Southern Italy & Naples
With the form of a crescent Campania extends around the Bay of Naples at the foot of Mount Vesuvio. Ancient Greek civilizations were established here centuries ago, and many famous Romans such as Virgil, Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero, came to spend the winter here. Through the years the Region has seen seven successive Prince’s families reign over Naples, all leaving behind part of their culture: the Normans, Hohenstaufen, Angevins, Aragonese, Spanish, Bourbons, and finally the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, who was followed by Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon. From 1815 till the unification of Italy in 1869, the Bourbons were restored and remained in power.
In 1995 the historical part of Naples became a Unesco World Heritage site, but traffic is chaotic and extensive construction work is going on around the centre of the city. The city centre includes: Castel Nuovo, modeled on the Castle of Angers, the elegant iron and glass structure of the Galleria Umberto, full of shops and cafes, the Teatro San Carlo, the neoclassical opera house of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito, 17th century Palazzo Reale, and Porto de Santa Lucia. The heart of the city is the old town with its narrow streets, numerous churches, dilapidated palaces, noisy people, and streets full of small craft shops and family businesses. Among the churches you can visit is Santa Chiara and it beautiful cloisters, and also the 14th century Cathedral.
When in Naples we strongly recommend a visit to the Archeological Museum, whose collections belonged to the Farnese Family. This will provide a great introduction for your visit to Pompeii. It will help you to better visualize how the daily life was in Pompeii immediately before the eruption of Vesuvio.
If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere you may want to choose your hotel in Sorrento, in the hills of San Angelo, or in one of the quaint little villages of the Amalfi Coast. Many hotels will allow you to admire either the beautiful bay of Naples or the Gulf of Sorrento overlooking the islands of Capri and Ischia. The surrounding hills are flush with beautiful orange and lemon groves. For a few days you can travel around and enjoy the diversity of all the local sights: Pompeii and Ercolano, the two Roman towns completely buried under ashes when Vesuvius erupted in 79 BCE.
Or a day trip to the the Amalfi Coast to see the villages of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello; or spend the day climbing Mount Vesuvio and hiking around the crater (for this excursion the weather is usually clearer in the early morning). You can also plan to take the ferry and spend spend a day in the enchanting island of Capri, hike along the rugged rocky trails, among a luxuriant vegetation or to use the bus which takes you from Marina Grande, to Capri and Anacapri.
Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria.
The southern part of italy is in the shape of a boot and is split into three regions. Facing the Adriatic sea in the east is Puglia with the main cities of Bari, the capital and a very important harbor with traffic primarily to Greece and Croatia, and Lecce, with its baroque and rococo monuments.
Vineyards are all over, almond trees are mostly cultivated along the coast, and local olive groves are produce about 10% of the world’s olive oil. Luciana, also called Basilicata and Calabria, form the foot of the boot and stretch between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. Local climate and landscapes vary with altitude and proximity to the sea. Summers can be burning hot and dry, while other seasons are milder or quite cold in the upper Pollino Massif National Park. Since the fall of the Roman Empire the regions fell under the power of the Normans, the Sarrazins, Bizance and the Norman KIngdom of the two Sicilies before becoming part of Unified Italy after 1860. Earthquakes have at times been devastating and before the agrarian reform the regions were known for famine, poverty, bandits and heavy emigration toward other countries. Massiccio della Sila is a large plateau at nearly 4000 feet with large forests of pine and beech. Aspromonte Massif culminates at 6561 ft and is also covered with forests of chestnuts, oaks and beeches. Rivers are dry most of the time and panoramas along the roads are breathtaking. Scilla is a picturesque fishing village and swordfish is the main catch of the local fishermen. Tropea is a picturesque village built on the top of a cliff.