Naples Surroundings

One of the most utterly fascinating places in Italy

I exist only because inside of me and above all else I am only and above all a Neapolitan. Naples exists inside of me, and always will. Fortunately for me there is this treasure that I have inside of me and, when I need it, then I pull it out. Sophia Loren

Amalfitanan Coast, "La Divina"

Outstanding example of Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values, the peninsular territory of the Amalfitan coast lies between the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. Thirteen of its villages winds down the side of Monti Lattari, towards the sea. The divine Coast is a characteristic combination of sea and mountains, of bays and inlets, of strong slopes, of fretted cliffs and steep white rocks winding towards the sea. Some of the creeks and the coves are often attainable only by sea, such as the wonderful Grotta dello Smeraldo in Conca dei Marini or the fiords of Furore.Winding roads runs through the coast.
The Coast is characterised by the typical cultivations on the terraced land where the most important product are lemons and other citruses. Lemons are mostly sweet; they can also be eaten in slices, as a dessert, with or without sugar. A legend tells that the inhabitants of Minori convinced the Pope to give them back the bishopric giving him as a present a basket with lemons and other citruses. Lemons are used for cakes and to make the "limoncello", a traditional yellow liqueur famous all over the world.
The beauty of the landscape along with the rich historical and cultural patrimony attract tourists from all over the world towards Vietri sul mare, Cetara, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Scala, Praiano, Atrani, Positano, Amalfi, Conca dei Marini, Furore and Tramonti.


Proud of its beautiful and glorious past, although not pretentious, Amalfi is the oldest of the Maritime Republics. Breathtaking views, history, traditions, and modern comforts give every visitor the chance to spend a relaxing and exciting holiday. Romantically situated at the mouth of a deep gorge, Amalfi is also a convenient starting point for excursions to Capri and to the worldwide known Grotta Smeralda.
Once in the town, your visit should start from its numerous historical sites and monuments. Whitewashed houses clinged on the rocks leads to the magnificient Cathedral of Saint Andrew, marking the town centre.

The Church rises at the end of many steep steps and dominates the homonym square. The original plan of the building, dating back to the ninth century, was deeply transformed in a Sicilian Arab-Norman shape and then restructured over the centuries. The gorgeous faade, rebuilt after its collapse in 1861, shows remarkable mosaic decoration in the tympanum, portraying Christ enthroned. To the left of the faade rises the bell tower, erected between 1180 and 1276. Amalfi's origin dates back to the first century A.C. when the Roman aristocracy built luxurious villas in this area. City of strong marine traditions, Amalfi prospered mainly because of the wealthy Mediterranean traffics: the city owned a powerful fleet of ships, and issued maritime laws known as Tabula de Amalpha. Fishing traditions are still very rooted among the countrymen of Flavio Gioia, the famous inventor of the compass.

The proud Amalfitans gained their independence in 838 fighting against the Longobardi who had conquered the peninsula causing the fall of the Roman Empire. The decline of the city began between the XI and XII century when Amalfi was subdued by the Pisan army. The watch towers, still scattered along the coastline, are a charming and everlasting sign of these conflicts.

If your wish in visiting Amalfi is to get in touch with its inner spirit, we recommend to leave the main roads, usually packed with tourists, and zigzag your way through the narrow streets running along the houses, winding your way through the little squares and covered passages where merchants used to sell their merchandise. The most famous square is Piazza dei Dogi, also known as Piazza dei Ferrari as it hosted several smiths' shop. The unique atmosphere of the city will surprise you. You should not miss the traditional visit to the Museo della Carta, to admire the old "ingegni", as the machines used in the paper mills were known.
The Museo dell'Agricoltura is another interesting stop. There you will admire the rudimental tools used by amalphitain farmers to produce the renowned lemons called "sfusato amalfitano".
The natural Reserve of Valle delle Ferriere would be an interesting stop for adventure lovers. You will also see many paper mills ruins.
Among the many historical buildings of Amalfi, you will admire the old monastery of "S.Benedetto", today seat of both the Municipality and the Museo Civico where you'll find the famous "Tabula de Amalpha", the Codice Foscariniano and some nautical instruments.


