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The Blue Grotto of Capri is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy.
The wonderful island of Capri is located right in front of the tip of the Sorrento peninsula, at a short distance from Naples and the towns of the Amalfi coast. This whole area offers a breathtaking scenery, charming towns, a lively atmosphere and great food.
For all these reason I consider it the ideal place for those looking for spending an unforgettable holiday in Italy.
Let’s discover Capri and what’s worth a visit.
Capri can be easily reached by ferry. The trips takes about a hour and all the ferries dock at Marina Grande.
From here you can take the funicular and reach Capri Town. The main attraction of the town is definitely its famous Piazzetta, a tiny square covered with bar tables, crowded with tourists and residents who stop for a coffee.
From Capri Town you can go to Anacapri. This town is still touristy, but more authentic. It is close to Monte Solaro, the island’s highest peak. You can easily reach the top of the mount by a lift chair and once there you will enjoy some gorgeous views on Capri, the sea, the coastline. One attraction I suggest you to visit in Anacapri is the church of San Michele. It may not seem so special from outside, but once inside the handpainted majolica tiled floor depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden will blow you away.
If you love gardens in Capri there are 2 places that you should visit. One is the garden of Villa San Michele, considered one of the top 10 most beautiful gardens in Italy. The other is the Gardens of Augustus, from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Faraglioni and the incredible zigzag road Via Krupp.
The Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto is a natural cavity hidden behind a low entryway.
To get into the Grotto you have to lie on the bottom of one of the many small rowing boats allowed to go inside. The boatman will drag the boat into the cave by clinging to a chain attached to the rock. It is a fun experience!
Once inside, the atmosphere completely changes.
You are suddenly surrounded by the darkness, but the water beneath you shines with a color that seems artificial.
Many people who see photos of the Blue Grotto of Capri on the internet think they are retouched, but the water is really fluorescent blue!
This unique phenomenon is caused by the sunlight entering through an underwater window just below the grotto entryway. The light is thus filtered by the water, which absorbs the red radiation and reflects only the blue one. The unique light is accentuated by the many small air bubbles that adhere to the surface of the immersed objects, giving them silvery reflections.
And now some useful infos about the Blue Grotto of Capri.
Those who want to visit it have to pay a fee. As you can immagine, many are the tourists who want to see this magic place, so in high season the boats line up to enter. Usually boatmen ask for a tip, but it is not mandatory.
From November to the end of March the Blue Grotto is generally closed due to the wind and the rough sea. In summer, the best time to visit it is between noon and 2 pm. On cloudy days the absence of the sun light makes the effect inside the grotto less intense.
The Faraglioni Rocks
Together with the Blue Grotto, the Faraglioni rocks are the symbol of Capri. They are 3 100 meters high rocky peaks that rise from the sea a few meters from the coast of the island.
Each Faraglione has its name. The one close to the land is called Stella; the one with the rocky arch is called Faraglione di Mezzo, the middle Faraglione; the third one is Faraglione di Fuori, the outside Faraglione, also known as Scopolo.
They create a unique and suggestive panorama, especially at the sunset. I’m sure you’ll take great Instagram-perfect photos!
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Campania during Christmas: the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Salerno and Naples
Campania during Christmas can be a lovely destination for a short holiday.The long traditions and the unique folklore are mixed with the lovely nature of places such as the Amalfi Coast or the strong identity of centers like Naples and Salerno.
From city decorations to traditional foods, the period between November and January is full of things to see and do.
Each city has its own calendar of events, which changes every year. What doesn’t change is the peculiarity of some spots that are worth a visit regardless what they organize to entertain people.
THE AMALFI COAST DURING CHRISTMAS
Tourists from around the world are used to visit the Amalfi Coast during summer.
The weather is perfect to enjoy the small towns and the sea at their best. Still, this area can surprise you even in winter, when visitors are gone and the towns go back to their residents.
The scenographic nature and towns of the Amalfi Coast are particularly charming during Christmas, since they somehow look like a real-size representation of the ‘presepi’, the nativity scenes that are so popular among Italians.
Light decorations are strategically placed to enhance the architectures and create a fairytale atmosphere.
