Lively and scenographic, Naples has been, for centuries, one of the most suggestive towns of art in Italy.
Divided into two parts by Spaccanapoli, a street dividing the ancient Naples, it is a city giving its visitors unique emotions and a magical atmosphere.
Spaccanapoli is one of the itineraries not to be missed, a route which will plunge you into the heart of Naples by revealing its secrets and artistic and architectural wonders. A walk along the old town centre will let you admire any kind of artistic wonders: from the façades of the portals of old houses to the extraordinary baroque churches, among which the original Church of the Purgatorio ad Arco with its bronze skulls outside.
Not to forget the squares opening themselves among the lanes such as Piazza del Gesù, housing the homonymous church. In going ahead along the old town centre, close to Piazza del Gesù, there is one of the most famous holy buildings in Naples, the Church of Santa Chiara, in Gothic style, but with successive baroque interbreedings going back to the Eighteenth century. Also along Spaccanapoli there is the Chapel Sansevero, where the precious marble sculpture of the Veiled Christ is kept, and the street of San Gregorio Armeno, where there are the workshops of the masters of the Neapolitan crib art.
To this route also the Cathedral belongs,in Gothic style, finished in 1313 according to the will of Robert of Anjou.
Spaccanapoli offers its visitors also the incomparable view of the Carthusian monastery of San Martino: a fantastic view allowing to admire the whole city from the top of the hill.
If you have planned a holiday in Sorrento, you cannot miss the chance to visit Naples, in particular its Grrek-Roman old town centre, the biggest one in Europe and declared Heritage of Mankind by the Unesco.
A protected marine area since December 1997, the Wildlife Reserve of Punta Campanella is one of the most suggestive marine parks in Italy. Having a remarkable landscape, naturalistic and historical value, the area includes the coastal stretch of the towns of Massa Lubrense, Positano, Piano di Sorrento, Sant’ Agnello, Sorrento and Vico Equense.
The Reserve of Punta Campanella was founded to protect and enhance a territory with peculiar biological and geomorphologic resources: interesting are its sea flora and fauna, but also the landscape offered by the coastal stretch of Campania, rich in archaeological evidences and ruins of Roman time.
Besides being a suggestive place with an unpolluted nature, the Park of Punta Campanella is rich in stories and legends involving it: first of all the mythological mermaids Homer deals with in the Odyssey.
In the crystal-clear waters of the park it is possible to make scuba diving, of course strictly regulated, or simply enjoy the splendour of the marine landscape by following a route on the numerous tourist boats.
Rich in history, legends, sea vegetation and historical Greek-Roman finds, the Marine Park of Punta Campanella is, thus, a real oasis to be visited during a relaxing holiday in Sorrento.
Among the most beautiful isles of Gulf of Naples, Procida is lively and coloured. Its volcanic origin territory is characterized by low and sandy coasts or cliffs falling straight down to the sea. Most of its coast is situated within the Sea Protected Area ‘Regno di Nettuno’.
The archaeological finds show that the island was already inhabited around the XVI-XV century b.C. Under the Roman domination, Procida became a holiday place for Roman patricians as you can see from the numerous villas.
In the Middle Ages Procida was a refuge for people escaping from the Longobard invasions and became a village. The island reached its main splendour under the Bourbon domination, with flourishing navy and shipyard activities. But the shipyard sector will finish in the XX century and the last brigantine is launched in 1891. In the same century Procida’s economy goes definitively towards the tourism sector.
An enchanting place and favourite artists destination, Procida has been described in Giovenale, Statius and Virgil writings.
In his Decamerone Boccaccio set the 6th novel in Procida. Alphonse de La Martine wrote Graziella after a staying in Procida. But the most important book about Procida is L’isola di Arturo by Elsa Morante. In fact the island has dedicated a literary Prize to Elsa Morante.
Numerous films were shot in Procida, from Il Postino with Massimo Troisi and Philippe Noiret and Il Talento di Mr Ripley with Matt Demon.
Procida offers a tasty local gastronomy and recipes prepared with sea and earth products, in particular lemons and artichokes. Among the typical sweets we find the Casatiello Dolce, a Easter ring-shaped cake, and La Lingua, a puff pastry cake filled with cream and covered with sugar.
