War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 3 Feb 1918
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
Rome Feb 3, 1918
Il Colosseo Arco di Costantino (CP)
Sunday February 3, 1918.
Grand Hotel, Rome.
We have been having a great time down here in the south. Amour came with me. The weather has been perfect, and except for travelling conditions delightful.
We left a week ago, and travelled by our horses and motor lorry to Padua, whence we took train to Rome. We secured a luxurious wagon-lit compartment for two which Jock and I shared. We slept comfortably in bed. The train started from Padua leaving about 8.45 p.m. and arriving in Rome at 11.30, the next morning. Changing trains we went straight on to Naples, which we reached at 6.30 p.m. In the evening we sampled an Italian Music Hall; but we did not care for it at all, much too loud and vulgar. Are these the descendants of the ancient Romans, renowned for their “gravitas” and “pietas”? The following day we shopped, visited the National Gardens, via the Via Roma, and the Opera, returning for lunch on the balcony of the Bertolini Hotel, high up on the hill overlooking the Bay of Naples. After desiring so long to visit these famous places, it is strange to be here and in these circumstances. I wonder what an old legionary legate would have said to and of us if we had met him.
But the next day was the DAY. I at last realised my great desire to visit Pompeii. We determined to do as much as we could in the short time at our disposal. Our first step was to obtain a guide, whom we kept for four days. He was quite a pleasant chap, but did not appear to know much except how to get to places, for most of his information was of the nature of fairy stories. I am sure poor old Jock Amour was very bored as I dragged him all over the place to see what I wanted. Certainly I made him and myself very tired; but it was worth it, every bit.
I had been interested in Pompeii for many years, and my Father had sent me a great tome of six hundred pages, al about the excavations, which I just had time to read before I left for the south. So I knew pretty well what I wanted to see, and certainly more than our guide who soon gave up talking in disgust when I kept on referring to my book and notes. However he knew the names of places and how to get there, which was all I wanted. At times he talked the most amazing rubbish, and I could appreciate the sort of stuff tourists were fed on.
A cab took us to the Electric Station from our hotel on the hill, and the train to a place called Torre Annunziata, a filthy picturesque village built on the larva amid orange trees and vineyards. Another vehicle took us to the excavations themselves. First of all we visited the Amphitheatre and other places nearby which had been covered by the eruption of A.D. 79.
Then we had lunch at the Hotel du Suisse. We began our exploration about 1 p.m. and finished about 5 p.m. It was much too short, and rather apt to give me mental indigestion.
There is so much to see. The Forum, the Temples of Venus, Apollo, Jupiter, Mercury, and to me of special interest, of Isis. Then to the Large and Small Theatres, the Barracks of the Gladiators, the Old and New Baths, and the houses known as of Apollo, Citharoedus, Siricus, Marcus Lucretius, Vetii, Labyrinth, Faun, the Tragic Poet, Pansa, and several others, finishing up with the Villa of Diomedes outside the Herculaneum Gate in the Street of Tombs. So we did not waste our short time. I hope I shall be able to revisit the place some day.
We returned very tired and had dinner at Gambrinos on our way up to the hotel.
The next day we spent in Naples, visiting the Royal Palace, the Picture Gallery, the church of Santa Chiara, and the Cathedral, which has a shrine and the blood of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, who is supposed to have been martyred under Diocletian. This man’s blood boils whenever anything is about to happen. The credulity of some people is amazing. I wonder if it foretold the war. We also visited the delightful little chapel of Sansevero.
In the afternoon the Museum occupied our attention. From some of the things I saw there I can quite believe that the present inhabitants of this district are the descendants of the people who inhabited Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum; but they were not of the race of the old Roman. They are descendants of Greeks, Asiatics and slaves. A cosmopolitan crowd with all the vices. The Pompeian collection is wonderful, and also the Farnese collection of statues and bronzes, containing the Farnese Hercules, and the Bull. Again there was far too much to see. However the gods may perchance favour me with another visit one day.
We climbed Vesuvius to the crater, choked in the sulphur smoke, saw flames and boiling lava, and returned. A whole day’s hard work; but well spent.
On our last day in Naples we visited Bagnoli, Pozzuoli or Puteoli, where St Paul landed, and saw the extinct volcano at Solfatara. Thence we went to the Greek amphitheatre, and the ruins of the so-called Serapeum or Macellum. Then we went on to Lake Avernus, which was regarded by the ancients as the entrance to the infernal regions. And so by Baiae back to our hotel. That night we left by the 11.15 p.m. train, and have just arrived in that city at 8 a.m.
At the Bertolini in Naples one night a bishop came in to dine. When I saw him I recognised my old tutor at Cambridge, Dr. Knight, now Bishop of Gibraltar. He has given me several introductions to people in Rome, one to Archdeacon Sissons, but I do not think we shall use them as we have so little time.