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Campi Flegrei - Phlegraean Fields
Capri - The island of Capri
Ischia - The island of Ischia
Napoli - Naples
La Corricella - Procida - The island of Procida
Sorrento - The Sorrento Coast

The pearls of the bay

How many books, paintings, songs, photographs, films, TV programmes, documentaries and plays have described the wonders of Naples and the Bay? How many more will there be? Thousands? Millions? It’s impossible to keep track of the endless stream of images and stories these extraordinary places inspire, stimulating the senses and exciting the imagination. The truth is that the global appeal of this unique corner of Italy lives in the hearts of visitors from the past and the present, warms the soul and instils a lust for life. The people and places of Capri, Procida and Ischia, the Phlegraean Fields, Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and the Sorrento Coast are all symbols of the Mediterranean. Together they are a fusion of deeply rooted cultures, magical frivolity, inexplicable mysteries, ancient wisdom, popular beliefs and noble ancestry, inspiring postcards and promises to come back soon. This handy and essential guide to The Pearls of the Bay is not intended to tell you everything you may want to know about this fascinating area. Its aim is simply to arouse your curiosity, help you plan your visit and make it a truly unforgettable experience.


The writer Norman Douglas vividly describes the strange currents in the Mediterranean that consistently flow in the direction of Campania. It was these very sea currents that brought the body of the Siren Parthenope to her resting place, the place where Naples would be founded. Today, from panoramic Via Petrarca, exclusive Posillipo and the beating heart of the noble city, the waves continue to ripple around the edges of what is at once a picture and a story: Ischia, Procida and Capo Miseno to the west, Capri and the Sorrento Coast to the south and south west, “picture-postcard” Mount Vesuvius to the east, and in the centre the urban maze under high-rise towers in the business district, old buildings, monuments and churches in the vast old town, the fortified castles of Castel Sant’Elmo, Maschio Angioino and Castel dell’Ovo, and the Charterhouse of San Martino. Visitors to Naples will be enthralled by the sight of Piazza del Plebiscito, the Royal Palace and the San Carlo Opera House, and the unexpected flashes of green in Capodimonte, the gardens of Posillipo and the rocky cliffs along the coast. A virtual tour of this “city by the sea with inhabitants”, as Luigi Compagnone so eloquently called it, paints the picture of a Siren who has finally come of age and can at last call herself European. The city has discovered a new-found impetus and seems to be standing at the crossroads of progression. Naples has caught up with the rest of the world, driven to some extent by the incredible force of the Neapolitan spirit – creative, aristocratic, never conventional – and has at last broken out of its confines. But it’ll never give up its traditional pleasures: walks along the waterfront and evening seaside strolls in Mergellina, mandolins and serenades, coffee and pizza (don’t forget, this is where they make the best pizza in the world). Clichés apart, every age in this city’s turbulent history has always been very different from the last one, and the speed at which things are changing is a sign of activism across the board; in its profoundly humanistic yet intensely scientific universities, in its literary output and artistic expression (take a look at the contemporary artwork in some of the underground stations of the new metro), and in the classical modernity of its theatre, music and performing arts.

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The Sorrento Coast

Who doesn’t know the tune to “Torna a Surriento”? One of the most famous Neapolitan songs, it was composed at the very beginning of the last century and has been hugely popular ever since. A timeless love song inspired by powerful emotions, it’s proof of just how much the beauty of Sorrento and the Sorrento Coast, all the way from Vico Equense right up to Punta Campanella, has influenced artists and thinkers over the centuries. It’s a captivating place with a fascinating history lost in the mists of time. When rich Romans under the emperor Tiberius started to find Capri a bit too crowded, they began to build magnificent villas along the mountain ridges of the peninsula. It was, as we would say today, a much sought-after area, described by the great Virgil and Strabo. Later, the writings of Torquato Tasso would attract Goethe, Byron, Dumas, Verdi, Leopardi, Ibsen and others. After the peaceful invasion of travellers on the Grand Tour, the Sorrento Coast welcomed more famous guests, from the Rockefellers to the British Royal Family, and from Jacqueline Kennedy to Maria Callas. Not to mention Norman Douglas, whose books were like an advert for the south of Italy before advertising had really been invented. Illustrious visitors have continued to frequent the coastal resorts and hillside retreats immersed in the Lattari Mountains and surrounded by orange and lemon groves. Talking of Sorrento lemons – a great food souvenir, a super concentration of vitamins and a fruity reincarnation of the southern Italian sun – no one who’s ever been to the Sorrento Coast will ever want to be without them.