Procida is a holiday destination all year round. During the Easter time in particular it offers a magic atmosphere. As the other Campania places, Procida is famous for its folklore and religious Easter celebrations such as the Apostles Procession on Holy Thursday and the Procession of the Misteries on Good Friday.
Among the most enchanting resorts in Amalfi Coast, Ravello has been a longed-for destination since the times of the Grand Tour.
A holiday place preferred by important personalities of the world of art as of last and present centuries, Ravello is well-known for its enchanting villas and its suggestive religious architecture.
Founded in the 5th century as a shelter to the Barbarians’ attacks, Ravello reached its highest splendour around the 9th century. By the 19th century it was rediscovered by intellectuals and artists who chose it as a place where to spend their productive periods.
Ravello is an Italian town with 2,842 inhabitants in the District of Salerno in Campania, in Amalfi Coast.
A famous tourist centre, found out and frequented by numerous personalities. Nearly the half of its visitors are English and American, drawn by its intellectual calling and by the charm of its well-known villas (such as Villa Cimbrone with its famous view by the Terrace of Infinito).
Ravello was founded in the 5th century as a shelter against the Barbarians’ raids which marked the end of the Western Roman Empire. The town increased its population, while flourishing in the art of wool and in the trade towards the Mediterranean and Byzantium and reached its highest splendour from the 9th century on, under the Maritime Republic of Amalfi and the Principality of Salerno.
According to the will of the Norman Ruggero, the son of Roberto Guiscard, Ravello became a Bishop’s seat in 1806 to put an end to the too powerful Amalfi.At the beginning of the 12th century, the town reached a population of over 25,000 inhabitants. In 1135 it managed to withstand the attacks by people from Pisa against the Dukedom of Amalfi, but tow years later, in 1137, it was forced to succumb, was sacked and destroyed.
After these devastations, its economical and demographical declines started: from the 14th century on many of its inhabitants moved to Naples and to its surroundings, causing its decadence lasted till the end of the 18th century.
From the 19th century on, rediscovered by intellectuals and artists, it regained its importance as a place of culturally elite tourism.
An ancient hamlet of the maritime Republic of Amalfi during the Middle Ages, Praiano develops in two residential complexes. The one of Praiano on top and the one of Vettica Maggiore on the bottom.
Enchanting for its architectural structure, for its art evidences, its breathtaking landscape and so much more, Praiano has been, since the times of the Grand Tour, a renowned tourist resort in the heart of Amalfi Coast. The name of the town comes from Pelagianum, “open sea”, eventually turned into Plagianum until the present Praiano.
Among the religious buildings worthy being visited there is the Chapel of St. Luca, with an inside with a nave and two aisles, a suggestive silver bust of the Saint, paintings by Padovano of Montorio and Giovan Bernardo Lama. Other churches not to be missed are the panoramic small church of S. Maria of Costantinopoli and the Parish Church of Vettica, consecrated to St. Gennaro. Characteristic of the town are the numerous votive niches, spots of cult which testify the high religious sense of the people of Praiano.
A longed-for tourist destination, the town of Praiano has developed exceptional and varied tourist services, including accommodation facilities and restaurants. Hotels, resorts, holiday apartments, B&bs, but also restaurants, bar-cafeterias and places where to spend one’s free time during an unforgettable holiday in Amalfi Coast.
The bathing area is that of Marina di Praia: a beach among rock walls where to enjoy the sun and the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Salerno. Not far from it, the hamlet of Vettica Maggiore giving its visitors a superb beach with a view on Positano and Capri.
A Phlegraean Island in the Gulf of Naples, well-known all over the world for its spa baths and the beauty of its nature, Ischia, the green island, is one of the most beautiful destinations where to spend a relaxing holiday.
An island of volcanic character, Ischia welcomes, every year, thousands of visitors who choose it to spend a stay in complete relaxation and wellness, while being immersed in a breathtaking nature. Not only: Ischia offers its guests also an interesting historical and artistic heritage and a delicious wine-gastronomy giving tasty recipes of the Neapolitan cooking and palatable dishes made with the typical products of the island.
