In the shadow of Vesuvius - Naples and the surrounding areas

There was a time when the city now known as Naples, the 3rd most populous city on the entire Italian peninsula, had the name of Partenope. According to legend, in fact, in the place where the city stands, the body of a siren called Partenope was buried. She abandoned herself to the waters of the sea in the throes of sadness after being refused by Ulysses and gave life to the morphology that today characterizes the Campania landscape. Naples was an artistic, economic, and cultural crossroads for centuries. It had privileged relations with the city of Athens, from which it imported a strong religious and philosophical influence, which profoundly modified the social fabric and is still visible today with traces in the monuments and in the great architectural works.

Photo by Julien Maury

Naples is a unique city in the world, full of treasures to be discovered. The same applies to its nice surroundings, which attract thousands of visitors from all over the world yearning to appreciate the beauties that this corner of Italy is able to offer. So, after the previous article dedicated to everything and anything in Naples, it is time to draw up a small guide that can accompany you to the discovery of the wonders that extend in the surrounding territories, where you can spend your next holiday full of wonder.

Let's start from where it all started, since volcanoes are largely responsible for the formation of the world as we know it today. Vesuvius is one of the 2 active volcanoes in continental Europe. It is also the undisputed protagonist of all the photographs that immortalize the splendid Gulf of Naples. Even today, it is one of the most studied volcanoes in the world and its last eruption dates back to 1944 exactly during the second world war.

Photo by Bill Chizek

A trip to Vesuvius also means immersing yourself in the surrounding nature. Around the volcano, in fact, is a park established in 1995 that allows you to go as far as the mouth of the crater and has 9 paths that give all trekking enthusiasts the opportunity to take exciting walks within a 54 kilometer radius, following diversified itineraries that can last from a simple half hour and can even take an entire day’s journey. Inside the park you will find the local Mediterranean scrub in all its beauty: maritime pines, oaks, vineyards, and expanses of Scotch broom made immortal by the verses of Giacomo Leopardi.

Photo by Sebastian Mierzwa

And after the volcano, this leads us directly to…

Pompeii and Herculaneum
If you choose to visit the outskirts of Naples, a visit to the archaeological ruins of Pompeii is a must. Just half an hour by train from the city of Naples, Pompeii retains the charm of an ancient city that was almost perfectly preserved due to the eruption of the volcano that in 79 AD overwhelmed the city. The atmosphere inside is surreal, almost metaphysical. Time seems to have stood still for thousands of years and walking through the ancient streets you can experience an almost direct testimony to the life of the time through public, religious, and domestic buildings. Precisely for this reason, the city of Pompeii has been included in the Unesco heritage list.

The ruins of Pompeii leave almost every visitor speechless. Among the streets in the ancient city you can admire splendid mosaics, the faun’s house, the villa of mysteries embellished with frescoes, the temple of Apollo, and the Roman amphitheater. The forum, the ancient administrative buildings, and those dedicated to religious cults can also be visited. Much of the city still lies buried and each excavation represents a real surprise for the archaeologists who work in the city. In the papyrus hall, still not complete, thousands of Greek and Roman writings have been found.

The islands of Capri, Procida, and Ischia
After an archaeological and cultural interlude, it’s time to take advantage of the fantastic climate and the beautiful views that frame the Gulf of Naples. We are talking about the islands not far from the coast, all reachable by boat. While in Capri, a visit to the magnificent Faraglioni, which dominate the horizon, is highly recommended. The same goes for the caves that surround the small island, which can be admired aboard a boat, perhaps as part of a guided tour. It should be noted that inside some small coves, such as the famous Blue Grotto, it is possible to enter only on small rowing boats and this greatly increases the atmosphere that can be enjoyed by visiting these wonderful places from a a purely naturalistic point of view and envied all over the world for the quality of the views available.

Ischia and Procida are the other 2 islands in the Gulf of Naples, just a boat ride away. Procida, among the 3 islands, is the smallest. There are extremely characteristic old fishermen houses along with a historic city center of medieval origin. The island of Ischia, on the other hand, is the largest “sister” of the trio, famous for its beaches and the famous Aragonese Castle that is worth a visit. For both islands, as in the case of Capri, the same applies to the caves, of which the coasts are full. A visit by boat, is absolutely worth it. Even just to experience a diversion from the urban wonders that characterize the streets of Naples and to be able to immerse yourself, for a day of pure relaxation, in the sun and blue waters that light up the Gulf islands.


The Royal Palace of Caserta
A little more than half an hour from the city of Naples, you can visit the marvelous Royal Palace of Caserta, which was used as a film set by George Lucas for the shooting of Star Wars - Episode II. The Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest royal residence in the world and for a specific historical period it was the entire property of the Bourbons of Naples, originally built to rival, in the intentions of its commissioners, the French counterpart of Versailles. Designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, it was defined by several voices as the last great testimony of the Italian baroque style and was completed in 1845, although it was already inhabited around 1870. The palace consists of about 1,200 rooms and covers an area of about 47,000 square meters; the park, on the other hand, which managed to impress even illustrious writers such as Goethe, extends for about 3 kilometers in length on 120 hectares of total surface area.

Photo by Carlo Pelagalli

Inside the palace you can still visit the royal apartments, which show off an extraordinary amount of luxury. The Palatine Chapel and the court theater can still be explored. Once you start the guided tour, you have the opportunity to walk the majestic grand staircase, the picture gallery, and merge into the aforementioned Park and the Waterfall which give a unique panorama and which will be difficult to forget. To get to the Royal Palace of Caserta you can go by either car or train; in both cases the travel time is around half an hour. It is just another reason to deviate slightly from the path and to be conquered by some of the most beautiful areas in the shadow of Vesuvius. A demonstration of the fact that in Naples, from a human point of view, but also a geographical and historical one as well, you will always be in good company.