The Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Naples Feature

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Archaeological Sites

When the rich of ancient Rome—emperors included—had time off, they would head south to Campania and many of the surviving ruins qualify the region as an archaeologist’s treasure garden. In Naples, below medieval, Byzantine, then Roman remains often lies another layer going back to the Greeks.

Anfiteatro Flavio, Pozzuoli. Rome’s Colosseum’s only slightly smaller twin is better conserved than that of its travertine big brother.

Cumae. Stand where the Greeks first landed and then proceed to the cave of the Sybil, where ancient prophecies were handed out.

Herculaneum. Smaller than Pompeii, but due to the pyroclastic flow of the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius—which preserved organic materials such as wood—this site is even more evocative and in places breathtakingly well-preserved. Thanks to virtual technology, watch before your very eyes crusty ruins take on new life and color.

Museo e Scavi Santa Restituta, Lacco Ameno, Ischia. Accidentally unearthed in 1950, this site under the church of Santa Restituta is evidence of the earliest Greek settlement in the area.

Pompeii. More a city than a site, a visit gives you the chance to stroll ancient streets; observing along the way ancient houses, shops, temples, frescoes, graffiti, and plaster casts of people killed by the eruption.

Villa Jovis, Capri. On Capri’s second-highest peak, it is easy to understand why the emperor Tiberius shunned Rome and chose to reign from here until his death in 37 AD.

Art

Italy has the largest collection of art works in the world, and a large portion of these are in the Naples area. A stroll though the city center is like a walk through an open-air gallery, and it is, in fact, on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Caravaggio, Naples. Naples is home to three masterpieces by Michelangelo Mersi da Caravaggio, produced in his final years here.

Certosa di San Martino, Naples. Perched on the hilltop just below Castel Sant’Elmo, this former monastery houses one of Europe’s finest collections of baroque art, for which the city is famous.

Madre, Naples. Contemporary exhibitions of established international artists as well as temporary shows, along with the occasional evening time aperitivi, make this one of Naples’s most exciting spaces.

Museo Archeologico di Pithecusae, Lacco Ameno, Ischia. Nestor’s Cup, the oldest known kotyle vase in existence, is the highlight at the site of one of Italy’s earliest Greek settlements—the inscribed poetic verse is the earliest example of ancient Greek writing known to scholars.

Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Built in the 18th century to house the magnificent Farnese collection, this is the best place to see examples of paintings of the Neapolitan School from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

PAN, Naples. The Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli is an 18th-century palazzo with more than 6,000 square meters of exhibition space for contemporary works, including photography, film, and sculpture.

Walking

Lace up your hiking boots, pack your sunblock, grab a few panini, and enjoy some of the most unspoiled scenery in Europe far from the madding crowds. The added advantage is that these peaks lead down to the beach, so don’t forget your towel.

Capri. Quite simply, Capri is a walker’s paradise. Walk along the west coast past the four Saracen fortresses? Climb Mont Solaro (or cheat and take the chairlift)? Take the Scala Fenicia from Marina Grande to Anacapri just like the ancient Greeks? Take a walk to help you decide!

Lungomare, Naples. The city’s mayor closed the 2-mile (3-km) seafront to traffic in 2012 and a passeggiata here past the Castel dell’Ovo, with a stop at one of the many pizzerias or for an ice cream at Mergellina, is de rigueur.

Monte Epomeo, Ischia. At 2,582 feet this is a challenging climb, but it is worth scaling the now-dormant volcano (don’t worry, the last eruption was in 1301) for the 60-degree view of the gulf.

Mount Vesuvius. Mainland Europe’s only active volcano is also a national park, with paths winding along the lava flows. Visitors to the crater negotiate a steep, winding gravel path with the Bay of Naples far below.

Sentiero degli Dei, the Amalfi Coast. Beginning at Agerola and snaking high above the coastline for 5 miles (8 km) the Pathway of the Gods is as close to paradise as hikers can get.

Valle del Dragone, Ravello. Take the path from Ravello down to Atrani and follow in the footsteps of locals before motorized transport hit the coast.

Beaches

The region is famed for its dramatically scenic beaches—stretches of sand, rocky plateaus above the big blue, crowd-pleasers and isolated coves all compete for your beach towel. Unsurprisingly, the islands offer the best fare, although the Amalfi Coast’s secluded bays are also a firm favorite.

Bagno della Regina Giovanna, Sorrento. Take the bus to Capo and it is a short walk to this rocky beach where it is said Queen Joan of Anjou bathed in the 14th century. It is indeed worthy of a monarch, with crystal clear water in a stunning setting.

Cetara. The clean, shallow water, adjacent park, and boats for hire make this one of the best spots on the Amalfi Coast for kids.

Citara, Ischia. This stretch of sandy beach is one of the island’s best, with the thermal waters of the Giardini di Poseidon occupying the final section.

Conca dei Marini, Amalfi Coast. Take the steps down to this drop-dead gorgeous cove below a 16th-century Saracen tower—crowded, but worth it.

Lido del Faro, Anacapri. Not technically a beach, but these natural seawater pools make a refreshing change, as do the rocky plateaus under Capri’s Fariglioni, frequented by those with deep wallets.

Spiaggia del Fornillo, Positano. With excellent standards of water quality, safety, and services, the Spiaggia has the glorious, rainbow-hued backdrop of Positano, but for a more informal atmosphere and lush vegetation, follow the Via Positanesi d'America to the Fornillo beach.

Updated: 2014-04-14

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