We would be happy to provide you with quality, individually tailored offers for tours throughout Italy, guaranteeing full support throughout.
Compelling Contrasts in a Legendary Land
Slow-paced and a little saucy, the essence of Campania is manifested in its most famous creation: pizza. Simple, sultry, radiant. Southern Italy, southern Italian style and southern cuisine exude artistic flare – though often presented with a laissez-faire nonchalance that their innate brilliance eludes. The vibrantly colored and irregularly shaped pie is Naples; it captures the very contrasts that render the area so endearing. Enticing? Of course. Imperfect? Naturally. Slightly burnt crust? Inspired by Vesuvius. A dollop of precious tomato sauce just-off-the-plate? Certainly like Capri. The red and white checked tablecloth the pizza is served on? The patchwork of inland countryside where buffalos make their mozzarella amidst ancient pastures. The limoncello to wash it all down with? From the citrus-lined Amalfi Coast. The smells, the flavors, the hues, the sounds, the sweet and savory dishes, the superstitions, the tiny and big churches, the welcoming and colorful locals…Campania has character. Discover the personality and idiosyncrasies of the unique region, preferably starting at a pizzeria.
Visit Herculaneum, one of the ancient seaside towns destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Do a private two hour walking tour of the archaeological site with an expert local guide. Learn how the lava engulfed the villas of the affluent – burying the town in a cement-like mixture that lasted centuries. The devastating impact was set in stone until excavations began around the mid-eighteenth century. The well-preserved ornate art and architecture unveiled how the inhabitants at the seaside resort lived in style. The place has the air of a serene, quite orderly and mostly outdoor museum. As the area is smaller and better shaded than Pompeii, it makes for a great alternative for groups who plan on visiting during the warmer months and prefer doing less walking than Pompeii would require.
Naples is known for its colors, culture and cuisine. Beneath the city, however, lays a lesser known second city. A cave system built over 3,000 years ago by the Greeks mining for tuff stone was later used for aqueducts and cisterns by the Romans before the network was forgone for the street-level city lived on today. Thus the surreal subterranean world slept until rediscovered and repurposed much later: first as a bomb shelter during World War II and then as a storage and waste area. Now many of the passageways have been cleaned up, enabling visitors to see the warmly lit world forty meters below the city. The walking tour allows for visitors to experience history, which seems somehow strange and parallel below the surface.
When Bourbon King Charles IV became the King of Naples and Sicily in 1735, he built an extravagant residence in Caserta. Desiring to imitate and supersede the leading model of regal architecture at the time – Versailles – the king enlisted Luigi Vanvitelli to design the enormously opulent building. The 1,200 rooms, four courtyards and extensive gardens accomplished the feat. The flawless choreography of green interlaced with fountains and waterfalls fed via canal from the mountains over forty kilometers away. Visitors can visit the palace and park on foot or with the assistance of a horse carriage or taxi.
It is a striking experience, setting foot in the ancient city of Pompeii. The enormity of the volcanic havoc on the area is baffling. A licensed, private guide will lead you through the ruins and explain its layers of history and detail how it differed from the destruction of Herculaneum. As as a metropolis Pompeii’s cityscape was chaotic in comparison to the grid-like, neighboring resort city, rendering the experience very real. The location of each city also impacted how Mount Vesuvius consumed them; the population in Pompeii was hit first, thereby leaving less time for escape than those in Herculaneum. The ash and water amalgam that buried Pompeii’s homes and people formed a cement-like coating, freezing the forms in time. Some of the hardened bodies are displayed in the city, which makes for a moving visit of the infamous site.
Pompeii can be combined with a visit to Mount Vesuvius.
Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe (1857-1949) resided on Capri in a villa that inspired the story that made him famous: Villa San Michele. His novel, “The Story of San Michele” has been translated into over fifty languages and his home is now a museum with his art collection and ancient Egyptian and Roman relics. The personal physician to Queen Victoria of Sweden was particularly interested in female psychology and was an animal rights’ activist – traits that would have helped him with his eccentric socialite tenant, Marchesa Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino. Visiting hours for the villa vary each day. For the guided visit from the villa to the Barbarossa Castle, please check if/when the tour is running.
