Probably nowhere else is there such a blend of outstanding historic heritage, sublime natural beauty, astonishing coastlines and typical Italian ‘Dolce Vita’.
Selected departures April to October 2017
You fly to Naples. On arrival a coach takes us to Sorrento, a lovely base for our holiday. You have a choice of carefully selected hotels, all well managed and of a very good quality within their category with good restaurants where we dine.
Sorrento has been a resort for centuries and has developed with great style, so today we have a rather lazy day commencing with a short walking tour. The Romans were aware of Sorrento’s attributes and the area is dotted with the remains of their opulent villas. During the 18th century it became part of the Grand Tour for Europe’s aristocracy with classic hotels being built around the old cliff-top town. Today, spared the excesses of modern development, Sorrento is delightful and so typical of the south of Italy. Tiny winding streets lined with tall, seemingly crumbling buildings complete with their faded façades of ochre, yellow and magenta are now home to superb shops and cosy restaurants. The stylish young astride their Vespas, and on every bench sit splendidly turned out senior citizens, superbly dressed no matter how hot the weather – all having time to pass a few words in the street.
Today, we take the drive north around the bay to the cosmopolitan city of Naples where we have a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum which is one of the finest of its kind. When the excavations commenced in nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, the best of the finds were brought here and displayed to an eager public. There is a very extensive display of remarkably preserved mosaics giving a superb insight into the way of life and even sense of humour of the ordinary Roman. Other sections include murals, figures, fine pottery, ropes and even preserved food. One of the central displays is of some of the largest classical sculpture ever found and the museum as a whole complements your visit to Pompeii admirably.
We all know the story of Pompeii, however, it is more than a series of ruins: the state of preservation is astonishing and even if you are not interested in history you cannot fail to be moved by the scale of the city, the construction of which appears to put our modern structures to shame, especially when you consider machines were unavailable. Much of our knowledge about the way of life of the ordinary Romans, their habits, social structure, class systems and domestic arrangements has come from here. Some of the baths are virtually complete as are various murals and mosaics, with some buildings having graffiti describing political events, romantic entanglements and gossip of the time! You can even see the traffic calming measures, how the oneway system operated and appreciate the very high standard of living evident in Roman Pompeii. The atmosphere is eerie, as preserved for all time are the pained facial expressions of the victims of Vesuvius. We will have a guided tour of this fascinating city, before returning to our hotel.
Today you have a free day in Sorrento to spend as you wish. You could take a boat trip, shop in the high class boutiques, have a lazy lunch or simply catch up on some reading – the choice is yours.
Capri is renowned the world over for its outstanding natural beauty and today we take the short boat ride to the island. It has long been the most sought-after part of the Bay of Naples: not only attracting three Roman emperors, but also writers such as D.H. Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw who sought inspiration here. Famous names such as Gracie Fields and Graham Greene, amongst many others, have made it their home. It is easy to see why it is so adored: as we approach the island you can see small fishing boats rising and falling with the gentle waves, with pretty shops and restaurants lining the busy quayside.
The picturesque main town is perched on the hill looking down on the quaint harbour below. You may wish to visit to the famous Blue Grotto – the large cavern which can only be reached by boat and by a freak of nature is bathed in incandescent blue light, hence its name. Yes, Capri really does deserve its reputation as a Garden of Eden. We then take the boat to the mainland and return to our hotel.
This morning we visit Herculaneum, known locally as Ercolano, located in the shadow of the mighty Mount Vesuvius. This ancient Roman town was destroyed in AD 79 by the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius, one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in European history. Very much like Pompeii, the town of Herculaneum was buried under volcanic mud and ash, which smothered everything from household objects to metals and textiles, sealing it all in an airtight tomb, until excavation of the site commenced in 1738 using underground tunnels which revealed the hidden secrets of this fascinating place. Our local guide will bring the history of the town to life and as you walk amongst this fantastically preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will have an understanding of the vast amount of volcanic waste that had to be excavated and the enormity of the task to uncover what we can see today. Herculaneum is less well known than Pompeii, but the state of preservation of the buildings is generally far superior so it’s most certainly worth the visit.
