Campania is Italy’s most densely populated region. It has an area of 13,595 square kilometres and a population of 5.8 million people. It borders Lazio to the northwest, Molise to the north, Puglia to the northeast and Basilicata to the southeast. It has 350 kilometres of coastline that includes the gulfs of Naples, Salerno and Policastro. The Flegrean Islands of Ischia, Procida, Vivara, Capri and Nisida are also a part of Campania. They are also sometimes known as the Napolitan Islands.
The name Campania is derived from the latin ‘Campania Felix’ meaning ‘Fertile Countryside’ and it certainly is! Campania provides some of the most beautiful countryside to be found in Italy. The region is home to the beautiful Cilento National Park and the Island of Capri, the Sorrento Peninsular and the Amalfi Coast are celebrated all over the world.
Naples, the capital of Campania, was at one time the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples, effectively ruling the whole of southern Italy. Later it was the centre of Bourbon rule until unification came in 1860. The region is extremely rich in culture and history. Naples is famous for its food, wine, music and architecture. The stunningly beautiful palace at Caserta and the nearby historic sites of Pompei, Herculaneum and Paestum are also famous around the world.
Naples is colourful, vibrant and uniquely individual. You will find more royal palaces in Naples than you will in Paris. You can visit more world-class museums than you can in Florence. You can pray in almost as many churches as you can in Rome and there are more eastern-style bazaars than anywhere else this side of Istanbul. It also boasts the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Vesuvius stands menacingly behind the city of Naples, it is dormant now, but who knows when that might change…
Campania is cheerful and radiant, well-known for the typical products from the land. Thanks to the sun, this region can boast the juiciest and tastiest tomatoes in the world that flavor the many local dishes and, last but not least, the famous pizza and calzone. The pizza maker who invented a tri-color pizza with tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy, became a legend; this pizza still survives with the traditional name of pizza Margherita.
Naples is also the homeland of Italian spaghetti. The sauces are numerous and all very tasty, but what matters the most is that the pasta is perfectly-cooked; the people of Naples are certified experts in this!
Another pride of this region is the dairy produce, with the famous buffalo mozzarella, masterfully produced in the areas of Mondragone, Battipaglia, Capua and Eboli.
The most typical desserts are Neapolitan through and through: crispy sfogliatelle with ricotta cheese, and babas soaked in (rum) liqueur.
The liqueurs? Limoncello of Sorrento and Campanian wines, from Taurasi to Aglianico, Greco di Tufo, Asprino d’Aversa, Lacrima Christi, Fiano and Solopaca, perhaps enjoyed with a Neapolitan meal on a terrace overlooking the sea and a beautiful Neapolitan song playing in the background.
|Languages spoken||Italian including other local dialects|
Culture and history of Campania
Originally inhabited by the Ausoni (or Aurunci) and Opici, In the 8th century BC the region was colonized by the Greeks who founded the city of Cuma. In the 6th century BC the Etruscans established around Capua a federation of twelve towns, which fought and defeated the Greeks in 524 and 474 BC. Then in the 5th century BC both Capua and Cuma were conquered by the warlike Samnites.
Between 343 and 290 BC three wars were fought between Samnites and Romans, who finally occupied the region. Rich Roman families built villas and gardens in the beautiful Neapolitan Gulf, until the ominous Vesuvius eruption in 89 AD covered in lava the Roman cities of Pompei and Ercolanus.
After the fall of the roman Empire Campania was alternatively under the Goths and the Byzanthines, then it was conquered by the Lombards in 570 AD who established here the Dukedom of Benevento, while Amalfi became a rich independent sea trade center. In 1139 the region was conquered by the Normans, then became part of the Kingdom of Sicily under the Anjou (13th century) and Aragonese (15th century). The Spaniards (1503-1707) were followed by the Austrians (1707 to 1734) until Charles VII Bourbon (1734) became King of Naples.
After the unity to Italy in 1860 there arose serious economic problems, among them a tragical cholera epidemic in 1884, events which started a massive exodus of the population to the North of Italy and abroad. During WW2 the Allied Anglo-American forces landed at on 9 September 1943 and the bombings that followed, as well as the destruction caused by the retreating Germans caused innumerable victims among the population.
Activities in Campania
Campania proposes countless ways to live and discover the beauty of the terrain, a perfect harmony between history, culture, folklore and genuine flavors.
There are places where one can spend a holiday filled with knowledge, sport and fun, but above all, this is a place where one can feel regenerated and recover psycho-physical balance in one of the many spas. Thermal spas are innumerable and special here because the volcanic phenomena of the past have given rise to several aquifers that still generate their thermal waters rich in therapeutic properties.
