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Last updated : Nov 2009
Campania
Campania - TravelPuppy.com
Called Campania Felix (blessed country) by the Romans because of its mild climate, fertile soil, and plentiful water. Citrus fruits, tobacco, wheat and vegetables are grown, and the region is known for excellent wines, notably the white Greco di Tufo.

The Amalfi Coast, running along a peninsula just south of Naples, is one of the most popular area in Italy for holidaymakers, especially those in search of sun and sand. But the added bonus for many is the extraordinary beauty of the region, sheer craggy cliffs rise over the shimmering blue-green Mediterranean waters, and everywhere there are views of hills and sea. History and culture are also present in abundance and it is easy to understand the attraction of the area for visitors.

Naples

The third-largest Italian city, Naples is famous as the place where the pizza was invented. Situated on the Bay of Naples and overshadowed by Mount Vesuvius, the city occupies one of the most beautiful natural settings of any city in Europe. Frequently criticised for urban decay and delinquency, it is a city where splendid churches and palaces stand aside squalid tenement blocks, and where street markets sell high-quality food produce, plus counterfeit designer goods. Important monuments include the 17th-century Palazzo Reale, built by the Bourbons, the massive stone Castel Nuovo, overlooking the sea, and the San Carlo Opera House. The impressive Museo Archeologico Nazionale houses an excellent collection of Greco-Roman artefacts, including mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Museo di Capodimonte displays porcelain and majolica pieces, plus paintings by Dutch, Italian and Spanish masters.

Mount Vesuvius

Above Naples is the bare cone of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano, and beside it the broad sweep of the Bay of Naples and the Tyrrhennian Sea. A toll-road leads most of the way up to the summit of Vesuvius (it is the local Lover’s Lane, people also gather mushrooms here when the conditions are right, the final few hundred yards involve an easy hike up a well-maintained bare pumice track. The viewing platform is right on the rim of the caldera and provides an excellent view of both the steam-filled abyss and the whole of the Bay of Naples and Pompeii below.

Nearby, the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, engulfed in the great eruption of AD 79, are a unique record of how ordinary first-century Romans lived their daily lives. Moulds of people and animals found well-preserved, buried under the burning ash, can be seen at Pompeii, and the decoration in some of the excavated villas is amazingly intact, including numerous wall paintings of gods and humans in scenes ranging from the heroic to the erotic.

Sorrento

Sorrento, now a rather commercial resort, has attracted artists for many centuries. Gorky, Nietzsche and Wagner spent time here and Ibsen wrote The Ghosts while in Sorrento. The Museo Correale is an attractive 18th-century villa with a collection of decorative arts and paintings belonging to the Correale family. Outside, a walk through the gardens and vineyards brings one to a promontory overlooking the bay, offering a spectacular view.

Capri

Capri is one of Italy’s most lovely and most visited islands and can be reached by ferry or hydrofoil from Amalfi, Naples, Positano and Sorrento.

Upon arrival at the Marina Grande, it is possible to take a boat trip to the island’s main tourist attraction, the Blue Grotto. A strenuous 45-minute uphill trek brings one to the ruins of Villa Tiberio which was built as the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s luxurious retirement home. The Garden of Augustus, south of the town of Capri, is pretty but often very crowded. From here, a winding road brings one down to the sea, where it is possible to swim off the rocks.

The Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast, running from Sorrento to Salerno, is one of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines. Departing from Sorrento, the first port of call is Positano, a small exclusive resort of great beauty. Heaped high above the coast, its brightly painted houses and bougainvillaea have inspired a thousand picture postcards and draw crowds of tourists every summer. There is an excellent beach and clean seawater for bathing.

Amalfi
is perhaps the most well known of the region’s resort towns. However, the town still has an authentic air about it, despite its popularity with tourists. The Romanesque Cathedral with its 13th-century bell tower, located in the main square, looks entirely untouched by the contemporary hustle and bustle around it. The Cloister of Paradise, just to the right of the cathedral, also makes good viewing. There are some excellent restaurants and the local wine, Sammarco, bottled in Amalfi, is superb and inexpensive. Perched high above Amalfi, ‘closer to the sky than the seashore’, as André Gide wrote, is the former independent republic of Ravello. From here, the most spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast can be had, above all from the Villa Cimbrone where marble statues line a belvedere that is perched on the very edge of the cliff, 335m (1100ft) up.

Elsewhere

The city of Caserta is located to the north of Naples and was the country seat of the Kings of Naples. The Baroque Royal Palace owes much to Versailles, and the surrounding gardens are magificent. South along the coast, past Salerno, the imposing Greek temples at Paestum are among the country’s best preserved ancient relics.

Ischia, an island on the west side of the Bay of Naples, is easily accessible from Sorrento and Naples. Although larger than Capri, it is not quite so popular with tourists, but well visited by the locals who appreciate it more for its calm and scenic beauty.