Beaches, abbeys and castles between Rome and Naples Part 2: from Amalfi (Salerno) to Rome

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This is a continuation of the itinerary Beaches, abbeys and castles between Rome and Naples. it covers the way back from Naples to Rome.

The places we shall visit on this route are, too well known to need introduction Rome, Naples, the Amalfi coast and back to Rome, touching so much ancient and modern history as to go back to mythical times with the cave of the witch Circe.

Photo Hotel Onda Verde – Amalfi Coast
Photo Hotel Onda Verde – Amalfi Coast

The itinerary:

AMALFI is where we spend the night. This city was once a glorious Marine Republic; now there remains only the Arsenal, with its austere Gothic vaulting and the splendid cloister of the Cathedral (rebuilt in the 19th cent. when the ancient one felt down). Or one could spend the night at nearby RAVELLO.

RAVELLO, which, we shall in any case visit on the morning of the next day, is perched on a mountain spur overlooking the sea with a fine Cathedral whose Bronze door by Barisano di Trani (1179) is a masterpiece of 12th century sculpture and the remarkable Romanesque church of San Giovanni del Toro. The garden of Villa Rufolo, overlooking the sea, gave Wagner the idea for the magic garden of Klingsor.

The rest of the day can be spent wandering over the Amalfi peninsula, which we then go round passing through enchanting POSITANO.

POSITANO, then Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, between the Gulf of Salerno and that of Naples. On the Gulf of Naples we find Massalubrense, facing Capri and SORRENTO.

SORRENTO, a charming little place overlooking the sea, with some good monuments such as the church of San Francesco with a delightful small cloister, and the Correale Museum. The next day can be spent at Sorrento, or this is a good opportunity to add a day or two to visit the great islands of Capri or Ischia, famous for their historical and natural beauties.

We leave Sorrento the next day and run through Castellammare di Stabia to POMPEII (20 km. – 12 1/2 mi.) and Herculaneum; these will take up the best part of the day, and in the evening we enter NAPLES, where we shall spend the next two days visiting the city, adding, maybe, a visit to Mount Vesuvius.

Farther along the road GAETA, important in Roman times, then a Longobard Duchy with picturesque medieval buildings, commanded by an imposing Longobard Castle, which passed to the Swabians and then to the Angevins; and the Cathedral of the 12th century, with a wealth of 13th century carving and a Norman campanile.

It would be a good idea to spend the afternoon inland; going back along the road to Forone to the point where there is a Roman ruin traditionally believed to be the Tomb of Cicero, killed near here in 43 BC, turn left and go 9 km. (6 m1/.) to ITRI, a beautiful medieval town with a great Castle; another important Castle can be seen at FONDI an ancient city with fine palaces (14 km. – 8 1/2 mi. from Itri) – see the Renaissance courtyard of the Palazzo del Principe – and church of San Pietro (fine Romanesque pulpit, Renaissance tomb, altarpiece by Antoniazzo Romano). Skirting the Monti Ausoni, we arrive after 17 km. (10 1 1/2 mi.) at TERRACINA , an important resort with ancient monuments, a Cathedral rich in mosaics and sculpture: on the hill overlooking the town, note the remains of a Roman Temple of Jove.

Monte Circeo – Photo © Macorig Paolo
Monte Circeo – Photo © Macorig Paolo

The next day of our route follows the enchanting coast-road to Monte Circeo, a fantastic place in which, classical legend tells us, was found the cave where Circe bewitched Ulysses’ men. Continuing between the sea and Lake Sabaudia, take the right-hand turning to go inland, to the town of SABAUDIA, a modern town built on what were the Pontine Marches, drained 1930-36; a run of 21 km. (13 1/2 mi.) takes us to the ABBEY OF FOSSANOVA.

FOSSANOVA a fine Cistercian building, erected over many centuries (1187-1300) where Thomas Aquinas died. The church is a severe and naked Gothic, but the cloister is charming. From Fossanova, 6 km. (3 1/2 mi.) of road bring us to the turning for Priverno, another town with fine medieval monuments: Cathedral and Palazzo Comunale, 13th century Gothic.

Now turning towards the Monti Lepini, and then left, we arrive after 19 km. 11 3/4mi.) at SEZZE, with an interesting Cathedral in various styles. Continuing along the edge of the Monti Lepini we come to the enchanting spot in which stand the ruins of NINFA.

NINFA, medieval city abandoned after its destruction the high tower rises in silence over the clear, still pools.

A short distance away is Norma, on a bare, rocky hill, and to the left, Sermoneia, with wonderful medieval architecture, Sermoneia, with wonderful medieval architecture, the Collegiate Church and the Caetani Castle.

Not far away is the ABBEY OF VALVISCIOLO, in a fine position at the top of a hill among valleys full of olive groves, with a Romanesque facade and rose-window and CORI with the elegant Roman Temple of Hercules of 100 BC and the church of Sant’Oliva, with a splendid Renaissance cloister. One can spend the night at VELLETRI or at ANZIO on the coast, or in nearby NETTUNO to dedicate the last day of the route to the fascinating tour of the Castelli Romani.

CASTELLI ROMANI (The Alban Hills), grouped in splendid positions on the Alban Hills, between the two volcanic lakes of Albano and Near. Leaving VELLETRI one passes through GENZANO, ARICCIA, ALBANO, CASTEL GANDOLFO, MARINO, GROTTAFERRATA, and FRASCATI, enchanting places where Renaissance and Baroque villas mingle Roman ruins, Abbeys (the famous one at Grottaferrata has Byzantine frescoes and mosaics), Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque churches all in a marvelous setting of woods, hills and lakes before heading back to Rome.

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Itinerary partly courtesy of ENIT