This article covers the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, which are the only destinations in Campania that we have familiarity with. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites in their own merit.
The singular beauty of the southern flank of the Sorrento Peninsula provides a gorgeous backdrop to pursuits of leisure. The wining and dining are excellent, the views are breathtaking, the drives along the sole coastal highway are exhilarating, and the beaches, while crowded in the high season, are nonetheless fantastic.
Amalfi ♥ is the coast’s largest town and one of the most popular destinations. Its lovely cathedral ♥ dates from the 10th century and contains elements of Moorish heritage. A small museum of religious items inside the cathedral is quite interesting.
The village of Ravello ♥♥, up in the mountains above the shoreline, has the best views on the coast, which can be taken in from the grounds of two historic retreats, Villa Rufolo or Villa Cimbrone ♥. Both are now upscale hotels, but their gardens and terraces are open to the public.
Other nearby villages, such as Atrani, Minori, Maiori, etc, are pleasant to drive through or to stop at for a swim or a meal (or both).
Being somewhat constrained on time, we did not venture to either the well-developed Sorrento or the fashionable Positano, the two most well-known spots on the coast.
Moving along the coast requires quite some time and patience. If you are driving, especially in the peak season, you will likely be moving at a crawl on many portions of the sole coastal highway. Plan accordingly and keep in mind the proposed alternate-day driving restrictions.
One of the most memorable stays on our travels was at a B&B on the upper terraces of Minori that back then was called FreeHoliday but nowadays is listed as Villa Carlotta (link). We had the best of the three available rooms, which is the only one with a private bathroom (although not en-suite) and also with a private terrace overlooking the village and the sea below. I cannot guarantee that our fond recollections of the place remain valid in the face of the rebranding – which potentially indicates the change of ownership as well. But I am certainly inclined to test that next time I stay on the coast.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 may have consigned the city of Pompeii and many of its residents to a horrible fate, but it preserved the city under several layers of pumice and ash through the centuries. Although essentially still ruins, many Pompeian buildings kept their roofs; in some of them, paintings and sculptures survived almost intact, and you can mostly see – as opposed to having to imagine – what life in a Roman city must have been like.
The archaeological site ♥♥♥ takes at least a couple of hours to tour with an excellent audio guide which offers an engrossing narration about the history of the city and of its residents, in addition to describing the buildings and artifacts. There are a number of main locations of interest, among them the partly reconstructed House of the Vettii, with surviving frescoes, a well-preserved Teatro Grande, and a famous, although considerably more ruined, House of the Faun. We especially liked the baths and the bordello, which are structurally intact and, therefore, notably fascinating to step into.
The site of Herculaneum, up the coast from Pompeii, is in some quarters considered to be an even better visual record of Ancient Rome. It is part of the same WH recognition.