Gosh, is August really nearly over? With all the time that’s gone into finding a job, not to mention my lack of money, sadly I haven’t been able to go away this year. So to bring in that summer feeling, I’m going to reminisce over some previous holidays. My favourite country is Italy, which I’ve visited 4 times and been to most of the major cities: Rome, Naples, Florence, Pisa, Venice and Milan, as well as skiing in Bormio.
In this post I’m going to have a think about some of the best places to visit in the region around Naples – an area known as Campania.
Campania is a fantastic part of the country to visit. It encompasses Naples and the countryside around it. There’s a huge variety of things to do, and unlike most of the other major Italian cities, most of the best attractions are out in the country. I’ve stayed in Sorrento, opposite the Bay from Naples, twice, and once in Portici, a suburb of Naples. The things to do in the Napoli area could take many many blog posts to describe, so here are my top things to do there. Warning: I’m a dedicated tourist, so while I don’t know the best beaches, I do know where to see some mindblowing sights.
- Dig into history at the Roman ruins of Pompeii. As a Latin enthusiast, for me the most exciting thing to do in Campania is visit the site of the Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD, perfectly preserving houses, shops and bodies of the unfortunate Romans caught in the blast. For those who really love their history, I’d argue that Herculanium (Ercolano) is an even better site to visit: the ruins are surrounded by a huge cliff, showing how much the height of the ground has changed in the passing years. It’s possible to do the two in a day, but I’d give Pompeii a full day if you can.
- Sail out to the isle of Capri. This tiny island is on the tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Take a boat on the Med from the mainland and enjoy the ride. After you’ve looked round the town of Capri, take the chairlift up to Anacapri and visit the church of San Michele, where the floor is covered in a mosaic of the Garden of Eden. The animals featured in it had not been seen by the creators, only described to them, so there are some amusing differences from the real things. On my next trip there, I’m hoping to go on a boat trip to the Blue Grotto, a cave under the island.
- Drive along the Amalfi Coast. Or take a bus, if you’re not confident of dodging the mopedists and facing the sheer drops. Mile after mile of fantastic views, gorgeous blue Mediterranean Sea, picturesque towns (Amalfi itself is a great stopping point for lunch) and breathtaking beauty.
- Climb Mt Vesuvius. Vesuvius is an active volcano, and its last major eruption was in 1944. There is car access up to 200m from the top, and the last leg is by foot only. It’s worth it to see the crater which has caused so much great destruction, and could again without warning in the future.
- Shop in the tourist town of Sorrento. My favourite town in the vicinity, Sorrento is a warren of souvenir shops that are perfect for visitors to pick up a gift that perfectly encapsulates the rural Italian spirit. Also take the opportunity to sample some limoncello, a lemon liquor the region is famous for.
- Stroll round the city of Naples. Like all other great Italian cities, the centre of Naples is a historian’s and sightseer’s dream. Start at Piazza del Plebiscito and work outwards: both Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg) and Castel Nuovo are worth a visit.
- Admire Greek ruins at Paestum. If you have the time to travel a little further afield, Paestum is 50 miles down the coast, and boasts some of the best preserved Greek ruins in Italy, featuring the standing remains of three temples, and several other items of interest.
- See the sights from Monte Faito. Take the funivia (cable car) from Castellammare di Stabia for the best view of the bay you can get. The above photo was taken from the summit.
There is so much to do in this area: the longest I’ve stayed for has been 3 nights, and it’s always felt too rushed. The Fabric Hostel in Portici is a great place to stay for those on a budget, but for those who can afford to splash out, try getting an apartment in the centre of Sorrento and wake up with palm trees on your doorstep. If you don’t fancy renting a car, the public transport is great, with the Circumvesuviana train visiting most of the top sights that I’ve mentioned, and reliable buses and trains for other destinations. The Campania Arte Card is a great buy, as it gives you unlimited travel for the duration of its validity, plus free or discounted entry into most of the places you’ll want to visit. I’ve only ever visited off-peak (April and October) but the weather was uniformly gorgeous even then.
If you get the chance, definitely visit Campania. It’s my second favourite area of the country (after Rome), and if you like hot weather, perfect views and history by the bucketload, Campania is the place for you.