Geography & Tourism Trip to Southern Italy

Geography, Travel, Humanities & Modern Languages

Our Geography & Tourism students visited southern Italy from 30 March to 5 April, which was the highlight of the year in this busy department.

Students in the Geography & Tourism department have the opportunity to participate in a foreign field trip every year and recent destinations have included Iceland, Morocco, South West USA, Costa Rica and China.

This year’s trip began in Rome in glorious weather, where the group had a day to explore some of the most famous landmarks of the amazing capital city. They walked from the hotel to the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi  fountain, taking in many other antiquities en route. The final stop was St Peter’s Square in the Vatican city, home of the Pope. They really made the most of the day in Rome!

On the second day the students travelled south of Rome towards the city of Naples. There they visited the Roman town of Pompeii – one of the most important archaeological sites in the world – in the shadow of the world’s most dangerous volcano, Vesuvius. The famous eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 buried Pompeii, preserving many details of life 2000 years ago. A fascinating afternoon was spent exploring some of Pompeii’s best preserved areas.

After Pompeii the group headed to Sorrento, where they stayed for two nights. On day three, the students were able to hike to the summit of Vesuvius where they had stunning views over the Bay of Naples, and one of the resident volcanologists explained why Vesuvius is so dangerous.

In the afternoon they headed to the second key archaeological site in the area – the Roman town of Herculaneum. Smaller than Pompeii and better preserved, the group had time to wander the streets and take in the most important buildings and archaeological remains. Their visit happened to coincide with the Duchess of Cornwall's visit to Herculaneum, so the students were able to see our future queen up close!

Day four was a bit more overcast but remained dry as they students visited an Italian family-run organic farm in the hills above Sorrento. There they were able to see how the farm produces some of the specialities of the region such as olives and olive oil, mozzarella, and limoncello. They had a delicious rustic lunch at the farm before heading along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world – the World Heritage Site of the Amalfi Drive.

The narrow road flows the rocky coastline, through Positano to the historic town of Amalfi, which was once an important trading port in southern Italy. After enjoying the sites of Amalfi, the students headed back towards Naples to catch their overnight ferry from Naples to Catania.

The group arrived in Catania, which is the main port of the north eastern coast of Sicily, in the early morning on day five. After a good night’s rest on the ferry the students headed for Europe’s most active volcano, Etna. As the group climbed the foothills of Etna the temperature dropped and about half way up they reached the snow line. Where the road ends they took a cable car further up and hoped the weather would hold so they could go to the summit. Their patience paid off and they were able to take the group in a large Snow Cat as high as visitors can go (the summit is 3,330 metres).

It was well below freezing, but the students braved the elements to walk in the deep snow to one of the newest lava flows. Upon approach they could feel the heat and the solidified lava was warm to walk on so the students thawed out a bit. They were within 10ft of a slow moving lava and could see the red glow from the lava which was about 800C. It was absolutely amazing! The group were really lucky because the weather deteriorated and they were the only group to be able to get to the lava flow on this day.

The students slowly descended the volcano and the bus took them to Giardini Naxos to stock up on water and snacks before heading for the hotel, which was very comfortable and had a splendid view of Etna. They had a relaxing evening and recharged their batteries ready for the next adventure.

The penultimate day of the trip, the students had an early start to the port of Milazzo on the north coast to visit the World Heritage Site of the Aeolian Islands. The group took the hydrofoil to the nearest island of the archipelago, Vulcano, which took about 50 minutes. Once on the volcano, the mountain guide took them on a hike to the summit of this active volcano which is only 5000 years old, very young for a volcano! It was a good steady climb and everyone made it the summit and enjoyed the spectacular views and fumaroles around the crater. After the descent they had a chance to bathe in the warm bubbling volcanic mud pools which are supposed to have therapeutic qualities!

Everyone was very tired on the journey back to Milazzo as they took the coach back to the hotel for the final night. On the last day the weather was glorious and after a hearty breakfast they headed to the Alcantara Gorge, an interesting geological site with basalt columns formed by volcanic activity.

The last stop of the trip was the hilltop town of Taormina, where the group enjoyed a few hours seeing the famous Greek amphitheatre, wandering around the backstreets, looking for last minute souvenirs and generally enjoying the delightful place. At the end of the day the students headed back to Catania airport for their flight home.

It was a hugely successful and very memorable trip and they certainly packed a lot into the week. Here’s looking forward to next year’s Geography & Tourism  trip to south west USA!