Founded by the Romans and soon become one of the most developed towns on the Amalfitan Coast, the economic strenght of Maiori largely reposed on the town's strong fleet and wide harbour.
Colony of Amalfi, seat of the Arsenals, of the Admiralty, as well as of the Customs and the salt warehouse, Maiori managed to resist the Norman invasions. The decline of both trade and industry was caused by the Pisan invasion in 1268, when the city was sacked and destroyed. In 1348 an epidemic of plague broke out in Maiori, but the town rapidly recovered from the catastrophe:silks and wool began to be produced in the numerous manufacturing establishments sprang up everywhere and then shipped all over the Mediterranean Sea. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the first paper factories were established, following in the tradition of others Amalfitan cities. In 1502 Maiori became involved in the first hostilities between the Spanish and the French: historically loyal to the French king it later became a supporter of the Spanish.
Today Maiori is mainly a bathing resort, offering relaxing and pleasant holidays to thousand of tourists.

What to see:


The legend has it that Positano was founded by the God of the sea Poseidon (or Neptun) to host his beloved nymph Pasitea and later settled by a group of inhabitants from Paestum who were escaping an attack of Saraceni.

Located in one of the most beautiful valleys of the Amalfitan Coast, Positano's beauty strikes both the heart and the eyes. Once a forgotten fishing village, on the slopes of the mounts Comune and Sant'Angelo a Tré Pizzi, Positano has become an open-air museum, enriched by its liveliness, colours, history and character. From the first decade of the 20th Century painters, writers, musicians, bohemian artists and members of the international jet-set have continued to frequent this cosmopolitan area known all over the world. The white, pink and yellow houses of Positano weave themselves, spiralling, around terraces shaded by palms, lemon-trees, flower-filled gardens and cascading, multi-coloured bougainvillaeas. In a picturesque winding path, made up of passageways, stairs and steps, you will follow a maze of intricate alleyways and little squares, filled with a myriad of colourful shops and arty boutiques. With regards to the shopping, the foremost thing on offer is clothing, worldwide known as "Positano fashion".
In this vibrant kaleidoscope of colours and noise sits, above the Marina Grande, the great majolica mosaic dome of the Collegiata of Santa Maria Assunta, a church dating back to the 13th century and sheltering a wonderful Byzantine icon known as "Madonna di Positano". Silence and contemplation reign supreme.
On the seaside, you will also see some towers, used for defensive purpose against the pirates assaults, like the "Torre Trasita" and "Torre Sponda".


Founded in the VI century A.D. by the Roman aristocracy, Ravello reached its prosperity in the 10th century thanks to extensive traffics throughout the Mediterranean, and to a strong textile industry (wool and cotton). The decline of Ravello occurred in the 12th century under the Norman duke Ruggero II. The Pisan invasion in 1337 deprived Ravello of its independence and political power.
Set "closer to the sky than the sea," as Andr Gide once said, the town has been the ultimate aerie ever since it was founded as a smart suburb for the richest families of the Amalfitan Republic. Rediscovered by English aristocrats a century ago, the town hosts every year a famous music festival.
Perched on a ridge between Amalfi and the neighboring town of Atrani, the enchanting village of Ravello offers marvellous views, quiet lanes, two important Romanesque churches, and several irresistibly romantic gardens.
The Church ercted in honour of San Pantaleone was built in the 11th century, on behalf of Bishop Orso Pavico. The entrance doors, made in Constantinople in the 12th century, look like the doors of the Amalfitan Cathedral. On the inside you should not miss the museum sheltering numerous historical remains as well as the 13th century marble statues of Niccol di Bartolomeo and the 12th century mosaics representing Giona eaten by Pistrice.

In the Church of S. Giovanni del Toro, built at the end of 10th century you will admire a 12th century "ambone" and a Renaissance wooden Crucifix.

