Back home in wintery Sydney, my thoughts return to the start of the Voyages to Antiquity cruise to Sicily, Malta and the Sorrentine Peninsula in May this year. If I listen carefully I might just be able to hear the strains of a Noel Coward classic drifting out from the Charleston Lounge, where Stacey’s piano and the string trio entertained us each evening.
Here on Deck 6 at the stern of the ship we ate delicious food in the casually elegant Terrace Cafe, the dining venue of choice for many of the passengers in such perfect weather. As the coastline recedes I reflect that I am indeed fortunate to be on board this elegant mid-size ship the MV Aegean Odyssey, as one of the lecturers. The ship is beautifully appointed and all the lectures take place in the splendid Ambassador Lounge.
Each day of our cruise was a delight and an adventure. Excursions were always of great interest and meticulously planned with staff members always on hand. We began in the lovely seaside town of Nauplia, named for one of the Argonauts, the son of the sea god Poseidon. Here we visited the world famous heritage sites of Epidaurus and Mycenae with its famous Lion Gate. I was particularly impressed to have a personal Quietvox receiver, which made it so much easier to hear our excellent guides.
From the Peloponnese we sailed to Sicily and the glorious town of Taormina, then on to Syracuse. Here I had the great good fortune to see a wonderful collection of ancient jewellery in the Archaeological Museum. Before visiting the fabulous and well-preserved Greek temples in Agrigento’s Valle dei Templi, Segesta and Selinunte, we sailed to Malta where we explored the ancient town of Mdina and the capital Valletta. Here in St John’s cathedral is Caravaggio’s famous masterpiece “The Beheading of St John”.
One of the many highlights of the cruise was a visit in Palermo to the splendid Palazzo Gangi. Here we were taken into the vanished world of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the Prince of Salina who wrote his posthumous masterpiece “The Leopard” at the time of Italy’s Risorgimento. This beautiful private residence with its Baroque ballroom, belongs now to the Principessa Carine Vanni Mantegna and her husband. On each visit the Principessa personally conducts a private tour of the Palazzo for guests of Voyages to Antiquity, followed by champagne and canapés.
This really was a marvelous cruise and I hope to be back on Aegean Odyssey again sometime soon.
Dr MONICA M. JACKSON
The University of Sydney
Monica M. Jackson is a Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London. She received her B.A. in Ancient History and Anthropology from the University of Queensland and her PhD in Classical Archaeology from The University of Sydney. Her particular area of research is ancient Hellenistic jewellery as archaeological evidence. Her published thesis Hellenistic Gold Eros Jewellery: Technique, Style and Chronology, published by British Archaeological Reports in 2006 is considered the authoritative work in this area.
Monica has presented papers at prestigious venues both in Australia and overseas. Topics include jewellery and the luxury arts, issues concerning cultural heritage, as well as ancient Greek and Near Eastern art, history and religion. She has been involved in The University of Sydney archaeological excavations in Greece, Cyprus and further east. Her research has necessitated extensive travels through South Italy, Turkey, the Republic of Georgia and Bulgaria.