- The Temples of Paestum: The near-complete set of walls and three temples at this site make up the best Greek ruins in existence outside Greece. Indeed, the grandiose Temple of Neptune (whose restoration was completed in 2004) is considered to be the best-preserved Greek temple in the world along with the Theseion in Athens. You should try and time your visit in spring or fall, when the roses are in bloom and the ruins are at their most romantic. The site is also breathtaking at dawn and sunset in any season, when the temples glow golden in the sun.
- The Acropolis of Cuma: The first Greek colony in Italy, Cuma was built on one of the most picturesque promontories in Campania. In the Phlegrean Fields, the inspiration for so many myths (the Cave of the Sybil, Lake Averno and the entrance to the underworld, the Hell-ish Solfatara), Cuma offers a magnificent panorama and atmospheric ruins.
- The Anfiteatro Campano of Santa Maria Capua Vetere: The largest Roman amphitheater after the Colosseum, this splendid ruin offers a glimpse of ancient artistry in spite of the pillaging that occurred here from the 9th century onward. On-site is the Museo dei Gladiatori, a permanent exhibit reconstructing the life of a gladiator; it is housed in a building located on the probable site of Capua's Gladiator School -- whose most famous graduate was Spartacus, the slave made famous by the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film. It is located in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, which occupies the grounds of Roman Capua, the city that Cicero considered second only to Rome in the entire ancient world. The area is rich in other noteworthy ruins, such as the splendid Mitreo (Temple to Mithras), and museum collections.
- Pompeii & Herculaneum: Will enough ever be said to describe these extraordinary sites? Even if you already visited them in the past, new findings are reason enough for a return trip. The magnificent Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum was opened to the public for the first time in 2004; the Terme Suburbane in Pompeii was opened in 2002. The riches of the archaeological area are best complemented by a visit to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, to view its massive array of frescoes and mosaics removed from earlier excavations at both sites.
- Oplontis: Also called the Villa of Poppea, these are the ruins of a splendid Roman villa -- believed to have belonged to Nero's wife -- with magnificent frescoes and decorations. Lesser known than other sites and often bypassed by hurried tourists, this villa is unique, not only for its state of conservation, but also for the fact that so many of the frescoes have been left in situ as prescribed by modern archaeological practice, thereby offering the visitor greater insight into domestic Roman life.
- Trajan's Arch in Benevento: This little-known and out-of-the-way find is an outstandingly well-preserved example of an ancient Roman triumphal arch. It took 14 years of restoration work before the arch was opened again to the public in 2001 -- it is a masterpiece of carving that depicts the deeds of the admired (and fairly benevolent) Roman emperor Trajan. Careful cleaning has eliminated darker areas in the marble, making the reliefs much easier to read. Inside a little Longobard church nearby is a permanent exhibit on the arch, its restoration, and Roman life under Trajan.
- Pozzuoli: The ruins of the ancient Roman town of Puteoli have been difficult to excavate because the busy modern town of Pozzuoli occupies exactly the same area as the ancient version. Splendidly framed by Pozzuoli's bay, you'll find an underground Pompeii -- buried not by a volcanic explosion, but as a result of unstable volcanic ground. The main attractions are the Rione Terra, with Roman streets and shops (closed to the public at presstime); the 1st-century Greco-Roman market (Serapeo); and the Roman amphitheater (Anfiteatro Flavio), where musical performances are held in summer.
- The Underwater Archeological Park of Baia: Due to subsiding ground, a large part of the ancient Roman holiday resort of Baia was submerged by the sea. Excavated and transformed into an archaeological park, it can now be visited with scuba equipment or in a glass-bottomed boat. The itinerary leads you through the streets of the ancient town and inside its beautiful villas, now water-filled.
- Velia: Overshadowed by Paestum and just a bit too far from Naples for a day trip, Velia was the site of an important Greek settlement that dates from around 540 B.C. It gave birth to one of antiquity's most important philosophical schools of thought -- the Eleatic doctrines of Parmenides and Zeno. Velia is one of the only Greek archaeological sites showing remains not only of an acropolis with its ruined temples, but also of a lower town with some houses. Portions of the walls here date from the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. A stretch of the original Greek pavement climbs toward the town gate, the famous Porta Rosa. A highlight of the Roman period is the thermal baths.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.