Campania is a compact region of fertile land, ancient cities, and dramatic seascapes (especially on the Amalfi coast).
Many people shy away from visiting Naples, the capital of the region of Campania, due to its modern reputation for crime and infrastructure problems. Yet Naples, or Napoli, is a fascinating city that shouldn't be missed.
Naples is also a starting point for visiting some of Italy's greatest archaeological treasures, from the amazingly intact Greek "temples" at Paestum, to the ruins of ancient Roman resorts like Pompeii and Herculaneum.
You won't want to miss the culinary pleasures of Campania, at one time Rome's breadbasket, from a simple pizza (the best in Italy) to an Insalata Caprese made with Buffalo Mozzarella, the real stuff, a cheese that started here (water buffalo were introduced into Campania from Asia, and most of the production occurs in the region, particularly around Benevento and Casserta).
Ancient Cities of Campania Worth Visiting
Capua - Ancient Capua was an important town in Campania; it was linked to Rome via the via Appia. Capua (today the ancient city is within the town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere) is an Etruscan settlement probably built on the site of an Oscan village, later Romanized. Sparticus led his slave revolt here. You can see the gladiator museum as well as Italy's second largest amphitheater in Ancient Capua: Santa Maria Capua Vetere. Ancient Capua also features one of the few examples of a Mithraeum that has frescos.
The nearby modern town of Capua also has a museum--the Provincial Museum of Campania in Capua.
Herculaneum - Although the excavations are smaller than Pompeii, Herculaneum is my first choice. It is being conserved more actively then Pompeii through the Herculaneum Conservation Project. Open daily 8.30am-5pm (7.30pm in summer). Cost €11. Get off the train at Ercolano Scavi (Scavi means excavations). Follow the street in front of the station to the excavations, a ten minute walk.
For the most acurate time of dates and openings, plus ticketing options, see the official Pompeii, Ercolano, Stabia website.
Paestum - The best preserved Doric "temples" in the world. See our Paestum Profile for more, or take a virtual visit of the temples with our Pictures of Paestum. Paestum is on the Naples to Sapri train line.
Naples Archaeological Museum - One of the finest in the nation, the Museo Archaologico Nazionale di Napoli is worth a visit if you're at all interested in history or archaeology. Besides the ancient erotic stuff in the Secret Room, the Gabinetto segreto that made a splash years ago, artifacts representing the whole history of Campania and Italy can be found in this grand museum.
Compare prices of hotels in Naples on Hipmunk.
To learn about the weather and historic climate of Naples, see: Naples Italy Travel Weather.
Other Attractions in Campania
One can't forget Naples, which makes a fine base for seeing just about everything in this article. See our Naples Pictures for a taste. Italy Travel has some suggestions for Naples Day Trips and a list of recommended Naples Hotels.
You can climb Mt. Vesuvius for great views (you can see Herculaneum from the crater on a clear day) Find out more: Mount Vesuvius Visitor Information.
In Caserta, you may want to take a gander at the 18th Century Bourbon palace and gardens that some say are on par with Versailles. Take our virtual tour of the Reggia di Caserta. The palace is huge, as you can see on this Casterta map. Caserta is also famous for silk mills.
Padula offers the Certosa di Padula. Heard of it? It’s the second largest Charterhouse in Italy after the one in Parma, and has the biggest cloister in the world. It's right off the autostrada if you're heading south.
Near the Certosa is the Grotte di Pertosa, the Pertosa Caves. The caves have a river running through the main passage, and they'll take you on a boat tour. It's very interesting.
Avellino has wineries that can be visited, as well as Montevirgine, a church that houses a painting of the Holy Mother said to have curative powers. There is also an ancient Lombard castle there.
You can visit Naples and Campania by following the route outlined in our Venice to Sicily 3 Week Travel Itinerary.
Where to Stay
There are many lodging options available. My favorite way to see a place and feel like I'm fitting in is to rent a vacation house or apartment. HomeAway lists over 800 Vacation Rentals in Campania (book direct). If you are heading to Campania's favorite stretch of coast, you can compare prices an Hotels on the Amalfi Coast (book direct).
Transportation Options in Campania
Two rail systems operate in Campania, the standard Ferrovia dello Stato, the state's rail system, and the private Circumvesuviana. In Naples, they both originate in the Central Station (Napoli Centrale), the Circumvesuviana is downstairs. The Circumvisuviana line runs from Naples to Sorrento, passing through Herculaneum (Ercolano) and Pompeii. Fares are very reasonable. You can rent a car at Napoli Centrale, as well as get tourist information.
If you need to have tickets in your possession before you go, Select Italy offers easily available point-to-point tickets (buy direct). You'll pay more than if you went to the station in Italy and purchased them, however.
The Circumvesuviana lines have extensive bus service in Campania.
You can drive, of course. The Amalfi drive is both beautiful and considered dangerous due to its natural curves and the attention sapping attraction of the landscape that natural curves usually invoke.
An interesting option might be a limousine car rental service, as is provided by Due Golfi Limousine rental Car Services. Car rentals are available at the Naples airport and around Campania, including at Paestum, which has a Hertz outlet.
Naples International Airport, called Aeroporto Capodichino, is located 5 miles north of Naples. To get to town: CLP (Consorzio Linee Provinciali), a private bus service, leaves Capodichino about every hour with stops at Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza Muncipio and costs about €1.55. There is also an ANM bus that goes to the central station about every 25 minutes.
To find other options to arrive at Naples Airport, for example, to get there from Rome, See Rome to Naples Airport (You can then change the to and from options).
The Campania ArteCard
If you are spending an extended stay in Campania, you might want to consider the Campania Artecard. You can buy one at the airport or at a train station in Naples, as well as at many travel agents and big newsstands. Available: 3 or 7 day duration cards. Click on "The Offer" to see what the card gets you.