We think you will agree the Amalfi coastline is, as it claims to be, Europe’s most beautiful. Today we explore the coast winding around towering cliffs, dipping almost sheer to the beautiful blue sea with birds soaring above and the air heavy with the typically Mediterranean scent of pine forest and wild flowers. We arrive above the exclusive resort of Positano clinging to the cliff-face, giving a view, which has inspired countless artists and today is the haunt of celebrities. Next it’s Amalfi, a picturesque village in a gorgeous setting, possessing charm in abundance and perhaps the highlight of the coast.
Just inland is the stunning village of Ravello, with its unrivalled location perched like an eagle’s nest on a shelf above Amalfi, affording some amazing views. It has an ambience of its own and a wonderful main square surrounded by delightful small cafés and the Villa Rufolo – once the headquarters of a city-state, now a charming collection of medieval buildings, statues, tasteful walled gardens and the setting for Wagner’s opera Parsifal.
Today we return to Naples airport, at the appropriate time, after a really memorable and unique tour.
Managing to retain its roots and traditions better than probably any other modern nation, Italy is a superb destination for a holiday. With its stunning blend of excellent food and wine, gorgeous scenery, together with an enviable climate and a phenomenal cultural legacy, plus of course the Italians themselves with their legendary love of life, you have all the ingredients for a wonderful stay.
For gourmets Italy is a delight, its food and wine being amongst the best in the world and as you would expect in the area we are visiting, seafood is everywhere. Clams, mussels, sea bass, swordfish – the list is endless – as are the methods of cooking them. The pasta is mouth-watering and the wine is really good quality.
The Sorrento peninsula and the Bay of Naples is simply one of the most beautiful corners of Europe, attracting visitors for centuries in search of its outstanding scenery, tranquillity and some of the most wondrous ‘sights’ from throughout history. Indeed in the immediate area we have a selection of places to see and visit which stand comparison with almost anywhere in the world.
It has a long and violent history, and invasions by the Greeks, Phoenicians and Saracens have all left their mark – but none more so than the Romans. Even 2000 years ago the attributes of the region were well known with the Emperors Tiberius and Augustus, together with countless members of the ruling elite, having villas here.
Sorrento came to real fame during the late 18th century when many of Europe’s aristocracy came to spend their winters here, attracted by its mild climate and outstanding natural beauty. Sumptuous houses and grandiose hotels were built along the cliff-tops and today Sorrento is everything you expect an Italian town to be: tiny cobbled streets and quaint squares with flowers decorating almost every building, tubs of geraniums, dark blue morning glory climbing up pastel coloured, almost crumbling walls, with pink Oleander, Bougainvillea and roses in almost every open space. Mouth-watering aromas drift from the numerous restaurants and bistros, some humble and homely, some grand and ostentatious with pavement cafés serving fine cappuccino on seemingly every street corner.
Explore the legendary Amalfi coast, with every guidebook proclaiming Europe’s most beautiful, and when you see it, you cannot disagree! Limestone mountains covered with pine forests plunge dramatically into the calm blue Mediterranean. Next it’s Capri, which possesses a deserved reputation as a veritable Garden of Eden – it is no surprise why so many celebrities live here.
The Bay of Naples' skyline is dominated by the majestic and still active volcano Vesuvius, rising loftily to over 4000 feet and it has erupted in spectacular fashion several times in its history. The most famous of course, was in 79AD when Roman Pompeii, together with many of its inhabitants, were entombed and whose state of preservation today is little short of remarkable.
All in all there can be few places you will find which combine together so much of interest in an area of such outstanding natural beauty as the Bay of Naples.
The price of this holiday is per person and is based on two people sharing a twin room. Single and sea facing rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement (see accommodation tab for details). The price includes return flights as indicated, seven nights with breakfast and dinner, airport departure taxes and transfers, all tours as mentioned, guided tours of Pompeii, Naples Archaeological Museum and Sorrento, guided tour of Herculaneum, cruise to Capri and the services of a Riviera tour manager. Please note that the Mediterraneo is Bed and Breakfast for 2017 dates
Where hotels feature a swimming pool, pools are open in the summer months weather permitting. There will be a charge for swimming pool towels of €2 per towel per day at the Vue D’Or, Villa Maria and the La Badia.
Occasionally the opening times of the places of interest varies, and if this happens we may change the order of visits, however the overall content will not be reduced.