Founded by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C. Poseidonia was named for the god of the sea, who was especially important to the sailors of Magna Grecia. The colonizers constructed a magnificent city, later called “Paestum” when absorbed into the Roman Empire in 273 B.C. The UNESCO site was rediscovered by the Bourbons in 1750 when building a road through the area. Slowly the ruins of an amphitheater, an early Christian church and elements of various public and private buildings were uncovered; the three well-preserved Doric temples are the highlights. It is recommended to start the tour at the museum. It houses examples and explanations of the millennia-old art that survived time.
The historic seaside town of Sorrento is perched over the awe-inspiring Bay of Naples. Its lovely hotels have welcomed guests since the bygone days of the Grand Tour. Sorrento offers a perfect base for excursions to the surrounding highlights, as it is well-connected to all of the sites by road, railway and/or ferry. From Sorrento it is easy to reach the breathtakingly beautiful Amalfi Coast; the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida; the archaelogical areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum; and the unique city of Naples. For those desiring to relax within Sorrento itself, they will find tiny pedestrian streets filled with local shops to stroll, deliciously inviting restaurants and a coast along which to rest and behold the marvelous views and breathe in the saline air.
Naples displays the contrasts that make Italy famous. The new interlaced with the old. Breathtaking beauty juxtaposed with the normal. The simple with the complex. The amalgam of sensorial stimulation the city exudes is impressive: piping hot pizzas and sweet sfogliatelle pastries tempt the taste buds; rich history recounted with the unforgettably unique accent that simultaneously seems to start and stop; the friction of cobblestones underfoot; and the scent of espresso as locals undergo their time-tested coffee consumption rituals at cafés. Naples is an experience. The visit can be completed with tours of its famous sites. There is the thirteenth century Castel Nuovo, the semi-circular Piazza del Plebiscito square, the Palazzo Reale Royal Palace, the National Archeological Museum and the Naples Underground City. For those just passing through the Spaccanapoli street that divides the city in half is a “must”.
Eerie, Solfatara’s writhing ground. Like a steaming, reeking, bubbling cauldron the Phlegraean Fields in Pozzuoli seem like an otherworldly concoction stirred up by the fire gods. Visitors can wander along the designated path, between the tendrils of smoke and vapor emitted from the burning sludge to crater at the center of the bizarre scene. Rare plants cling to the earth and the sulphurous scent and thermal waters are believed to have medicinal proprieties. The seething fumaroles led the ancients to believe that the underworld was located there.
The Gulf of Naples is home to the only active volcano on mainland Europe: Mount Vesuvius. The infamous destruction caused by its 79 A.D. eruption buried the neighboring cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in molten ash. Towering 1,277 meters above the sea, visitors can reach the crater to look down towards the heart of the unsettled giant. Vehicles can reach 1,000 meters of altitude and park at the designated area, from where the final 200 meters is done on foot. For wine enthusiasts, the fertile volcanic soil on its slopes offers some unique vino and a great way to conclude the tour.
The Amalfi Coast will take your breath away when you arrive and break your heart when you have to go. Its sunny scenery and welcoming locals make one feel like they have arrived in their dream home town. Its cliffs plunge poetically into the cobalt sea, punctuated only by bursts of verdant vegetation and by the lively little towns that dot its narrow main road as it winds along the southern half of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Its villages rise vertically in colorful bursts, mirrored in the water that kisses its shores. Ancient trails lead further upwards to paths with names like the “Walk of Gods” that offer heavenly views of the marvels of Gulf of Salerno below. Star-studded resort towns like Positano, Amalfi and Ravello have long been sought for their artistic air. Bad weather days on the coast are rare; but when life gives the natives off-days they know just what to do: They take their lemons and make limoncello!
Ischia is an island paradise of thermal baths and an botanical garden. La Mortella was created when Lady Susana Walton, wife of the English composer Sir William Walton, had the famous landscape architect, Russell Page, create a garden integrating volcanic rocks, the jaw-dropping views of the Bay of Forio and exotic plants. The result is a garden divided into an upper part, The Hill, and a part, The Valley, which are connected by streams, waterfalls, footpaths and steps. La Morella includes three greenhouses, the Victoria House, the Orchid House and the Temple of the Sun, as well as the Thai House for meditation, a Nympaheum and William’s Rock for Sir Walton’s ashes. The 16,000 square meter area on the west coast of the island has over 500 species of plants, which can be visited from April to November.
