Today is midsummer and I devote the whole day to the Villa of Pollius Felix (on the Capo di Sorrento) also known as the Villa di Pollio Felice (in Italian) and the Villa Limona (in the Roman Mysteries).
In the morning Richard and I catch the 7.20 SITA bus to Piano di Sorrento and find the Georges Vallet Museum with its superb model of the villa. We take tons of photos and sketches and translate the Italian commentary. I will use my photos of this model as a basis for a detailed plan and sketch in book 11, The Sirens of Surrentum. Richard, as usual, will work his artistic magic with my sketches and notes.
We board another SITA bus to Sorrento's Marina Piccola and are just in time to catch an 11.00 am hydrofoil to Capri. It passes right by the Villa of Pollius Felix, so more photos are snapped.
Capri is stuffed to the gills with tourists, so we have a quick (but delicious) salad in the Grand Marina and catch the 12.00 boat to the Blue Grotto. What they don't tell you is that once at the Blue Grotto it costs another eight and a half euros to get a little rowing boat to take you in. It is a great - if quick - visit, because of the queue of boats packed with people waiting their turn. The entrance to the grotto is tiny, (hence the rowing boat) and once inside the blue is luminous. Rather like the blue of an LA swimming pool lit up at night.
We are the last people aboard the 14.00pm hydrofoil back to Sorrento. I snap more photos of the ruins of Felix's villa and we're back in Sant'Agata by 16.30 for a quick dip in the lovely pool of the Hotel Delle Palme.
Richard is exhausted, but I am determined to do a kind of pilgrimage to the Villa Limona. The climax of Sirens takes place on midsummer's evening of AD 80, so what better day to make my pilgrimage than midsummer's eve 2005?
I catch the 17.55 SITA bus from Sant'Agata, disembark at Capo, and am down at the Villa of Pollius Felix by 18.30. It is great to see the ruins with the model fresh in my mind and I immediately see what I should add or change. After a good hour's wander, I sit happily on the north east corner of the foundations and read some of Pirates while eating a picnic dinner of olives, marinated white beans (a local specialty) and water. For dessert I have a juicy orange. Yum.
There are only a few other people around the villa ruins: a man down on the lower rocks, two scuba-divers in the secret cove (!) and some English women wandering through, so I feel the villa was properly mine.
Here's a spooky fact: in AD 80 there was a full moon on 21 June, midsummer's eve. Guess what? Today there is a full moon on 21 June! What are the odds?
I watch the sun set, as yellow and juicy as a lemon, and bid my beloved villa goodbye. Oh, how I would love a time machine to travel back to AD 80 and see what this villa and its owners really looked like!
Back up at the Bar del Capo I have a few minutes to spare before the last SITA bus back so I find the 'boss'. His name is Antonino. I give him a copy of Pirates in English and also one in Italian, dedicated to his three daughters. He is delighted and takes me onto the terrace to introduce me to Vincezo, a reporter for the local paper. I have to get my bus but promise to come back tomorrow for dinner at 20.00, when Vincenzo might interview me!
On the bus back a huge full moon, orange as an apricot, rises over the mountains. A wonderful end to a productive day.
[The 17 books in the Roman Mysteries series are perfect for children aged 9+, especially those studying Romans, Greeks or Egyptians as a topic in Key Stage 2. There are DVDs of some of the books as well as an interactive game.]