Don't miss Villa Rufolo, erected in the 12th century on behalf of the Rufolo family, and Villa Cimbrone. Both of them offer amazingly beautiful gardens. Moreover, from Villa Cimbrone you could enjoy a divine panoramic view, from the Amalfitan Coast to the Costa Cilentana. Classical music concerts are held every year in Villa Rufolo.


Few places in the world radiate the same charm of Sorrento. The picturesque resort on the Bay of Naples boasts a marvelous climate, beautiful views, trendy boutiques, interesting museums and a vibrant night life. Situated on a plateau high above the waters of the Bay of Naples it offers truly spectacular views. You will be fascinated by its terraces, hung with flowers, and by its winding streets and alleys above above the small harbor. Shops, cheerful bars, and cafs are in every street corner.
Legend has it that Sorrento was founded by Liparos, son of Ausone, who was the king of the Ausoni and son of Ulysses and Circe. In fact the town was under the influence of Greek culture, as we can infer from the archeological remains of Parsano Gate and Marina Grande Gate.

During the first half of Roman Imperial age Sorrento became a very popular holiday resort for wealthy patricians, who considered the entire Gulf of Naples, from the Flegreian Plains to Sorrento, an ideal place to spend the summer months and the otium periods. Therefore several Villae Maritimae sprang up in this area: magnificent lodgings, each with a landing place from the sea, spacious private residences, sometimes farms where oil and wine were produced with the crops belonging to the dominus.

Sorrento is 50 km from Naples: from there you can choose among several means of transport to reach it.
From the Airport of Capodichino there are daily buses leaving every two-three hours, while from the Central Railway station you can catch the local train called "Circumvesuviana" also stopping at Herculaneum and Pompeii. You can also walk to Molo Beverello were you can catch hydrofoils or ferryboats to reach Sorrento.

Grotta dello Smeraldo

In the Municipality of Conca dei Marini, some five kilometres from Amalfi, you will be enchanted by the Emerald Grotto, a beautiful green cave reacheable by boat: from Amalfi's harbour it will take only few minutes.
The Grotto has an area of about 30 x 60 metres. Its ceiling riches as high as 24 metres. From these heights hang Nature's own "chandeliers": numerous stalactites, thin and delicate, catching the light. But the most unusual rock formations are the stalagmites, which seem to emerge from the sea, twisting upwards towards the ceiling. Some are over 10 metres high, and are so wide that it is impossible to encircle them with your arms. Beneath the water, covered by about four metres of water, an original Christmas Crib in ceramic. The blue and green sea, reflecting on both the ceiling and the floor of the cave, casts a mysterious and almost holy glow on the Grotto's walls.

Grotta Azzurra

Once tought to be the haunt of Emperor Tiberius who gained access to the wondrous grotto by a secret passage, the Grotta Azzurra was "rediscovered" in 1826 by the two painters August Kopisch and Ernst Fries, with their Capri host Don Giuseppe Pagano. Then it was forgotten again. The Blue Grotto's modern fame was assured when, years later, the young German poet Wilhelm Waiblinger came to Capri and wrote an ode about the blue cave, which became an overnight sensation back in Germany and inspired Hans Christian Andersen to use the Grotta Azzurra as a setting in his 1835 novel, The Improvisor.

As one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, it can be overrun with tour boats during peak midday hours. Legend claims that a ship with a cargo of Tyrian purple dye (a color the exclusive province of Roman emperors) sank below the grotto coloring its waters a wine-dark blue. Its walls the color of opals, the Grotta Azzurra is a very enchantment of a blue partaking the intensity of sky, lapislazzuli stones and sea.

This area was once the site of an ancient Roman nymphaeum, and marble statues that were found here are now on view in the Certosa di San Giacomo museum. Equipped of face mask, snorkel, and flippers, experienced snorkelers like to swim into the cave in the usual way, then about-face and dive under for 10 or so ft, then swim toward and under the huge undersea arch to finally pop up in the sea outside. The distance is about 65 ft, so this should only be attempted by professional snorkelers with companions. Old-timers tell you to watch out for the small purple jellyfish that deliver a rather annoying sting. If you decide to be venturesome here, always take extra precautions and be ever alert for your own safety.

