Campania is Italy's most densely populated region. It has an area of 13,595 square kilometres and a population of 5.8 million people. It borders Lazio to the northwest, Molise to the north, Puglia to the northeast and Basilicata to the southeast. It has 350 kilometres of coastline that includes the gulfs of Naples, Salerno and Policastro. The Flegrean Islands of Ischia, Procida, Vivara and Nisida as well as Capri are also a part of Campania. They are also sometimes known as the Napolitan Islands.
The name Campania is derived from the latin 'Campania Felix' meaning 'Fertile Countryside' and it certainly is! Campania provides some of the most beautiful countryside to be found in Italy. The region is home to the beautiful Cilento National Park and the Island of Capri, the Sorrento Peninsular and the Amalfi Coast are celebrated all over the world. Tourists flock from all over the world to sample its ancient sites, architecture, music, food and the rich natural beauty of its land.
Campania is divided into five provinces: Naples, Benevento, Avellino, Caserta and Salerno. The capital city of Campania is Naples, the third-largest city in Italy.
Ancient ruins account for a large amount of tourism, from the famous ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the Greek temples of Paestum. Italians holiday in the resorts of Amalfi and Sorrento, while the wealthy visit Ravello and Positano.
The area has been inhabited since the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. Ancient italic people lived peacefully in the area until it was colonised by the Greeks in the 6th century BC. Ancient Campania was a lot smaller than the present area. Back then, the region was dominated by the leading city of Capua (the modern-day town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere), with Napoli mainly a Greek-speaking city. Campania became a fully Roman Republic a couple of years later.
Like many other regions of southern Italy, when the Romans fell the Goths ruled, quickly followed by the Byzantines and Lombards. The Normans then conquered in the 11th century. A century later, Campania was formed into the kingdom of Sicily. In the 13th century, it became part of the Kingdom of Naples. Finally, in 1860, it was incorporated into Italy.
Campania has a very hilly and mountainous landscape. The Neapolitan Apennines lie in the east, which then gave way to the Matese and Picentini mountains. In the west, the Cilento mountain area and National Park run to the coast in the south.
Amongst the most well-known areas are the volcanic regions around the Bay of Naples. These are comprised of the Campi Flegrei and Mount Vesuvius volcanoes. Vesuvius is one of the few remaining active volcanoes in Italy. In this area, you will also find the Lattari Mountains, connected to the Sorrento peninsula.
The fertile land around Vesuvius is incredibly enriching. The main crops produced here in the volcanic soils are apples, figs, grapes, tomatoes, citrus fruits and nuts). Vegetables and flowers are in abundance here too, as well as industrial crops such as hemp and tobacco.
Like many regions in Italy, Campania is awash with olive trees for the production of olive oil, one of its main exports. Vineyards are aplenty too, producing DOC and DOCG wines enjoyed throughout the country. Fishing is also very important. Fishermen head to the local ports or the Bay of Naples, where you can spot grouper, redfish, snook and snapper. As there are not many rivers in Campania, residents head to the coast frequently to relax. The only well-sized rivers are the Volturno and the Sele.
Agriculture here is intensive. As a result, fishing and cattle farming levels are declining. Therefore, Campania has become more reliant than ever on tourism.
The main tourist attractions, which are well-varied, are stunning. The Royal Palace of Caserta is the former main residence of the 18th-century kings of Naples, the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Inspired by Versailles, this is one of the last great European gardens. In 1997, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Another popular site, the colosseum of Santa Maria Capua Vetere is also the second biggest amphitheatre in Italy. Solfatara di Pozzuoli is amongst the most fascinating sights. Just north of Naples, in the Phlegrean Fields, the dormant volcano sits surrounded by forty other volcanoes.
Northwest of the Gulf of Naples there hides one of the most truly jaw-dropping seascapes in the world. In the Gaiola Underwater Park, a Marine Protected Area, fauna and flora live amongst the ruins of ancient archaeological ruins. Grab a snorkelling mask and behold this secret underwater world.
Naples, the capital of Campania, was at one time the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples, effectively ruling the whole of southern Italy. Later it was the centre of Bourbon rule until unification came in 1860.
Nowadays, the city of Naples is colourful, vibrant and uniquely individual. You will find more royal palaces in Naples than you will in Paris. You can visit more world-class museums than you can in Florence. You can pray in almost as many churches as you can in Rome and there are more eastern-style bazaars than anywhere else this side of Istanbul. It also boasts the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Vesuvius stands menacingly behind the city of Naples, it is dormant now, but who knows when that might change...
Campania is full of many incredible places often ignored by tourists. Avellino is a wine-growing region known for its hazelnuts. The Salerno Province is home to some incredible limestone gorges, as well as an ancient Charterhouse. Or if you’re looking for a beautiful coastal break, the hills and seas of Cilento National Park are pure paradise.
In 79 AD, Campania’s Mount Vesuvius erupted, leaving Pompeii, Herculaneum and many surrounding areas buried under up to 20 feet of molten hot ash. The city was largely preserved under the ash and today offers a unique experience of Roman life. The excavated city and its ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the best-known exports of Campania is the region’s food. Pizza from Naples (Neopolitan) is generally regarded as the world’s best pizza. The simple Margherita, with tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and basil as toppings, really cannot be beaten.
Caprese Salad, hailing from Capri, perfectly captures the simple but outstanding flavours of the region. Polpette (meatballs) can be found in restaurants all over the world. You can make a simple marinara sauce to top the meatballs, alongside some al dente spaghetti.
The Borgo Maniaro port in Naples is a vibrant place to spend an evening, listening to the waves and dining in one of the many seafood restaurants. You can find more famous Campanese dishes here, such as a classic spaghetti alle vongole. You can enjoy al dente pasta with a white wine and parsley sauce, perfectly decorated with clams from the waters surrounding you.
Also very popular are the restaurants along the Amalfi coast. Here, you can sample Orata all'acqua pazza, which is poached white fish (often sea bass) in crazy water. Crazy water is a sauce traditionally made of pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), water, salt and olive oil. This is another dish from Capri island and an absolute must-try on any visit.
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