Naples – Caserta – Benevento – Avellino – Ischia – Capri – the Amalfi Coast – Sorrento
Naples overlooks one of the most romantic bays in the world, the capital of a region steeped in art and history dating back to Magna Grecia, whose excitable, lively people have devised celebrations and entertainment throughout the ages that still attract visitors all over the world. Naples, the birthplace of Pulcinella, Caruso, and pizza. Its environs are so well known, that perhaps people fail to full appreciate the city itself. We would like to suggest a few alternative tours for the visitor.
The first tour begins in Piazza del Municipio, with the 16th c. Church of S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli, dominated by the sturdy 13th century Castel Nuovo originally built by the angevin rulers. It was completely rebuilt under Alfonso I of Aragon (15th c.) by Catalan and Tuscan architets. Note the Renaissance triumphal arch entrance gate. In Piazza del Plebiscito is the neoclassical Church of S. Francesco di Paola and the grandiose Royal Palace built in 1600 by Domenico Fontana, renovated in 1700, and further embellished under the reign of Murat (internal courtyard, historical apartments, Court Theatre buit in 1768). Walking up Via Medina and Via Monteoliveto, we can see the Church of S. Anna dei Lombardi, which is itself a museum of Renaissance sculpture, and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale one of the world’s richest collections of sculptures, paintings, mosaics and objects which provide an exhaustive picture of the Graeco-Roman civilization.
The second tour begins in Piazza Gesu’ Nuovo on the road known as “Spaccanapoli” , where wi still visit the church of Gesu Nuovo with its imposing 16th c. ashlars facade, and the nearby Provencal Gothic 14th c. Church of S. Chiara, with its rich art collection. From here we can visit the ancient cloister of adjacent Poors Clares’ Convent (Chiostro delle Clarisse), faced with lively coloured tiles, and a superb example of a rustic 18th centry garden. Next the Church of S. Domenico Maggiore, then Palazzo Cuomo (15th c.) with the Filangieri Municipal Museum (paintings; weaponry, ceramics, porcelain, needlework and archaeological findings), and the cathedral, built in the 13th century on the site on an Early Christian basilica. Inside in the richly decorated Chapel of S. Gennaro, and the Chapel of S. Restituta – Naples’ earliest Chistian Basilica. If we have time, we can go to see the Churches of S. Maria Donnaregina (Gothic, spendid frescoes), Monte della Misericordia (works by Caravaggio), S. Lorenzo Maggiore and S. Pietro a Maiella, with the nearby Conservatoire of Music, bosting a long glorious tradition, with its interesing museum.
Our third tour takes us to huge Capuana Gate, the Church of S. Giovanni Carbonara, the Catacombs of S. Gennaro extraordinary museums: The Museo and Gallerie of Capodimonte in Capodimonte Park (works by Simone Martini, Masaccio, Botticelli, Correggio, Mantegna, El Greco, Titia, Brueghel, van der Weyden, etc. , works of the 19rth century Neapolitan school; a collection of over 3,000 pieces of porcelain and ceramic tiles; the De Ciccio collection; the “porcelain room”, 1757); the Museo Nazionale di San Martino in the Arthurian Monastery of S. Martino (church, naval museum, cribs, sculptures, glass and porcelain, picture gallery, cloister); the Museo Nazionale della Ceramica in the neoclasssical Villa Floridiana standing in its splendid grounds. All three museums stand high above the city, from where we can take in the magnificent view of the bay. There are many delightful walks in the city , as well: from via Partenope to via Caracciolo, from the Riviera di Chiaia to Mergellina, from the Belvedere up to Posillipo to Marechiaro and the little island of Nisida, from the Vomero to Pizzofalcone hill.
Now we will explore the treasures in the country around Naples, rich in art and history : the spa resort of Pozzuoli with the Temple of Serapis, the Flavian amphitheatre , the sulphur springs; and a few miles is Capo MIseno and Lake Lucrino and Averno, Baia and Bacoli (archaeologiacal park) ; the ancient Greek and Roman city of Cumae, mainly famed for the most sacred shrine in ancient Italy , and immortalized by Virgil: the oracle of the Cumae Sybil. Capua (the Cathedral, Museo Campano) is our next port of call, and the Basilica of S. Angelo in Formis, perhaps the Campanias’ region most interesting mediaeval church, with superb frescoes.
Caserta, Benevento and Avellino
Caserta grew up around Vanvitelli’s majestic Royal Palace (1200 rooms!) surrounded by a magnificien park full of fountains. 6 lies on is the mediaeval hamlet of Casera Vecchia with a fine Cathedral. We now go to Benevento originally a Sannite town , with Roman Monuments (theatre, arch of Traian) and Lombard remains. Visit the Chatedral , the Church of S. Sofia, the Rettori Castle, and the Museo del Sannio. 20 iles further on in the center of the green Irpinia region is Avellino (visiting the Museo Irpino). This is a little known region, unfortunately, but its beautiful forest and hills, dotted with ancient towns and villages, with its prehistoric, Roman and Mediaeval remains makes it a fascinating area to visit.
A few words on the other places close to Naples, which hardly need an introduction: the islands of Procida, Ischia and Capri deserve a much fuller description that can give here Procida, with its pretty houses, so dear to painters and poets; Ischia with its wonderful beaches and spas (Ischia Porto, Barano, Casamicciola Terme, Forio, Sant’Angelo and the elegant Lacco Ameno), and the enchanting isle of Capri a favourite international tourist resort on account of its unspoiled natural beauty, climate, vegetation, and a favourite haunt of the Roman Emperors.
Then there is Mount Vesuvius, where we go up to the edge of crater; or Ercolano (Herculaneum) and Pompeii; or we can drive aroun the marvellous Amalfi Coast where every thiny town deserves a visit: Castellamare di Stabia , Vico Equense, and Sorrento, sorrounded by its orange and lemon groves , and gardens; the elegant resort of Positano, Praiano, Maiori, Minori, Vietri sul Mare, and the noble town of Amalfi whose glorious past as Maritime Republic has bequeathed in the Gothic Arsenal, and the magnifcient Cathedral with the Paradise cloister (13th c.). From Amalfi we can visit the “Emerald Grotto” or drive up to Ravello, and see the Romanesque cathedral , Villa Cimbrone with its famous belvedere), and Villa Rufolo which Wagner used as the magic garden for his Parsifal.