Small pretty villages hug the rocky coastline while young Italians, distinguished from the tourists by their far superior dress sense, fly around on mopeds without a care (or a helmet). The sun always shines, giving the sea that alluring blue and creating a sharp contrast with the white of the many boats in and around the harbour. The sound of a car horn is never more than a moment away, while every corner reveals another picture perfect view. Welcome to the Amalfi coast!
Many visitors come here to relax in the sun, to laze in the sun between meals, leaving their horizontal inertia only to stroll around the local brightly coloured shops. Yet there is so much to see and do within an hour of Sorrento that it would be a shame to miss out on the many attractions of this much-loved area. In this post we’ll focus on a few of the historical attractions.
The ruined city of Pompeii is known to all. Buried as a result of Vesuvius’s furious eruption in 79 AD, it is now a museum city where visitors can wander through the old streets and imagine how a lively Roman city could be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Naples of course, only a few kilometres away and home to more than 2 million people, is nervously aware of the potential of Vesuvius to repeat its history at the city’s expense.
Herculaneum, not far from the site of Pompeii, fell to a similar fate. It was a smaller town and was spared by the first phase of the eruption that destroyed its neighbouring town, but buried under the volcano’s second explosion. Skeletons have recently been unearthed on the site, and the museum on the site provides fascinating insights into the current excavations and the still evolving theories about the eruption and the destruction that followed.
Vesuvius itself is well worth a visit, and thanks to the modern road you can now drive almost to the crater rim. It is only a short easy walk from the car park to the point where you can stare into the deep crater.Looking out from the top the views towards the sea and the Amalfi coast across the bay are stunning (providing the clouds relent).
A little further afield but perhaps the most visually impressive site in the region, Paestum offers well preserved Greco-Roman temples. Tall, imposing collonaded buildings stand empty in the large archaeological complex, and with only a few tourists venturing so far from the resort towns you’re unlikely to worry about the crowds getting in the way of your pictures. It is impossible to know the true history of how life would have looked in Paestum’s heyday or the exact reason for its demise. The audio guides however do provide a valuable insight into the history of the site and, while they can be useless in some sites, are highly recommended here.
by Andy Jarosz