Royal and Cultural Capitals Archaeology Parks and Museums Caves and Volcanoes
The ancient Romans called this part of Italy Campania Felix. Baia, Puteoli, Pompeii, Stabia and Capri were their favorite destinations. Then and now, Happy Campania is famed for its ancient ruins, coastal resorts and world renowned culinary traditions. A cultural and national capital for much of its nearly three-thousand-year history, Naples is home to art museums, the San Carlo opera house and a spectacular bay framed by Mt. Vesuvius, affectionately and fearfully referred to by the local inhabitants as The Monster.
Royal and Cultural Capitals
Caserta is best known for its 18th century royal palace and gardens and the medieval borgo of Caserta Vecchia. Equally and historically important are the San Leucio silk works, a Unesco site, and the Living Silk Museum with its original looms and machinery showing all the phases of silk productions.
Naples is best defined by the stratification of the various periods in the city’s history that can be viewed in the historic center, the oldest continuously inhabited urban community in the Western World. It corresponds to the ancient city founded by the Athenians around 450 B.C. as Neapolis, through Roman and Medieval times. It includes over 250 churches, palazzi from the 13th through the 20thcentury and countless art treasures.
Your exploration starts from the Forum, then under the Gothic Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore to view the ruins of the Roman streets and the Macellum, the food market. Then on to San Gregorio Armeno, where the world famous Neapolitan Crib art are made, and the Cappella Sansevero and the sculpture of the Veiled Christ. A few square miles with three castles, a royal palace, world class museums, the world’s second oldest university and bank. Also, an underground city with ancient aqueducts, caves, catacombs, myths, legends and a modern subway system whose stations are covered with art.
Salerno is renowned for its medieval historic center and the world’s first medical school. Under the rule of the Sanseverino family, it became a center of learning, culture and the arts. The city was also briefly the capital of Italy in 1943, following the Allied invasion of southern Italy. Benevento occupies the site of the ancient Maleventum, the site of bad events, and a major defeat by the Roman army. It was supposedly founded by Diomedes after the Trojan War. Santa Sofia Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of a group of seven historic buildings dating from the Longobard era – 558 to 774 ad. The historic center is an open-air museum.
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Archaeological Parks and Museums
South of Naples the road and railway along the slopes of Mount Vesuvius that connects Naples with the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast is known as the Golden Mile and is replete with archeological parks and museums. Pompeii’s excavations, begun in the 18th century, are still being carried out today. Strolling through some of the ancient streets, you can see baths, forums and villas built by the prosperous Romans in what was the empire’s second most important city.
Poppea’s imperial villa in Oplonti features magnificent wall decorations and Stabia was home to luxury villas.The Boscoreale Museum is dedicated to Roman era daily life, including the excavation of a suburban factory. Also, the MAV – virtual archeological museum – with 3D videos of the Vesuvius eruption.
North of Naples the bays of Miseno, Baia and Pozzuoli were the home port of the Roman Navy, Baia’s Imperial Palace featured baths with waters of volcanic origin and the Flaegrean Fields Archeological Museum includes finds from Baia’s submerged city. In Pozzuoli, the Temple of Serapide, is famous for the cyclical sinking of its grounds and the Flavian Amphitheater was the third largest arena of the empire.
In Naples, the Botanical Gardens feature Living Roman Plants and seeds to bring back Pompeii’s plants. Charles of Bourbon put the largest art collection in Italy, the Farnese collection inherited by his mother Elisabeth, into the National Archeological Museum. Over the years, the largest archaeological collection of all time, relics from Pompeii and the villas buried under the ashes of Vesuvius in 79 BC, were brought here, including mosaics, paintings and jewelry.
The Cilento Coast is littered with hilltop medieval villages, olive groves and spectacular beaches. Paestum’s Museum and Archeological Park is a Unesco site and the heart of Magna Grecia. Further south, Velia and its famed pink door.
Caves and Volcanoes
Vesuvius itineraries feature a walking tour of the volcano’s crater, with a spectacular bird’s eye view of Naples bay, with a focus on the volcano’s last eruption in 1944 and night tours with electric torches. Choose between the Valley of Hell trail or a shorter and easier lava trail.
Solfatara is in a park near Pozzuoli and features boiling mud lakes and fumarole.
Pertosa Grottoes a fascinating cave complex; you enter the grottoes with a boat.
Castelcivita Grottoes a surreal and geologically active underground excursion.
Amalfi Windmill Valley the medieval maritime superpower’s paper mills powered by windmills.
Solfatara Geo Lab interactive, multimedia geophysics and volcanology labs with the following programs: Vesuvius eruptions; shake like a leaf; yesterday, today and tomorrow; Phlegraean Fields; a super volcano at Naples’ doorstep.
Portici Botanic Lab a unique educational workshop in the Portici Royal Palace; small plants kits are issued to children to transform their schools’ window sills and flower beds into mini botanic gardens.
Castelcivita Speleo Lab workshop and tour of Caving equipment and techniques, Carsius caves characteristics and Castlecivita Neanderthal.
Vesuvius Minerological Lab workshop, walking tour and souvenir mineral kit.
ENEA Research Center solar energy and environmental technology applications at Italy’s energy and Environment Institute.
Eolic Park San Marco dei Cavoti historic center tour and visit to one of Italy’s most important wind energy parks.
Educational Workshops carried out by local mall businesses specializing in the culinary traditions of Campania region includes: warm bread covered with hazelnut cream, mozzarella, black pig salame and cheese filled panini and panuozzo. The workshops follow five themes: the five senses of food; food chemistry and fraud; Campania and international recipes; insects and bio-agriculture; digesting food; fruits and vegetables.
Making Pasta in Gragnano, a town nestled between Pompeii and the Sorrento peninsula, it’s an ancient art form that involves history, culture, patience, secrets and traditions. The town’s main street was laid out to capture the mountain breeze mixed with sea air back when pasta makers hung spaghetti on drying rods. Today, it is dried with heaters at 122F for two days.
Making Pizza on the Slopes of the Vesuvius; a Food Tasting Experience
Theater and the Divine Comedy
Hell Dante’s Inferno portrayed in the Castelcivita Caves; an underground itinerary filled with music, lights, multimedia reconstructions and 30 actors that bring alive Italy’s literary masterpiece.
Purgatory the journey continues in the gardens of the Padula Chartreuse where you meet Catone Uticense, Purgatory’s keeper.
Paradise the performance concludes in the enchanting settings of Salerno’s Arechi Castle and the Amalfi Coast, guided by Dante in person!