Campania Travel Guide

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Amalfi From Above

Amalfi From Above

Alan Chorozy

Campania has attracted visitors over the centuries: Capri, Ischia, Positano, Sorrento  Amalfi and Agropoli became the chosen destinations of visitors from many countries. This still is the main touristic area of the region.

The town of Naples (Napoli in Italian) took its name from the Greek word for new city, Neapolis. It is far from that. It is an old port town, with a lot of charm and some great museums. It is not a museum town like some of the smaller Italian towns e.g. in Tuscany, but a very living, bustling city.

Other interesting tourist sights lie in the area of the Valle di Diano 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 Agropoli, Marina di Camerota, Palinuro, Marina di Ascea (nearby lie the ruins of Velia), Acciaroli, S. Maria di Castellabate. 

In Paestum, located around 40 miles from Naples  in the southern Part of Campania the best preserved greek temples of Paestum expects its vistors.

The basilica is a Doric temple from the 6th century B.C., Italy's oldest temple from the ruins of the Hellenic world. The basilica is characterized by 9 Doric pillars in front and 18 on the sides (they're about 1.5m/5 ft. in diameter). The walls and ceiling long ago gave way to decay. Animals were sacrificed to the gods on the altar. The Temple of Neptune is the most impressive of the Greek ruins at Paestum. Together with the Temple of Hephaestus ("Theseum") in Athens, they remain the best-preserved Greek temples in the world, both from around 450 to 420 B.C. Six columns in front are crowned by an entablature, and there are 14 columns on each side. The Temple of Ceres, from the 6th century B.C., has 34 columns still standing and a large altar for sacrifices to the gods.

The temple zone is open daily 9am to sunset.

You can visit the National Archaeological Museum of Paestum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum), Via Magna Grecia 917 (tel. 0828-811023), across from the Ceres Temple. It displays the metopes removed from the treasury of the Temple of Hera (Juno) and some of southern Italy's finest tomb paintings from the 4th century B.C. The Diver's Tomb is an extraordinary example of painting from the first half of the 5th century B.C. The museum is open daily 9am to 7pm (it's closed the 1st and 3rd Mon of every month). Admission is 4€, but there is also a cumulative ticket, which includes the museum and the archaeological area, for 6.50€.

New discoveries have revealed hundreds of Greek tombs, which have yielded many Greek paintings. Archaeologists have called the finds astonishing. In addition, other excavated tombs were found to contain clay figures in a strongly Impressionistic vein.

When the Greek settlers began the construction of the great temples in stone at Paestum, 570 B.C. (at that time the city was founded under the name of Poseidonia) the building system they used was a “trilith system “.This system, which dates back to its origins in the early days of this world, while reaching its height during the times of the ancient Egyptians is called trilith because it consists essentially of three stones: two large stones set upright to support a third on their top. In Greek Temples the upright members – columns, consists of several superimposed blocks of varying height and a capital one which takes uniform shape for all the columns. Placed on top of the columns, the horizontal panel is invariably a monolithic oblong block, on which top all other parts of the structure rest. The average weight of these great blocks from which the column were built is around 2.000 to 2.500 kilos which is 4.400 to 5.500 pounds/lb per stone. The blocks of the oblong lintel are even more impressive: 3.000 kilos or 6.600 pounds/lb per single stone. The transportation of these stones from the quarries to the building yards could have been done with the help of draught-animals or a few pairs of oxen, while the raising of these massive of a few meters could have posed greater problems.

Paestum is surrounded by a circuit of nearly intact walls. The perimeter is a 4750 Meter long polygon that follows the contours of the travertin base. It comprises a double curtain of large, erath filled squared blocks and towers along the perimeters. The four main gates are located at the cardinal points and there are 45 smaller gates known as posterulae that served for accessing the city and for defensive puroposes.

The Village of Agropoli, is doubtless the most perfect spot to discover the Campania area and bears witness of the presence of its ancient Greek settlers, who built the temple of Artemis on the promontory. The following settlers where the Romans. The Byzantines made it a safe landing place, fortifying it and giving it the name Acropolis from the old Greek language: “acro and polis / high and town“ In 882 a.d. the town fell under Saracen control which lasted until 915 a.d. when it came under the rule of the church which lastet until the 15.th century. Various noble families controlled Agropoli straight after the rule of the church. In the 16th and 17th century Agropoli and its inhabitants became particularly the target of barbarian invasions and its population fell to just a hundred souls, mostly women and children. Today Agropoli is the main gate to the Cilento Coast in the National Park which is considered a World Heritage Site unde the control and protection of the UNESCO. 

 

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