Wine and Archaeology – A Perfect Combination for the Curious Traveller
As an e-mail and social media executive, I often write about and curate images of the tours we offer, but I was recently lucky enough to gain the opportunity to work as a trainee Tour Manager on our Wine & Archaeology Tour of Pompeii & Amalfi, a joint tour held in partnership with Arblaster & Clarke. As a result of this joint effort, we were lucky to be accompanied by both an expert Guide Lecturer, Dr Andy Souter, and wine specialist Monica Murphy.
I would soon find out that eating, drinking, and being merry is par for the course in Southern Italy. Long luxuriant meals, delicious regional wines and fantastic coastline views of the glittering blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea made this tour into an Italian fantasy, and I very often felt like I was in a dream. On this tour, we visited a number of archaeological wonders that were paired perfectly with trips to unique and family-run wineries.
Just one of the highlights was our visit to Tenuta San Francesco, one of the many wineries we would visit on this tour. We learned the recipes of the regional specialities straight from the best cooks, the nonnas, or the grandmothers of the families that run this vineyard. From a Tramonti valley specialty of a chocolate covered aubergine to handmade gnocchi. The lunch that followed to enjoy the homemade culinary delights were a fantastic introduction to the lives and the people of Campania. Of course, each plate was accompanied by a different wine made by Tenuta San Francesco, who boast vineyards filled with pre-phylloxera grape varieties.
In the 19th century, the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the grape varieties in Europe – but the vines of the areas surrounding Mount Vesuvius were saved by the acidity of the soil, namely from the fallout of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in AD 79. It was certainly not lost on us that an event of so much devastation could also be responsible for preserving the very wine we were tasting!
Wines are the lifeblood of this region, and this could easily be seen from the everyday to the anciently historic. Monica Murphy, our expert Wine Guide, would often make our meals a delight with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the grape varieties and the industry of the areas we would tour. It is no surprise that the Slow Food movement’s tenets are practiced in this destination – an organisation that promotes local food and traditional cooking.
Of course, one of the many peaks of this tour was our visits on separate days to Pompeii and Herculaneum. As someone who often gathers content about these two locations, I felt that I knew very deeply about them. However, I was unprepared for the sheer scale of Pompeii and the level of its preservation. Walking through the cobbled streets and touching the walls of old houses, bakeries and brothels, it was easy to imagine what life would have been for its citizens.
The original splendour of Herculaneum was even more awe-inspiring to view in person. As a result of its vicinity to Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum retained much more of its original structures and everyday objects. This could be seen at the House of the Wooden Partition named after the original wood structures still standing almost 2,000 years later – to the House of the Neptune mosaic, still beautifully preserved. On a more sombre note, we also visited the boat houses where the remains of those who would try to escape still lie, a striking reminder of the human side of this tragic event. Dr Andy Souter commented that the skyward eruption of Mount Vesuvius was said to have been three times as high as Mount Everest.
Other unforgettable historical highlights included visits to Paestum, renowned for its Greek Doric temples and the Museo Archeologica Nazionale di Paestum just within walking distance with its fascinating collection of sculpture, pottery and frescoes that told the story of life in ‘Greater Greece’. The lesser-visited sites of Capua were cherished memories as well, from the mysterious Mithraeum found underground to the impressive Amphitheatre of Capua where Spartacus would make his name.
Whether you are a first-time visitor to Italy, or a long-time traveller of the Mediterranean, this tour is perfect for those who wish to be wined and dined, and to expand your horizons by admiring archaeological treasures.
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To experience a wine tour with us, click here.
The Clock Tower,
Oakridge Office Park,
Southampton Road, Whaddon,
Salisbury, England, UK
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