Typically, the best spas in this area are in Ischia, one of the pearls of the Gulf of Naples; thanks to its volcanic origins, Ischia boasts one of the best hydrothermal situations in the world. Modern and well-equipped spas offer a wide range of curative and beauty treatments surrounded by the magical scenery of this wonderful island.
Castellammare di Stabia, Pozzuoli and Sant’Angelo are some other places where you can devote yourself to the remise en forme of both body and mind.
Not only Ischia is in the magnificent background of the Gulf of Naples but also one of the most famous places in the world, Capri, the queen of social life and luxury, a meeting point for politicians, jet-setters and movie stars. A stroll through its famous piazzetta is a must if you want to revel in the heart of this charming and mysterious place.
Many are the wonders of this island and there are many ways to admire them: renting the famous and comfy gozzi fishing boats, booking a helicopter tour that flies over the whole Bay of Naples and the areas of Herculaneum and Pompeii, or, for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, booking a guided tour to explore the most beautiful places, learning about their particularities and curiosities.
The sea is undoubtedly the main attraction of Campania, but the hinterland deserves some attention, too. Ancient pathways, some of them dating back 2000 years, giving access to the cores of the National and Regional Parks that contain several finds from the past, in an exceptional natural environment.
This land, kissed as it is by sun and sea, naturally boasts its own excellent and internationally-appreciated wines. A wide range of high-caliber reds of bold flavor are all for the tasting for lovers of the “blood of Bacchus,” who can follow the Wine Routes to experience nature, tradition and the best of all that is oenological. Old traditions show up at the many festivals and events organized all over the territory of Campania, which also hosts international cultural events.
The Ravello Festival takes place every year amidst the enchanted scenery of the Amalfi Coast; it is an unmissable event for those who want to be won over by the magic of great music set in an incomparably-beautiful background.
Sight Seeing in Campania
Those who choose to spend their holidays in Campania are spoilt for choice thanks to the many opportunities offered by this region, but the five sites recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites certainly deserve a visit.
Naples strikes visitors for its liveliness, for the splendid colors of the sea, but also for its history that resurfaces from every corner of the old town center – the biggest in Europe, an authentic museum under the open sky.
Wherever you look, you can admire fascinating views, tabernacles, and Baroque churches and obelisks. You can see ancient crafts, from Nativity scenes (St. Gregory of Armenia) to the incomparable art of violin makers, up to the old Borgo degli Orefici. Countless are the itineraries to follow, from a visit to the castles, museums, and villas and historical palaces, or a tour among the many churches that contain sculptural and pictorial masterpieces of enormous artistic value.
For the exceptionality of the finds and their excellent state of preservation, UNESCO protects the Archaeological Area of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 A.D. The volcanic lava caused their destruction but, as it hardened, that very lava became an exceptional means to preserve all the extraordinary finds, brought back to light many centuries later.
A unique and singular perspective is offered from the Amalfi Coast: bays, coves and picturesque small towns, which miraculously cling to the mountain. The light blue tones of the sea, the green of the Mediterranean scrub, the colors and the lines of the small houses – all merge perfectly to create one of the most beautiful routes on the Italian coast. Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello, Vietri sul Mare and Positano are some of the precious pearls that make up a “necklace” of small towns (12 altogether) on the coast. They look like small living Nativities, with their ancient alleys, arches and little squares that enchant visitors with their atmosphere, sounds and scents.
The Royal Palace of CasertaCaserta, the Royal Palace and Park, another UNESCO site, is a real masterpiece of architecture and decoration and a precious holder of works of art. Inside the Palace, visitors are astonished by the continuous succession of works of art, stuccos, bas-reliefs, frescoes, sculptures and intarsia (inlaid) floors. A colossal work: four courtyards, 1,200 rooms, more than 30 impressive staircases including the famous Grand Staircase with 116 steps, framed by a huge splendid park.
Archaeology, nature and traditions are the three distinguishing features of the Vallo di Diano and Cilento National ParkCilento, a crossroads for cultures and peoples since prehistoric times. A precious vestige of this region is Paestum, which boasts the three best-preserved Greek temples in the world: Hera’s Temple, the oldest; Neptune’s Temple, the biggest; and Ceres’s Temples, which were actually dedicated to the goddess Athena. In 540 A.D, the coasts of Cilento saw the landing of the Phocaeans, the founders of Elea (today Velia), an ancient town known as having been the residence of great philosophers like Parmenides. Be sure not to miss a visit to the Certosa of Padula, one of the largest monasteries in the world.
A landscape of rare beauty molded by the wind, the sea and man: these are Capri and Ischia, where vacationers can relax in complete tranquility during the day and enjoy the best of fun and entertainment at night.
Cities of Campania
Naples – Agerola – Casteldimare di Stabia – Caserta – Salerno – Avellino – Benevento