Italy

Highlights

Spaccanapoli & via dei Tribunali

The sticky flagstones of these long and atmospheric Graeco-Roman decumani streets are at the very heart of Naples. Weave between buzzing vespas and eavesdrop on Neapolitan street banter while unravelling the city’s historic layers, discovering secret cloisters, pious sights, quirky shops, and many dark, esoteric tales and customs. Giving in to the delicious smells and tastes of pizza and pastries is part of the experience.
 
Santa Chiara cloisters

A few steps away from the nearby Spaccanapoli bustle is an enchanting cloistered world. Walking amid ornate arcades and faded frescoes, your eyes are drawn to the sparkling courtyard scene of wisteria creepers, citrus trees and vibrant majolica tiles with their whirls of blue, green and yellow.

Cappella di Sansevero

Raimondo VII Prince of Sansevero, a learned Enlightenment figure, refurbished his family chapel filling it with some of the most exquisite statuary in Italy. A vibrant frescoed ceiling, La Gloria del Paradiso, full of mysterious Masonic symbols and two chilling anatomical figures allegedly created by princely alchemy, add to Raimondo’s mystique.
 
Palazzo Reale & Museo di Capodimonte

A lavish Bourbon palace containing one of Italy’s most impressive art collections and royal apartments crammed with gilt and Capodimonte porcelain. The lush landscaped gardens are a favourite for a kickabout and picnics.

Certosa di San Martino

This Carthusian monastery sits on the Vomero hill, with the most sublime views across the bay. Important artworks and various collections, including fascinating old maps and views of the city, chronicle Neapolitan history while its Baroque cloisters are studded with Cosimo Fanzago’s skulls.

Reggia di Caserta

Carlo III of Bourbon’s grandiose dream of a palace and adminstrative centre might not have gone quite to plan, but his Luigi Vanvitelli-designed, Versailles-aping vision is mightily impressive nonetheless. After dipping into a fraction of its five floors and 1200 rooms, there are expansive gardens to explore filled with fountains, statuary and Queen Maria Carolina’s fantastical follies. 

Pozzuoli

Pozzuoli, ancient Puteoli, was an important Roman harbour west of Naples. It retains a grimy charm, some fascinating Roman ruins – including the Anfiteatro Flavio – and a nearby crater, the Solfatara, full of bubbling, hissing, sulphurous menace.

Piscina Mirabilis

One of the Campi Flegrei’s least visited sites is a subterranean Roman cistern with cathedral-like wonders, atmospheric light-effects and magical acoustics. Water was fed to it from the Apennines along another incredible feat of Roman engineering, the Aqua Augusta (Serino Aqueduct).

Vesuvius

Mainland Europe’s only active volcano may not have erupted since 1944 but don’t underestimate ‘Il Dominatore’. Vulcanologists reckon there’s 400 sq km of molten rock 8 km below its fizzing fumaroles. A trip to its summit allows you to peer into its crater and down old lava fields to Pompeii and across the bay. 

Herculaneum

The compact well-to-do Roman resort buried by over 15 m of pyroclastic debris by the AD 79 eruption reveals fine architectural details and artistic riches that allow you to imagine the cultured beachside lifestyle of its doomed inhabitants.

Pompeii

Nothing prepares you for the scale of the most well-known archaeological dig of them all – a town buried in a searing volcanic time capsule for nearly 2000 years. Amid its villas and public spaces, filled with mosaics, frescoes and vulgar Latin graffiti, captivating insights into Roman life are still coming to light.
 
Baia di Ieranto & Marina del Cantone

Towards wild Punta Campanella are the emerald and azure waters of the Bay of Ieranto and nearby Marina del Cantone, where yachts drop anchor, snorkellers and swimmers splash around and diners eat fresh seafood at beachside restaurants on stilts.
 
Sentiero degli Dei

The Trail of the Gods consists of two trails (a lower trail and a higher ridge walk) and is best tackled going westwards, for backpack-dropping views of Capri and the Amalfi Coast – it reaches the most divine heights between Grotta Biscotto and Nocella.

Ravello

Splendidly isolated and refined Ravello has inspired literary works and epic operas, including Wagner’s Parsifal. Its lofty location and genteel atmosphere is the backdrop to the annual, highbrow cultural scrum, the Ravello Festival, but its real charm lies in its Norman-Saracenic villas with their magical garden terraces and shimmering coastal views, and an alluring Romanesque Duomo.

Paestum

Mainland Italy’s most important Greek ruins and its three impressive Doric temples emerge out of the wild meadows on the plains of the Sele River – a vision of a lost civilization. Arty adventurers like Shelley, Canova and Goethe made it the climax of the Grand Tour.

Villa Jovis

Emperor Tiberius’s infamous palace of pleasure and pain on the island of Capri, from where he ruled the Roman Empire from AD 27 to AD 37, is reached via twisting, scented paths with scampering lizards and abundant birdlife. There are dizzying views from the specularium terrace and atop the 300-m cliffs of Tiberius’s Leap, where unfortunate victims were flung to the ocean below.

Monte Solaro

As you rise serenely to the 600-m zenith of Capri on a single-seat chairlift, your feet dangle above terraced gardens and Anacapri’s chiming bells fade into the distance. On top, you can only linger, enjoying an ice cream and surveying shimmering vistas of the Faraglioni Rocks and the bays of Naples and Salerno.
 
Monte Epomeo

Ischia’s dead volcano is reached on a wooded path that rises to otherworldly tufa rock formations pitted with volcanic bubbles. Clear days on the summit allow awe-inspiring views while cloudy ones evoke an eerie atmosphere that is just as memorable. 

Spiaggia dei Maronti

It’s a water taxi ride away from Ischia’s charming Sant’Angelo to this 2-km-long stretch of volcanic sand. The spiaggia calda (hot beach) is studded with steaming fumaroles and relaxing bar-restaurants. Just be careful not to get sizzled red like a lobster.
 
Marina di Chiaiolella

Corricella may be lauded for its pastel-hued beauty beloved of film makers but crescent-shaped Chiaiolella, which sits in a volcanic crater, has oodles of harbour charm, some smart restaurants and nearby beaches.

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