Used since past times, the thermal sources of Ischia are among the most famous and the healthiest in the world; in fact their earliest evidences go back to Roman and Greek times. Then, from the Seventeenth century to the half of the Twentieth century, on the Island of Ischia a lot of establishments and accommodation facilities were built which made it an international thermal resort for healing and for holiday today: a unique magical place where it is possible to recover one’s body and mind.
The Island of Ischia includes six towns: Ischia, Casamicciola Terme, Lacco Ameno, Forio, Serrara Fontana and Barano d’ Ischia. In each of them visitors can find the most suitable accommodation to satisfy the needs of their holiday.
Ischia offers to lovers of nature an interesting itinerary: the walk on Mt. Epomeo, starting from the small square of Fontana, thanks to an asphalted path immersed in the unpolluted green, allows to reach, in almost 40 minutes, the top of the mountain. On top, besides the spectacular view one can enjoy, it is also possible to visit the Hermitage of San Nicola.
Worth being visited, for lovers of historical architecture, is also the Aragonese Castle at Ischia Ponte, located on a small island caused by a synaptic eruption dating back to over 300,000 years ago.
Worth a visit is also the Church of Soccorso, consecrated to St. Mary of the Snow, in the town of Forio d’Ischia, built in 1791 and restored in 1864 on the ruins of a building dating back to 1320. The architecture of the church is very simple, the dominant colour is white and on the left-hand side there a bell tower in Gothic style.
Rich in art and nature, Ischia also keeps two interesting Museums: the Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae and the Museum of the Sea.
The Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae, opened in 1999 in the complex of Villa Arbusto in Lacco Ameno, keeps on the first floor the history of the Island of Ischia from prehistory to the Roman time. The ground floor is, on the contrary, dedicated to a special geological section concerning the interaction between man and environment.
The Museum of the Sea, dating back to 1996, lies on the eighteenth-century Palazzo dell’Orologio at Ischia Ponte. Three floors testifying the history of the Navy told through the exhibition of fishermen’s objects of common use, but also rarer and more refined objects belonged to the captains of the boats of the Gulf of Naples.
The opening town of Sorrento Coast, Vico Equense is an enchanting location to spend a relaxing holiday. Lively and inhabited both in Summer and in Winter, Vico Equense boasts a multiple accommodation offer and a great number of natural, historical and architectural beauties as well, to satisfy any need and kind of holiday.
Vico Equense has almost 20,000 inhabitants and can be easily reached thanks to a direct link with Naples and Sorrento. In its territory there are 13 hamlets, each of which offers interesting itineraries, from gastronomy to natural and cultural beauties. The town of Vico Equense rises on a rocky promontory steep on the sea, at the feet of Mt. Faito.
Vico Equense is the seat of Campania Mineralogical Museum, founded in 1922, which keeps 3,500 minerals of 1,400 kinds, collected in a 50 years’ research by Engineer Pasquale Discepolo. Famous also for its strong folk tradition, the town of Vico Equense hosts, in August, the International Festival of Folk Traditions, an occasion of cultural exchange among populations very far away from one another and the Festival of Pacchianelle, during which, since 1909, over 300 people dressed in typical costumes give life to a suggestive living crib. On this occasion, the pacchianelle, young children and women wearing peasants’ dresses, bring the typical products of the local tradition to the Infant Jesus.
Interesting are also the celebrations on the occasion of the festival for the Patron Saint of the town, St. Ciro and Giovanni, on January 31st.
Vico Equense is also rich in natural beauties and interesting historical and artistic places worthy being visited. Among these, there is the Cathedral of SS. Annunziata, lying in a suggestive location, with its forecourt steep on the sea: built in 1320, it has a façade dating back to the 17th century and a bell tower to the 16th century. It is the only example of Gothic church all over Sorrento Coast with an interior with a nave and two aisles and a pentagonal apse dating back to the 14th century, which is completely frescoed.
The remaining churches in the area worthy a visit are the Church and former convent of SS Trinità e Paradiso, the Church of San Ciro and the Church of Santa Maria Vecchia, this one located in the centre of the hamlet of Seiano.
