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Campania - Things to Do

Tourism in Campania has old traditions. Already a place of leisure in Roman times, Campania acquired an elite clientele, particularly foreigners attracted by the wonders of Nature, in the course of last century. Capri, Ischia, Sorrento and Amalfi became the chosen destinations of visitors from many countries, however, there are hosts of equally beautiful sights and fine scenery in the inland areas.

S. Maria Capua Vetere, near Caserta, has Roman remains, especially the large amphitheatre (1st century AD.), only slightly smaller than the Colosseum in Rome, and the Mithreum, the temple dedicated to the god Mithras, raffigured in a well-conserved fresco (2nd century AD.). A little beyond lies Capua, with a wealth of ancient buildings and churches, particularly the Duomo, of medieval origin; not far away stands the basilica of S. Angelo in Formis (11th century, with fine medieval frescoes), well worth a visit.

In the direction of the Matese mountains lie Telese, a spa town, Faicchio, huddled round its 14th century castle, and Piedimonte Matese, in whose interesting old quarters stand the Palazzo Ducale and the church of S. Tommaso. S. Gregorio Matese is a busy starting point for excursions and is also equipped for winter sports. Farther west lies Alife, in the wide Volturno valley: of the Roman remains, the walls (some tracts are still conserved) and the singular gallery of the cryptoporticus are particularly interesting. Towards the Gulf of Gaeta stands the small town of Teano, with remains of a Roman theatre, and then Sessa Aurunca, with a fine Romanesque Duomo with splendid mosaic floors and a 13th century parchment.

Another splendid glimpse of Campania can be had in green Irpinia, in the province of Avellino, sadly destroyed by the earthquake in 1980, of which the areas was the epicentre. The abbey of S. Guglielmo al Goleto, an interesting medieval group of buildings, partly in ruins, near S. Angelo dei Lombardi, is worth visiting. Journeying through pretty valleys, the visitor will come to Bagnoli Irpino and the nearby ski resort of Piano Laceno, while farther on, close now to Avellino, lies Solofra, with a 15th century Palazzo Ducale and the Baroque church of S. Michele. Past the chief town lies Mercogliano, and close by the popular Montevergine Sanctuary.

Other interesting tourist sights lie in the area of the Diano vale between the Cilento uplands and the Monti della Maddalena, on the Lucanian boundary. These include the Certosa di S. Lorenzo (or Padula), a majestic group of buildings of 13th century origin, but prevalently Baroque. Heading towards the Gulf of Policastro, one reaches Sapri and the Cilento beach resorts, where the coastline is a succession of high cliffs, little sandy coves, attractive harbours and caves approachable only from the sea. These resorts include Marina di Camerota, Palinuro, Marina di Ascea (nearby lie the ruins of Velia), Acciaroli, S. Maria di Castellabate and Agropoli.

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