Campania beyond Pompeii
Pompeii has fascinated us for centuries, but archaeological interest isn’t confined to this one area... go beyond and discover more. Explore the hinterland of Vesuvius, a countryside pocked with semi-active volcano craters and one of the entrances to the underworld. It was a land of
myth and legend, and, paradoxically, a land of luxury and wealth dotted with the vast villas of senators where the city of Pozzuoli was a ‘second Rome’ in the summer season. The excesses of fine living here were satirized in the Satyricon of Petronius. The tour is based for a whole week in just one comfortable hotel, and includes a trip to the island of Ischia where Greeks established their first trading post in the west – Pithekoussai.
- Descend underground into the catacombs and remnants of the ancient city below the streets of Naples
- Travel by boat to lovely Ischia and the first Ancient Greek settlement in the region
- Explore the ancient city of Capua, once known as ‘the second Rome’ by Cicero
- Feel the heat and smell the sulphur as we explore the volcanic landscapes of Solfatara
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Naples, charismatic capital of the south, and transfer to our fabulous hotel in the heart of the city.
We take to the seas this morning, catching a high-speed hydrofoil from Naples Port to visit the beautiful island of Ischia. It’s here that the Greeks had their first trading post – Pithekoussai – on the island’s western shore.
We head for the Villa Arbusto Museum, a fairly new exhibition housed in a stunning 18th century villa, where many of the finds from local cemeteries and Pithekoussai are on display, including the famous Nestor’s Cup, which provides the earliest known evidence of the existence of Greek poetry.
Our time on Ischia concludes with a look at the ancient Greek industrial area beneath the Church of Santa Restituta, discovered by curious archaeologists in the 1950s. We return by hydrofoil to Naples for a well-deserved dinner and drinks.
Our second action-packed day in the region begins with a visit to the town of Capua, the City of Marshes. Thought to have been founded by Cato the Elder, it was burned to the ground by mercenaries in the Middle Ages and rebuilt on a site some distance from the original. Our primary destination here is the Museo Campano with its amazing display of pre-Imperial sculpted mother goddesses.
Next we visit the Romanesque church of St Angelo in Formis with its 11th century frescoes, among the best examples of the period, and the historic town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
We continue via the Museo Archeologico dell’Antica Capua to view its highly informative displays on the Iron Age in Campania, then venture down a nearby side street for the day’s most surprising highlight: a previously unknown Mithraeum, or temple, which was discovered, painted and almost entirely intact, beneath some local garages.
This morning heralds a full day exploring the buzzing city of Naples. We start with the Duomo, admiring the remnants of its spectacular 4th century basilica, baptistry mosaics, and glorious frescos.
Almost everywhere we walk in this phenomenal city, the ghosts of historic Naples lie just beneath our feet. We visit the foundations of the celebrated theatre, as well as the Roman market which was recently unearthed below the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore; nothing less than a portal to an ancient world. Under the majolica cloisters of the Church of Santa Chiara, we also find a substantial Roman bathhouse, the excavations of which are now happily accessible to visitors.
It is believed that the Romans liked to go to the seaside as much as modern Westerners do, though, instead of floating on the waves, they preferred to languish in baths of salt water in the comfort of shore-side resorts. One of these more popular Roman resorts was Baia, our destination this morning, where we imagine hedonistic days spent amid mineral springs and a labyrinth of villas.
Following this we check out the nearby Museum of the Phlegrean Fields, a Medieval castle complex housing three storeys of local archaeological finds. Don’t miss the intricate reconstruction of Emperor Claudius’ nymphaeum, the original of which was found submerged just up the coast.
This afternoon we pause to explore the dormant crater at Solfatara, purportedly the home of Vulcan and a gateway into the underworld, according to Roman mythology. Our final stop is the ancient Greek colony of Cumae, the first to be established on Italy’s mainland. We contemplate the rise and fall of the settlers here as we tour the ruins, and enter the cave where Sibyl is said to have written her oracles.
Today we immerse ourselves in historic Pozzuoli. Known to the Romans as Rome By The Sea, the activity of the land and tides in this area has alternately exposed and drowned its many remains. We visit the mighty amphitheatre, the third largest in all of Italy, which was designed by the same architects who conceived the Colosseum.
We then proceed to the town’s oldest quarter, Rione Terra, an ancient multi-layered acropolis with subterranean sections. Significant highlights include the once bustling main street, still lined with shops and taverns. We also view graffiti written by none other than Catallus – an incredible find. After entering some of Pozzuoli’s rich array of ancient tombs, we head back to our hotel to enjoy a luxurious last supper in the company of our group.
Of course, we could not leave Naples without exploring the city’s internationally famous Archaeological Museum. Established in a specially commissioned palazzo by the Bourbon king Charles VII, its peerless collections feature innumerable statues, frescoes and bronzes retrieved from Pompeii and Herculaneum. We enjoy the treasures of the Farnese collection, as well as the Gabinetto Segreto, or Secret Chamber– a salacious assortment of artwork that includes a visual ‘menu’ for brothel patrons!
We round off this magical tour with a visit to the otherworldly Catacombs of San Gennaro, an enormous paleo-Christian burial chamber of bishops and aristocrats.
Once we have drunk our fill of history, we transfer to the airport for our return flights home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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