Searching for happiness on the amalfi coast

Caught in the shadow of a snoozing Mt Vesuvius, it fronts each day with fatalistic intensity. Teeming streets explode with high theatrics lovers fight passionately, drivers dodge skilfully and counterfeit-Prada salesmen keep an eye out for police. From the hissing craters of the Campi Flegrei to the graphic ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, drama defines the details. But Italy's hyperactive underdog is more than just mayhem and thin-crust margherita pizzas....

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The Ancients

Greek temples, Roman amphitheatres and erotic frescoes testify to the skill and creativity of the ancient artists and architects. People have been building in Naples and the surrounding countryside for almost Betrayal in Naples three thousand years. First the Greeks came Neil Griffiths (2003) and went, and then the Romans arrived, developing the area into a trendy holiday destination until Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. In terms of classical archaeology, there are fewer areas on earth as rich as...

Saints Superstitions

Superhero saints and cursing evil eyes - the Catholic and the cultish walk hand in hand. In Naples, saints are celestial celebrities. Fireworks explode in their honour, fans flock to kiss their marble feet and newborn bambini (children) take on their saintly names. Neapolitans often celebrate their giorno omastico (name day) with as much gusto as they do their own birthdays. In fact, forgetting a friend's name day is considered a bigger faux pas than forgetting their birthday because everyone...

Port Of Call

Punchinello-selling Poles and Chinese pizzaioli (pizza makers) - welcome to new-millennium Naples. Like the rest of Italy, Naples is fast becoming a multiethnic melting pot. Camorra is making way for curry in the Quartieri Spagnoli, Chinese paper lanterns are spreading across Mercato, and Polish delis are popping up on Piazza Garibaldi. Officially, Naples and its province are home to 45,000 foreign-born residents. Americans and Canadians form the largest group (8000), many working at the city's...

Boat

Naples, the bay islands and Amalfi Coast are served by a comprehensive ferry network. In Naples ferries and hydrofoils leave for Capri, Sorrento, Ischia, Procida and Forio from Molo Beverello in front of Castel Nuovo longer-distance ferries for Palermo, Cagliari, Milazzo, the Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie) and Tunisia leave from the StazioneMarittima (Map pp280-l). Tickets for shorter journeyscan be bought at the ticket booths on Molo Beverello and at Mergellina. For longer journeys try the...

Eating Drinking

Inevitably most of the restaurants in and around Amalfi's centre cater to the tourist trade. But that shouldn't put you off, as standards are generally high and it's rare (although not impossible) to eat badly. Most places serve pizzas, the best cooked in traditional wood-ovens (look for signs advertising forno a legna), and a range of pastas, grilledmeats and seafood. The Amalfi drinking scene is fairly subdued, revolving round streetside caf s and bars rather than pubs. It gets a bit more...

Steaming bubbling and volcanic the Campi Flegrei Fiery Fields are Naples bestkept secret

Stretching west from Posillipo Hill to the Tyrrhenian Sea, this pock-marked landscape of craters, lakes and fumaroles heaves with ancient myths and legends. This is where Icarus plunged to his death with melted wings, where Aeneas sought the Sibyl's advice, and where Roman emperors came to soak, swim and indulge. Hillsides are littered with thermal baths, sunken villas lie under the sea and unassuming streets hide some of Italy's finest archaeological sites. Predating the city of Naples, the...

Hollywood On The Med One Week

One of the few places that looks as good in real life as it does on celluloid, the Amalfi Coast is the ideal place for jetting from one film-set location to the next. In 1953 John Huston and an unruly cast of Hollywood divas took over much of Ravello (p237) and Atrani (p230) for the crime caper Beat The Devil. Just down the road, Amalfi (p230) provides the backdrop to Mike Barker's 2004 light-hearted comedy A Good Woman, featuring Scarlett Johansson. Continuing west, Positano (p221) was an...

Altar To The Maradona

Opposite theStatua del Niio there's an altar to an altogether more temporal deity. Argentine football player Diego Armando Maradona is worshipped throughout the city and so it's only natural that he should have his own shrine. Displayed on the wall outside the Bar Niio, the Maradona altar (Map pp280-1) a small glass case containing a number of artefacts relating to the great man. Stuck to an epic poem written in his honour is a small wiry black hair - 'Kapel Original of Maradona' reads the...

Top five

Spiaggia dei Maronti (pi 94) Long, sandy and very popular, this strip was a favourite landing spot for pirates, who would bury their loot beneath the sand. Reach it by bus from Barano, by water taxi from Sant'Angelo or on foot along the path leading east from Sanf Angelo. II Sorgeto (pi 94) Catch a water taxi from Sant'Angelo or reach it on foot from the town of Panza. Waiting at the bottom is an intimate cove complete with bubbling thermal spring. Perfect for a winter dip. Spiaggia dei...

