Campania, a luscious region in southwestern Italy, is renowned for its rich history, stunning coastal landscapes, archaeological sites, and vibrant culinary traditions.
It’s home to the bustling city of Naples, the stunning Amalfi Coast, and the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
This region, blessed with fertile volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius, is also famous for producing some of Italy’s best wines, fresh produce, and the iconic Neapolitan pizza.
On a visit, you can indulge in the food, the espressos, the absolute natural beauty. Ah, it’s a magical place.
Let me give you just some of the many reasons to visit Campania.
Why Visit Campania
The capital city of all of it is Napoli. This was formerly the Kingdom of Naples before the unification of Italy.
Naples has a picture perfect location on the Bay of Naples. It’s loomed over by Vesuvius, an active volcano that still rumbles to this day.
But there’s much more to the city than its natural beauty. It has one of the best museums on planet earth — the National Archaeological Museum.
It contains one of the world’s most important collections of ancient art. The most celebrated piece is the Alexander mosaic.
But everything from Pompeii is here too! You can’t visit Pompeii without coming here first.
Then, of course, there are the extraordinary sculptures from the Farnese collection, including the massive Hercules and Farnese Bull.
After admiring the art, you have to walk down (and around) Spaccanapoli, the iconic street that divides the town. Along the way, you’ll see a plethora of gorgeous churches.
Naples is also Caravaggio territory. You can see a rare Caravaggio painting in the Misericordia and several in the Capodimonte.
You can’t go to Napoli without trying the pizza at cult places like Pizzeria de Michele, Gino Sorbillo, or Pizzeria Di Matteo. The San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella are to die for!
Italy has higher and more active volcanos (Etna in Sicily), but none as notorious as Vesuvius. The catastrophic eruption in 79 AD famous buried and preserved the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Today, the volcano is mostly dormant. Much of the area today is protected as a national park.
Loads of people ascend the mountain every year. May and June are beautiful times to visit with everything in bloom. You’ll want to walk to the edge of the huge, dark crater.
Because of rich volcanic soil, Vesuvius is home to some unique and renowned wineries.
The volcanic soil provides a distinctive terroir that imparts a special character to the wines produced in this area.
The region is known for indigenous grape varieties like Lacryma Christi, which translates to “Tears of Christ.” Other varieties include Falanghina, Piedirosso, and Coda di Volpe.
You can book a vineyard tour from Naples or a guided tour that combines wine with a visit to Pompeii.
Pompeii is the single most important site for people to visit in Italy. The city was flash frozen by volcanic lava from Vesuvius.
What is offers up to visitors is a miraculous, almost head spinning, insight into the daily living of the Romans. They had plumbing, running water, thermal baths, and fast food.
We know what they ate for breakfast. They even had signs telling you to beware of dogs. You can see the black and white mosaic of a vicious dog, Cave Canem, in the House of the Tragic Poet.
There are some spectacular villas. The House of the Vettii recently reopened after years of restoration. The frescos in the House of the Mysteries have been freshly restored and are incredibly vibrant.
Only 2/3 of Pompeii is excavated. So new finds are made all the time. For example, in 2023, a kitchen shrine with serpents, a still life painting of bread, and exquisite mosaics were found.
But most tours don’t show you nearly enough. You’ll want to stay longer to tread down the cobbled streets and peak in and out of the structures.
If so, you could do what I did on my last visit — book a guided tour with an archaeologist, who you meet at the site, and then explore on your own.
Tip: The most common way to get to Pompeii from Naples is via the Circumvesuviana train. It departs from the lower level of the Napoli Centrale station, the city’s main train station.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the often-crowded Pompeii that’s smaller and quieter, drive 20 minutes to Herculaneum.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was also buried in the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. While Pompeii was a middle class town, Herculaneum was a wealthy, exclusive beach resort.
Much of Herculaneum is still un-excavated, buried beneath the modern town of Ercolano. The local residents, understandably, are not keen on displacing their homes.
The area that has been excavated covers about 11 city blocks, revealing a snapshot of ancient Roman life. As you wander through the site, you’ll encounter the remnants of a gymnasium, a pool, thermal baths, taverns, ancient fast food stands, and several villas.
Among these, the House of the Stags is the most impressive, with beautiful still life frescos. In addition, don’t miss the exquisite mosaic depicting Neptune and Amphitrite.
The most moving part is down by the harbor. Most people escaped the wrath of Vesuvius on rescue boats. But you can see replicas of the skeletons of the people who didn’t make it and died terrible deaths from the hot poisonous gas.
Just outside the main site is the Villa dei Papiri. 1,800 carbonized papyrus scroll and many sculptures were found there.
Fun Fact: John Paul Getty recreated the Villa dei Papiri in a villa gallery above Malibu. It’s a stunning place to visit, especially if you can’t get to Herculaneum.
