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Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539
F.G.S. Italian Trip : 30th July -7th August 1961
Clive Strutt’s Diary
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[Square brackets and oblique text : Notes added 2011] Click photos for larger versions.

Sunday July 30th and Monday July 31st (Written at the Pensione San Giorgio, SS. Apostoli 49, Rome) - On Sunday morning we set off for the Italian Holiday – a party of two masters and 27 boys. We went in a rickety old coach to Victoria. Then we had to wait for the train. George Hyde, his friend John, from Cambridge, and I went for a walk to the Catholic Westminster Cathedral. Hyde remarked it was like a Victorian Railway Station – indeed it was. Bare, sooted brick predominated in high vaulted arches. People were walking about all over the place, although a service was on. An American priest’s voice droned monotonously through loudspeakers.

TrainThe electric express left at 1:30 [p.m.], and we passed through Kent to Folkestone. The boat was the Cote d’Azur . It was French, and quite good. We transferred to a French train at Calais. Thence the journey was to Rome, changing at Bale. The train from Calais to Lille was pulled by a steam loco, but all the rest of the way it was pulled by an electric loco. The journey to Bale lasted all night. I was given Mr. Booy’s couchette, (Mr. Sadler had the other) and we were supposed to change over at 1.00 [a.m. Monday], but the guard locked the doors thus cutting the couchettes off from the rest of the train. I thought the night travelling through France was a strangely magical experience. One half-slept, half-dozed, was aware of the train’s constant rhythm, jolting, and slowing down, heard monotonous French voices over loudspeakers on the stations, whose very names have a magic of their own – Charleville, Metz, Mulhouse, Colmar, Strasbourg. The Industrial North-East – a remote, unpleasant, dismal area, yet strangely appealing in these qualities. At Strasbourg at 3:00 [am] Sadler and I got out and ran along the platform to get back to our compartment. Mr. Booy and John replaced us.

Got to Bale at 5:30, and changed. The next train left an hour or so later. From Bale we went via Lucerne and the St. Gotthard Tunnel. The Swiss scenery was, of course, incomparable. Great gashed gorges flowing with green and foamy torrents, conifers rising to craggy heights, mountains, all. The railway made figures of eight within the mountain. We had a delicious continental breakfast, including cherry jam. On the Italian side we descended to Milan (Milano). Various of the stations are termini, which means that the train goes out in the opposite direction [of travel], with a new loco on the other end.

The Italian scenery was very flat after the Alps, but way over to the right as we went southwards down the peninsula the mountain range of the Apennines could be seen. The scenery was quite green at first as we speeded from Milan, but towards the end of the journey you could see that it was becoming progressively more scrubby and dry. We had to cross the central chain of mountains, too, which we did via many noisy tunnels. We went through Parma, Modena and …?... [illegible].. and past the Lacus Trasimenus (Lake Thrasymene), and, I presume, the Caudine Forks. (*) Eventually arrived in Rome at night. Our hotel is part of the house of the Duke of York, who was a cardinal, and also has Radio Free Europe and a Laboratorio Fotographico.

[Notes: * I must have known what these were at the time of writing, but have not a clue now!]

Tuesday 1st August – This morning we went to the Vatican City. Went round the Galleries and Sistine Chapel. They were quite breathtaking. The ceilings were ornamented and decorated beautifully. The Sistine Chapel was superb – the colours dimmed by age giving a sombre effect of restrained intellect. (*) We also went to St. Peter’s Basilica. That was impressive. The biggest church in the world – wonderful. Saw the statue of St. Peter with smooth foot. In the afternoon I went on my own on a sightseeing tour. Mounted the vast marble monument [to Victor Immanuel] – took photos of Rome. Then went to the Roman Forum. The enjoyment I derived from studying in detail all the things in there with the aid of a guide book was immense. Great fluted Corinthian Columns, Ionic Columns, Titus’ Arch, Temples of Castor and Pollux, Venus, Antonius and Faustilinius. Farnese Gardens, Senate House, Septimus Severus’ Arch etc. etc. Also saw Palatine Hill, and Farnese Gardens and many ancient exciting things. Then I caught a trolley-bus to St. Peter’s Square (30 lire) for the audience with the Pope but nothing happened. I waited an hour, then decided to return to the Hotel for dinner. After dinner George, John, Nick, Peter and I went for a walk round the back streets, going via the Trevi Fountain, where I threw three coins in. (**) Then it started to rain a bit; we sheltered, then proceeded, meeting Booy and Sadler, and winding up in a small café near a place called Spanish Steps, where Keats and Shelley [had] lived. Whilst writing this last night I fell asleep over the journal, waking later to discover it. Rome is a wonderful place. The women are gorgeous; the ancient monuments are interesting and compelling.