When it comes to Christmas lights, every town of the Amalfi Coast has its own style and Minori is certainly one of the most appreciated.
I suggest you to rent a car, drive along the panoramic road and stop to each town to discover the Christmas events, or just to see the views or taste a traditional Christmas dish.
To appreciate the Amalfi coast during Christmas you should like tranquillity.
The towns are small and don’t offer great or fancy entertainments. However, seeing the fireworks reflecting off the Italian sea on New Year’s Eve and spending the rest of the night on the beach with the residents is a unique experience that you should try at least once in a lifetime.
SORRENTO DURING CHRISTMAS
During Christmas many are the cities embellished with decorations. However, Sorrento has take this tradition to another level.
From November to January, the town center is transformed into a magical word.
The streets are lit with colored lights, while buskers and street artists share their talents with the visitors.
The heart of this Christmas atmosphere is Piazza Tasso, where a big Christmas Tree is set every year.
The official Christmas Tree lighting ceremony is an event that summon both residents and tourists, and the Tree is set up to give a music and light show each hour.
Sorrento has also a rich calendar of holiday events, called “M’illumino d’inverno” that includes cinema, music, dance, art and food.
These events, together with the natural attractions, the hikes and the traditional customs, make Christmas in Sorrento a truly memorable experience.
SALERNO DURING CHRISTMAS
Another city in which Christmas lights enhance the winter atmosphere is Salerno.
27 km of city streets are embellished with light installations and decorations!
Salerno also hosts a large Christmas market. The stands display handicrafts or typical foods. It’s the perfect place to find a last minute present or an original souvenir.
Since it si a larger city, Salerno has many things that are worth to see, like the Arechi Castle, the Minerva’s Garden or the promenade in front of the sea.
NAPLES DURING CHRISTMAS
Naples is one of the largest cities in Italy and, as you can immagine, there are lots of things to see and do during a Christmas holiday.
You can think that in such a big city it could be impossible to feel the festive atmosphere, however Christmas is an important event for the residents.
Like the other cities, in Christmas Naples is an explosion of lights and decorations, especially the historic center.
The most folkloristic part of the center is Via San Gregorio Armeno. This street is renowned for the Neapolitan nativity scenes, called ‘presepi’, that are displayed on stands and handicraft shop windows.
Small statues and scale models are often handmade by master artisans that are continuing this tradition since the 1700s. The interesting thing is that artisans doesn’t limit their work to religious figures, but they also represent famous artists or VIPs.
This mix between the sacred and the profane makes the experience of visiting Via San Gregorio Armeno even more interesting.
If you like presepi, you can find some wonderful ones in many churches or at popular location such as the Certosa Museum of San Martino, the Palazzo Reale or the Royal Palace of Caserta.
Of course, this is just a brief overview of all the wonders that you can enjoy in Campania during Christmas. There are many other small towns and large cities that offer unique events. Fortunately, people in Campania are very friendly and if you want to discover something more all you have to do is just ask them! They’ll be happy to suggest you the best things to see and do around.
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I went to Procida quite a few times in the past and I always loved its picturesque scenario. Its small size and the stunning views on the sea make this island perfect for a day trip.
If you decide to visit it you will probably land at Marina Grande, the main harbor of Procida. The first things you will see are the fishermen, their boats and the pastel-colored buildings of the town facing the waterfront. It’s a lovely view!
You will immediately feel like you are in a place where time has stopped and the rush of modernity is left behind. It’s not just because of the mix of typical architecture and nature. People in Procida is very friendly and I think this is the most important element that creates such a nice relaxed atmosphere.
But what you can visit to take the best out of your day trip to Procida?
In my opinion there are 2 spots that you can’t miss.
The first spot is Terra Murata with its fortified center built on the highest point of the island.
The walk to reach this spot is not easy but it’s worthy since the views on the Gulf of Naples are breathtaking.
Terra Murata is an historical point of interest of Procida. If you have time, take a visit to Palazzo d’Avalos (also know as the Procida Castle) and the Abbey of San Michele.