Not to be missed in the suggestive territory belonging to Vico Equense are Giusso Castle, built on a rocky spur dominating the sea under the will of Charles of Anjou in 1824 and the Antiquarium keeping the archaeological finds discovered in the area.
The history of Sorrento is full of myths and legends which contribute to improve that mythic atmosphere at the roots of its charm. Though, according to some historians, the town would lie in a region of which we have had testimonies since the Neolithic Age, the real origins, according to the historian Diodoro Siculo, go back to the italic population of the Ausones, and in particular, to the founder Liparo, son of the king Ausone and nephew of Ulysses and of the enchantress Circe.
Various are also the hypotheses linked to the name (Sorrentum, Syrentum) which is found in the writings of Ovid, Stradone, Seneca, Ennius, Galenus, Horace, Martial, Plinius and Stazio. According to the most famous legend, its etymon would be linked to the myth of Memaids, half women and half fish, who, from the waters of the sea of Sorrento, enchanted Ulysses whilst, according to another legend, the name would depend on Sirentum, the girl born by two peasants of the hilly area of Casarlano who, abducted by the Saracens, was claimed by the Sorrento people. Recent studies, instead, would make the name of the Greek verb surreo, which means contribute, flow together, or also flow into, referring to the morphology of the Sorrento ridge, characterized by the presence of two watercourses which flow into the sea distinctly. Some urban and archaeological elements make us think of a Greek presence between 474 and 420 B.C. when the town was conquered by the Sannites. In the 3rd century B.C. Sorrento was conquered by the Roman Empire, and took its destiny first as a colony and then as Municipality in the 1st century B.C.
In the Imperial age, between the age of Caesar and that of Hadrian, Sorrento, for its mild climate, was chosen as a stay by many emperors and aristocrats who commissioned residences and maritime villas, along the coast, as Villa Pollio Felice, at the Capo di Sorrento, and Villa Agrippa Postumo, under the present Syrene Hotel. In the Early Middle Ages Sorrento was occupied by the Goths, by the Longobards and the Byzantines (552) and under Sergio 1st raised the status of Dukedom. The Dukedom of Sorrento extended its boundaries all over the Peninsula, soon giving life to a blooming economy based on the building of naval equipments, on trade and the production of citruses and wine.
Later (1100), the Dukedom became a sort of Norman protectorate, thus giving up its political autonomy but receiving in exchange protection against incursions by pirates and Longobards. In the Angevin period, at the beginning of the 14th century, nobles divided themselves into two Seats, (or Squares) with the establishment of the Sedile Dominova in contrast with the original Sedile di Porta. The prestige of the Sorrento noble seats went beyond its regional narrowness, coming to contend in the Spanish period some privileges with the capital Naples itself. Very intense were maritime traffics between Sorrento and the ports of the Gulf of Naples and of Southern Italy, the products which were at the basis of its economy were fruit, wine, oil, meat and by-products of milk. The year 1544 represents an important date for Italian and European cultures: in that year the poet Torquato Tasso was born in Sorrento, the author of the famous Jerusalem Freed and of other poems.
In 1558 Sorrento was destroyed and sacked by the Turks, and this implied the fortification of walls and the building of coastal towers. In this period a strong economic standstill, due to impoverishment and to the Spanish fiscal pressure, an aspect which caused the rebellion of country people of the hamlets, who had wanted to be independent from the town patricians for a long time. In this context the revolt of the Genoese Giovanni Grillo (1648) takes its place, who, by exploiting the contrasts which for years had occurred with the local nobles, managed to unite people and farmers, causing a long state of siege. In the age of the Counter-Reformation, the artistic and social aspect of the patrician town declined and, with the building of various academies and monasteries, the town achieved a conventual aspect. In 1799 the town adhered to the Jacobin Republic, but people from Sorrento, faithful to the Bourbons, favoured their return by hindering some revolutionary ideas of freedom. In the first Bourbon period the maritime activity and the fishing of tuna developed, flourishing up to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1805, when Ferdinand IV of Bourbon was chased away by the French, Sorrento was governed by Giuseppe Bonaparte first, and then by Gioacchino Murat: it was then that the noble Seats were abolished.
