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Things to see in Campania, Italy - 12 highlights
Italy is a very versatile country, and you'll find many different kinds of places to see, for every kind of interest. Campania, one of the regions in Southern Italy, is a region packed with beautiful and interesting sights, the most well-known probably being Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. The region also holds many sites that are listed as Unesco World Heritage.
This article highlights several worthwhile things to see in Campania, Italy, including some practical tips. And at the end of the article you will find the exact locations of the attractions on a map, as well as directions.
For those of you who are planning a trip there: enjoy jourself, it will definitely be worth your while!
Positano is a beautiful idyllic town along the Amalfi Coast. Along the main coastal road there are several locations where you can get a beautiful view of the town. The town is also a somewhat popular movie location; among others the romantic movies Under the Tuscan Sun and Only You were (partly) filmed here.
A few tips:
If you plan to have diner here, you won't know the prices until you're inside. Many, if not all, restaurants don't show their prices outside. Be prepared to lay down a pretty penny.
There's paid parking along the road, but it's pretty expensive. There's somewhat cheaper parking in parking garages, but most of them require that you leave your keys behind. This has to do with logistics: because the garages are so small, cars need to be parked close together, meaning that many cars will be blocked. So in order to get a car out, the park guide needs to be able to shuffle cars around.
2) Furore Fjord
Between Praiano and Conca dei Marina there's a small inlet of water that looks like a tiny fjord. The water ends on a small 25m long beach. The little valley was created by erosion of the Schiato river. Furore is the name of the village that lies behind the fjord.
The beach can only be reached from the seaside, so by boat or by steep steps close to the main road bridge.
If you want to enjoy the sun on the beach, you need to be there in the early morning hours.
3) Grotta di Smeraldo (Emerald Cave)
Also between Praiano and Conca dei Marini, you'll find the Grotta di Smeraldo. It's a small cave where light enters through a hole in the rocks that's below waterlevel, creating a beautiful azure field in the water.
The cave is very small, and the paid boat tour doesn't last long. Still, I believe it's worth the visit.
A few tips:
There is a parking space close to the cave, but it's very small, so it might be hard finding a parking spot.
You might find several people there that will try to help you in one way or another, like a parking guide or an elevator guy. It's up to you whether or not to pay them some money for their aid.
4) The Island of Capri
Capri is a very popular holiday destination. The island is idyllic, but the roots of its name are a bit less so: it was named after wild boars (kapros) that roamed the island in the days of Greek occupants.
Some things you definitely must see on the island are the Grotta Azurra on the north coast of the island, the panaromic viewpoint Monte Solaro with a view on the Faraglioni sea rocks, and the Arco Naturale on the east coast. Capri can be visited by boat from several locations like Sorrento and Naples.
5) The abandoned mill from Sorrento
One of Campania's hidden highlights and a sight not to be missed if you're in the Sorrento area, is the abandoned mill in the center of Sorrento, on Sorrento Peninsula. The mill exists since early 10th century, and was used for wheat grinding. It's been out of function since 1866.
It's located in a tiny valley next to Via Fuorimura, close to Viale Enrico Caruso.
6) Medieval aquaduct in the middle of Salerno
In Salerno there's a part of a medieval aquaduct just standing somewhere in the middle of town, surrounded by more modern structures. It is just that what makes it an interesting site. The aquaduct was built in the 7th century and was restored in the 9th century. It's also known as the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge).
The aquaduct is located where Via Arce and Via Velia meet.
Now moving on to some other great Campanian sights away from the Amalfi Coast.
7) The ancient Greek temples of Paestum
Hard to believe but true: Italy, the great Roman Empire, has Greek temples!
Paestum is a very interesting site. It holds three temples that are in very good shape. For people that love to see remains of ancient days, this is definitely one of the things to see in Campania. The temples were built between 550 and 450 BC, which makes them much older than the remains of the Roman Empire, like you see in for instance Rome. They're also (just a bit) older than the world famous Parthenon temple in the Greek Acropolis. The park not only offers these three impressive temples, but also some other structural remains, like part of an amfitheater. There's also a museum with many ancient artefacts. Paestum is listed as World Heritage.
Paestum is not the only site in Italy where you can find Greek temples; there are several on the island of Sicily as well.
A few tips:
Tickets can not be bought at the two entrances of the archeological site, but can be bought at the museum across the road. If you like to visit both archeological site and museum, then you can buy a cheaper combined ticket.
The archeological site is open every day of the week, but the museum is closed every first and third monday of the month.
If you travel by train: you can't buy train tickets at the Paestum train station, so it's better to have bought a return ticket, or you can buy a train ticket in one of the shops at the site.
If you travel by car: the archeological site is located on the west side of road SP276. North from the site, there's a car park on the east side of the road.
8) The abandoned town of Romagnano al Monte
The old village of Romagnano al Monte has been abandoned since 1980, when an earthquake partly destroyed it. In the vicinity, a new Romagnano al Monte has been built.
Finding the actual site might be difficult, it's not mentioned on road signs. The site is located northeast of the new town.