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Pompeii and the mount vesuvius area

Long gone is the plume of grey smoke that once rose from the peak of Mount Vesuvius, the legendary volcano looming over the Bay of Naples. But still the eye is inevitably drawn to the mighty cone, the sprawling towns creeping up the foot of the mountain, the smooth and slightly forbidding lava flows, and the thick woods, farmland and golden vineyards blanketing the upper slopes. One look and you can really get a feel of its astonishing complexity and power. There’s more to Vesuvius than the landmark and the legend, the paintings and the poetry. It’s rich heritage is full of surprises just waiting to be discovered. Herculaneum, Torre del Greco, Torre Annunziata, the buried city of Pompeii – one of the world’s most famous and visited archaeological sites – and Castellammare di Stabia all have their own unique identity. Nowhere else will you find such a concentration of geological and natural features, historical and archaeological attractions, or talented artists and artisans living and working on the slopes of the volcano, from the master craftsmen of coral and cameos to the maestros of pasta-making. A trip through these fertile lands past fields of bright red tomatoes and fruit orchards, miraculous springs and old thermal spas is a voyage of discovery, a socio-economic and cultural revelation. As they say, watch this space.

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Phlegraean Fields

With their beaches, coves and sandy bays, craters, cliffs and rocky caves, ancient underground buildings, mythological heroes and legendary tales, the “fiery fields” stretch westwards from the tip of the Posillipo hill to the acropolis at Cumae and Capo Miseno, the headland cutting off the Bay of Pozzuoli from shipping traffic en route to Procida and Ischia. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and bradyseism have all shaped the history of these lands, packed with archaeological sites and fascinating vestiges from the past. After being a Greek colony, the now submerged city of ancient Baiae became a legendary retreat for the rich and wealthy Romans who frequented this luxury spa town. The popularity of the Phlegraean Fields enjoyed a revival many centuries later with travellers on the Grand Tour, even before the treasures of Herculaneum and Pompeii came to light. Virgil’s beloved land has many unique natural and cultural attractions. Fire and beauty, rocks and vapours, green fields and flowering hills, art and the arts, sun and sea all come together to recreate the spirit of the ancient Western world. From the sacred ruins at Cuma to the luxurious thermal bathing complexes and Imperial villas of Baia, from the mysterious atmosphere of Lake Averno to the sulphurous clouds of the Solfatara crater, from the journey into the bowels of Rione Terra to the amphitheatre and other ancient sites in Pozzuoli, from the Piscina Mirabilis to the Grotta della Dragonara, this is a world of infinite splendours and age-old mysteries just waiting to be discovered.

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Capri Island

In no place on earth are there so many opportunities for delicious peace and quiet as on this small island"Charles Dickens

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The island of Ischia

T'he island of Ischia, which separates the Bay of Gaeta from that of Naples and which is separated by means of a narrow channel from the island of Procida, is but a sheer mountain, whose white electrifying peak has sunk its broken teeth into the sky. Its steep sides, furrowed by valleys, creeks and stream beds, are covered in dark green chestnut groves, while the plains nearest the sea-shore have small houses, country villas and villages which are half-hidden under vine-laden pergolas. Each of these villages has its won harbour. This is also the name of the small port where boats belonging to the island’s fishermen ride at anchor and where the lateen sails flap in the wind. The streamers touch the trees and the vines.
Alphonse de Lamartine

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The island of Procida

Ah, I would not ask to be a seagull, or a dolphin; I’d be quite happy to be a scorpion fish, the ugliest fish in the sea, just to be able to be down there, playing in the water"“L’isola di Arturo”- Elsa Morante, 1957

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