The most visited of Italy’s southern regions, Campania is an ancient land of high drama and disorientating contrasts. From the seething streets of in-your-face Naples to the spectacular scenery of the Amalfi Coast, the landscape is as varied as it is compelling.
Central to everything is Naples, a sprawling love-it-or-hate-it city beautifully positioned on the bay that bears its name. In the background, Mt Vesuvius broods darkly, a constant reminder of the fate it so dramatically dealt Pompeii and Herculaneum 2000 years ago. Further down the coast, the magnificent temples at Paestum predate Roman times, testament to the region’s past as a Greek colony.
Myth abounds in Campania. Icarus plunged to his death in the Campi Flegrei and Aeneas consulted the Cuman Sybil before entering Hades via Lago d’Averno (Lake Avernus). To the south, sirens lured sailors to their deaths in the sparkling waters off Sorrento.
A short ferry ride away, Capri is the most celebrated of Naples’ three bay islands. A byword for Mediterranean chic, it attracts serious money and big numbers as day-trippers sail in year-round. Further north, Ischia trades on its spa waters and Procida preserves its authentic atmosphere.
Campania’s biggest crowd-puller is the Amalfi Coast, a vertical world of plunging cliffs, precarious villages and unforgettable views. Hidden to the world until ‘discovered’ in the mid-20th century, it’s now one of Italy’s most popular destinations. Inland, wooded mountains provide breathtaking hiking and an escape from the summer hordes.
To really get off the beaten track, though, head to the highlands of the Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano, one of the region’s wildest and least-explored areas.
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