So you’ve found yourself in the wonderful chaos and culture that is Naples, Italy, and you’ve explored the sights and consumed the pizza. Wondering what else you can do to make the most of your time in the area? Don’t worry – you’re in a region rich in local culture, history, sights, and things to do. And the good news is that they’re all possible to do and are popular day trips from Naples!
A guest post by Nicky from That Anxious Traveller
So as a frequent traveler to the area, here are my top picks for places that’ll give you a great experience, as well as have you reaching for the Instagram app on your phone.
No trip to the Naples region is complete without a trip to see how the rich and famous cope on the gorgeous, sun-kissed island of Capri (truly, they have a hard life). Easily reachable by frequent and fast boats departing from Naples’ Molo Beverello port, you’re immediately transported into La Vita Bella. Yachts bob on crystal blue waters, designer shops line the immaculate streets, flowers bloom in shady gardens whilst the sun beats upon luxury villas. And there’s plenty to do even if you don’t quite have the budget of minor royalty: the island is a paradise for walkers and hikers.
Take the Via Pizzolungo trail from the famous Faraglioni viewpoint for jaw-dropping views, an ancient Roman nymphaeum, and the scent of warm pine trees in a sea breeze. A bus will take you to the smaller town of Anacapri, where you can visit the famed Blue Grotto, or take a chairlift to the highest point of the island. Capri is a wonderful assault on the senses.
Pompeii is bigger, more famous, and more varied; the town contains everything from gladiatorial arenas, to a brothel which is remarkably popular with tourists (you’ll most likely have to join a short queue to see inside).
Herculaneum is smaller and quieter, but better preserved – there’s far more color than Pompeii, and even double-story houses and wooden partitions have survived.
With both historical sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii easy to visit (simply take the Circumvesuviana train from either of the stations in Naples), there’s really no excuse not to visit and see how life was back in 79 AD before a volcanic eruption suddenly wiped out life in both towns. Both sites carry an air of sadness – they’re essentially mass graves, and the plaster casts of the victims in Pompeii and the excavated skeletons in Herculaneum are heartbreaking – but the history is absolutely outstanding. Join a tour or rent an audio guide if you’re a newcomer to the story, and bring a hat and comfy shoes.
Once you’re back in Naples, expand your knowledge of the sites by visiting the Archaeological Museum, which preserves many of the artifacts found at both Pompeii and Herculaneum.
An unapologetic resort, Sorrento is a fantastic place for shopping, relaxing, and people-watching. Sitting directly opposite Naples on the shore of the bay – either take a boat from Molo Beverello, or the Circumvesuviana train will take you directly there – it’s a great place to pick up some local crafts. Fabric and textiles are commonplace, cameo jewelry made from shells are a specialty, and the famous inlaid wooden boxes, specific to Sorrento, are king. You’ll find craftsmen hunched over benches in their workshops, and a dazzling variety of designs, colors, and sizes available. My particular favorites are the music boxes, which play the achingly-beautiful tune of Torna A Surriento (“Return to Sorrento”) when opened.
After you’ve completed your bargain-hunting, retire to a street cafe in Piazza Tasso, order a coffee and a pizza, and watch the world go by. On your way back, check out the views of Naples across the bay, Vesuvius lurking nearby – it’s picture perfect.
The Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most-visited areas of Italy, and it’s easy to see why – green mountains drop dramatically down towards the blue seas, with tiny pastel-colored towns clinging to the edges, whilst roads snake around the landscape and give the travelers upon them the most breathtaking of views.
Plenty of Naples tour companies service the area, or if you want to save some cash and don’t mind having a longer journey, go to Sorrento and catch a bus from the station there. And at the center of it all is the town of Amalfi, much smaller now than in its medieval heyday (an earthquake caused most of the town to slide into the sea in 1343), but just as charming, with great places to eat and cute ceramic and clothing shops. The magnificent cathedral towers above everything, a symbol of the town’s prosperity and devotion, whilst the inside of the building is a treasure trove of art and artifacts. The journey to Amalfi itself is an experience: you’ll marvel at the driving skill of the local bus drivers as they coax their vehicles around the tiniest of corners and through the smallest gaps, and feel your stomach drop as you peer down at waves crashing against the rocks. A trip along the Amalfi Coast is never forgotten.
Just along the coast from Amalfi is the Instagram-perfect town of Positano (follow the same travel directions as for Amalfi). Another haunt of the celebrity world, Positano is a perfect Mediterranean location; glamorous people and gorgeous views, as the scents of lemon and sea salt gently fragrance the air. It’s the ideal place for a lazy day on the beach with an occasional dip into the clear waters, with nothing more pressing on your mind than where the next gelato is coming from – and you have plenty of choice in that matter! Or maybe choose a granita instead, made from chipped ice and mixed with the ubiquitous lemon juice, served fresh and cool.
After you’ve soaked up the sun, explore the shops, selling everything from made-to-measure sandals to fine artwork from the galleries, and stroll along a promenade draped with flowers and greenery. Author John Steinbeck wrote that “Positano bites deep”, and he wasn’t wrong – it’s a magical place, and the memories of it will stay with you for a very long time.