International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

 

SIX SITES IN THE CAMPANIA REGION

NAPLES

Naples is one of Italy's major cities owing to its dimensions and number of inhabitants. Bordered by hillsides, Naples is situated on the celebrated Gulf of Naples renown for its spectacular views and temperate climate. Other cities, localities and islands are also situated on this body of water and for centuries, have been the preferred destination of privileged travelers from the world over.

As the capitol of a kingdom for almost six centuries, Naples inherited monuments and institutions rivaling those in any other major European city: numerous architecturally significant churches, most of which built between the eighteenth century and the Napoleonic period and adorned with enormous quantities of art; four castles, the National Archaeological, Capodimonte and San Martino Museums, the National and Girolamini Libraries, the State and the Historic Bank of Naples Archives, the San Carlo Theatre, Institutions of Science (the Aquarium, the Botanical Gardens and the Astronomic Observatory). These monuments and institutions are among the oldest in Europe.

Local universities include l’Università degli Studi founded by Emperor Federico II in 1224 and the Orientale whose origins date hack to the historic College of Chinese. There are important decorative cycles dating from the early Christian era (frescos in the catacombs and the mosaics in the Baptistery of San Giovanni) to the nineteenth century. The works of some of Italy and Europe’s most important artists (Giotto, Pietro Cavallini, Simone Martini, Tino di Camaino, Masaccio, Donatello, Francesco Laurana, Giovanni Bellini, Mantenga, Botticelli, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Correggio, Tiziano, Lotto, Bruegel, Caravaggio, Carracci, Guido Reni, Ribera, Luca Giordano, Mattia Preti, Canova) can be seen in addition to, as can only be expected, those of artists from the Neapolitan School who often, particularly in the eighteenth century, rivaled their European counter-parts.

Neapolitan artistic heritage rose to the pinnacles of the field of music with a celebrated series of illustrious maestros in the eighteenth century. This artistic tradition overlapped into the city's theatrical life and, on a more popular level, even more so into the world of easy listening music, to the point that, abroad, Neapolitan melodies have almost become a symbol of Italy.

The area is also noted for celebrations commemorating particularly solemn religious holidays including Holy Friday (in Procida and Amalfi), Easter Sunday and the festivities dedicated to various local patron saints, the Feast of the Gigli in Nola on 28 June, the two feast days dedicated to the Naples patron saint, San Gennnaro, in May and on the 19th of September and the Feast of Our Lady of Carmine which falls on the 16th of July.

Neapolitan craftsmanship boasts a long heritage which is theoretically leads back to the splendid eighteenth-century tradition of artistic productions and includes porcelain, statues and crèches. The latter can found during the months of November and December in the small shops located in via San Gregorio Armeno. The colourfull, lively local markets abound in a triumph of vegetable and fish stands which constitute the basic, fundamental ingredients of typical Neapolitan and Campana regional cuisine. Notwithstanding, this area is primarily known the world over for three local products and dishes: pasta in any form and shape, mozzarella (buffalo milk cheese) and pizza. Many typical local confectionery products are also renowned such as pastiera (a wheat-based cake), sfogliatelle (ricotta and candied fruit-filed puffs), zeppole (sweet baked or fried doughnuts) and special confectionery for specific holidays such as Carnival, All Souls Day and Christmas. Naples can he reached by air (The Capodichino Airport is conveniently located close to the city), by ship (the port is located in the city centre); and is well-connected with Rome (less than two hours by train) and other Italian cities by an excellent rail and motor way network. The city has a well-developed system of urban transportation which includes three funiculars (owing to its orographical conformation), a new underground subway line (currently under construction) and a series of commuter railway systems linking the city to the surrounding areas (Cirumflegrea, Cumana and Circumvesuviana). Hydrofoils and ships provide continuous service to the local islands and localities on the Coast. Naples offers tourists a wide range of hotels and pensions (the most prestigious are located on the Coast near Castel dell’Ovo) and innumerable restaurants and pizzerias.

With the objective of re-launching culturally oriented tourism, the Regional Council has opted for a no-hands-barred approach. Plans have been drawn up for enhancing the entire museum network with particular focus on the Capodimonte, Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace) San Martino, Sant’Elmo and National Museums. The conference facilities at Castel dell'Uovo are also schedules for improvements to enable the structure to host larger and therefore more international conferences. Thanks to special funding (68 million Euro) earmarked for the agreement signed by the Minister, services will be reorganized in the mare important museums and these structures will be able to provide complementary services such as five-star restaurants offering the finest in regional cuisine and wine. Additionally, plans call for the creation of an historic archive in the San Carlo Theatre, new exhibition areas for the Filangieri and the Floridiana museums and the San Lorenzo and Santa Chiara Museum are scheduled for renovation. The list of "re-discovered' monuments includes the Villa of Pollione, the Grotto of Seiano, the Tomb Virgil, the Roman Theatre and the Neapolitan Crypt. Plans have already been detailed for the recuperation of the island of Gaiola.

