Campania, a popular region
with tourists, is known for its exotic seascapes and beautiful
coastal villages. The noteworthy attractions in Campania include the towns of the Amalfi Coast ( Amalfi, Ravello, Positano to
which we add Sorrento), the Isle of Capri, and the archeological wonders of Pompeii and Paestum. Naples
is the area's largest town, but it is also the least attractive of the destinations
available in this area. Each of the locations we cover is
shown on our map of Italy's Best Places to Visit.
The Amalfi Coast
The Sorrento Peninsula is a fingerlike protrusion of
land that separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno.
The Amalfi Coast, located on the south side of the Sorrento
Peninsula, is an extraordinary natural treasure. Here,
the hills along the Amalfi Coast
flow sharply the sea, forming dramatic landscapes and spectacular coastal views.
Many of the towns in the Amalfi appear precipitously
perched on small terraces, and the mountainsides appear almost stair-like
as these terraces are layered to the edge of the shore. Note
that most of the towns on the Amalfi are small both in terms
of area and population (most have less than five thousand
Tours of the Amalfi usually start in Sorrento when arriving from the north
(Naples or Rome), or at Vietri sul Mare when arriving from the south (Salerno or
(Click our map near Positano to center it, then select "Hybrid View" to see the terraces
shown in a satellite view. Zoom the map to see
all of the area in greater detail.)
Positano's beauty is breathtaking.
Positano is, perhaps, the most beautiful and the crowded of the towns along the Amalfi.
However, Positano is preferred by many as the best location for an overnight stay in the
Amalfi. The town offers fine shopping, but lacks any buildings of
historical significance. Like most of the coastal cities on the
Amalfi, it is best seen from the water, so reserve some time for a local cruise.
Church of Santa Maria Assunta
is known for its Byzantine era Black Madonna. (Use Google Translator
on the website- or
click on website's the link to "Chiesa S. Maria Assunta" and then on the link "Galleria fotografica Interno" to see image of the church and the Byzantine icon
of the Black Madonna and Christ child.)
The town of Amalfi has a dramatic setting
The town of Amalfi combines beautiful scenery with an interesting history.
Its Cathedral of Saint Andrew is a popular attraction. Parts of the cathedral
date from the tenth century and it contains relics of Saint Andrew the
Apostle. Be sure to see its exquisite Cloister of Paradise.
You may also want to see the Emerald Grotto or take a boat trip so you
can see the town from the sea. Remember that Amalfi was once a powerful
maritime republic on a par with Genoa and Venice. You might be interested in a
quick exploration of the Arsenal, the ruins of a what once was a medieval
Amalfi is known for the unusually rich taste of
its lemons, so look for the sorbet shops. Or if you like your lemon a
little tangier, try Limoncello, a lemon liqueur that can be used to make some
Click for more information on visiting provided by the
Ravello is a small village that sits a distance uphill and is detached from the coast.
It provides dramatic views of the Amalfi Coast and has been a magnet for the
rich and famous over several centuries. Be sure to see the city's two
noted villas - the Villa Rufolo and the Villa Cimbrone, both originally built by
Information on visiting Ravello from its official tourism website
can be found
Sorrento is the largest town on the
Peninsula, but that does not diminish its beauty
Sorrento is not actually part of the Amalfi Coast (it is
on the north side of the Sorrento Peninsula), but is usually included in the tour
of the area,
as it is the first major stop after Pompeii when heading to the Amalfi.
Sorrento is less scenic than the towns along the Amalfi, but it is a popular
stop that attracts many travelers. It is also relatively flat compared
to the towns further south - which means that you can walk the town with a
minimum of exertion, a statement that cannot be made about the towns along
The Old Town (called the Old City Center)
offers several Palazzos (Veniero, Correale) and the beautiful
cloisters of Sant Francesco). Along the coast you can tour
the ruins of Queen Joan's Baths (Villa Pollio Felice), which was an
over-the-top villa during the height of the Roman Empire.
Click here for
visiting Sorrento provided
by the city's official tourism website, Sorrento
The best (and sometimes the worst) way to see the Amalfi coast is to drive it. Many travelers head
south from Naples to Sorrento, followed by a trip across the
peninsula to the towns on the Amalfi Coast that surround the waters of
the Gulf of Salerno.
The circuit is usually closed by
traveling uphill to Ravello and north to the Autostrada (A3).
However, we recommend continuing along the coast to Salerno and
heading south to see the amazing Greek temples as Paestum.
Finally, you may hear the road along the Amalfi Coast described by
some as the "corniche", which is a French term for a road that winds along a
steep coast or cliff.
Note than the traffic has taken its toll on the area.