Accessing the site to roam around the town might not be possible. At least one of the two entrances (the west entrance) has a big gate now, and I don't know if it's always closed, or maybe also open at times. Anyway, you can get some great views from a couple of panoramic viewpoints along the road coming from the south. Note that there's no car park near the town, so all you can do is leave your car beside the road somewhere.
Unless you want to see the town covered in a spooky shadow, it is better to visit the site in the morning or early afternoon.
Other ghost towns in Campania
Some other ghost towns you might want to visit in Campania are Tocco Caudio and Roscigno Vecchio. Tocco Caudio was also, like Romagnano al Monte, abandoned in 1980 after earthquakes. Roscigno Vecchio or Vecchia has been abandoned a lot longer, since the beginning of the 20th century. It was deserted after a landslide. The site is located within the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, which is a World Heritage Site.
So, are you getting a taste for Campania yet? As you're probably starting to see, there's a lot of different kinds of things to see in Campania Italy, ranging from a beautiful azure sea to fascinating historical ruins, from pittoresque villages to spooky ghost towns. Here's some more beautiful and interesting must see places!
9) Sant'Agata dei Goti
One of the most attracting things of Sant'Agata dei Goti is its location on top of tuff rocks. The rocks and houses blend together very well.
One of the locations where you can get a great view of the rocky side of town is the bridge on Strada Provinciale 16.
The rocky side of the town is facing west, so you'll be able to make use of beautiful late afternoon sunlight.
10) The aqueduct from Vanvitelli / Carolino aqueduct
The aqueduct from Vanvitelli, also called the Carolino Aqueduct, was opened in 1762, after about 9 years of building. So it's not very old when you compare it to some of the other ancient Italian sites. But even though it's not that old, it's impressive nonetheless, being three stories high. Its highest point reaches up to 183 feet. Part of the aquaduct has been named a World Heritage Site in 1997.
The aqueduct can be seen from road SS265 (Via Forche Caudine), between the villages of Maddaloni and Valle di Maddaloni, where the aqueduct crosses the road.
11) Roman remains in Benevento
Benevento is probably the main site in Southern Italy where you can see traces of the ancient Roman world.
Some of the remains you should definitely see are the Leproso bridge, the theater, the thermae and Trojans arch. The Via Appia Antica (the famous ancient Roman road that connected Rome with Brindisi in Southeastern Italy) crossed this town.
12) Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius
In the year 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, which buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pompeii was a town with a vibrant city center, where lots was going on, socially, economically and politically. Herculaneum was a wealthier, more luxurious town that was also used as a holiday resort. The towns were rediscovered in the 18th century, with Herculaneum being the first town to be found. Both towns have been (partially) excavated, and excavations are still going on. Many walls, other structural parts, sidewalks, roads and artefacts have been recovered. It's amazing what has been restored, in both towns. You will see a lot of remains of, for instance, colorful murals and other typical things from back then, like thermopoleums (some sort of snack bars). Pompeii also holds the oldest known Roman amfitheater, and in Herculaneum you can see carbonized wood. In Pompeii there are several places, at least three, where you can see plaster casts of people. The casts show the positions that the people were in the moment they died, and the casts were made by naturally created molds of hardened ash and volcanic rock that surrounded and covered the people.
Both towns are listed as World Heritage, and of all the things to see in Campania, you can't skip this.
A few tips
If you choose to travel by the Circumvesuviana train (which travels between Sorrento and Naples), you can buy a pretty cheap return ticket with which you can make a stop at both towns (exit at the Scavi stations). These trains can be crowded, though. The Scavi station for Pompeii is immediately next to the site, whereas the Scavi station in Herculaneum is a ten minute walk away from where you need to be.
If you are coming by car, it will probably cost you parking money. Some people choose to park for free on the parking lot of the Coop-market, which is not that far from the Scavi.
If you'd like to visit both sites, there's a combination ticket you can buy. Note that the Pompeii site is much larger, but the Ercolaneo site is less overcrowded.
If you decide to roam around without a personal or an audio guide, then don't forget to buy a detailed map of the site. If you try to find your way using only the on site information boards, you could really overlook certain worthwhile places.
A trip to Mount Vesuvius
When visiting the area, you might also want to get on top of the Vesuvius. You can do this by car, but there's also transportation available starting in Pompeii as well as in Herculaneum.
Things to see in Campania - highlights mapped
To save you some research, I've put the above Campania attractions together on a map. Or actually, two maps. One for Sorrento Peninsula and Capri, and one for the other attractions.
Note that locations are approximate!
Sorrento Peninsula and Capri
Sorrento, abandoned mill
Island of Capri
Grotta di Smeraldo
Outside of Sorrento Peninsula
Sant'Agata de Goti
Herculaneum, excavation site
Pompeii, excavation site
Paestum, Greek temples
Romagnano al Monte, ghost town
Some stuff you might need
Relive your wonderful Italian holiday in 3D!
This is a pretty detailed map, of the regions Campania and Basilicata. Its scale is 1:200.000 (so 1 cm represents 2 km).