THE PHLEGRAEAN FIELDS

Campi Flegrei is the volcanic area north, yet geologically part, of Naples. From at least the sixteenth century onwards, a visit to this area was an integral part of a visit to the city for four fundamental reasons: the vast amount of literature and history permeating these enchanted sites so dear to Virgil and Horace; the abundance and beauty of the archaeological ruins, particularly those of Roman origin which can be found almost everywhere; the unique volcanic phenomena which have given the area an abundance of thermal spa areas since ancient times and lastly, but most importantly, the natural beauty of this area is spectacular with magnificent views of Vesuvius and the islands of Ischia, Procida and Capri.The Phlegraean Fields offer endless opportunities for a modern-day Grand Tour and are easily accessible from Naples by motorway or by local commuter trains (Circumflegrea and Cumana). In addition the ancient sites, one is keenly aware that, throughout the centuries, countless visitors from all over the world visited the area and also left their mark.The mere mention of the more interesting sites to visit conjures visions of celebrated panoramas and monuments. An excellent introduction to the Phlegraean Fields is from the belvedere of the Camaldoli Hermitage in Naples which offers a magnificent view extending from Vesuvius all the way to the Bay of Gaeta and includes Agnano with its baths and the racetrack, the Astroni crater (a former royal hunting reserve now under the protection of the World Wildlife Fund), the Solfatara, a two-kilometre crater and an extraordinary example of a dormant volcano where singular phenomena including small mud-volcanoes, fumaroles and mofettes can be viewed. Further north is the city of Pozzuoli which was founded in the sixth century B.C. and is graced with a quaint historic centre, Rione Terra, currently under restoration. There are many grand Roman monuments such as the Capitolium (upon which the cathedral would be built), the Macellum; the Temple of Serapide famous for its columns with evident signs of sea shells and stone-boring mussels bearing witness to the effects of bradyseism which has characterized the area for centurie; Villa Avellino, the Cardito Pools, the enormous Amphitheatre (second only to the Coliseum in Rome and the Amphitheatre of Santa Maria Capua Vetere) as well as the mausoleums along Via Campana.Beyond Pozzuoli lie the Lucrino and evocative Averno Lakes, considered by the Romans to be the entrance to Hades, and Baia where, despite the devastation brought on by modern development, Horace's words to Maecenas "Nullus in orbis sinus Baiis praelucet amoenis" still hold true. The archaeological Park in Baia is of interest with the remains of an imperial palace, the Temples of Diana and Venus and the sixteenth-century Castle which houses an archaeological museum where statues brought up from the surrounding sea may be viewed. Beyond Baia are Bacoli, with Agrippina's Sepulchre, Cento Camerelle and above all the imposing Piscina Mirabile, and Miseno - the ancient port of the Roman navy.This is a land of fire and water, volcanic craters and lakes, mystery and enchantment. History, myth and culture are inextricably intertwined and blend into the beauty of the land becoming an integral part of its nature and very much a part of everyday life.This area was appropriately named Flegrei or burning embers by the first Greeks colonists who settled on these shores in the fifth century B.C. attracted by the fiery lava overflowing the rims of Monte Epomeo in Ischia. These are fertile and generous lands with green and luxuriant hillsides and dotted with archaeological sites of the utmost historical value. With sun-filled panoramas, dark lava-rich soil, golden beaches and jagged rocks sculpted by the force of the wind and volcanic fires.Thus, not merely by chance, the Regional Council has directed a substantial part of the 191 million Euro in funding earmarked for cultural preservation to the development of the Phelgraean Fields in order to finance 45 projects aimed at enhancing the tourism potential of this land so dear to Virgil and Horace. These projects include splendid proposals: archaeological walks through Rione Terra's unexplored maze of roads to view the aristocratic villas of ancient Puteoli; visits to the Flavio Amphitheatre, the Arena of the South, which is now open to the public for concerts and performances; an enchanting itinerary leading from the shores of mythical Lake Averno to the mysteries of the outer lying parkland; the Acropolis of Cuma through the Grotto of Cocceio. Not only, but there's also a grand tour of the treasures of the sunken city of Baia and the archaeological museum of the Aragonese Castle soon to be host a new section dedicated to the local history of bradyseisms and volcanic activity. From the Piscina Mirabilis and Miseno's Odeon and the re-discovery of the Cuma monumental complex and park, where new excavations are scheduled in the area between the acropolis and the port with the participation of international archaeological community. Then again, there is also the unique Casa Vanvitelliana with its graceful lines rising from the middle of Lake Fusaro, the Bourbon gardens and the minor archaeological excavations in the towns of Bacoli, Monte di Procida and Quarto. All of these towns lead back to Pozzuoli - the centre of this magical territory that world knows as the Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei).

