Naples or Sorrento, Italy
Naples is on the southern coast of Italy, along the Mediterranean Sea; Sorrento is 18 miles southwest of Naples, and Capri is 20 miles off the coast of Naples.
NaplesThe Bay of Naples has often been called the loveliest in the world--and with good reason. Set under the watchful eye of Mount Vesuvius, the bay sweeps around like a fantastic stage set, its promenades and balconies so theatrically arranged that from any vantage point in the city, it is still the star.
Start your tour in the Old City, known as Spaccanapoli, north of the bay. A baroque feeling pervades this part of town-- from its dark cathedrals to its flower stalls and street-corner hawkers. Spaccanapoli's beloved churches include the lovely Church of Santa Chiara, with its Gothic-Provincial charm and wild fruit trees, and the 12th-century Church of San Domenica Maggiore, whose painting of a crucifix is regarded as sacred because it spoke to saint and theologian Thomas Aquinas, one of the city's most prominent citizens. For lovers of mysteries, the stately Duomo houses the head (yes!) and two vials of blood from the city's patron saint, San Gennaro (St. Januarius).
Another reason to brave the bustling streets is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, one of the greatest collections of antiquities in the world. The treasures here include precious paintings and mosaics from Pompeii and the renowned Farnese Bull. For a firsthand view of Naples' fascinating past, visit the Museo Nazionale di San Martino, a former monastery whose 80 halls are now filled with historic furniture, ceramics and costumes.
Not far from the harbor is another notable attraction, the 13th-century Castel Nuovo. Built in 1279-82 by Charles of Anjou, this brick castle presents such a tough, macho image that locals refer to it as the Maschio Angioino. While the interior of the castle cannot be viewed, the complex presents two magnificent features: the Arco di Trionfo and the Capella Palatina, also known as the Church of Santa Barbara.
SorrentoPerched above the sea, the resort town of Sorrento offers visitors a welcome respite, with terraced streets, panoramic views and a plentiful supply of cafes. Here among the lemon groves, Europe's smart set once frolicked each summer during the Belle Epoque.
Relaxing and shopping are the order of the day. Among the few sights of historical interest is a 15th-century Loggia, with fine column capitals, on the Via San Cesareo. Thrill-seekers will enjoy riding the roller-coaster Amalfi Drive toward Salerno--awe- inspiring for its magnificent scenery and hairpin curves (more than 1,000 of them!).
CapriOf the three islands just outside the Bay of Naples, Capri, on the Sorrento side, is the most popular with travelers. Here, legend has it, the Sirens sang their melodious songs, luring sailors to their deaths on the rocky coast.
Capri's most famous sight is the Grotta Azzura, or Blue Grotto. The remarkable color effects of this waterside cave, and its neighboring grottoes of Green, Yellow, White and Pink, are caused by a phenomenon of light refraction.
For a memorable view, take the chairlift up Monte Solaro, the central mountain whose 360-degree view encompasses the Southern Apennines, Naples, Vesuvius, the island of Ischia and Sorrento.
Great BuysGood buys on bags, shoes and clothing can be had in Naples, where many of the top leather and fashion houses have their factories. Make your purchases in shops rather than from street vendors. Neapolitan craft specialties include tortoise-shell, coral cameos, embroideries, lace and lingerie. During December, handmade Christmas cribs and statuettes are offered in street markets.
Capri has several smart shops for the fashion-conscious; hand-crafted jewelry is another best bet here.
Crocheted lace and embroidered table linens from Sorrento make excellent gifts for those at home. The city is particularly renowned for its intarsia, a type of inlaid woodworking. You'll find shops around the Piazza Tasso selling everything from jewelry boxes to trays and coffee tables with intarsia decorations.
For a listing of possible SHORE EXCURSIONS which may be offered from Naples or Sorrento during your Mediterranean Cruise, check out the article Princess Naples Excursions.
NOTE: Pompeii is not covered in this article but is the most popular shore excursion when calling in Sorrento or Naples. The above link to Princess Naples Excursions describes the tours to Pompeii.
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