Capodimonte

Sitting at the northern end of Via Toledo (which is known as Corso Amedeo di Savoia Duca d'Aosta by this stage), the hill of Capodimonte is home to the Parco di Capodimonte and its art-heavy Palazzo Reale. Down below on its southern slope sit the macabre catacombs of San Gennaro, ancient home of skulls, cults and Palaeo-Christian frescoes. CATACOMBA DI SAN GENNARO MAPP286 SS 081 741 10 71 Via Capodimonte 16 adult child 5 3 guided tours 9am,10am, 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pmTue-Sun 024 to Via...

Eddy Monetti Neapolitan Tailors

Via Toledo (Map pp280-1) Head to the pedestrianised southern end, with its slick boutiques, sfogliatella (cinnamon-infused ricotta in a puff-pastry shell) stalls, street artists and dressed-to-impress strollers. Ifs just a few hundred metres but the stretch 081 40 70 64 Via dei Mille 45 0 C25 to Piazza dei Martiri The menswear branch of Eddy Monetti is an elegant den of Burberry blazers, Ralph Lauren shirts and Irresistible cashmere sweaters. The vibe here Is monled and the service suitably...

Telephone

Of gangs of dishevelled-looking kids waving newspapers and demanding attention. In the blink of an eye, a wallet or camera can go missing. Remember also that some of the best pickpockets are well-dressed. When going out, spread your valuables, cash and cards around your body or in different bags. A moneybelt to hold your essentials (passport, cash, credit cards, airline tickets) is usually a good idea however, to avoid delving into it in public, also carry a wallet with enough cash for the day....

Southern Savvy

Consummate performers and as furbo (cunning) as they come, Neapolitans are justifiably famous for their ingenuity. Only in Naples will you hear of street entrepreneurs selling secondhand newspapers to lovers so that they can cover their car windows. Or of vendors flogging T-shirts printed with a diagonal seat-belt design so as to fool short-sighted traffic cops. Even the authorities have the knack for invention in 2006 they launched Operation Bandit Mockery, which involved handing out plastic...

Centro Storico Mercato

081 549 90 90 Via Port 'Alba 28-29 Dante Set on a street of second hand bookshops, this stalwart boasts floor-to-ceiling preloved titles. Pick up a Caravaggio catalogue, flick through a Neapolitan design book or adopt a dog-eared play script. Most titles are in Italian. There are also some cool puzzles for the kids. SS 081 29 94 57 ViaTribunali 340 M Dante Need a frock for your pastori (nativity-scene figurines) Lucia Azzurro sews up baroque costumes in silks and linens for crib-scene...

Ischia Porto Ischia Ponte

Although technically two separate towns, Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte are bookends to one long, sinuous sprawl of candy-coloured buildings, frappe-sipping beach babes, card-playing old-timers, and palm-fringed shops and hotels. The ferry port itself was a crater lake, opened up to sea at the request of Spanish King Ferdinand II in 1854. While the story goes that he couldn't stand the stench of the lake, his request was more likely inspired by the prospect of increased shipping tax revenue. The...

Accommodation

There is no shortage of accommodation in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast. As a rule, the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples islands are more expensive than Naples, with limited budget options and a glut of upmarket hotels. In this book, accommodation is listed in alphabetical order within each section, and is rated (up to 90 for a double room), ( 90 to 190) and (above 190). Icons in hotel listings indicate where full air-con and internet access are available. The bulk of the region's accommodation...

Madre Museo Darte Contemporanea Donnaregina

SS 081 562 45 61 www.museomadre.it Via Settembrini79 7 3 10am-9pmMon-Thu amp Sun, lOam-midnightFri amp Sat Cavour The hottest gallery In town, MADRE Is to Naples what MoMA Is to Manhattan. Housed In the historic Donnareglna Palace, this world-class art space was designed by Portuguese architect Alvaro Slza y Vlelra and boasts the city's best collection of contemporary art. While the ground and 2nd floors host cutting-edge temporary exhibitions, the 1st floor houses the museum's permanent...

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Piazza Via Catena Anacapri

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Pompeii

Where Was The Harbor Gate Pompeii

A stark reminder of the malign forces that lie deep inside Vesuvius, Pompeii is Europe's most compelling archaeological site. A Roman town frozen in its 2000 year-old death throes and conserved under a sea of volcanic pumice, Pompeii Pompei in Italian is Italy's top tourist attraction. Each year about 2.5 million visitors pour in to wander the ghostly shell of what was once a thriving commercial centre. Pompeii's appeal goes beyond tourism from an archaeological point of view it's priceless....

Getting Around

Walking is the most sensible option if you're staying in the heart of Salerno from the train station it's a 1.2km walk along Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the historic centre. Local orange buses are run by CSTP. Tickets, valid for 80 minutes, cost 1. If you want to hire a car there's a Europcar 089 258 07 75 www.europcar.com. Via G Vicinanza agency not far from the train station. Occupying the area southeast of Salerno up to the regional border with Basilicata, the Parco Nazionaledel Cilentoe...