[Note: * An odd turn of phrase – not sure what I meant by it.
** There was a popular song of the time called “Three Coins in the Fountain”

Swimmers Wednesday 2nd August – Today we went by coach to the Mediterranean Seaport of Anzio and Nettuna. We had a lovely time. The beach is covered with umbrellas, (*) and huts are let for changing in. We were by the small pier. The sea was warm. Under the pier is a set of fresh cold showers, a good copyable idea. I got quite suntanned. We stopped outside the Beach Head British War Cemetery first. I bought P/C’s (**) at Anzio, and a 500 [lire] straw hat. Everything outside is still alive – traffic, music etc. though it is late – about 11:00. In England everything would be dead by now.

It’s incredible how the beach emptied at midday, for the siesta – almost everyone disappeared – the only few left were foreigners. The siesta is ridiculous and only an excuse for laziness. It gets no hotter then than in the morning. (***)

We came back earlyish in order to attend our audience with the Pope. Actually, it wasn’t a private one, as we had thought, but a general one – in St. Peter’s. The Pope was carried in, robed in white, and rich colours, on a chair – everyone clapped, a most unholy and irreverent proceeding. (****) He and his helpers, the monsignors, then read out speeches in various languages – Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, etc.  When it came to the English, a helper read, not the Pope. He mentioned all the groups assembled who had applied for invitation, and Farnborough Grammar School was mentioned.

In the evening I went with the other sixth formers to the Colosseum. It is a marvellous great place where the Christian Martyrs were thrown to the lions. Very imposing. It was floodlit. I must see it by day. I saw a cat limping about – a latter-day lion symbolistic of the decline of the “Glory that was Rome”.

I hear the Common Market is throwing its lot in with England. (*****)

[Notes: * Really sunshades, I suppose.
** In those days Post Cards, not personal computers!
*** From today’s perspective a wrong view.
**** Clearly a Protestant viewpoint!
***** I would never use England when it meant Great Britain now that I live in Scotland!!!

Thursday 3rd August – Today I went to the Colosseum, and explored it [more] fully, paying to go up to the higher levels. There is a wonderful view from the top. Saw about ten or twelve cats being fed with raw meat – latter-day lions again. Then I caught a No. 87 bus to the Pantheon. Took more photographs. Inside there is a big hole in the top, and the sunlight filters in. (I have just heard glass smashing below, and Italian voices raised.)

Took some pictures from the bank of the Tiber by the Bridge, and went in the Castello San Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb). It is a lovely place. Saw an old catapult, the Popes’ ancient apartments, (i.e. former popes), bed, spinet, lectern, writing desk etc.

Then had to rush back for dinner. In the afternoon I visited and photographed the Trevi Fountain, bought some films and souvenir gifts, and ended up, as usual, at St. Peter’s. I studied Michaelangelo’s lovely masterpiece “Pieta” (Pity), and have bought a little marble replica of it. I ascended to the roof and up to the Cupola on top of the dome. The effect is quite indescribable. Views were marvellous. I could see the Pope’s railway and station, and saw a Diesel train using the line.

In the evening we went to the Villa d’Este at Tivoli. It has gardens with fountains, illuminated, everywhere – a spectacular sight!

Tanya Archer Friday 4th August: Pensione Palermo, Via Della Scala 49, FIRENZE (Florence) - We had the morning free in Rome. I went to the Capitol first, calling at a church – St. Mary of the Aracoeli. Saw the Sacred Bambino, which was carved in Jerusalem by a monk from the olive trees in Gethsemane. It was surrounded by letters sent to it by [Roman] Catholics from all over the world. A monk gave me a picture of it with a description on the back. Then went into the Capitol. It is a square, with a statue in the middle [of it] of Marcus Aurelius on a horse. The horse had tufts of hair between its ears. When the original gilding reappears on these tufts, the legend says, it will come to life as an owl, which it resembles, and announce the end of the world. Saw pictures by Rubens, Tintoretto, Veronese, Caravaggio, Velasquez. John and Peter were with me.

Then we went down to the Forum. Photographed a horse being shoed at the blacksmith’s, and went to the Temple of Vesta.

