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21 September 2014

A Weekend in Campania and The 2014 Campania Food & Wine Tour in Sorrrento & Amalfi Coast


When summer arrives, my family and I usually travel to the north of Italy to the mountains and to the sea. The different regions have different characteristics in gastronomy, terrain. culture and history. That's what I like about this country. Every single region has a surprise up its sleeve to make you marvel at its uniqueness. So every single place that I visit is always worth the trip. I have shown you Alto Adige/Sudtirol, Liguria (Italian Riviera), Tuscany, Abruzzo, Marche, Sicily, Sardegna and Puglia in my past posts (see other places at Travel in Italy) but this time, let me show you an ancient town more southern than Rome, close to Naples, in the region of Campania.

The town of Sant' Agata de' Goti standing on natural tuff fortification

Italy has a lot of beautiful ancient villages scattered all over the country. When I travel around the country, they are topmost in my list. In fact, there is an association called I Borghi Più Belli d'Italia (The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy) that's dedicated in taking note of which ones have strong artistic and cultural interests. From south to north, I follow the list to the letter whenever I can because from the first town I visited that's in their list until the last one, I never got disappointed.


Entrance to Sant'Agata de' Goti

One town that I had been eyeing for some time was Sant'Agata de' Goti. Then when I saw it in a TV program about beautiful ancient towns in Italy, I was ready to pack my bags and see it for myself. My family and I always travel to the north or further central across the Adriatic side. This time we ventured to the south.


Pictures taken around Sant'Agata de' Goti

I couldn't let go of summer without a much needed relaxing family holiday so my husband and I decided to go on the last weekend before school was scheduled to start. I know that having two active kids and a dog negates the word relax but we actually did slow down for once. Maybe because we stayed put in the town of Sant'Agata de' Goti where we rented a house at the center. We usually go to other places, sightseeing as much as we can squeeze in. This time, we tried to blend with the town, stayed in the local bar for aperitifs like what a lot of elderly men do, spent time sitting on benches while the kids played with other kids. We had lunch out in restaurants with wide open spaces for the kids and dog to play while dinner was back to the house we rented where we prepared simple dinners.

A shop's closed door in Sant'Agata de' Goti

Sant'Agata de' Goti is a small, friendly and active town. When we were there, we were fortunate to see the car show of vintage cars and some Ferraris. There was also the town's Sunday market where I got some interesting finds. I took home different kinds of peppers, tomatoes, Sorrento lemons and dried oregano.They were organically grown by the farmers who were selling at the market themselves. We spoke about how the ugly produce are actually much better than their shiny and beautiful counterparts because they are untreated. I agree with that.

Different kinds of peppers, Sorrento lemons & zucchini from the market in Sant'Agata de' Goti

When you arrive to Sant'Agata de' Goti, you will go through a tree-lined road leading to a bridge that arrives to the main entrance of the town. On the left is the spectacular panorama of the natural fortifications of the town. Both daytime and nighttime, the effect is incredible. Inside the town itself is simpler, yet still beautiful. It's very well-kept and clean, in contrast to most towns in the southern part.

Nighttime panorama of Sant'Agata de' Goti
Piazza Umberto I in Sant'Agata de' Goti

One thing that I liked the most about the town is that strangers still greet each other in the roads. Fifteen years ago, I was surprised at the casualness and warmth that the people showed to one another. A simple greeting of buongiorno (good day) when entering shops, in the elevators or just passing each other makes things more human. As the years have passed, I noticed that greetings have lessened sometimes not even done anymore. Maybe it's something that people overlook nowadays because of the rush that we find ourselves in but it matters to keep ourselves up and I also see that my kids respond to it well. That's one reason that I love about Sant'Agata de' Goti. There is still a spark of reaching out to the others and a simple buongiorno has a big effect on everyone.

View from the window of the house in Sant'Agata de' Goti
Pictures of Sant'Agata de' Goti, Agriturismo Buro where they have ponies for the kids to ride and a locally produced bottle of Pallagrello
A square in the town of Capua

Close to Sant'Agata de' Goti is a town called Capua. We visited it on the way there from Rome. It's a simple town, not as well-kept as Sant' Agata de' Goti and a bit confusing with cars everywhere. There is a nice little square (photo above) where we rested while we finished the granita that we got while walking. At the entrance of the town, there is also a bridge leading to the door of Capua (photo below, upper horizantal photo). Just along one of the roads in the area, there is also a magnificent aqueduct called Aqueduct of Vanvitelli from the 18th century that carried water from the springs of Fizzo to Reggia di Caserta and San Leucio complex (photo below on the corner left). 

3 vertical photos: Amphitheater of Santa Maria Capua Vetere.  Upper horizontal photo: Bridge to the town of Capua. Lower horizontal photo: Aqueduct of Vanvitelli

The amphitheater of Santa Maria Capua Vetere was built during the time of Augustus which was from 27 BC to 14 AD and was funded by a Roman nobleman named Tillius. It is the second largest amphitheater in Italy, after the Colosseum. It had hosted all the gladiatorial games of the city and could sit 60,000 spectators. It also boasted the best gladiator school. Here, Spartacus distinguished himself as a champion gladiator. (3 vertical photos above and below)



Pictures of the amphitheater of Santa Maria Capua Vetere

You can also visit the underground part of the amphitheater where you can walk through the tunnels and corridors with rooms on both sides where exotic animals were kept for the fights in the amphitheater.

Underground tunnel in the amphitheater
The outer garden of Relais Tenuta San Domeico

One of our finds in the area Relais Tenuta San Domenico. It is a hotel & restaurant that has a wide area of garden, pool, a walk through through a rose garden that leads to a small lake and a beautiful building that complements its surroundings. It's quite popular for weddings. In fact, when we were there for lunch, one just finished the previous day and they were preparing for another one for a dinner wedding. We had an outdoor lunch with very attentive service and excellent food and wine. Oh, and our dog was quite happy too with all the pats and water bowl he got. It's definitely a place to keep in mind when you are in the area for a good taste of what Campania can offer.


Pictures around Relais Tenuta San Domenico

Aside from monuments, churches and picturesque towns, eating plays a fundamental role in all of my travels. I like trying out the local food and wine, whether it's fusion or classic. It's putting a seal to a holiday because it is a part of how I get to know the places I see and experience. Yes, I am that woman in the next table who keeps her phone and camera in handy in case there is a plate that's visually appetizing to make clicks of. Because I believe that food is also eaten with the eyes.


Interesting dishes from the trip

And still in the region of Campania, speaking about food and wine, the 4th edition of the Campania Food & Wine Tour is happening again from the 25th to the 27th of September 2014 in Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The previous editions had seen big successes so this year, thirty of the most important restaurants in the region have created menus based on local products, and food & wine tastings in celebration of the specialties of the region. Follow them in Facebook to see the programming of the events or check the Campania Food and Wine site for more information.