Palazzo d’Avalos was built in the 16th century and it’s a beautiful example of renaissance architecture. In 1830 the building become a prison, closed in 1988 but stil available for booked visits.
The Benedictine Abbey of San Michele dates back to the 11th century, but it underwent partial makeovers during its history. The most interesting thing of the Abbey is a painting in which you can see a depiction of Marina Grande in the 16th century.
The second spot to visit is Vivara.
Vivara is a tiny island connected to Procida by a long pedestrian bridge that cross the sea. The walk on the bridge it’s a charge of sunlight and sea breeze! It’s the perfect way to arrive to this island, in which nature is the queen.
It’s an ancient volcano with a unique wild flora and a plentiful presence of sea birds and marine fauna. These are the reason why Vivara is a nature reserve since 2002. Moreover, the island has also an archeological value thanks to the remains of Bronze-Age Mycenaean settlements.
Procida is certainly the best place for those who wants to eat the freshest sea food. There are many restaurants to choose from.
I want to end this article talking about an event that can be interesting if you’re coming to Procida during Easter.
As in other towns of Campania, also in Procida takes place a Good Friday Procession, called Processione dei Misteri. During this procession men dressed with white and blue tunics carry by hand life-size papier-mâché reproductions of scenes of Christ’s Passion. It’s very suggestive.
So, as you can see, Procida is small but has nice surprises to offer to its visitors.
A day trip will not disappoint you.
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The underground of Naples hides a maze of tunnels, quarries and halls dug into the tuff.
This strange world is home to one of the city’s most impressive museums, one of those you absolutely cannot miss visiting. It is the Museo del Sottosuolo.
One of the most peculiar thing about this Museum is that the entrance is a small and anonymous door, just a few meters from the subway line 2 at Piazza Cavour. It really looks nothing special, but once you enter and go down the tuff stairs, things change completely.
At 25 meters deep under the streets, the chaos and beauty of Naples disappear. Now you are in a world made of silence, rock and darkness. It seems unbelievable that only a few minutes before you probably were in a crowded bar enjoying a good Neapolitan coffee!
This magical feeling is reinforced when you meet your tourist guide.
Not an usual one for sure! The guide of the Museo del Sottosuolo is disguised as’ O Munaciello (the little monk), a spirit, or a demon, small and deformed, whose legend is part of the folklore of Naples.
This spirit behaves kindly with those who treat him well and spitefully with those who mistreat him.
The Munaciello, mixing poetry and humor, takes visitors through the rooms of the Museum. He tells the story of the caves, the Greco-Roman aqueduct and how the tuff rooms were used as an air-raid shelter during the WWII. Blending history with legends and superstitions of Naples, this guide will make you feel really captivated.
The rooms are exactly as they originally were.
In the air-raid shelter there still are some objects used by refugees during their daily life and their writings on the walls. It is easy to imagine their fear while listening to the roar of bombardments.
In the other rooms you can see tools, oil lamps, amphorae for water and medical equipment used by the ancient Neapolitan tuff quarrymen. All objects are original and found during excavations on the spot.
I must say that walking through the dark caves of the Museo del Sottosuolo made me feel like Dante living his journey into the Hell.
Maybe it is because of this resemblance that the Museum is also the set for the theatrical representation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
I’m not talking about a typical show where the audience is passive. Nope. In this case visitors are part of the show. You walk through the Museum with the actors and it’s really a strong experience. You are IN the plot. The magic is given by actors, costumes, music and, of course, the natural set of the tuff caves.
The show takes place in 3 different rooms of the Museum. In the first, the White Hall, visitors meet Dante and Virgilio at the beginning of their journey. In the second one, the Hall fo the Riggiole, they face Cerberus, Pluto and the Furies. In the third one, the Hall of War, Dante Virgilio and visitors meet Ulysses, Count Ugolino and Lucifer in person!
The visit to the Museo del Sottosuolo is so captivated that once you return to the surface the experience seems unreal. You were underground with a folklore spirit or following Dante, while on the surface life continued as usual…
My opinion is that the Museo del Sottosuolo is perfect if you are looking for a little adventure or you want to discover an original side of Naples. Just remember that visits are by reservation only!