Tanya ArcherAn amazing coincidence occurred. When I was at the Temple of Vesta the girl from Camberley who played the flute in the Aldershot Festival, Tanya Archer, was there. She is holidaying with her brother and another girl, with a car. We took photos of each other on the steps of the temple, then parted.

I was walking up the road towards the Victor Emanuel Monument, and I came upon a film-set who were filming “Di Oro di Roma” , with Maria Carrena. It was being shot in the Jewish Quarter. The chaps there explained the proceedings to me. I took a photo.

We left Rome on the 3:30 [pm] train and came to Florence.

After dinner, which was very conscientiously served, we went out round the back streets. Saw the Ponte Vecchio, with houses on it, the Cathedral, and the Palace of Seniore.

Pisa Saturday 5th August – Today we went to Pisa. Went up the tower – it has a fantastic angle of leaning over – “a rare old slant” – as Nichol says. The cathedral is wonderful – Byzantine. There is also a Baptistry which has a fantastic capacity for echo. The guide sang out loud several notes which formed chords, but only tonic major ones (*). It was quite frightening at the top of the Torre Pendente.

We had our dinner on the steps of the Baptistry with Sadler and Booy and the Guide and his bambini and Nichol who wishes to be mentioned. The rolls were as hard as rock.

Then Nick and I went into the town shopping. Found a good shop with an English-speaking keeper who sold bags. Nick very kindly bought me a drink of wine. There was a cat asleep in one of the shrub-pots. In the evening we all went out drinking and eating Terentina. (**)

[Note: * The significance of this is that if he had formed minor chords the aural effect would have been unpleasant due to overtone clashes (Reference the musical “Tierce de Picardy”.)
** What is Terentina? I have no memory of it.

Sunday 6th August – This morning Nichol and I went for a tour (walking) round Florence. Visited the Russian Temple in Viale Milton: it was a very fine and interesting building, but fairly small. Saw the Chiesa Santa Maria Novella with beautiful interior, and Catholic candles. (*) Then visited St. Mark’s Museum, with monk cells and frescoes. Nichol felt sick when we got to the cathedral, so he went back to the hotel.

In the afternoon I went to the Ponte Vecchio and photographed it, the National Museum Square (museum closed), New Art Gallery (closed).

Gave 20 lire to a blind beggar. A snooty-looking American-looking woman turned up her nose in disgust; I hope she sizzles in Hell. Bought a bust of Beethoven for Auntie Hilda. In the evening we all went to a café and had a fine large meal – ravioli, steak, wine, bread (I smuggled two rolls out for the train).

[Note: * An odd description – I’m not sure what I meant by this.]

Monday 7th August – Having a little time to spare before the start of the journey George [Hyde] and I went to a print shop near the cathedral in Florence and George bought some prints. Then we went to the station from the Pensione Palermo in the little semi-coaches, (*) and got on the train for Milan. The journey there was unbearably hot. At Milan we changed onto the train for Basle. Went through marvellous Swiss scenery at dusk. The fact that the mountains were shrouded in haze, and cloud-capped, added to the mysterious and sinister effect. It was pleasant to be in the safety of the train, than amongst those forbidding heights we were observing. At Basle we changed again, but had to wait some hours. We had a meal in the station restaurant. The journey from Basle was during the night I tried to keep awake in order to observe the Romantic mysteries of passing through the French industrial towns in the early morning – I saw Mulhouse, Strasbourg, Richwiller, Metz, Meziers-Charleville, Longuyon, Valenciennes, but missed Colmar.

It was eerie in the early light of dawn seeing great blast furnaces and factories functioning – no people seemed to be about. At Lille a steam loco replaced the electric [one] for the final leg of the European part of the journey. I hardly budged from my seat from Basle to Calais. Towards Calais we noticed a strong wind was whipping up canal water, grass, trees, and expected a rough crossing. Rough was not the word! The boat almost did not sail, and, as it was, had to have a tug-boat to pull it out. Great waves lashed over the deck – the ship rolled alarmingly. Everyone almost was seasick. Bowls were provided for people to be sick in. I was not sick. Urwin, Hyde and Nichol were. I believe a woman broke two ribs by being violently hit with a sick-bowl. (**) The crossing was wonderfully exhilarating. The boat was diverted to Dover as Folkestone was closed. Rayner was met at Dover, and John Saunders at London by an uncle. After the train from Dover to Victoria we got our coach home.

[Notes: * I am not sure now what is meant by these.
** This seems rather unlikely in retrospect, but is what I wrote.

Read Clive’s entry on Wikipedia

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