Several of the cities have created parking lots away from the
centers of the towns, while other towns have taken more direct
action. Positano, for example, is officially a "slow
city (Cittaslow)", which means that there are times when you cannot
drive your car in the city, even if you are staying there. Be sure and ask about
parking and road regulations when you book your hotel reservations.
The Amalfi Coast is a popular tourist area and a seemingly mandatory
inclusion on every travel company's tour of Italy. Be prepared for
crowds and smoke-belching buses if you drive the Amalfi Coast in summer, as the
area's population triples during the summer travel season.
Those having flexibility in their travel schedules,
should opt to see the Amalfi Coast in late spring or early
fall. If you really want to enjoy the area, you need to take a room
and spend a few nights exploring the cities after the tour buses
have returned to Rome or Naples.
One of the great drives in
the world can be experienced by starting at Sorrento and touring along the Amalfi Coast through Positano, Amalfi
and uphill to Ravello. Most settlements in this luxurious coastal area
are terraced on the sides of steep hills and utilize every inch of land
available. The winding roads that navigate these hills provide enjoyable
views of the area's spectacular coastline.
Under the best of
conditions, the roads, with their numerous hairpin turns, are
not that easy to drive. Italian drivers, who are notoriously
aggressive, can make driving the Amalfi a tension-filled experience for those who want to view the
We suggest that you
consider taking a tour or hiring a local guide to help you explore
the area. Make no mistake, hiring a driver for the Amalfi area
is very expensive, but you have to decide whether you want to steam
behind the wheel or let someone else do it for you.
Another alternative, of
course, is to visit outside of the high season, when the road is
considerably less crowded. However, you may experience a fair
amount of rain if you do so.
If you want to experience
the real beauty of the area stay the night in Positano or Ravello.
Savoring the Amalfi Coast after dark and without the crowds is
a fantastic pleasure.
The Isle of Capri is a great place to kick back and enjoy the high life - assuming you
can afford the high life! (We daytrip it, we admit we are quite cost
sensitive travelers.) In any event, the easiest access to the
island is to take the hydrofoil or ferry from Naples or Sorrento.
In addition to the pampering at classy
hotels and time for fun in the sun, the island offers a number of interesting antiquities dating from
times when Roman Emperors had their summer palaces on the island.
to see the Piazza Umberto (La Piazzetta). Also, we suggest you take a boat tour for the
best view of the island's breathtaking coast.
There is a lot to see in Capri, so be sure to explore our
Capri Guide for photos and details on
the beauty that awaits you there.
For a little change of pace,
you might consider a stay in Ischia, another delightful island, but on
the north end of the
Bay of Naples. See
for more detailed information.
Pompeii is a world-famous attraction
for a reason and it should not be missed by any visitor to southern
It can be visited as a long day trip from Rome, if your travel plans
do not include stops in Campania..
Frozen in time as a result of a cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius
in 79 A.D., which buried it under ash and volcanic mud,
Pompeii's history has been unearthed by archaeologists over the last
two centuries. The time capsule-like nature of the remains of
Pompeii provide interesting and poignant views of life in the Roman Empire
If you are going to venture
as far south as the Amalfi, you should consider adding another fifty miles to visit Paestum.
The three Greek Temples at Paestum are the best preserved
ancient Greek buildings in Italy and perhaps, the world.
The temples date from the third and fourth century BC and were
part of a large Greek town known as Poseidonia that was later occupied by
the Romans. For many centuries, the temples at Paestum appear to
have "fallen" off the map, which accounts for their unusual state of
Napoli (Naples), which is often featured in guide books as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast,
has lost much of its charm over the last few decades. While Naples is the
largest town in the province, it suffers from a high crime rate and a
deserved reputation as a place rough around the edges.
Naples has grown
quite seedy, and graffiti, which is a national problem in Italy's big
cities, seems unrestrained in this southern metropolis. Naples is low on
our list of the best places to visit in Italy, but there are several reasons for
a quick visit.
If you are planning
the ruins at Pompeii, then you should know that many of the
best preserved treasures from both Pompeii (and Herculaneum) are on display at
Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli
in Naples (at the Piazza Museo, 19).
The Museum includes an outstanding collection of early Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Also, in Naples, the Museo di Capodimonte (Via Milano
2 in a gorgeous park area), housed in the former royal palace of the Bourbons, provides a
delightful collection of art (the Galleria Nazionale) by some of
the best known masters who lived during the 13th to the 18th centuries.
The heart of these holdings is the Farnese Collection, which
was owned by the Bourbon King Charles III. In addition, the
decorative arts are well represented in the collection.
Be sure to see the
interesting display of porcelain and china from the Capodimonte Porcelain Factory and especially take time to visit
Queen Amalia's Porcelain Parlor.
Finally, another, but lesser reason to visit Naples is that the hydrofoil from
Naples is one of the quickest ways to reach Capri.
Click here for the official tourism website for
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.
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