As my wife and I left Pompeii there was a guided group coming up the slope into the site. The tour leader had a microphone and the tour members had their headsets so they could each hear properly. The guide approached the first thermopoleum and started talking about it. The first few tour members could see what he was talking about, the middle members tried to catch-up, while others were more concerned about completing the short climb than what the guide had to say.
That really brought home the difference between a large group tour and a personal one. But let's go back.....
I'd booked the tour after research on this site and exchanging emails with Louise in Lello's team. We arranged to meet Lello at the railway station as we planned to travel there independently from Sorrento. It's an old commuter line with somewhat basic trains, but at €2.20 each way a very modest cost.
Louise had provided Lello 's mobile number which I had exchanged with mine and while on the train he sent a message that he had been slightly delayed but we should take a coffee in the cafe, on him, and he would meet us there. As it transpired the train was also delayed (as usual he said) and there was Lello waiting at the top of the steps displaying our names.
Introductions over we started to walk towards the site and Lello began to explain the history of Mt Vesuvius and its eruptions. Lello's enthusiasm was quickly apparent, together with his style of asking us questions, so the tour was really an engaging conversation; we were 'talked at'.
Shortly after validating our tickets and passing through the entrance another couple wondered if they might join our tour, but Lello diplomatically explained it was a private, VIP tour and this would not be possible.
At this point I should admit that I am not the greatest one for visiting historic sites. This is a legacy of a succession of poor history teachers and the resulting gaps in my knowledge. I think they failed to get across that history is 'current affairs' of prior eras.
So as we passed along 'piano, piano', the walking pace may have been slow, but the information and conversation was anything but. This was an intense, fascinating, engaging tour around Pompeii. What made it was the context of how life was lived, and ended, there and the little details that a casual visitor might miss.
We had visited the smaller site at Herculaneum as a self- guided tour using the audio headsets. While the site was impressive the audio guide was really quite poor and within a couple of hours we were tired and losing interest at 'yet another house'. Our trip with Lello was the complete opposite.
I'd told Louise we were both interested in music, so such aspects could be brought- out. At the larger of the pair of theatres Lello pointed-out that the was a small piece of marble with a red tinge in the centre of the floor. This was the equivalent of a taped X on a modern stage or TV studio indicating where the performer should stand. With Lello and Alison acting as an audience I could move towards this point and as I walked towards it, reaching the perfect balance point for acoustics, they could hear my stage whisper clearly.
The remains of Pompeii also came to life with Lello's descriptions of the social environment of the times, like the stone seat outside the rich mans house for beggars. The rich would have expected to support those less fortunate.
He also has a recurring theme that the modern world has invented nothing beyond the Romans (excepting electronics and computers). When you see the likes of the best shopping street being the widest and pedestrianised it's hard to disagree - a chariot can't climb a big stone step!
At one point Lello asked why we thought a black floor might have small pieces of white stone in it too? I didn't have any knowledge but, through a lucky logical guess, I surmised it might me so that someone walking around at night could see the floor beneath them. I was delighted to be right!
This is just a glimpse into the things Lello brought-out during our tour and I'll save the rest for you to discover.
Our two and a half hours flew past and our heads were filled with new found knowledge and understanding. The site is huge and probably overwhelming to take in. Having Lello to deftly guide us to key parts and bring-out their details made a world of difference.
Thank you Lello and I thoroughly recommend other people to take your tour.
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