Italy : Rome & Amalfi Coast
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Rome is a city that remains virtually unrivalled in the sheer volume and diversity of its cultural repertoire. One could spend months in Rome and still only scratch the surface of treasures to be discovered in this phenomenal ancient city. 3000-years of haphazard urban development has resulted in a complex cocktail of art, history and architecture full of fascinating cultural clashes and contrasts. Classical ruins as well as countless early Christian catacombs and clandestine churches sit alongside (or beneath) magnificent Renaissance palazzos and breathtaking Baroque fountains. This unique combination of a rich historical tapestry interweaved with a thriving and vibrant modern community living life to its fullest as only the Italians can, makes Italy's Eternal City one of the world's most intriguing and inspiring tourist destinations.
Set on a hillside overlooking the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius, Sorrento is a tiny Italian resort town perfectly located for exploring the Amalfi coast, Capri, Pompeii and the Naples area. However, the little town itself is full of possibilities waiting to be discovered. Visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkelling or diving in the sparkling turquoise waters; browsing the maze of shops and stalls full of local craftspeople showing off their skills, or meandering along the unspoiled streets of the old town to discover its wealth of Renaissance palazzi and Romanesque churches. At the heart of the town, the Piazza Tasso perches over a magnificent gorge and is packed with bustling cafes and restaurants serving mouth-watering traditional dishes. The Sorrento locals’ ability to master the fine art of living ‘la dolce vita’ makes Sorrento the ultimate destination for indulgence.
Presided over by mighty Mount Vesuvius, with the remarkable archaeological site of Pompeii on its doorstep, the historical Mediterranean city of Naples has a long and fascinating history. Naples predates the Italian state and the Roman Republic by centuries, resulting in a virtually unrivalled bounty of Greek and Roman artefacts. Naples is unlike any other Italian city - it is huge, edgy and disorderly and yet this contemporary mayhem carries on against a backdrop of some of Italy’s grandest and most impressive historical squares, world-class museums, and breathtaking Baroque masterpieces. As the birthplace of pizza and home to arguably the most sumptuous culinary scene in a country famous for its excellent food, Naples boasts numerous gastronomic establishments to thrill food lovers with all manner of tasty delights.
The peaceful resort town of Amalfi makes an ideal base for travellers looking to explore the numerous natural wonders and the lovely little towns dotted along the famed Amalfi Coast. The town begins right at the water's edge with a picturesque promenade along the Mediterranean and a marina full of colorful boats. Narrow streets wind up the hillside featuring a cluster of distinctive white houses connected to one another by covered alleys and stairways. The heart of the town is the Piazza del Duomo where you will find sidewalk cafes and elegant shops as well as the beautiful Cathedral of St. Andrew, with its impressive staircase, a bell-tower in Arab-Norman style and the charming Cloister of Paradise. Other must-see sights include The Paper Mill Museum and The Museo Arsenale Amalfi, a medieval shipyard-turned-exhibition space.
Perched high in the mountains overlooking the glistening Mediterranean Sea, the peaceful little town of Ravello is famous for its exquisite gardens and its wonderful classical music concerts. The town is also known for its medieval religious buildings, ancient palaces and noble mansions which rest alongside extraordinary contemporary structures, such as the Auditorium designed by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The village slopes gently down the hillside from a central pedestrianised piazza dominated by a remarkable 11th-century cathedral and its 13th-century bell tower. With its unforgettable views, its cobbled and stepped streets lined with elegant villas, and an almost total ban on cars, the town has long been popular with travellers seeking a tranquil and romantic haven away from the bustle of the outside world.
Resting at the foot of the legendary Mount Vesuvius lies one of the world’s most treasured archaeological sites, the ancient Roman town of Pompeii. The town was buried under ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D, leaving a well-preserved ruin that offers unprecedented insight into Roman life two centuries ago. Clustering alongside its ruined predecessor, the modern-day town of Pompei is often overlooked by tourists. However, for many Italians, it is a sacred place to which millions of pilgrims travel to congregate at Santuario della Madonna del Rosario, the 19th-century basilica in the centre of the new town. The modern town serves as a practical base for exploring the ruins and offers some excellent restaurants specializing in delicious and historically accurate ancient Roman dishes.
The small but spectacular island of Capri is located off the western coast of Italy in the Bay of Naples. A celebrated tourist destination, Capri is a beautiful place to visit, with elegant buildings, dramatic cliffs and some unbelievable natural attractions. The Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) is a cave at the entrance to the sea that admits visitors on a rowboat to admire the waters, which are lit from beneath by the sunlight and shimmer in incredible hues of blue. For fans of architecture, the ruins of the 2,000-year-old palace of Villa Jovis are fascinating to explore, while Villa Lysis is an Art Nouveau masterpiece and Villa San Michele boasts tranquil and expansive gardens. Capri’s selection of popular upmarket restaurants provides mouth-watering local fare - make sure to try the seafood pasta dishes.
Located on the northern side of the magnificent Sorrentine Peninsula, neighbouring the world-renowned Amalfi Coast, the Sorrento Coast is a spectacularly scenic stretch of coastline. The area is known for its unspoilt countryside, hidden coves, deep gorges, mild Mediterranean climate, hilltop hamlets and exceptional sweeping panoramas. The area serves as an idyllic and convenient base to visit the famous towns of Pompeii and Naples as well as the island of Capri. Visitors flock here to soak up the views, explore the quaint cliffside Italian villages, and enjoy the relaxed holiday atmosphere and citrus-scented air. The culinary scene is enough reason to visit alone: sip on locally-produced limoncello while enjoying delicious fresh seafood, baked gnocchi or Naples-style pizza at one of the many village cafes and restaurants.
The Amalfi Coast is a remarkably beautiful 48 kilometre-long stretch of mountainous coastline in the Italian southwestern region of Campania. It is known for its historic ruins, its breathtaking natural views and, of course, its iconic pastel coloured, medieval fishing villages which cling to the side of steep cliff faces, towering above the glistening Mediterranean Sea. The vertical landscape of Amalfi features a continuous succession bays, fjords and public gardens, interspersed with lovely little pebbled beaches. For decades this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been one of Italy's major tourist attractions, offering visitors excellent restaurants, hotels, bars, boutiques, and boat trips. The area is also famous for its sweet and zesty limoncello liqueur (owing to its abundance of lemons) and its colourful, exquisitely-decorated handmade ceramics.
Known as the Land of Sirens, this picturesque peninsula is known for its fascinating mythology, its Roman ruins, and its breathtaking coastal scenery. While the Southern coast of the peninsula features iconic pastel coloured medieval fishing villages clinging to the steep hillsides of the exquisite Amalfi coast, the northern coast offers spectacular views over the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius and the popular island of Capri. The central region running between these two popular tourist areas is dominated by a mountainous spine rising to 1300 metres and forming a dramatic limestone landscape of weathered peaks and deep gorges. Visitors typically base themselves in the conveniently central seaside resort town of Sorrento where Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples are accessible in one direction, and the Amalfi Coast in another. With all of this rich history and natural splendour on offer, it is little wonder that this exceptional peninsula has long been a favourite destination for locals and foreigners alike.