Amalfi Coast Beaches

Except for the showpieces in Positano, Atrani, Maiori, and Minori, the beaches of the Amalfitan Coast are generally disappointing, as they usually consist of small patches of coarse gray sand, or just a few rocks below the precipices. In these parts, it's the water that compels: infinite shades of aquamarine, lapis, and amethyst -- shimmering in sunshine, glowing silver in moonlight, and becoming transparent in coves. Sometimes the best regional beaches are the most unheralded, such as those hidden along the Sorrento Peninsula, to the west and south, many of them reachable only by footpath or boat. The longest and widest beaches on the Amalfitan Coast are in Maiori and Minori.

As space is at a premium, few organized beachside activities are available. The so-called scalinatelle leads to rocky coves, where the adults dip and sunbathe and the children play hide-and-seek. The terrain below sea level is as craggy and steep as the land above -- a boon for good swimmers -- but as most of the beaches shelve quite steeply, caution needs to be taken, especially with kids.

Among Positano's beaches, Spiaggia Grande is the largest and widest. Fishermen -- once the dominant workforce -- now function as a cooperative group, supplying local kitchens; they can be seen cleaning their colorful, flipped-over boats and mending their torn nets throughout the day, seemingly oblivious to the surrounding throngs. To the west you will find the less crowded Spiaggia di Fornillo, from which you can reach on foot the beautiful Via Positanesi d'America. Fornillo, vast and hemmed in by impressive cliffs, is really worth the walk. To the east of Positano there is a string of small, pretty beaches, separated only by coves: La Porta, Fiumicello, Arienzo, San Pietro, and Laurito, most of which accessible only by boat.

Isole dei Galli

Nearby Positano, just out of the bay, there is a group of small islands, called "Li Galli". Described by Omero in the Odissea as the place where Ulysses met the Syrens, they have belonged to the choreographer Leonide Massine and to the dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
Although private property, those islets are a nice place to get to by boat for a swim.
A small fortress was built thereduring the Amalfitan Republic era, where the removed duke Mansone II was exiled.
Don't forget that this stretch of sea is very dangerous: many shipwrecks, from the Roman Empire until today have been found there.

Natural Reserve "Ferriere"

Opened in 1972, the Natural Reserve "Ferriere" is situated in the north of the Amalfitan valley. It covers an area of 455 hectares, between the Scala's mounts and the "Canneto" river. The reserve's special position shelters it from the cold winter wind: the average temperature, all the year round, is of about 15 degrees, with an high tax of humidity.
The special climate enables to preserve endangered vegetal species such as the Woodwardia radicans, pre-glacial giant fern or the Pteris cretica, the Pteris vittata, the Terminalis heath and the little carnivorous plant Pinguicola hirtiflora.

The geomorphology of this valley encloses woods with beeches, ilexes, pines and limes, along with a typical mediterranean vegetation.
In the reserve you will also see many animal species such as the salamander, the badgerm, the fox and many birds, like the kestrel and the red woodpecker.


Although set in an almost exclusively volcanic area, Capri is the only island of the Parthenopean Gulf not to have volcanic origins.
It has been settled since the Late Stone Age, as archeological excavations at the beginning of this century have confirmed: at the time the Phlegrean volcanoes were at their most active, Capri and the Sorrento Peninsula formed a solid block. Under the pressure of the orogenic forces during the ensuing geological periods, Capri gradually broke away. Soaring up from the depths of the sea, Capri's limestone composition is revealed in the island's slopes and its steep but unusually lovely dolomite walls, not to mention its numerous natural grottoes that, together with the cliffs in the southeast, have made the Isle worldwide famous.

