Herculaneum, March 31, 2023

Herculaneum, Italy

Drive to Herculaneum

We got off the plane at around 8 o’clock in the morning in Rome. By the time we got through baggage claim and the bus arrived, it was close to 10:30. We drove from the airport to a place that can best be described as an Italian SHEETZ. We got lunch or breakfast foods or both and then enjoyed a 3 hour or so bus ride to Naples where we would spend the night.

Since only a few of us slept on the plane, that long bus drive was a great opportunity to catch a quick nap. Once we arrived, we went straight to the town of Herculaneum. There we saw a well preserved town, with the basic buildings that would have been found in a typical 1st century Roman town. The town is largely still intact as it was covered from the Eruption of Vesuvius with really hot volcanic mud called pyroclastic flow.

Remains from tragedy

We saw many examples of the Roman equivalent of a fast food joint, called a thermapolium—there were many of these! We saw paintings that were 2000 years old, a Roman bath, and so much more. One of the most poignant things we saw were human bones left in a shelter, which would have been by the sea at the time. The citizens would have fled there, hoping to be rescued. To date over 300 bodies have been recovered, most with valuables in tow.

To imagine a catastrophic event of this proportion in an age when getting updates on a phone, TV, or even the radio was not possible is mind-blowing. Having just experienced the worldwide tragedy of covid, it’s not hard to draw the parallels between the tragedy that occurred in 79 A.D. and the pandemic of 2020. People dying alone, unsure of the what the future might hold for their beloveds. People stopping regular activities for what they assumed would be a short time, only to have life changed forever. And of course, death, death, and more death.

Fantastic students

Let me pivot now to say a few things about our group.

The 18 students we have on this trip are remarkable. I am in charge of six young women who are so attentive and careful that I never have to worry about their safety. They are all bright young women with curious and creative minds, eager to make the most out of this experience. The other 12 students are equally impressive. While I know that my sister would never bring students on a trip like this who were prone to misbehaving, I believe also that young people are too often maligned as rowdy and disinterested. These kids are soaking up knowledge and asking questions, offering compassion and understanding to one another, and respecting and being so attentive to the adults on the trip and the other tourists. They give me hope.

At the end of our day in Herculaneum, we went to a restaurant for a traditional Italian meal with delicious appetizers, yummy pasta, and a dessert that defies description. We went back to the hotel and quickly headed to bed. All six of my girls were in their rooms for the night by 9 PM. Pompeii is scheduled for tomorrow

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.