With the defeat of Waterloo (1815) the Bourbons returned to Sorrento, with Ferdinand I, and the town found its balance again with the revival of commercial activities and the development of agriculture, shipbuilding industry, handicraft and tourism. After the Unity of Italy, S. Agnello became autonomous, and for Sorrento an urban renewal, which transformed its ancient Roman aspect, made of cards and decumani, with the building of a new road, the present Corso Italia (1866). At the end of ‘800, the electrical system was built and the new electrical tramway system which began in Castellammare and finished in Sorrento in Piazza Mercato, which would be abolished in 1948 after the building of the railway network. In the course of years, Sorrento became a privileged destination of renowned figures of the European culture, such as Lord Byron, Keats, Goethe, Dickens, Wagner, Ibsen and Nietzsche. Agriculture lived, in the early ‘900, a second youth thanks to the intensive cultivation of citruses which were exported all over the Peninsula and abroad. The latest periods, in particular since the ‘60s, have seen the progressive development of tourist business which, in a short time, has become the leading sector of Sorrento economy.
Sorrento offers to visitors a great variety of beauties to admire, natural places where to contemplate so many suggestive landscapes, like the whole Sorrento Coast. Besides the naturalistic treasures, yet, the town has a great heritage of monuments, churches, museums and squares of great historical and cultural value, which quench the thirst of culture of tourists and visitors, thus contributing, together with the other aspects, to making a stay in Sorrento complete. Hereafter there are some sites to visit:
Piazza Tasso: It was raised during the 14th century after some urban changes which took place in Sorrento. In the past it was called Largo del Castello, because, where nowadays there is the statue of St. Antonino, there was a castle of the Aragon time. In 1844 the five-hundred walls were demolished, which had been built round the glens as a defence from incursions, while later the gate which gave access to the town from east was demolished, the so-called Porta del Piano, on the top of which there was the tuff statue of St. Antonino; this statue, taken away by its author A. Torrese, was put on a pillar near the Hotel Rispoli. In 1870 the monument dedicated to Torquato Tasso was inaugurated. It was in that period, thanks to the opening of a new road, that the series of nineteen-century buildings edging the present Corso Italia arose.
Ancient Walls: They are near the Gate of Parsano Nuova, opened in 1745, in the area where there must already be an access to the town going back to 16th century, and testified by the presence of two bastions and by the gunports located on their sides. Under the road plan of the Gate there are the defensive walls which, as testified by the stone blocks of the arch, located along and in front, would go back to the Greek age. During the excavations as of 1921 remains supposed to date back to the Age of Augustus were discovered. These walls were used in the Middle Ages as a defence of the town from external attacks. Their remaking, started in the first half of the 16th century, finished in 1558, after the attack by the Turks.
Sedile Dominova: The name of the Seat derives from the expression domus nova (new house) and was commissioned by nobles who in the 14th century had freed themselves from the group of the seat Sedile di Porta. On the small pillars located along the balustrade there is a stem representing a passing she-wolf. The architectural line is of Renaissance origin, the two façades are in piperno with two arches. Very interesting are the frescos like that of the stem of Sorrento sustained by a group of angels. In the dome, made with yellow and green fish-scale majolica tiles, there are the heraldic signs of the noble families belonging to the Sedile.
Sedile di Porta: Today seat of the Circolo Sorrentino, the Sedile di Porta is located on the corner between Via Tasso and Via San Cesareo, and owes its name to the fact that it was built near the main gate of Sorrento, close to the Largo Castello. With the abolition of the Seats, the building was turned into prison and then into seat of the Guards of the Town Army. The clock which can be seen from the main façade dates back to 1882 and was built after almost forty years from the former which was located under the bell tower of the Castle, where now Piazza Tasso is. Clocks were very useful for the population because they marked the awakening, the times for meetings, business and departures to other sea towns, so the administration always had to grant their good functioning.