The origin of the name "Capri" is a hotly disputed subject: while Strabo called the island Caprea or Island of the Coarse Stones, Varro named the island Capreae after its odd profile and its characteristic fauna, predominately wild goats. Other theories contend that this name is not correct and regard "Capros" (wild boar) as the origin of the present "Capri". At any rate, it is certain that the island was a Greek colony, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact date it was colonized.
In 29 BC Caesar Augustus visited the island, which he acquired from the Neapolitans in exchange for the neighboring Isle of Ischia.
The island attained its greatest glory under Caesar Augustus' successor, Tiberius, whom took up residence on Capri about 26 BC, from where he ruled the Roman Empire for the last ten years of his reign. His stay on the island is reflected in numerous names that still appear on today's maps. The ruins can still be seen of at least three of the 12 villas built by Tiberius, The Roman Emperor whom legend has sheathed in mystery and ruthless violence. The most famous of these villas is undoubtedly the "Villa Jovis" (Jupiter's Villa), which commands a view of the entire Gulf of Naples from its location atop the Capo. This is said to have been the residence of Emperor Tiberius. The remain of another villa can be inspected in Damecuta, while other finds dating from Imperial Rome can still be seen near Case Palazzo a Mare, the site of the Bagni di Tiberio, the Emperor's Bath. All traces have been lost of the other nine villas, said to have been erected in honor of the 12 main Roman gods, particularly since it is so difficult to recognize them in the abundance of Roman ruins that cover the island.

After the death of Tiberius the island fell into a inexorable decline, shared in the fate of Naples or the most important ruling families, was attacked by barbarians and pirates, and was repeatedly struck by earthquakes that played a major part in wiping out the traces of the island's ancient heritage.
The Lombards and Normans alternately took possession of the island, only to be followed by a succession of Aragonese and Anjous, until it finally came under control of the Spanish, who dominated the entire Neapolitan area for a considerable period of time.
In the 17th century, the island's residents succumbed to the plague. Thereafter, the Bourbons took over the island, followed by struggles between the English and the French over Capri's strategic location.
Prior to the unification of Italy, Capri belonged to Naples. From the beginning of the previous century up until today.
Capri has been sought out by numerous writers and scholars. Of the many men of letters from various countries who came to this Tyrrhenian island in search of inspiration for their great works of literature the Swedish physician Axel Munthe deserves special mention; needless to say, many other famous names from world literature can also be found here.
Charming local towns, extraordinary hospitality as well as excellent, well laid-out tourist facilities open the island's beautiful to its many visitors from all over the world. Capri's popularity with international tourist is due in good part to its rediscovery by some of the world's most famous writers. In addiction to its historic, literary and scenic wonders, Capri can be boast of excellent beaches, making it one of the world's leading swimming and climatic resorts.
Capri is serviced daily from the mainland by a large number of ferries and hydrofoils. The Isle of Capri can be reached from Naples (Molo Beverello) by ferry in approx. 1 1/2 hrs. Hydrofoils make the trip in about 1/2 hr. (from Naples Mergellina, Via Caracciolo). Capri also has ship connections to Sorrento and, in season, to Positano, Amalfi and Ischia.
The part of Capri known as Marina Grande, renowned swimming and sunbathing resort, is the island's most important harbor, fully equipped with modern port facilities.
Don't miss the 11th century Church of San Costanzo and the so-called Scala Fenicia (Phoenicians Stairs), climbing steeply to the Castle of Barbarossa.
For centuries, these stairs were the only connection between Capri and Anacapri.
Also recommended is an excursion from Marina Grande to Palazzo a Mare and the Bagni di Tiberio, remnants of the Roman Empire. Don't miss a trip to Belvedere di Tragara along the homonym road. The view to the rocky Faraglioni cliffs below and Marina Piccola, a famous swimming resort, is marvellous. From Belvedere di Tragara continue in the direction of Arco Naturale (Natural Arch) to the Grotta Matermania, a reminder of the ancient Cybele cult.

