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main index    © Jeff Matthews    entry Dec 2013,  add:Oct 2015

The Bay of Jeranto
From the Bay of Jeranto, shot to the south, across the straits
of Capri, with the Faraglioni Rocks of Capri in the distance.
photo: Thomas Möllmann
The Bay of Jeranto (also Ieranto) Nature Preserve (photo, right) is one of the most remarkable bits of natural beauty in the Campania region of Italy. The bay is part of the Protected Marine Reserve of Punta Campanella and is in the comune (municipality) of Massa Lubrense at the end of the Sorrentine peninsula. (Massa Lubrense is also the name of the main town in the comune; the town is called 'Massa,' for short.) The comune of Massa Lubrnese occupies the entire tip of the peninsula, thus being bounded on the sea by two gulfs (Naples and Salerno) and on land only by the comune of Sorrento as one moves back along the peninsula towards Naples. The bay of Jeranto is actually in the Gulf of Salerno and not Naples since it is just to the east of and past the tip of the peninsula, Cape Campanella, the geographical feature that divides the two gulfs. The bay opens to the southwest with a line of sight past the cape to the Faraglioni rocks off the isle of Capri 5 km (3 miles) across the straits. Forty-nine hectares (120 acres) of the land on the bay, is now owned by the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (Italian Environmental Fund). The bay is part of the village of Nerano, one of 14 small centers within the comune (municipality) of Massa Lubrense.


In this image, the Bay of Jeranto is the mouth of the strange
creature (alias the Sorrentine peninsula) about to devour the
isle of Capri. Sorrento is the mass of buildings just behind the
ears (or maybe they're antennae). North is at the top of this
image; everything in front of the ears, from bay to bay, is in the
comune
of Massa Lubrense.

This is the area of the sirens of Greek mythology; classical sources speak of the Greek temple to Athena and, later, of the Roman temple to Minerva built on the same site.
In general, bits and pieces of ancient Rome abound in the area; also, inscriptions in the Oscan language (the language of the Samnites, grand enemies of the Romans) were discovered in 1985. As well, there are some Saracen Towers built during the period of the Spanish vice-realm (1516-1707). Rural architecture includes the old “colonial houses” (that is, the main buildings on property worked by tenant farmers but owned by absentee landlords); they are now environmentally protected buildings.


The area was “opened up” at the beginning of the 1900s through mining operations, using the services of miners imported from Sardinia. The Ieranto Quarry was owned and operated by the Ilva steel corporation beginning in 1918, was restructured in 1925 and ceased operations after WWII in 1952. The company donated the property to the Italian Environmental Fund in 1986. The relics of the mining operations are still evident and are now part of displays of "industrial archaeology." The work, like all mining, was notoriously difficult and dangerous. Part of the industrial display is a plaque bearing the names of miners who perished. (It is perhaps strange to mention natural beauty and mining in the same sentence, I know, but this was a mine and not a steel mill such as the one, from the same period, in the Naples suburb of Bagnoli, still struggling to recover from the urban blight left in the wake of the mill, now closed.)

(next 1 paragraph added Feb 2017 - photo, Napoli Underground)

The classic view of the bay is more or less the one at the top of this page, looking straight out of the bay and across the waters to the Faraglione rocks of Capri, for that is what draws the eye and the camera if you are standing on or just above the small Jeranto beach. You are not really aware of structures on the left of the beach. If you get up on the right side, however, and look back over (as in this photo) you can see considerable remains of what used to be the Ieranto Quarry mentioned in the paragraph above. Is is now a museum of Industrial Archaeology, a quaint reminder of the early age of industry in the south.

The general terrain around the Bay of Jeranto is one of terraced olive groves, and the natural flora is typically Mediterranean “macchia”) (or Maquis shrubland), typical of much of the coast. The area is a major route of migratory birds, and more than 100 species have been counted, including those native to the area. Oceanographically, Jeranto bay is at the confluence of waters from the bay of Naples and the bay of Salerno to the south; upwelling in the waters is an important part of the circulation and exchange of waters in the straits between the peninsula and the island of Capri and is vital to replenishing nutrients for the aquatic plant and animal life.

The bay is accessible from above, at the village of Nerano. It is best seen, perhaps, from the sea, where you can view geological features such as the caves and grottoes along the rock face at sea level, not visible from the land. The area of the bay of Jeranto has been home to writers, artists and kings. It inspires poetry, as in these lines from my neighbor and friend, Giacomo Garzya, whose forthcoming collection of verses, Campania Felix, will appear in the near future in the original Italian, accompanied by my English translations.

                              From Jeranto

Every evening the olive trees, aged by centuries,

and the sunset over Capri--enchanted eyes behold
and are stunned, for even if the palette is the same,
the colors always change, like the clear sky and the clouds.

What endless shapes they form!

The olives wait in nets for mules,
then leave this magic place
where they came of age;
The oil-press awaits them, they shall give from Jeranto
the essence of the sun that glows and sets beyond the Faraglioni;
The ancient wounds of Creation are healed;
The everlasting return of the living and the dead.

note: Other poetry by Garzya  here , here and here.



Also see a delightful story, The Bay of Ieranto and the Unexpected Gift, on the website of Napoli Underground at this link.



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