You can visit Herculaneum on your own with a skip the line ticket. You get to Herculaneum from Naples’ Station Porta Nolan-Circumvesuviana (20 minutes) or by the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento. I would allow about 2 hours for a visit.
You can also visit on a guided tour from Naples.
Ischia is the largest of the Phlegraean Islands and is famous for its thermal spas, beautiful beaches, and lush landscapes.
The island has a rich history. You’ll be blown away by all it has to offer — the Aragonese Castle, the Gardens of La Mortella, thermal spas like Negombo, and the chance to hike Mount Epomeo.
Naturally, you can also lounge on the beach and sample the gelato. Like Capri, Ischia is amazing to view from the water, so I recommend a boat tour around the island.
The food is fantastic. You can try everything from coniglio all’ischiatana (Ischia-style stewed rabbit) to spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and a wide variety of local wines.
Tip: Ferries and hydrofoils to Ischia depart from two main ports in Naples. Molo Beverello is mainly for hydrofoils (faster but more expensive), while Calata Porta di Massa is for the slower ferries.
What captivates me about Procida is its quaint, compact size — significantly smaller than its neighbor, Ischia.
It’s just 1.5 square miles from end to end. So, it’s possible to stroll from one end of the island to the other in just a day, taking in the sights of its delightful houses, many pretty in pink.
The island’s architecture is a blend of Mediterranean styles, with narrow streets and hidden courtyards adding to its charm. Procida boasts lovely beaches and clear waters, ideal for swimming and relaxing.
The island has a more untouched and authentic feel compared to its more famous neighbors, making it a charming destination for those looking to experience a quieter side of Italian island life.
Tip: You can get to Procida by ferry from Ischia or Naples. You can also visit both Ischia and Procida on a tour from Sorrrento.
After Naples, the most famous and magical place in Campania is the island of Capri. For centuries, Capri has charmed everyone from Roman emperors to celebrities. It’s easy to be star struck.
You should begin by taking the chair lift up to Mount Solaro for breathtaking views. Or take a boat tour around the island and see the Blue Grotto.
Aside from its good looks, Capri was actually the capital of the Roman Empire for awhile. And you can hike up to the archaeological ruins of Emperor Tiberius’ Villa Jovis.
There are two immaculate towns — Anacapri and Capri Town — to wander through. They both feature chic boutiques, upscale hotels and excellent eateries.
If instead you are interested in natural beauty, you can hike around the island on the coastal trails.
Or boat and swim around the Faraglioni, the three jagged limestone stacks that soar from the sea off the southeastern tip of the island. The water is the bluest you’ll ever find.
Most people visit Capri on a day trip tour. But I think the island is really deserving of 2 full days.
The Amalfi Coast in the Gulf of Salerno is shockingly beautiful. But it’s so popular. It’s almost become a victim of its own success .
Yet, it hasn’t really lost its luster. The cute little towns look like they’ve been glued to the side of a cliff.
Positano is the most in demand jet setting location. The pastel homes tumble down the mountains.
If Positano is too busy for you, you can head further up the mountain to the gorgeous town of Ravello. Ravello offers breathtaking views of the rest of the Amalfi Coast.
The town has a celebrated music festival, gorgeous villas and gardens, and some amazing luxury hotels. The Terrace of Infinity in Villa Cimbrone is unmissable.
Amalfi Town is a bustling seaside village with a vibrant atmosphere and historic charm. It boasts a superb cathedral and a tempting labyrinth of picturesque lanes.
Another reason to visit Campania is to visit the jewel of an archaeological park at Paestum. It’s about 55 miles south of Naples. It has a romantic setting amidst flower-filled meadows.
This was a Greek city that was abandoned and forgotten for millennium. But because it was abandoned, the three Greek temples there survived intact, and were not reconstructed.
In fact, these are the best preserved temples on earth, even better than in Greece. They are from the 6th century BC. That means they’re over 2,500 years old.
You can also see one of the world’s most unique and most treasured artifacts, the Tomb of the Diver, in the onsite museum. This enigmatic artifact is from the 5th century BC.
It’s one of the only examples in existence of Greco-Roman painting. The paintings — five in all — formed part of a coffin.
I recommend booking a guided tour of the temples and museum with an archaeologist.
Tip: Paestum is famous for its festivals. One of the most famous is the Hot Air Balloon festival in October.
I hope I’ve persuaded you to visit Campania. You may find these other southern Italy guides useful:
- One Day In Naples Itinerary
- 3 Days in Naples Itinerary
- One Week Amalfi Coast Itinerary
- 5 Day Amalfi Coast Itineraries
- 10 Days in Southern Italy Itinerary
- One Week in Puglia Itinerary
- 2 Weeks in Sicily Itinerary
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