In Punta Carena, with the homonym lighthouse, you will find the swimming resort , "Lido Faro", one of the few beaches you can also reach by bus and therefore usually crowded. It is placed on the west side of the island, its wildest corner. Here you will discover the Esmerald grotto with its wonderful colours. The real attraction of this coastline is Marina Piccola, once old fishermen village, and since the 50s one of the most exclusive beaches. Famous people and wealthy pop stars own their villas there (Rocco Barocco, Diego Della Valle). Here you will find one of the best known hotels in Capri: Hotel Punta Tragara with an amazing view over "the Faraglioni" rocks. Not far from there another famous house can be admired: Villa Curzio Malaparte, planned by the writer himself. The beauty of the scenery goes up to the Natural arch, a huge rock with a big central hole caused by erosion. The White grotto should be your next stop: here the erosion has created stalactites and stalagmites with fantastic shapes. Past the famous " salto di Tiberio" where it is said the Emperor used to throw his victims, and Villa Jovis, the most spectacular of Tiberius' villas, you will find the port where a bronze statue of a young boy seems to wave you goodbye.

Ischia and Procida

Since Roman times Ischia has been worldwide known for its thermal waters and mud, produced by the seismic phenomena linked to its volcanic origins. The Romans built baths here and regarded it as a place for cure and rest. This real health resort has later become a famous seaside and holiday resort, offering visitors all the charm of marvellous marinas, breathtaking views and wonderful gardens. The intense scent of vineyards, citrus groves and pine trees blend with that of sea salt and spreads through the air, while the Green Island seduces people with the consuming beauty of its creeks, suspended between the emerald intensity of abundant vegetation and the deep blue that only the Tyrrhenian Sea is able to produce. Praised by poets and celebrated by painters, the island will inescapably bewitch visitors with its unforgettable colours and the sweet promise of eternal spring.

While Capri is the VIP island and Ischia a health resort, Procida is the less showy of the Neapolitan islands: a small, genuine, introverted and wild treasure surrounded by the dear waters of the Bay. In this peaceful island, with green vines and gardens stretch out towards the blue sea and sky, daily life is slow and sometimes seems to stand still.
A stop on its characteristic port, a visit to its churches or a stroll past viewpoints and gardens could turn out to be an extremely pleasurable experience. In the old part of the town you will admire the colourful pastel walls of the fishermen's houses, one on top of the other, opening out here and there in order to make room for stairs, arches, alleys and little squares. The town is overlooked by the vigilant and sullen gaze of the old 15th century Aragonese Castle, which dominates the small island beneath with its imposing mass.

Vesuvius national parks

The Vesuvius National Park covers a surface area of around 13,500 hectares, it includes numerous villages and is one of the World Biosphere Reserves protected by UNESCO.
According to scientific research, the volcanic component was already active 300,000 years ago, with explosive phases that began around 17,000 years ago (a Bronze Age village, buried by an eruption like that of 79 A.D., has recently been brought to light in Noia). The eruption of Vesuvius have been so typical as to give rise to the term "Vesuvian phase" in order to indicate violent reawakening caused by magma at a great depth. The mild climate and the extremely fertile ground, despite the lava flows that have followed one another over the centuries, have enabled the evolution of luxuriant characteristic flora that provides a habitat for a few, but significant animal species, including birds that stop here while migrating.

As well as the typical broom, which is the symbol of the park, we should also point out the lichen that colonizes the lava flows because mugwort, curry plant, valerian, pines, locust trees, birch and species of Mediterranean scrub take root there.
The fauna includes foxes, hares, wild rabbits, dormice, weasels, stone martens and garden dormice. The birds include hobbies, golden orioles, owls, redstarts, black flycatchers, robins, black' caps, wrens, great tits, little owls, spotted woodpeckers, barn owls, woodcocks, blackbirds, greenfinches and crows.
We recommend making time for a visit to the Vesuvius Observatory, too. One of the greatest structures of the kind, it was founded in 1841 and run by the famous volcanologist Giuseppe Mercalli, after which an important Seismic Scale is named. The Observatory is halfway up to the crater and can be easily reached.