The captivating face of South Italy
For most travelers to Italy, Rome is the furthest south they will travel. The golden triangle encompassing Rome, Venice and Florence is the main route. But the south has so much to offer! The regions of the south include, Lazio and within it Rome and Vatican city, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia along the Adriatic, Naples and Campania, the toe of the boot Basilicata and Calabria and the island of Sicily. Lazio is a region of lakes, mountains, and vineyards. The area was formed by the eruption of four volcanoes and has left the region with numerous hot springs and volcanic crater lakes. Lazio’s best beaches can be found in the Parco Nazionale del Circeo between Gaeta and Sabaudia.
Naples, the capital of Campania, is an ancient city founded by the Greeks but conquered by the Normans, the French, Spanish and more. It has survived through grit and the feistiness of the people, which is evident today in this somewhat impoverished city. A few of the sights you might want to visit while there are Castel Capuano and Porta Capuana. The Castle was a royal palace until 1540 when it was transformed into the Court of Justice. The nearby Puerta Capuanais the finest Renaissance gateway in Italy. The Duomo was built between 1294 and 1323. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the world’s most important archeological museums in the world. Nearby is the petrified city of Pompeii buried in ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
The Amalfi coast is a real tourist draw because of the beautiful hill towns such as Sorrento, Praiano, Amalfi and Positano, the enchanting views of the Mediterranean and the Isle of Capri, just a ferry-boat ride away. Ravello offers the best views along this winding cliff-side drive. Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia are the three regions forming a long strip along the Adriatic Sea. Dominated by the Apennine mountain range, this area has the contrasts of the Gran Sasso peak at 2.912 mt. and The Adriatic sea’s glorious beaches. L’Aquila, Abruzzo’s capital lies at the foot of the Gran Sasso. Outdoor lovers are intrigued by the Parco Nazionale d’ Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. This park is one of Europe’s most important nature preserves . This park is open for hiking, trekking and climbing.
Bari, Puglia’s capital, a port city with ferries to Croatia and Greece is enhanced by the nearby Castle Del Monte, a UNESCO site. Alberobello is distinguished by the number of Trulli within its borders. Trulli are little, circular, white-washed buildings that have conical roofs. The origin of these buildings is obscure, but are interesting historically. Lecce is home to the Lecce Baroque style architecture mastered by Giuseppe and Antonio Zimbalo . Some examples can be found in the Chiesa de Rosario, the Palazzo Vescovile and Duomo, and the Santa Croce.
Basilicata and Calabria form the toe of the “Italian Boot”. Scattered with Greek ruins and isolated towns, these regions are almost virgin territory for tourists. Matera offers fantastic views from its perch atop a cliff. The Sassi section, below the bustling city, was once home to Materan cave dwellers. Tropea is one of a string of unspoiled, picturesque towns along the Mediterranean. Sicily was a crossroads from Africa and Europe and has retained customs from the many cultures that crossed its path. Mt Etna has provided the fertile land that gives this island agricultural abundance. Tourism is still relatively low, so lovers of history and rich Italian cuisine should put Sicily travel on their short-list. Palermo is an exotic city worth exploring. A few of the many main sights are the Duomo, Palazzo Reale, La Mangione and Villa Guilia. The Duomo at Monreale with its glorious mosaics is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Sicily. The Port of Marsala evokes memories of the sweet wine that has been produced here since the 18th century. Siracusa, former Greek stronghold is filled with Greek temples and artifacts. The Museo de Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi has important artifacts from the Paleolithic to Byzantine eras.
Finally Taormina is one of Sicily’s most visited resorts. The well-preserved Roman amphitheatre offers magnificent views of Mt Etna. Taormina (picture above) is where bougainvillea, bright geraniums and sweet-scented orange blossom lined the narrow streets. This international resort is a favorite of celebrities, but we didn’t spot any (not that I’d recognize them). More interesting was the 5th-century Roman amphitheatre, high above the sparkling Mediterranean. Tiers of well-worn stone form the seats, and concerts and performances are held there to this day. We suggest to stay at The Ashbee Hotel, a restored villa with spectacular sea view, garden and captivating roof terrace. Next to lovely San Pancrazio Church (the oldest church of Taormina and former Greek Temple), the location of The Ashbee Hotel is attractive with a great view to Sicilian Coastline and to straits of Messina. It combines modern amenities with tasteful tradition and it has 25 rooms and suites, each of them is a grand statement of colour and style, dressed with fine fabrics and antique furnishing in a contemporary concept. No two rooms or suite are alike, yet each of the 15 deluxe guest rooms and 9 luxury suites are richly decorated for a more intimate inward-looking mood.