro station and mentally say goodbye to Prati. There is a cheap left luggage in Termini station, so after a brief stop there I head back onto the Metro to Circo Massimo. I’m heading to the Baths of Caracalla.

I’ve visited the colossal bath complex before in 2007 with my husband. It rained and my photos were horrible, but we’d dawdled around so that I could drink the place in. My memories still vivid, I only really want to stay here long enough to take some photos of the baths bathed in gorgeous sunlight.

IMG_2512Caracalla (to give the short version) was a nasty, brother-murdering git who had a penchant for massacres. Boy, could he build a bath complex though! Caracalla (a nickname derived from his fondness for a Gallic style of cloak- so he’s now known, essentially, as “Hoodie”) was assassinated less than a week after his 29th birthday (stabbed by one of his own personal guards as he took an Imperial pee on an Anatolian roadside) and so didn’t leave many monuments in Rome that bore his name. Dedicated in 216AD, the size and obvious grandeur of the Thermae Antoninianae (as the Romans would have called it – Caracalla was then known better by his official name Antoninus) prove that quality trumps quantity.



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After reacquainting myself with the Baths  I head south east for a stroll down the Via di Porta San Sebastiano towards the Via Appia.

I pass the Tomb of the Scipios and I’m desperate to get in, however the gates are locked and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. The nearby Museo delle Mura (Museum of the Walls) is also apparently closed so I can’t get the Scipio key from them either. No worries, I’ll make a beeline for both on my next trip.

The Arch of Drusus, just within the Aurelian Walls. No-one seems to know much about it...

The Arch of Drusus, just within the Aurelian Walls. No-one seems to know much about it…


The Porta San Sebastiano (once known as the Appian Gate) – image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My tortured feet already throbbing, I decide to cheat and hop on a bus from just outside the Porta San Sebastiano and ride to just before the Tomb of Caecelia Metella on the Appian Way. That’ll get me closer to the part of the ancient road that looks as authentically old as possible. I’ve no burning desire to visit the catacombs in between (and they aren’t going anywhere) but I have always regretted not being able to squeeze in the Appian Way on my brief 2007 trip. A short bus ride later and the Tomb of Caecilia Metella doesn’t disappoint…

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella - being daughter-in-law to the ridiculously rich Marcus Crassus gets you a huge mausoleum...

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella – being daughter-in-law to the ridiculously rich Marcus Crassus gets you a huge mausoleum…


Inside the cella - the area that housed the dead

Inside the cella – the area that housed the dead

The fact that the Via Appia was a prominent road into Rome made it a magnet for the tombs of Romans. Remains could not be buried inside the city walls by law and roads leading from the city were flanked with tombs and shrines for miles. The Appian Way would have been busy with travellers, families having picnics at the tombs of their ancestors and even a few prostitutes touting for business. Inns, bath houses and stables lined the road for the use of weary travellers and well heeled city dwellers who wanted a countryside villa close to Rome snapped up properties close to the road.

The Appian Way was the first of the famous Roman roads and was built in 312 by Appius Claudius Caecus (“the Blind”). It’s worth mentioning that Appius also constructed the first acqueduct, the Aqua Appia, that was capable of delivering over 75.5 cubic metres of water into Rome daily.

Initially the Via Appia led directly to Capua (all the easier to quickly get Roman soldiers down south to defeat the Samnites!) and was eventually extended to Beneventum (Benevento,) Venusium (Venosa) and ended and Brundisium (Brindisi) which was a popular and convenient place to hop on a boat to Greece. The precise engineering and scope of the Roman road network was a huge factor in the rapid expansion and success of the Empire.

Today a chunk of the road is preserved in the Appian Way Regional Park. After exploring the Metelli tomb I was finally ready to head to the road itself.

Until, that is, I got distracted.

The starting gates of the Circus of Maxentius

The starting gates of the Circus of Maxentius

Looking down the spina (the long barrier that runs down the centre of the track)

Looking down the spina (the long barrier that runs down the centre of the track)

The Circus of Maxentius was built next to the Via Appia between 306-312AD. Only the Circus Maximus is bigger. Imagine thousands of Romans trekking out to watch a day of horse and chariot racing with maybe a few other entertainments thrown in for good measure. Sadly the circus only appears to have been used once for the inaugural games. Maxentius drowned on 28 October 312AD during the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, trying to defend his power. His brother-in-law Constantine (who had supposedly had a vision the previous night that promised him victory if he fought under the banner of Christ) was then declared emperor and the new circus seems to have been forgotten.

Back to the Via Appia, which really is as straight as the Romans boasted about. I walked from the Circus to the Via Erode Attico and back. For some reason the section of road beyond that leading down to the Villa dei Quintilii was shut off, scuppering my plan to walk the route I’d planned for Day 6. I wasn’t too disappointed as I’d very nearly got there and my poor, tortured feet wouldn’t have thanked me anyway.


You can still make out the worn down tracks from ancient wheels.


You can also see the slight curve of the surface to allow water to run off of the road

Imagine, if you can/wish to, 6,000 crucified slaves lining this very road at equal intervals following the brutal crushing of the Spartacan Revolt in 71BC.


Tomb of Hilarus Fuscus c. 30BC


Tomb of the children of Sextus Pompeus Justus


The Tomb of Marcus Servilius Quartus


The funerary monument of Tiberius Claudius Secundus of Philippi


Sepulchre of the Rabirii


Tomb of the Festoons


Naturally the tombs and stones with the biggest/best/most unusual features have all been spirited away to museums. I cannot stress enough how worthwhile it is to spend a considerable chunk of time in the epigraphical sections of museums, in this case particularly the Capitoline, and read the translations on the exhibit labels. That’s when cold stones covered in a ‘dead’ language come to life and you can actually get to know ancient Romans. I’d done this the previous day so I had the stories of the deceased fresh in my mind as I wandered down the road. It is a ridiculously peaceful spot and wonderfully evocative.

This was, in the end, the perfect last day for my Roman Holiday.

With a heavy heart I headed back to Termini station to pick up my luggage and went to the taxi rank.

Whether my taxi driver took his usual route or took pity on the very morose girl who was obviously devastated to be going home, I’ll never know, but he drove me past all of the landmarks which were, by that point, bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun. I’ll admit I had to suppress a tear! All too soon I was at Fiumicino Airport and on my way home on an uneventful flight.

I met my husband at Gatwick just as the clocks hit midnight, so he sang me happy birthday on the drive home to Berkshire. I hope it won’t take me another 7 years to make it back to Rome, but I have definitely made a lot of wonderful memories that will hopefully tide me over until I can go back!

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