Blue Southern Seas
Pompeii - Salerno - Paestum - Cosenza - the Sila - Reggio Calabria - Catanzaro - Crotone - Padula

Pompei - Villa dei Misteri, Roman fresco

Pompeii and Ercolano
We begin in Naples, bound for Ercolano and Pompei, the two towns destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is an unforgettable experience to visit these excavations that take us back nearly 2000 years. At Herculaneum we will see the houses (particularly those called "Sannitica", "Bicentenario", and "Cervi") and the urban and suburban Baths and Gymnasium. The most intersting things to see at Pompei are the Roman Forum, the large and small Theatres, Via dell'Abbondanza, the Amphitheatre, the Stabian Baths, the Houses of Menandro, the Vettii brothers, the Fauno, and the Villa of Diomedes and the Mysteries ("Misteri") which is famed in particular for the very beautiful frescoes which are still in an excellent condition.

Salerno - Arechis' Castle
Our next stop is Salerno, which in the Middle Ages became the site of the first medical school in the world. In the 16th century, under the Sanseverino family, among the most powerful feudal lords in southern Italy, the city became a great centre of learning, culture and the arts, and the family hired several of the greatest intellectuals of the time. Its superb monuments include the 11th c. Cathedral, the Churches of SS. Annunziata (14th century), San Gregorio (10th century), San Benedetto (originally part of a monastery from 7th-9th centuries), San Pietro a Corte (10th century), the Castello di Arechi ("Arechis' Castle") with a spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno. We will then visit the Museo del Duomo and the Museo Provinciale, before leaving for Paestum.

Paestum - Temple of Athena
one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in Italy. Its Doric temples stand in isolation, solemny lookink out to sea. The museum is full of fascinating exibits: sculptures, material from the former Greek town of Poseidonia, a 6th c. statue of Zeus, vases and paintings, of which the most beautiful are the five painted stone tablets from the tomb of the "Tuffatore" (the diver). Driving south, we come to the delightful coastal town and hamlets of Agropoli, Santa Maria di Catellabate, Acciaroli, and Ascea Marina. But before we do, let's stop by the nearby excavation of Velia (founded in 535 BC, and famous for its philosophy school), and see the fragments of the town walls, the baths, the acropolis, temples and the superb 4th c. Porta Rosa gate. Along this coast are endless unspoiled beaches: Palinuro, with its beautiful caves, Marina di Camerota, Sapri and Maratea in one of the most charming parts of Gulf of Policastro. The Calabrian coast begins at Praia a Mare, facing the nearby island of Dino, and we drive down through delightful coastal villages and towns, such as Scalea, Diamante, Marina di Belvedere, Marina di Cetaro and Paola.

Cosenza - Gothic Cathedral

We then leave the coast for an interesting drive inland towards Cosenza and the Sila mountain range. Cosenza has had a rich cultural and historic past; the Cosentian Academy in the city was one of the earliest academies in Europe which makes the city an important one in Italian history. The province has been conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spainish. This rich history is reflected in their buildings and their cultures. In Cosenza we can see the Gothic Cathedral, and the Church of San Domenico, San Francesco d'Assisi and San Francesco di Paola, the municipal museum and the Arab-Norman Castle.

Palmi - Mount Sant'Elia view

• The Sila
The Sila is a huge forested mountain range where the visitor can spend hours on the shores of Lakes Ampollino, Arvo and Cecita, and stay in the well-equipped towns of Camigliatello, Villaggio Mancuso, Lorica and San Giovanni in Fiore (with the 12th c. Florense Abbey). Driving through Aprigliano, Rogliano and Falerna Marina (with a visit to Vibo Valentia), Briatico, Tropea , Capo Vaticano, Rosarno, Gioia Tauro nesting amid olive groves, vineyards, olive and lemon orchards, we come to Palmi in a splendid setting overlooking the "Violet Coast". From the nearby Mt Sant'Elia we can enjoy the view right across the Palmi plain and the Calabrian and Sicilian coast from Mt. Etna to the Aeolian Islands. Further south lie Bagnara, Scilla, with its Castle standing high on a mythical steeply sloping hill and one of the most famous sword fishing centres.

Stilo - Byzantine Basilica "Cattolica"
Reggio Calabria
Reggio Calabria, where we will take a pleasant stroll along the seafront before visiting the rich Museo Nazionale with the famous Greek statues "Bronzi di Riace". We will drive up to Gambarie d'Aspromonte, where we can combine the joys of the mountain and the sea. We now continue along the picturesque, uns[poliled Ionian coast via Bova Marina, Capo Spartivento, Bovalino, Locri (with the excavations of Locri Epizephyirii, one of the most prosperous cities of Magna Graecia), and Gerace, with its Romanesque Cathedral, fine churches and Castle, Siderno, Marina di Gioiosa and Roccella Ionica, and Monasterace Marina. We shall make a detour inland at this point to see the typical 10th c. Byzantine "Cattolica" at Stilo, and then drive back down via Marina di Badolato, Soverato, Copanello, the "Roccelletta" of Squillace (ruins of an interesting 10th c. church) and Catanzaro Marina.

Crotone, Le Castella - Castle
In Catanzaro we can visit the Church of the Rosario and the Provincial Museum. Heading north up the coast we drive through a number of very attractive sites: the "Castella" (remains of an Aragonese castle overlooking the sea), Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Capo Colonna where the ancient shrine of Hera Lacinia used to stand, Crotone, (Cathedral, 16th c. Castle, archaeological museum). Driving through Cirò Marina, famed for its wines, we reach Rossano, which was very important in the Byzantine period (Cathedral , Church of San Marco, Diocesan Museum whose greatest treasure is the "purple codex", an incredible 6th c. Byzantine illuminated manuscript). We suggest a detour to the Church of Santa Maria del Patire (12th c.), from where we can view the magnificient panorama across the Sibari plain, before going to Sibari itself to see the excavations and museum. This was the first Greek colony on the Gulf of Taranto, known as Sybaris, and subsequently became powerful and prosperous. Inland is Castrovillari, with its picturesque ancient city (Aragonese castle, 15th c.). Castrovillari and Morano Calabro are excellent base for excurtions to Mt. Pollino wich majestically lords it over both Calabria and Basilicata. If we have time, we can take two other trips : to Lungro, the spiritual centre of the Albanians who settled in this area in the 15th c. , and Altomonte, to see the interesting Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione with its French Gothic features and superb sculptures and painting inside. We the drive down to Mormanno, where we rejoin the motorway to return to Neaples.

The Monastery of Padula
If possible, we must try to leave the road before Sala Consilina to visit the interesting Carthusian Monastery of S. Lorenzo in Padula, built between 1300 and 1800, and the adjacent, one of the most interesting museums in Southern Italy, the Museo Archeologico della Lucania Occidentale (Archaeological Museum of Western Lucania).
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