Mozzarella di bufala, the porcelain-colored fresh raw-milk cheese is more than a staple ingredient; it is a font of pride for the southern Italian region of Campania that produces it. The cheese is art, best enjoyed at room temperature. It holds its own when savored alone. On its own the diner can appreciate its delicate yet decided flavour and mouth feel. Working from the outside in, forks hit the smooth, stretchy outer layer that protects the soft, salty heart, which “bleeds” its saline water when pierced. The experience is divine. With the addition of fresh tomatoes and fragrant basil, a caprese salad is the most diffuse variation on the dish. Mozzarella enthusiasts can take a tour and do a tasting at a mozzarella producer, where gruff-looking buffalo may gaze curiously at them and the experienced workers cut and shape the cheese by hand.
Holy Week in Sorrento includes a series of religious processions and traditions. The first is the Via Crucis procession, which symbolizes the Passion of Christ. The next is the “Incappucciati Bianca” White Procession that has been taking place during the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday since the 1500s. During the procession the participants wear white hooded gowns meant to represent Mary’s search for her son. The Black Procession follows, on the evening of Good Friday, and the participants adorn black cloaks and robes to demonstrate the period of mourning that followed Jesus’ crucifixion. Most towns on the Peninsula celebrate with a variation on the processions, creating an atmosphere of awe and respect for the sacred days in Catholicism.
The Lily Festival in Nola takes place on the Sunday following the 22nd of June each year. The event commemorates the return of Saint Paolino, who had been held captive by the Hun in North Africa. Upon his return the townspeople greeted him under the banners of the eight local trade unions. The people also presented him with lilies freshly picked from the fields. The festival continues to this day, though now 2,500 kilo wooden sculptures are carried by 120 men on the day of the event. Each 25 meter high lily was crafted by artisans and represents each of the old trade unions. Music accompanies the UNESCO recognized event.
Every year on September 19 Naples celebrates its patron saint during the Festival of San Gennaro. The Baroque cathedral of the city holds two vials containing the blood of the saint. On September 19 it is believed that the dried blood becomes liquid to show that Saint Gennaro continues to bless the city. In preparation for the sacred event the Cardinal moves the vials from the chapel to the altar in a procession while the attendees watch to see if the blood liquefies (it generally does). As bells ring in rejoice, the Cardinal then carries the vials to the square to share the news with the public. The reliquary is then displayed on the altar for eight days until they are returned to the chapel. An array of festivities take place during the eight days, with music, food stands and trinkets on sale throughout the city. The ceremony may take place at additional times during the year as well. The Italian-American communities in New York and Los Angeles also organize festivals to honor San Gennaro.
The island of Ischia is readily reached from Pozzuoli and Naples. The boat ride on the Bay of Naples itself is worth the trip. Viewing Mount Vesuvius from the sea is a sight to behold. Once on the island the multi-colored boats seem to respond to the pastel-coloured houses that await the fishermen. The north coast is renowned for its world-class thermal water spas while the calmer south harbour has beaches perfect for lounging. The inland chestnut forests and vineyards give way to flowery parks, waterfalls, grottoes and small villages as they near the water. Pablo Neruda famously stayed on the island, inspired by the lives in Sant’Angelo and learning to swim in its waters.
Ab Sorrent bzw. Castellammare di Stabia
For those visiting Capri as an excursion, the island can readily be reached from the mainland. With the help of a Michelangelo tour leader visitors take the short boat ride to the Marina Grande port. From there the local minibus service can bring the group to the towns of Capri and Anacapri. The gem of an island offers an array of activities to suit the interests of its visitors. Most desire to stop in the famous Piazzetta (as the locals call their Piazza Umberto 1), also referred to as “The Drawing Room of the World”, since so many come to sit, sip and enjoy a little relaxation at the bright cafes there. For those looking for world-class shopping, Via Camerelle is worth a stroll. Even the sporty are at home on Capri. The zig-zagging Via Krupp is a fun walk for the fit or the hike up Monte Solaro from Anacapri rewards with its jaw-dropping views of the bay and the Faraglioni Cliffs. For art and architecture enthusiasts, Axel Munthe’s villa, the Church of San Michele and the Gardens of Augustus are lovely. For visitors who have more time, boat trips around the island and to its famous Blue Grotto can be arranged.