We depart from London on our scheduled flight to Naples. Regional flight connections and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available on request. Upon arrival we will transfer to the medieval cathedral town of Ravello where we will stay for the next three nights. A welcome drink followed by dinner will be served in the evening.
This morning, after breakfast, we visit the gardens of Villa Rufolo, which commands picture perfect views over the Amalfi coast. This is one of the oldest surviving palaces in Italy dating from the 13th century – Wagner visited the villa in 1880 and was inspired to write part of his opera Parisfal here. On the upper terrace umbrella pines and cypresses shade a wellhead while on a lower level classical geometric beds edged with box are filled with modern flowers. Tender plants which thrive in the mild climate are a feature of the lower terrace.
In the afternoon we will visit the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, a 19th century Moorish/English hybrid by William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, who owned the property until 1900. The garden was designed on a clifftop promontory with magnificent views of the Amalfi coast jutting out 106 metres above the Mediterranean. Trees, flowers and plants grow in profusion. A wisteria clad pergola stretches almost the full length of the central axis, while on either side there are imaginative themed gardens including a stretch of lawn decorated with statues, a sunken teahouse garden, a rose garden and a shady grove of umbrella pines and cypresses which descends down the steep slopes to the valleys below.
We then transfer to Amalfi and enjoy a guided walking tour of one of the lemon groves and see the limoncello production process. We return to Ravello where we have the evening at leisure.
Today is the opportunity to relax in the hotel or wander around the town at leisure. Alternatively we have arranged for those who wish an optional all day tour to the archaeological wonders of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Pompeii was, of course, the town which was tragically drowned in lava following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The town was buried under 23 feet of ash, which solidified with rain and time, preserving everything as if it was in a time capsule. Hidden for centuries, excavation work revealed an elegant resort with complete streets, beautiful villas and sculptures. Now almost
four-fifths of the original city has been unearthed and many of the treasures are housed in the National Museum in Naples. Herculaneum was destroyed in the same eruption, but unlike Pompeii, it was mainly affected by pyroclastic flows, thus preserving the wooden objects such as roof tops, building beams, beds, doors, and even food. Moreover, Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii, possessing an extraordinary density of fine houses, and far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding.
Evening at leisure in Ravello.
Following breakfast we will check out of the hotel and travel north to the colossal Palace of La Caserta. The monumental complex at Caserta, created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the
mid-18th century was to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. It is exceptional for the way in which it brings together a magnificent palace with its park and gardens, as well as natural woodland, hunting lodges and a silk factory. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment but it is big! We cannot possibly visit all of the parkland and all of the Palace – so it is our intention to include one of the guided tours of the palace where we will see a selection of the rooms and art collection then have a relaxing lunch (not included) before we explore some of the parkland including the beautiful ‘English Garden’.
Later we transfer to our hotel on the Lungomare sea-front district of Naples, with time to relax.
After breakfast we transfer to the harbour in Naples and take a ferry to Ischia, the largest island in the Bay of Naples, to visit the gardens of La Mortella. The composer, Sir William Walton, came here with his wife Susana in 1956 who then started the garden in the sloping gully before building the house in 1962. Russell Page, the garden designer, drew up a plan for the south-sloping valley, allowing the rocky ground to dictate the seemingly naturalistic planting style but imposing his own geometry – an axial line framing the distant peak of Mount Ipomeo. Here you will be dazzled by the array of rare and tender trees, palms, shrubs, ferns and bulbs. La Mortella is not only a garden of lush exotics, but simultaneously indigenous plants cling precariously to the steep terraced hillsides above. Umbrella pines, groves of ilex and arbutus, Italian cypresses and myrtles thrive here in glorious companionship. Following our visit we return by boat to Naples and transfer to our hotel, where the evening is at leisure.
This morning we will visit the Botanical gardens of the University of Naples for a guided tour. The botanical gardens here were founded at the beginning of the 19th century at a time when this Parthenopean city was dominated by the French. They carried out a plan which had been originally conceived by Ferdinand IV of Borbone and was prevented from being accomplished by a revolution in 1799. The decree of the founding of this structure bears the date 28th December 1807 and the signature of King Giuseppe Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. The gardens now cover about 12 hectares in which there are about 9,000 species and a total of 25,000 plants. These are grouped together according to taxonomic, ecologic and ethnobotanic standards.
We continue with a visit to the vineyard of Vigna Mirabella, followed by lunch at Le Cantine dell’Averno.
In the afternoon we will visit the museum Pio Monte della Misericordia which is stuffed like a good plum-pudding full of stunning works of art including Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy, a life-sized, dark and chaotic painting.
Evening at leisure in Naples.
Today it is time to check out of our hotel and head back to the airport for our return flight to London where on arrival our group will disperse.