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Presenter : Justine Shapiro

Southern Italy

Justine Shapiro begins her journey in Rome, the capital of Italy and the gateway to the south. She rents a scooter to get around and goes first to the Colosseum. This was the scene of some of the Roman Empire’s bloodiest excesses. The first games were held here in 80 AD and lasted for 100 days and nights – enough time for 5000 animals to be slaughtered and 9000 gladiators to fight to the death. Next stop in Rome is Vatican City, the centre of the Catholic Church and an independent state since 1929. At its heart is St Peter’s Square and Basilica which was designed by Michaelangelo in the 16th century.

Leaving Rome, Justine catches a train south towards Naples, stopping first at Terracina and the hill town village of Bonito. Terracina is a fishing village and Justine arrives for the festival of the Madonna del Carmine. Every year the local fishermen and clergy and their families lead a procession in honour of those who have lost their lives at sea and to bless the waters for the coming year. In Bonito Justine visits an old man, known locally as Uncle Vincent. He is famous for performing miracles, and people visit him to talk about their problems. Until she actually sees him, however, Justine’s unaware that Uncle Vincent he is actually a corpse found in the remains of Bonito Church 100 years ago!

Two hours by bus south of Bonito is Naples. Justine tries real Neapolitan pizza. Less than an hour’s train ride from Naples is Pompeii – a bustling wealthy port until August 79 AD when Mt Vesuvius erupted, covering the town in lava, ash and pumice stone. Justine walks around the excavated frescoes. From Pompeii Justine carries on south along the beautiful Amalfi Coast to the picturesque town of Positana. Heading inland from the coast she takes a bus to Alberobello, a town best known for its rustic conical shaped homes called trulli. Justine is taken out on a small boat with three Italians who catch urchins and give them to Justine to eat raw – they’re supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

Finally, Justine’s journey takes her to the tip of the toe, the vast wilderness of the Aspromonte National Park. The best way to explore is by donkey. Along the way Justine’s companion Raphael tells her stories of Mafia kidnappings, abandoned villages and old hermits. Their final destination is the tiny, remote village of Galiciano. You can still hear ancient Greek spoken by the village elders. Justine is treated to a donkey race and a rendition of the tarantella – an ancient dance named after the tarantula spider.

Places Mentioned - Italy, Naples, Southern Italy

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