Every year I make a calendar with my favorite photos from a recent trip, and 2022’s subject is Southern Italy–the Amalfi Coast, City of Naples, Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. January features the church dome and spire of the town of Vico Equense’s Chiesa dei Santi Ciro e Giovanni.
They thrust up through the low profile of nearby red-roofed houses and multi-layered skyline. From our hotel veranda a mile outside of town, I easily spot the spire and its companion dome, covered in colorful majolica tiles. Majolica is glazed earthenware coated with enamel and ornamented with rich metallic colors, and Italy is home to best of this artistic practice.
Perched on an outcrop of tuff, a light porous rock formed from the volcanic ash of Mount Faito, Vico Equense hosts 16 churches for its 21,000 inhabitants. Italians attend church weekly more than in most European countries, almost 30% of the population. Located near Sorrento in southern Italy’s Campania region, Vico Equense holds commanding views of the City of Naples across the broad blue expanse of the Bay of Naples. Mount Vesuvius dominates the horizon sitting several miles north of the city.
The name of this charming town of winding streets and small lanes and alleys, many too narrow for cars, means “village” (vicus) “of knights” (aequenis), a destination for Roman patricians who summered in this former Greek and Etruscan area.
Things To Do In and Around Vico Equense
Grab a town map at one of the shops, at the palazzo comunale (city hall) or tourist kiosk and begin your walking tour at the town’s center’s fountain. Surrounded by outdoor cafes and ristorantes, visitors will experience a prime people-watching opportunity. The map indicates many historic buildings, churches, and residences to seek out.
- Visit the fourteenth-century Gothic style Church of the Annunciation for its commanding views of the Bay of Naples and surrounding communities and for its treasured furnishings inside.
- Head to the Church of Saints Ciro and Giovanni to view its eighteenth-century majolica tile covered dome.
- Take a therapeutic and relaxing dip in the sulfur spring-fed waters at Scrajo Spa
- Hang out at museums like the Antiquarium Silius Italico––an exhibition of artifacts from the seventh to third century B.C. (yes, that’s correct) from Greek, Etruscan, and indigenous Italic civilizations and the Mineralogy Museum of Campania, a treasured collection from throughout the world that includes minerals, fossils, and two dinosaur eggs
- Originally built in the thirteenth century, Giusso Castle has undergone many restorations and adaptations, now hosting guests, ceremonies, meetings, and art exhibitions.
- Hop on a cable car at the Castellammare di Stabia station for the 8-minute cable ride to the top of Mount Faito on whose lava rock Vico Equense sits. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy panoramic views.
- And then the beaches: Chicchi, Bikini, Murrano, and Spiaggia di Tordigliano
Regional Adventures, with either a hired car and driver or drive yourself to Campania’s nearby attractions.
- Do not miss the opportunity to experience Pompeii and Herculaneum, just a 25-minute drive
- For Mount Vesuvius, 50 minutes by car, put your walking shoes on for an exhilarating climb to the volcano’s caldera
- Charming Positano is only a 40-minute ride, where you can board a ferry to tour the beautiful towns and cities of the Amalfi Coast, ending up in the City of Amalfi, where you can ask your driver to meet you for returning to your hotel
- 20 minutes gets you to Sorrento, where you can charter a boat or sailboat to the Isle of Capri. See if you can arrange with the captain to swim in the crystal-clear blue-green waters near the grottos off Capri. Maybe the tide will be low, so he’ll take you into the Blue Grotto. Then shop at Gucci or Ferragamo or another one of the many high-end stores on the island.
- A 50-minute ride puts you in Naples, a bustling city that’s the heart of southern Italy’s culture. The locals call the historic Old Town Spaccanopoli, described as a “beautiful––but chaotic––city,” with its noble and palatial buildings, grand piazzas, Roman ruins, tons of churches (“religion on steroids”) and narrow streets filled with daily street life. Take a tour of the Spanish Quarter, visit the Art Nouveau-inspired Galleria Umberto, and take in the grand structures of the Piazza del Plebiscito.
Can’t get enough of Italia? Be sure to check out my Journey to Naples and it’s Spanish Quarter here.