Vallone dei Mulini: Among the five glens characterizing Sorrento Coast, and which in the past divided one town from another, the only one better kept, and escaped from the changes brought about in the various times, is the Vallone dei Mulini which takes its name from the presence of a mill used until the beginning of 1900 to grind corn. The waters which flowed down from the hills and the spring ones fostered a sawmill annexed to the mill, useful for the working of various kinds of wood, used for the art of inlay. Another characteristic of the Glen was the presence of a public wash-tub where women went to wash the clothes. After 1866 the Glen was abandoned and the only evidences of its activity are the prints and the pictures the artists and visitors of the time left us.
Via delle Grazie: At number 16 of this road there is Durazzo Palace of the first half of the 15th century, the Ferola Palace. The portal is adorned with a relief decoration along the arched lintel and a stem on top. Along the same road there is also a medieval double lancet window presenting a motif decorated with a double row of dentils in the inner arch.
Via Pietà: it corresponds to the Higher Decumanus of the ancient urban plan which had the scheme of the ancient military camps. The road, linking Piazza Tasso to the main entrance of the Cathedral, and stopping by the bell tower of this one, keeps remarkable examples of medieval architecture. Among these ones: Palazzo Veniero, Palazzo Correale and the Loggia of Vico Galantario.
Via San Cesareo: This road, with a characteristic Hippodamian shape, can be reached from different spots of the town, and in the past it was used to defend oneself from the incursions of enemies. It is possible to have pleasant walks along it, to buy souvenirs, with a wide choice among hand-painted shepherds, carillons of Sorrento wood inlay, hand- embroidered clothes etc. Along the axes there are also various seventeenth- and eighteenth- century buildings which underwent the influence of the Neapolitan Baroque. In fact we can see ancient portals, characterized by simple drawings with round arches and big ashlars.
Gate of Marina Grande: At the end of a leaning road which in the past was opened at the feet of a tower, it is the most ancient gate kept after the demolitions as of 1800. Of the tower, today, we can see the gate and some pieces of the cordon. In the 15th century it was the only access to the town from the coastal area and, though it has undergone various changes, it remains the most ancient one, as one can see by the perfect isodomic structure and by the compactness of the two blocks, that is to say the two walls which flanked the road and which, by the outside, led to the gate.
Gate of Parsano Nuova: It was built in 1745, though its two bastions next to the gate and the gunports demonstrate that in the 16th century it was possible to enter the town thanks to the gate of Via Sersale. With the excavations as of 1900 it was discovered that under the present eighteenth-century gate there were some ruins of a gate going back to the Greek times. In 1925 some parapets were built as well as some walls to protect those ruins.
Gate of Marina Piccola: The Road to the beach, the landing place and shipyard of the town, was blocked by a gate which was the only access to it. It was next to the Church of Sant’ Antonino, and was surmounted by an embattled tower. On the right there was a garden of the Theatine Fathers, while on the north side there was an open space from which to admire Marina Piccola. This open space was bought by the Municipality in 1835 to give the possibility to visitors to admire the beach.
Sorrento, a longed-for destination on the Gulf of Naples, has been drawing, every year, for centuries, millions of visitors. In the heart of Sorrento Coast, it can be reached through the SS 145 which, from Castellammare di Stabia, goes up to Massa Lubrense. The route along the coast of Sorrento is not very smooth and is often subject to traffic jams, especially in Summer when buses and cars travel to the tourist resorts on the Gulf of Naples.
If you decide to reach Sorrento, between April and October, you could be stuck in long traffic jams before reaching your destination. Unfortunately, you will often find traffic even when you get to the destination: the enchanting towns of Sorrento Coast and of Amalfi Coast are, in most cases, poor in car parks and often busy, too.
The situation is made even more complicated by traffic restrictions which are fundamental to preserve the old town centre and the pedestrian precincts.
In Sorrento, in particular, from April to September 30th, from 7.30 p.m. to 12.00 there are traffic restrictions closing all the roads accessing to the main square (Piazza Tasso) and to the old town centre.
Yet, all the guests of the hotels located in this area have the possibility to go beyond the barriers thus reaching their destinations.
NB On the way to the Hotel Bellevue Syrene, at the height of Via Correale, there is a barrier which can be gone beyond only by those going to the hotels of the Old Town Centre of Sorrento and to the Port. Here is the route in detail to reach the Hotel by car.