Campania is the most visited Italian region in the south, largely due to the tremendous attractions along the Amalfi Coast and the popular archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and ancient Capua.
Many folks skip Naples, which is a mistake. You can eat great food at reasonable prices, and snack on some of the world's best Pizza. Yes, it's teeming with life of all sorts, just brush off what you don't like and visit the archaeological museum, the Museo Archaologico Nazionale di Napoli. Bored with old things? The intrepid may tuck themselves into the Secret Room, the Gabinetto segreto that made a splash years ago with all manner of ancient erotic objects. Your blood may boil but you won't be bored.
But let's stop here and get our bearings. We'll start with the cities and major highway, then show you the provinces of Campania.
Here you see the major tourist cities of Campania, with the north-south A3/A4 Autostrada (toll road) that makes it's way south through a tiny, coastal slice of Basilicata and on to Calabria.
There are five provinces in Campania. The abbreviation of the province name is an important part of an Italian Address. For example, the address of the Administration of Salerno Province is: Via Roma, 104 - 84121 Salerno (SA), The (SA) signifying Salerno province.
As you can see, the five provinces are based around the major cities of Campania.
The province has a population of about 900,000. There are two major tourist attractions here. The Royal Palace of Caserta, located in the center of Caserta, was the largest palace in Europe in the 18th century. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Caserta has a train station linking Rome and Naples to Bari.
Ancient Capua was the site of Italy's Second largest amphitheater. Sparticus started his famous Slave revolt here, and you can visit Hadrian's Arch, the Mithraeum, and the gladiator museum as well as the very well done archaeological museum in a day. But don't look for Capua on a map or put it into your car's GPS; that's the modern city. Old Capua is called Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Capua Vetere referring to ancient Capua.
If you think of ancient sites all lit up on a summer's night as romantic--and you like to eat--make a dinner reservation at the organic restaurant called Sparticus Arena. It's right smack in front of the amphitheater and is very popular with locals and tourists alike.
We stayed (and liked) the B&B Vico Mitreo 2. Inexpensive with big rooms and a great breakfast--great owners, too.
From Caserta or Capua it's less than an hour to Naples by train, bus or car.
Benevento, ancient Beneventum, offers the tourist the perfect mix of ancient and modern. For your wandering pleasure, the pedestrian zone of Piazza Roma stretches between the castle and the bell towner of Santa Sofia. Benevento's Trajan's Arch is one of the better-preserved triumphal arches, with beautiful bas-reliefs on both facades. The Romanesque Duomo adds some medieval flare. Head for the Sannio Museum to see a collection of archaeological remains from the area.
Other compelling cities include Sant'Agata de' Goti, with it's castle and 10th century Cathedral with a Romanesque crypt that might be built atop Roman or earlier buildings. Montesarchio is the site of Caudium, a Roman city on the ancient road from Beneventum to Capua. See the Castle, later turned into a jail, The 12th century abbey of St. Nicolas and the Ancient marble fountain you find in the main square.
Naples Province is the most densely populated in Italy. It is also packed with tourist attractions, from the island of Capri to the famous archaeological sites preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius, to the Amalfi Coast villages.
Naples is sometimes overlooked by tourists who've heard it was too "dangerous" despite the fact that the people who love Naples tend to like it better than just about any other Italian destination. If you want to take baby steps into discovering the amazing humanity in the city, I suggest you start in the upscale Volmero.
The Sorrento peninsula separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno, and the town is an intersting travel destination in itself.
You can take a day trip from Naples to see Pompeii and hike Vesuvius; it's not a difficult trip to see into the caldera and look out over a vast stretch of coastal land.
Avellino is the most populous town at around 20,000 people in this rural province of small villages and agricultural land. It raises a third of Italy's hazelnuts and is renowned as a wine growing region, producing Aglianico, Taurasi, Greco and Fiano wines. Visit the Clock Tower, the Cathedral and the Castle, the symbols of the city.
Historic and religious documents--some of which date back to the first century, are found In Mercogliano's Palazzo Abbaziale di Loreto, Also see the castles at Montemiletto, Lauro, and Ariano Irpino.
Christ may have stopped at Eboli, and most tourists don't venture much further south, but the Province of Salerno has become a big favorite of mine. Nature lovers who like water with appreciate the Gole del Calore, an area of gorges between the towns of Felitto and Magliano Vetere formed by the Calore lucano river. For another watery adventure, try the Pertosa Caves. Then head over to the The Certosa di Padula, the Charterhouse of Padula in Campania, shown below in all its spring glory.
Salerno Province is also home to the amazingly preserved Greek temples at Paestum, where you'll find Doric temples built around the 5th century BC. There are also painted tombs to be seen. Just to the south is Agripoli, the "high town" of the Byzantines, who built fortifications here in around 500 AD. The charming alleyways make the old town appealing, as does the picturesque harbor. This part of the province is called the Cilento, an area known by Italians for its small towns and clean beaches. There is also the seaside site of Velia, a city founded in 540 BC by the Greeks fleeing the Persian invasion of Ionia.