HERCULANEUM AND POMPEII

The cities and villas destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. constitute one of the world’s most importat archaelogical sites indeed, Pompeii is one of Italy's most visited sites. The discovery of these ruins in the eighteenth-century triggered a revival of neoclassic studies in Europe and no other place in the world evokes such a clear image of Roman life in the first century A.D.Herculaneum was the first area to be discovered and excavated with methods which today would be not defined as scientific inasmuch as contemporary archaeologists were primarily interested in searching for major works of art.The two cities were, and remain, very different. Pompeii was a thriving commercial and mercantile centre while Herculaneum was primarily distinguished and residential in character. The manner in which the two cities were destroyed differed as did the excavation techniques, and lastly, Pompeii was almost three times the size of Herculaneum and thus has only been partially excavated while the smallness of Herculaneum conveys a more intimate and almost familiar sense of Roman times. Unlike Pompeii, which was destroyed by a heavy downpour of stone and burning ash that caused the roofs of buildings to collapse under the weight, Herculaneum was buried by a combination of volcanic material and flood water which solidified to the point of almost becoming tufa rock. This phenomenon helped to conserve the upper floors of the homes as well as much of the wood-work (furnishings and structural items) which were, however, carbonised. Of particular interest are the Houses of Sannitica and of the Cervi (deer) and those named for their most outstanding characteristic: the House of gratticio (trellis), the House of the mosaic atrium and that of the wooden partition as well as the Telefo freeze, the two thermal complexes, the main decuman (toad) and the palaestra. Herculaneum can be visited in a few hours whereas much more time is required to view Pompeii which is far larger and, just as modern-day cities, can be seen in several days according to various itineraries. The most important monuments centre around the area of the Forum, in via dell'Abbondanza, in the theatre district, in the so-called new excavations, in the VI region (the Houses of the Vettii, the Faun, and the Golden Cupids) and along via dei Sepolcri (the Villa of Mysteries). These excavations are of extraordinary archaeological value. The project agreed to by the Regional Council and the Ministry is not limited to re-launching the world famous historical centres of Pompeii and Herculaneum but the marvellous although lesser known areas of Stabia, Oplonti and Lettera as well. The available funds amount to 70 million Euro. Work will initially focus on structural consolidation and enhancement of services to facilitate access to the magical excavations of Pompeii, followed by a long-awaited plan of recuperation for the famous roman boat in Herculaneum which was buried in mud in wake of Vesuvius's eruption together with the ancient city's port. Furthermore, plans call for the restoration of the splendid villas in Stabia with the appreciated participation of scholars from the University of Maryland, Poppaea's villa in Oplonti and the fascinating Villa dei Papiri (papyrus). Excavations are to resume at the site near the castle in Lettere and road infrastructure work is called for to facilitate access to the Vesuvian villas.

 

CASERTA

In keeping with the examples of other eighteenth century European Courts, Charles of Bourbon decided to construct one of the most splendid monuments in the Kingdom of Naples: a large royal palace located near, yet distinctly separated from, the capital: in other words - an Italian Versailles.

The large plains to the north of Naples were deemed as well suited for the project and the selected area was located at the base of the hills upon which lies the medieval town of Casertavecchia.

The great sovereign's project was designed and carried out by Carlo Vanvitelli, one of the century's most brilliant architects. Work began 1752 and was brought to a conclusion in 1774 at which time Charles had left Naples to become Charles III, King of Spain and Vanvitelli had passed away shortly before seeing his project to an end. The immense 247m x 184m rectangular royal palace is best understood when considered in an urban perspective with its spectacular gardens as an integral part of the whole. Visitors are immediately struck by several of the rooms which best represent the grandeur of a royal residence, the genius of the architect and the distinct taste and style of the century such as the intricate complex formed by the lower-level entrance, the monumental stairway and the upper-level entrance as well as the Palatina Chapel, the Royal apartments (of particular interest are the elegant decorations and furnishings of Charles' successor, Ferdinand IV) and the Court Theatre.

