Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Ruins’

From Napoli to Capri, Part 2: Pompeii

Pompeii: It’s a story which almost everybody knows, an eruption of such violent magnitude that it has fascinated writers, artists, poets and film-makers throughout the ages, making it a volcanic event more famous than any other. But the reason why Pompeii is so famous is not because of the eruption that destroyed a city in AD79, but because of the ghost of the city that was left behind. For beneath the ashes, the pumice and the multiple strata of volcanic material emerges the perfect footprint of a true Roman town, that gives us a compelling glimpse into the world of ancient Rome, its town planning, society and its people.


Today’s Pompeii is deeply romantic. The remnants of this ancient world, cast in semi-dereliction but clinging onto mere glimpses of its fully resplendent past, are tinged with the melancholia of the romantic imagination, as weeds and wildflowers grown amongst rubble and the remains of once grand palaces and temples. It all feels rather like a idyllic pastiche from an 18th century imagined landscape… one half expects a giggling maid to sweep into the scene on a flower-strung swing tied onto a nearby tree, her rococo dress shimmering in the setting sun.


Yet beneath the beauty of decay lies a far sadder truth – the reality of Pompeii’s end. Time is healer, but we should not forget how the people of Pompeii met their end: in an agony of excruciating burning and suffocation as the scalding gases of a pyroclastic surge swept through the town literally boiling people to death. It would have been a truly horrific way to die. Reminders of this cruel ending are all around in Pompeii: figures cast from plaster and created from the vacuum left in layers of volcanic ash as bodies have withered away demonstrate people contorted in pain, their hands rolled into tight fists as their bodies flex against the searing heat and agony, lovers clinging to one another, parents embracing their child in a final embrace.


It was this tragic demise, and reminders of Pompeii’s daily life in the form of takeaway food bars, piles of bottles, jewellery, brothels, theatres and houses, which filled my mind as we visited Pompeii one very hot afternoon last June. True, I was fascinated by this ancient Roman world which we had so easily and transformatively stepped into. But I was also struck by the great tragedy which this vast archaeological site represents, and by the great irony that without the scale and extent of that vast eruption and its tragic consequences, we would never have had the opportunity to so totally immerse ourselves in a rare slice of the ancient world. For that alone we must be happy.

These are some of my photos from our day, in Pompeii.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Sicily Series | Part V – The views that put Taormina on the map

Despite the chic which characterises the burgeoning boutique-lined streets and bustling café-filled piazzas of Sicily’s Taormina, the attraction which really put the town on the map was in situ long before the fashionistas took up residence. For the picture-postcard undisputed highlight of Taormina is its ancient Greek Theatre, a stone semi-circular auditorium which benefits from a stunning altitude which gives its stage the most enviable of backdrops of the sea, the coast and the magnificent silhouette of Mount Etna beyond.

Taormina’s Ancient Theatre


Imagine the scene: a balmy summer’s night, a bustling old theatre, a chorus of masked greek players performing Antigone or Media, and beyond, the silhouette of Etna, cloud slowly smoking from its crater like a wise old onlooker smoking a pipe in the distance. Yes your bottom might be a little sore from the stone seats, but imagine the view, and the naturally occurring brilliant acoustics which somehow manage to transport the voice of the actors on the stage to the very highest seat, despite there being no speakers nor modern day technological intervention. Sadly our trip to Taormina’s theatre did not coincide with one of the festivals when this magnificent theatre is put back to use, but that did nothing to dispel the magic of the place which was omnipotent across its ancient structure.

But the ancient theatre is not the only place from which Taormina’s trademark views can be enjoyed. From the Municipal Gardens, crafted as they were by Florence Trevelyan along another ridge of high hillside, the views of Etna and the coast are uninterrupted, and delightfully framed by the bounty of cypress trees and pines, flowers and topiary which fills the happily verdant gardens.

The Municipal Gardens


Taormina’s location is undoubtedly the reason for its historical roots and its current popularity, and views are by far the town’s most ravishing feature. But ultimately it’s the happy combination of history, views, boutique shopping and café-culture-comfort which makes the town such a pleasure to visit. After all, what better way is there to contemplate a view than with an aperol spritz in one hand, and a few bags of shopping in the other?

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

The Daily Sketch ITALIA – Norms in Sicily

It’s been a long and varied trip which has seen the Norms traverse the boot of Italy and cross the Med to the funny shaped ball the boot appears to be kicking – Sicily. Sicily is famous for various things. It has its juicy large lemons, its very hot climate, its ever omnipotent grumbling volcano, Mount Etna, and the very sinister undercurrent of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia. Consulting their guidebooks, our tourist norms sensibly opted for the obvious sightseeing choice of Sicily – the stunning ruins of a Greek theatre in the little picturesque town of Taormina. There they were treated to an incredibly preserved ancient architectural artefact, as well as the beautiful view of the coast below, and an ever smoking, snow-capped Mount Etna lording over the landscape beyond. What they did NOT expect to stumble across was this sinister scene – two members of the Sicilian Mafia teaching one poor Norm the tragic lesson of what happens when you cross Cosa Nostra. Having stumbled across this ghastly operation, the Norms have made up their mind – it’s time to pack up their bags and head home for Blighty… if they get out alive, that is.

(Gosh I do like a good cliff hanger)

Norms in Sicily (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.