Capri was the home of Swedish author Dr. Axel Munthe. His world famous 'The Story of San Michele', brings visitors from across the world to the town of Anacapri and his home the Villa San Michele. Here the glorious light and cool sea breezes cast a spell of longing. An enigmatic sphinx looks out across the island from a high terrace and draws the gaze to the busy harbour of the Marina Grande far below.
On the other side of the island, visitors seek 'Canzone del Mare', the home of Gracie Fields at the Marina Piccola or try to capture the experience of Kim Rees, the heroine of Belinda Jones' new novel 'I Love Capri'. The hotel and shop owners are pleased to provide directions and information to tourists and researchers alike. Their generosity and kindness has been an essential aid in creating this presentation.
The famous English composer Sir William Walton and his wife Susanna, created a beautiful sub-tropical paradise on the island of Ischia. Their love for each other and Lady Susanna's creative passion live on in the exotic atmosphere of their garden 'La Mortella'. Every year student musicians attend masterclasses with professional international artists and coaches at the Walton's home and a series of concerts is given in the recital room.
Lush private gardens and fragrant citrus groves surround most of the grand hotels in Sorrento, such as the sumptuous Excelsior Vittoria, on the magnificent cliffs overlooking the Marina Piccola. Opera singer Enrico Caruso stayed here to find peaceful shade and respite from his many engagements. On a terrace of the Imperial Hotel Tramontano de Curtis penned his immortal song 'Torna a Surriento', looking across the sea to Vesuvius and capturing in words and music the faded charm of Sorrento and the powerful enchantment of the Sirene.
The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum vibrate in the heat under the looming presence of Mount Vesuvius. The deserted houses and streets echo with the footsteps of the people who perished, praying to the Gods who left them to their fate. Their breathtaking treasures are housed in the Archaeological Museum built by King Carlos, in Naples. In the friendly bustle of this populous city the harbour of Mergellina and the heights of Capodimonte shimmer in the warm afternoon and the famous 'Funiculi Funicula' of popular song offers an escape from the heat.
Just outside Naples at Caserta the impressive and monumental palace of the Bourbon Kings reflects their admiration of the French King Louis XIV and his Chateau de Versailles. The magnificent stately halls recently appeared in the film 'Star Wars: Episode I' as Princess Amidala's Palace of Theed. The gilded rooms and ornate furniture are being gradually restored to their original splendour; as are the colossal fountains and cascades of the extensive park and gardens.
The spectacular scenery of the coastline along the precipitous Amalfi Drive, draws the tourists to the pretty villages of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello nestling in the cliffs, often hidden by sea mists. Amalfi's bejewelled Cathedral sparkles in the sun and the magnificent splendour of the terraced gardens fill the air with luxurious fragrance.
At Ravello, the Villa Rufolo commands a fabulous view of the coastline and a yearly festival commemorates Wagner's inspiration with concerts and performances by famous artists. Further along the coast, the Villa Cimbrone provided the romantic scenery for Greta Garbo's tryst with the conductor Leopold Stokowsky. The image of the 'Terrace of Infinity' is as immortal and enigmatic as Garbo herself.
Hidden for centuries, the majestic Greek Temples of Paestum reveal a more ancient way of life. The story and treasures of this lesser known site are housed in a fabulous collection at the site museum. The tomb of the diver leaves a lasting impression of this lost civilisation and its pleasures and pastimes.
All the historic site and houses, tourist towns and islands are easily reached and explored on public transport. Trains and buses are cheap and efficient and Tourist Offices provide free maps, timetables and tariffs.
The people of this beautiful region nearly all speak brilliant English and are so friendly and hospitable. If you can speak some Italian as well, you are made to feel like one of the family and nothing is too much trouble to make sure that you enjoy your stay to the maximum. The secret charm of the Sirene is more than the lure of its picturesque landscapes and fishing harbours, or the glorious light and play of shadow on Capri, it is encapsulated in the particular warmth and kindness of its people.