From the coast to its cuisine, discover what lures travelers to Southern Italy's Campania region
Campania is a region in Southern Italy that hugs the Tyrrhenian Sea along the Western coast of Italy’s boot. The area boasts a wide variety of diverse activities and scenery. You can experience vibrant cities, enjoy long drives in the countryside or along the coast, relax on a rocky beach, or explore ancient ruins. Whether you’re a food and wine lover, history buff, or just looking for charming scenic spots for a much needed vacation, Campania offers something for every traveler.
Here are six reasons why Campania should make your travel wish list.
1. The Amalfi Coast
If dramatic scenery, azure seas, jagged cliffs hugging the beautiful coastline, rocky Mediterranean beaches, and fresh seafood sounds like bliss to you, then the Amalfi Coast is your perfect destination. Along the coast, visit popular towns like Positano,
Amalfi, and Ravello or smaller hidden gems like Maori, Minori, or Praiano. Positano especially became popular after scenes from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun were filmed here. Though not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento to the north shouldn’t be missed for its vast sea views and bustling main square, Piazza Tasso. It’s also a great jumping-off point for traveling to the nearby islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida by ferry.
Naples has a reputation of being a gritty city, but it’s also very vibrant and alive—like a living museum. You could spend weeks exploring the city’s mix of baroque architecture, palazzos, piazzas, or seemingly endless number of churches and still not see everything!
The best way to experience real life in Naples is to wander the small, cramped alleyways in the centro storico (city center). Watch out for crazy scooter drivers who weave their way around boxes of fruit and veggies overflowing from market stalls, while dodging locals. Don’t forget to look up to see laundry, flowers, and flags dangling from balconies. Art and history lovers can visit world class museums like the Capodimonte, Pinacoteca Girolamini, and the National Archeological Museum, which houses one of Italy’s best collections of Greek and Roman artifacts. Explore the city’s more elegant side by touring botanical gardens and luxury villas, shopping under the stunning glass dome of Galleria Umberto I, or attending a performance at Italy’s oldest opera house, Teatro di San Carlo.
The most famous archeological site in southern Italy is Pompeii, one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Campania. Tragedy struck this port city near Naples when nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted in 79 A.D., burying the city and many of its residents. Years later, skeletons, everyday objects, and buildings were uncovered, remarkably well-preserved under the ash and lava. A tour of the entire 160-acre site would take several days, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time and come armed with a map and a plan, or hire a guide. Either way will offer a fascinating look into what life was like in the ancient city.
4. The wine
Campania is one of the older wine producing areas in Italy. Many vines date back to Greek and Roman times, and in fact, the region is home to Falerno, the most ancient wine in Italy. Modern wines produced here have a very unique terroir, thanks in part to the volcanic soils the grapes are grown in, especially on the slopes around Mount Vesuvius. Whether visiting wineries for proper wine tastings or just trying something local that marries well with your meal at a trattoria or enoteca, you’ll definitely have a wide variety of good quality red, white and even rosé to choose from. Try crisp white wines like Falanghina and Greco di Tufo. Citrus flavors and minerality make them perfect for an aperitivo or with fresh seafood. Aglianico, the most popular red wine, is full-bodied, rustic and earthy; they should be enjoyed with more substantial dishes like pasta and meat. Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio is another well-known wine made from grapes grown near the famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius. With over 15 types of DOC and DOCG wines, drinking your way through them can prove to be a fun and tasty experience!
5. The Food
Every region in Italy has its own culinary specialties, and Campania is no exception. If I could point you to just one food to put on your “must try list” while traveling through Campania, it’s most certainly pizza!
It’s a well-known fact that the best pizza in the world comes from Naples. The classic Margherita is so deceptively simple, yet so delicious. It’s made with the most flavorful combination of sun-ripened San Marzano tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, basil, and the freshest olive oil drizzled across the charred crust when it comes out of the oven. Other food specialties in Campania include:
Pasta Puttanesca – A spicy sauce with tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. Hot chili peppers gives it a spicy kick.
Caprese Salad – named for its birth place, the island of Capri, this is a deceptively
simple salad of fresh mozzarella, sun-ripened tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. And yes, it looks like the Italian flag!
Sfogliatelle – a crunchy, yet flaky, shell-shaped breakfast pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese and occasionally candied fruit.
Seafood Aqua Pazza – meaning crazy water, this is a dish made with white fish, like red snapper or branzino, which is cooked in a broth of garlic, white wine, tomatoes and parsley.
One thing you’ll notice when spending time in Campania is the size and fragrance of the lemons. They’re more like yellow softballs. And when life gives you lemons in southern Italy, of course you make Limoncello! This Italian lemon liqueur is a specialty of the region produced in Sorrento, along the Amalfi Coast and the nearby islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. It’s made by taking the zest of local lemons and soaking them in clear alcohol and a bit of sugar for about a month or longer. This produces a smooth and sweet aperitivo, which is refreshing on a hot summer’s day near the sea, especially chilled. Thankfully, it’s everywhere: on menus, served in bars, and lining the shelves of almost every shop in the area. One can even visit a factory to see how it’s made. But my favorite thing to do is buy a bottle, chill it, and sip it while savoring the view of the coast.
Most travelers visiting Campania fly into the Naples airport or take a high-speed train from Rome. Train service in the region spotty, but SITA bus services the area. For the most flexibility, renting a car or hiring a private driver is recommended.