Campania Felix was so-called by the Romans to describe the region that still carries the name today. ‘Felix’ (the Latin for fruitful) not only describes its enviable weather and enchanting landscapes, but also its fertile soil and capacity to produce fine foods and wine. Campania was the first holiday resort for rich Romans: we could say that tourism was invented here. Roman emperors built villas in Capri; rich nobles settled in Ercolano, on the Sorrento Peninsula, and in Pozzuoli. This was the place of ‘otium’ (leisure), which for the Romans didn’t mean ‘doing nothing’, but instead focusing on reading, cultured conversation, and socialising.
By basing in Vico, you can follow in our ancestors’ footsteps and enjoy a ‘felix’ holiday.
Your base is obviously, to our minds, Vico Equense and the Sorrento Peninsula, where the scenery, good weather, relaxed atmosphere and produce cannot be beaten. Here, you can return to the Hotel Angiolieri in the evening after having visited the other sights, starting with Pompeii, which is less than twenty kilometres away.
Today Pompeii is set in a plain at the foot of Mount Vesuvius; when it was destroyed in the eruption in 79 AD it was on the coast and formed part of what we now call the Sorrento Peninsula. Wine cultivated on Vesuvius and the Monti Lattari (Lattari Mountains) flowed from its port, was exported across the entire Mediterranean and made it rich (to taste the descendants of those wines, try Lacryma Christi and Piedirosso). Visiting Pompeii is disturbing: a kind of time-travel through which it is possible not only to visit the largest archaeological site in the world, but also to experience the daily life of 2000-year-old Campanians. If Pompeii isn’t enough then you can also go to Ercolano (Herculaneum), which houses a smaller site, but is equally rich and interesting.
The Amalfi Coast and islands
If you can’t get enough of the beautiful seascapes of Vico and the surrounding area, on the other side of the Peninsula is the Amalfi Coast, which offers an exceptional combination of natural environment – both sea and hills – picturesque landscapes, and cultural heritage. Visit Positano with its one-off clothing shops, Amalfi with its cathedral that evokes the splendour of Amalfi’s one-time maritime republic, then climb to Ravello, with its seafront villas: an unforgettable sight.
Then there are the islands: Capri, the queen, barely separated from the Peninsula, almost an extension of it; elegant, refined, perfectly suited to the discerning tourist, with its rock formations, grottoes, and art. Ischia has thermal springs, Mount Epomeo from which you can enjoy amazing views of the land overlooking the sea. Finally the quiet and beautiful Procida, less grand and rich then Ischia, less exclusive and refined than Capri, but absolutely deserving of a visit.
The city of Naples stretches across the Gulf in full view of Vico. You can get there by car in half an hour (avoiding rush hour) or on the Circumvesuviana, the train that stops one hundred metres from the Hotel Angiolieri. A visit to the city can be tailored to any taste. There is culture to be found in the great museums (the archaeological one preserves extraordinary finds from Pompeii), the churches, the palaces, and the castles (the magnificent Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep) alone merits a visit). There is local colour to be found in the streets of the old city, always crowded with people, noise, and life. There is plenty to eat, from pizza ‘a libretto’ (folded and wrapped in foil) to be eaten on the go, to the great cuisine of the best fish restaurants. There are views to enjoy from the Lungomare (seafront promenade), from where you can see Vesuvius, the entire Gulf of Naples, and Capri. And the Sorrento Peninsula, to which you return tired but satisfied, to enjoy the unparalleled atmosphere. If all of that isn’t enough and time allows, there are a thousand other places to visit: Pozzuoli, Vesuvius, Caserta and its royal palace, Salerno and its ‘luci d’artista’ (winter light show). Campania Felix!