This year started in a pretty magical way for me. I escaped the wintery depths of the English January, opting instead for a week in the region of Campania in Italy. Woopee! The trip was with my ‘globe-trotting’ friend Helen, who is currently teaching on her year abroad in the area, and it was so great to be able to spend some quality time with her in her home for the year. Her knowledge of the area and Italian language expertise made the trip extra special and I can’t wait to share all the details with you today.
Where better to start than with food, I mean we were in Italy – I’d argue the country with the best food in the world. We started off our trip with a trip to the local market, which happens once a week and is THE place to get your fruit and veg (oh, and mozzarella!) I adored wandering around the market whilst Helen bargained and it was such a perfect way to start off our trip.
So for fruit & veg the market is the place, but what about everything else. You just have to visit a pizzeria & a pasticceria. Here’s a quick rundown of a few things you’ve just GOT to try from them if you’re visiting the area (Italian names & knowledge provided by Helen, thanking you!):
- A gorgeously stretched, Italian pizza with fries on top, and no this isn’t an American thing. It fully originates from Naples & Helen tells me it was divine. My personal favourite pizza topping in Italy, anchovies – yum!.
- “Un cornetto con crema” – a croissant-style pastry filled with custardy cream, typically eaten with a coffee or in my case a luxurious Italian hot chocolate (also a must try!).
- “Delizia al limone” – a lemony dome of creamy goodness, typical of Amalfi. So light & fluffy.
- “Sfogliatella” – A triangular, layered pastry typical of Naples and dusted with icing sugar. These had layers that the bake-off judges would only dream of!
- “Babà” – again typical of Naples, and soaked with rum. It is needless to say that this was delicious.
- “Zeppola” – my personal favourite, essentially a huge doughnut style pastry covered in sugar.
2. Destinations & Must-Visits
Salerno & Amalfi
Two contrasting places, both on the coast and just an hour apart, Amalfi and Salerno are two stunners in this part of the world. Salerno, a bustling city with shops, restaurants, an old town & a promenade to be proud of. In contrast, Amalfi is small, quaint, beautiful & a quiet place to visit in the Winter (as we found out!). Both equally fun to explore and both harbouring amazing hidden gems to visit, with my favourite being both place’s Cathedrals.
The Cathedral of St. Andrew The Apostle, in Amalfi, and St. Matthew Cathedral, in Salerno, are a both a delight to behold and to say they are worth a visit would be an understatement. In Amalfi, the Cathedral is perched on one of the biggest single sets of steps I must have ever seen and is the more beautiful of the two from the outside with gold mosaic decoration and an ornate round bell tower to it’s left. Inside, however, it is a whole different story and this is where Salerno Cathedral’s centerpiece – the crypt – really shines through. That is not to say that Amalfi’s place of worship isn’t wonderfully ornate and beautifully kept, it is, it’s only that St. Matthew’s is in a bit of a league of it’s own once you go downstairs.
Now, you all know that it takes a lot to shut me up, I could quite literally talk for England, but entering the crypt in Salerno I was rendered absolutely speechless. Wowzers, photographs cannot do perhaps the most insanely decorated room – ever – justice. It really is something truly special and I’d actually go as far to say the best religious building that I have ever been in – and trust me I’ve been in a lot. If I recommend you go anywhere in this area it would be this crypt, it’s a winner.
I’m not sure it a visit to Italy is complete without a walk around a place of worship, as religion plays such a key role in the Italian’s culture, and these two are phenomenal places to start.
If you’re wandering around Amalfi and Cathedrals aren’t up your street and you have eaten enough food to make you burst from Pasticceria Andrea Pansa (unfortunately closed when we visited, boo!) then another attraction that I’d 100% recommend is the Museum of Paper. Helen & I visited this on a total whim – well, partly because it started to rain – and it was such good fun. They show you around the paper mill (parts of which still work!) that dates from the 13th Century and the process is so fascinating taking you right the way through to the finished product – the paper. We also thoroughly enjoyed the gift shop with all of its gorgeous paper goods – we all know how much I love a bit of stationary! A lovely way to spend an hour and super cheap too!
The region is famed for its coastline and on that front it really delivers, as you can see from this gorgeous view of Amalfi – reached via. a specially built lift. However, the beauty of the landscape continues inland and is a well kept secret of this area. Yes, you can see Vesuvius from Naples and catch glimpses of gorgeous coastal towns perched on cliffs along the coast, but head inland a little way and make your way up the mountains – you will not be disappointed. Hills lined with olive groves, mountains silhouetted by sunsets and snow capped peaks met us when we reached the top of this hill (above right) near to Giffoni Valle Piana and it was worth every drop of sweat (tmi perhaps, let’s just say the gym is a distant memory!).
Bonus Category: Cars
This isn’t really to credit the cars of Italy, in fact most of the vehicles in this area have wing mirrors hanging off and scratches beyond belief and if you’ve ever been on the roads in Naples then you will understand how. However, we kept seeing the cutesy little cars basically posing for photographs and to be honest I was happy to oblige. My particular favourite was this one on the right, now there’s a paintjob.
So, you could say we had a pretty good time in Italy and I’d say, yes you were absolutely right. It was very chilly, which I’m not sure you can fully get in these pictures, but if you are willing to take a coat this region is so fun to visit in the Winter – especially if you have an awesome friend to show you around, thanks Helen!
Have you ever visited Campania?