A final note: this Museum is suitable for children and also for those who suffer from claustrophobia. The environments are not as narrow as in other underground sites, like catacombs.
Winter Season in Naples: Madre Contemporary art Museum
Let’s be sincere. When people think about Italy they think of beautiful nature, good food, great historic cities. The most popular Italian art is all about the Romans, the Reinassance or the Golden Age of Italian Cinema.
Nobody would ever think to come to Italy and enjoy other kinds of art. But this country is full of surprises!
So, if you are coming to Campania for your winter holidays, I want to suggest you to visit MADRE, the museum of contemporary art, in Naples.
I recommend it for 3 reasons.
The first one is that “winter is coming”. Ok, winter in Naples isn’t hard, but if you are coming here in December or January, it will be difficult to go trekking in the Amalfi Coast or on the Vesuvius. Better enjoy something indoor.
The second reason is that MADRE is different.
As I said, everybody links Italy to ancient art. The typical Italian museum collects ancient paintings, statues and other stuff. Everything is placed inside cases or frames. It’s very beautiful but…traditional!
On the contrary MADRE, as a contemporary art museum, doesn’t follow the rules. Artworks are placed around and sometimes the rooms are artworks themselves! This transforms a visit to MADRE into an experience.
Naturally, the museum is hosted in building with a long history behind. It has been restored on the project of the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, that received the Career Golden Lion in 2012.
While watching the works of Clemente, Kiefer or Kentridge remember to take a look also outside the windows. The views on Naples are gorgeous.
The third reason is that MADRE shows that things in Italy sometimes can work! Until a few years ago this museum was considered an example of waste of economic resources. With over 10 millions of public funding, it had only 12 artworks. Today it works with half of the money, has more than 300 works and is considered one of the best museums in Italy.
There is no need to be contemporary art lovers to visit MADRE. It’s a place in which everyone can enjoy a winter afternoon of Naples. And on Mondays the entrance is for free.
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The spectacular hike up to the crater rim of Mount Vesuvius
How many people can say that they have been on the top of a volcano that caused one of the biggest disasters of the ancient world? Not many.
But if you are coming to Italy for your holiday and, more specifically, to Naples area, why don’t you consider to plan a hike to the crater of Mount Vesuvius?
Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous. Well, at least not now! The last eruption of Vesuvius was in 1944 and it wasn’t as catastrophic as the one that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum back in 79 AD (if you have enough time, go to the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum to see the rest of the ancient cities buried during the eruption).
Hiking the Vesuvius is not particularly hard (but not easy): there is a street that leads close to the top, then a spiral path around the mountain takes you to the crater. The path is steep sometimes but it’s always wide and there is a handrail to help people walking on the sandy and stony ground.
While proceeding along the trail you are surrounded by a stark landscape. Stones and ashes are all around, there are no colors besides gray, black and brown and the only vegetation is some scant bushes here and there. The atmosphere is almost extraterrestrial, but suddenly you turn your eyes around and see the magnificent view of the gulf of Naples. When you finally arrive at the summit of Vesuvius the panorama becomes really breath-taking. The beauty of the sea and the distant cities are just the background of the huge crater, with a depth of 300 meters and a rim about 500 meters long.
People can visit the crater during the whole year, also on Sundays, even though the opening hours may change from season to season. The only moment when is not possible to go on top of the Mount Vesuvius is on public holidays or in case of bad weather, for safety reasons.
Booking is not required but you need to buy a ticket on site. It costs 10 euros (usually for children the visit is for free) and includes a local volcanologist guide that will explain you everything about the volcano.
Since Vesuvius is 1282 meters high, it’s better if you bring with you the right equipment: a jacket to avoid the cold and the wind, stout shoes to face the path, sunglasses for the light. I also suggest taking with your binoculars to watch the spectacular panorama.
If you are looking for an exclusive adventure you can book an organized trip. There are many different agencies that sell packages with more specific benefits. It’s up to you to decide the solution that better suits you.
And now I give you a special final hint. During May and June the slopes of Vesuvius bloom with local flora. Doesn’t seem very suggestive of being on volcano covered with wild flowers ?
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