The Park is laid out along a central axis which is approximately 3 km in length and can be viewed by bus or horse-drawn carriage. Along the route, there are a series of spectacular fish ponds and ornate statues and fountains which are fed by a large waterfall originating in a grotto on a nearby, 204 m hill. A 40 km-long aqueduct was especially constructed for this purpose and visitors would be well advised to include a visit to the section of the aqueduct known as Ponti della Valle (valley bridges) which span over a valley at 56 meters in height and are 529 meters in length.

One of the Garden's most fascinating features is the English Garden, a lovely example of eighteenth-century landscaping with its wealth of exotic trees and dotted with contemporary reproduction artifacts and various architectural styles. The 50 million Euro plan agreed to by the Regional Council and the Ministry calls for new museum structures in the Bourbon Royal Palace, landscaping work in the Park and the English Garden and the restoration of the old San Leucio factory and belvedere.

 

PAESTUM AND VELIA

The Campana Coasts were settled between the seventh and sixth centuries by Greek colonists B.C. who left their native lands to found new urban centers along the coasts of much of the Mediterranean Basin. Paestum e Velia (Poseidonia and Elea for the Greeks) were among the many settlements founded and are noteworthy from an archaeological standpoint as well as for the role their re-discovery played in the evolution of eighteenth and nineteenth century European culture.

Velia, located to the south near the modern-day city of Ascea, can be reached by motorway through the enthralling Cilento National Park or by train (Ascea). The city was founded in 540 B.C. by colonists from Focea, a Greek city in Asia Minor, and is known for its illustrious school of philosophy which produced philosophers of the caliber of Parmenide and Zenone. The ancient ruins are situated in splendid isolation along a promontory overlooking the sea and include the lovely Porta Rosa.

Further north, and more easily accessible from Naples, lies Paestum, founded in the early sixth century B.C. as a colony of Sibari which was itself an Achaean colony located in Calabria. The thriving and vigorous colony of Paestum slowly fell into decline and was abandoned in the early Middle Ages. Today, it is one of Italy's most important archaeological centers owing to its size and the rarity and beauty of the conserved ruins. The city walls, complete with towers and gates, are still intact and the three Doric temples, built between the early sixth and mid-fifth centuries B.C., clearly illustrate the gradual evolution of the Doric style which can then be admired in all of its harmonious solemnity in the nearby "Temple of Neptune", one of the best conserved buildings of this type in the world. The Museum houses many treasures including Doric metope depicting Heraion at the mouth of the Sele (a nearby river situated in a fascinating marsh land) and the painted marble slabs on the Tomb of the Tuffatore, an unique example of Greek fifth century B.C. painting of extraordinary quality. Here too, the itineraries are of extraordinary historical value. The Regional and Ministerial plan calls for major work in the archaeological area and the Paestum museum as well as the creation of new exhibit facilities and restoration laboratories. In Velia, the plans focus primarilyon a relauching of the excavations site and in the interim the ancient city walls are to be consolidated and the structure of the historical complex open to an increasing number of tourists and visitors. One of the projects is aimed at restoring the House of Frescoes. For the areas of Velia and Paestum, the approved projects call for an expenditure of 56 million euro.

 

THE CARTHUSIAN MONASTERY OF PADULA

The San Lorenzo Monastery in Padula is easy to reach by following the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway (Buona-bitacolo-Padula exit). It is one of the most important monasteries in all of Italy and certainly the largest in the southern part of the peninsula (51,500 square meters). This large monastery was founded in 1306 and for many centuries was the most important economic and cultural centre of the Valley of Diano. The Carthusians played a fundamental role in the draining the area and putting the surrounding land to crop.

Following the suppression of monasteries in 1866, the art work, was designated for various uses the Monastery of San Lorenzo, which had already been stripped of most of it’s art work was designated for various uses including that of prisoner of war camp for enemy soldiers during the two World Wars. Renovated with painstaking care following the 1980 earthquake, today the entire monastery is open to the public. Of particular note are the church (the only area which still houses precious works of art), the prior's apartments with its delightful garden, the large, 12,000 square-meters cloister, the kitchens and the extremely elegant eighteenth-century monumental staircase.

The plan of intervention, as defined in the Regional-Ministerial plans, has allocated 31 million Euro for a relaunching of tourism for the splendid Padula Monastery. Justly so, much emphasis has been places upon the requalification of the environment surrounding this architectural jewel and emblem of Campana culture. A special project has been drawn up for the restoration of the San Lorenzo complex.

 

 

 
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