There are many interesting hilltop villages in the area, scenic lakes, mountains, National Park drives and walks as well as religious places of pilgrimage, war time battle sites, monasteries, museums, churches and un-touristy rural areas of immense natural beauty. In addition there are pleasant, easy, autostrada (motorway) drives to Mediterranean beaches for the day (or just for a lunch), to Casserta to see the Royal Palace or shopping in Casserta at the famous McArthur Glen Designer outlet.
The Royal Palace was built in the 18 century by the old Bourbon Kings of Naples, to rival the Palace at Versailles in France. The Palace at Caserta called Reggia di Caserta, is still the largest royal residence in the world with over 1,200 rooms over 5 floors. It has more than 40 monumental rooms completely decorated with frescoes when, in comparison, Versailles counts only 22 monumental rooms. Caserta is just over an hour's drive from the Casa.
The original design also included an enormous avenue that would run for 20 kilometers between the palace and the city of Naples but the full plan was never realized. However, in over 3 kms of gardens, the streams, waterfalls, fountains and some outstanding statues and sculptures, were completed and are now there for all to see and enjoy.
As at Versailles, a large aqueduct was required to bring water for the prodigious water displays in the Palace gardens which stretch for 120 ha (nearly 300 acres) partly on hilly terrain and with artificial fountains and cascades along a wide straight canal. The fountains and waterfalls at this Palace rival those at Peterhof outside St. Petersburg in Russia and include many famous sculptures. There is also a botanical garden, called "The English Garden".
In 1997 the Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The nomination described La Reggia di Caserta as "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque". See 1 photo alongside and 2 more photos below.
There are conducted tours and audiotours (in different languages) or you can buy a map and guidebook or just pay the entrance fee and take yourself around the Palace or just the gardens. Truly a superb day out.
McArthur Glen Shopping.
Whilst in Casserta spend a half day at the Designer Shopping Outlet.
This is not the usual shopping outlet but is a superbly laid out site with Arabian-themed buildings.
There are hundreds of up-market shops including Armani, Valentino, Dior, Gucci, Prada, Versace, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli, Tommy Hilfigher, Calvin Klein, Nike, Adidas, Timberland, Church's and many more - all offering big discounts on their usual shop prices.
The outlet is just off the autostrada in Casserta, so easy to get to and just over an hour's drive from the Casa.
There are also cafes, restaurants and takeaways on site so enjoy a great ½ day out in wonderful (and warm) surroundings.
See photo alongside.
Here on the mountain is the site of the first Benedictine Abbey in Europe. Founded by St Benedict in the year 529.
The Abbey has a rich and interesting history and stands on this outstanding, lofty site on the mountain above the town of Cassino.
Its history includes its destruction in the year 577 by the Langobards, then by the Saracens in the year 887. On 9 September 1349 a violent earth-quake occurred severely damaging the whole of Cassino and much of the Abbey and in February 1944 it became famous after aerial bombing and a bombardment by the allies which destroyed the Abbey and the town of Cassino below.
The position of the Abbey was very strategic being on the mountain at a height of 520 metres and overlooking the main route and road to the capital, Rome.
The Abbey was on the Gustav line - a line fortified by the Germans and stretching across the mountains from south of Ortona on the Adriatic coast in the east, to the Gulf of Gaeta on the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the Mediterranean coast in the west.
After the War, the Abbey was completely rebuilt and is a worth-while 1/2 day visit, as is a visit to both the Polish cemetery on the mountain top and the Allied soldiers' cemetery at the foot of the mountain down in the town of Cassino - just 20 minutes or so, from the Casa.
Opi and Pescasseroli - These 2 villages in the mountains are both worth visiting to savour the sights and views of the mountains and also these historic villages themselves which enjoy a rich heritage.
On the way up you will pass through the town of San Donato Val di Comino (Sunday morning market and a great coffee stop on the square). Then on, past the wind sock and the projecting ramp off the mountains - built for parascending competitions - and on into the National Park. The Park actually starts much nearer to the Casa - near Picinisco - but this route through San Donato is the main road (SR509) through the Park - later joining the SS83.
You can make stops on the way up at the refuge near the sign for the SR509(13) or further up on the left at the Forca d'Acero Antica bar, pizzeria and restaurant – a good stop for a warming drink and a log fire on a snowy winter's day.
Opi is a fortified mountain village (see picture alongside) and a little further on in this valley is the ski town of Pescasseroli which has some 2,200 population and 5 or so ski lifts.
Also great for a walk-about and to look in on the ancient churches and walk the ‘pedestrian only' streets. Off the main road through the town, to the right, walk over the bridge over the stream to lunch at the restaurant Pepe di Sora. The drive to Opi and Percasseroli is very scenic with views to 'die for' - approx 1 hour from the Casa.
Herculaneum or Pompeii
Herculaneum or Pompeii are both near Naples. We prefer Herculaneum for a more detailed view of early Neapolitan life and being more compact there is much less walking. Parking on-site is easy and the drive is about 75 mins from the Casa. The gulf of Naples is good for lunch or just a drink or perhaps a day out. If visiting for the day, better to park up safely and get a taxi to the beach.
Sights in Southern Italy.
Naples city is worth seeing or take a day out to visit Sorrento; a boat trip to the Isle of Capri; a drive along the Amalfi coast or the drive up to the car park and the short walk up to the crater of the volcano Vesuvius.
Local Towns and Villages.
Towns and Villages in our area include - Atina, Picinisco, Gallinaro, San Donato Val di Comino, Settafrati, Arpino, Posta Fibreno, Sora, Isola di Liri, Cassino etc. each with something to offer whether it be a museum, the Abbey, waterfalls, a lake, local weekly markets, shops, outstanding views or just the quiet of an old, Italian, mountain village. Please enjoy our area in the Val di Comino and visit again soon to see even more.