I posted about a lot of my day trips along the way this summer, but I thought it might be helpful to put some day trip options together in one spot. I included links for the post I've done on the places I have gone, but of course I did not make it everywhere!
Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Herculaneum:
The famed city of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., is only a quick train ride from Naples. Tickets cost around €10, and include a brief guide book of the archaeological site. There are automated guides available as well. Take the Circumvesuviana in the direction of Sorrento to the Pompei Scavi station (follow the mass of tourists). The modern city of Pompei has just one “i,” the ancient city – two i’s. The ancient city is now at the center of the modern city.
Mt. Vesuvius, the impressive mountain that overshadows the entire Bay of Naples, is the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe. The volcano is still active despite its calm appearance, and last erupted in 1944. It is possible to climb to the large crater atop, which provides amazing views of the area. Take the Circumvesuviana to the Torre del Greco station, where there is a bus service to the peak.
Herculaneum is a smaller archaeological site, and excavations continue to this day. This town was devastated as well by the 79 A.D. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius but this town was sealed under many feet of quickly flowing mud and ash, unlike Pompeii, it did not burn before being entombed so many buildings are very well preserved. Herculaneum was a smaller, but richer settlement than Pompeii and was more like an ancient retirement community. The site is easily accessible, and is said by many to be as impressive as Pompeii. Take the Circumvesuviana to the Ercolano station. There is also a noteworthy “virtual” museum in Ercolano, which shows you what life would have been like in Roman times at all of the archaeological sites in Campania.
The Bay of Naples features three famous islands, Capri, Ischia, and Procida. They can be crowded on summer weekends, are a bit expensive, as they cater to high-end tourists. They are close enough, however, for day trips. All three islands feature magnificent beaches, and both Capri and Ischia provide hiking opportunities and breathtaking views.
Ferries and hydrofoils leave from Molo Beverello, in the center of town near Piazza Municipio, for the three islands. Hydrofoils leave from the Mergellina port for Ischia and in the summer also to Capri. Schedules are available in Il Mattino and other local newspapers, and travel time is anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. Tickets cost from €12 to €18 each way, depending on the boat.
Sorrento offers a nice break from the chaotic environment of Naples. It is a resort town, complete with shops, restaurants, and hotels. There are some beaches as well, but they are small and rocky. Sorrento is easily accessible, as it is the terminus of the Circumvesuviana railroad and the journey time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Train schedules are also available in Il Mattino. The town has a youth hostel, and is a great base for exploring the nearby Amalfi Coast. Sorrento is also accessible by aliscafo (from Molo Beverello) in approximately half an hour.
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most breathtaking stretches of coastline in all of Europe. The Amalfi Drive, the road which links Sorrento with Positano and Amalfi, features hairpin curves and amazing views. Positano is a nice resort town, with nice beaches, good seafood restaurants, and hotels and pensioni. The town is in the shape of a pyramid, and the hike down to the port area and the beaches is long but enjoyable. The area can also be expensive, as it is a wealthy resort. Buses connect Sorrento with the coast, and there are also hydrofoils that connect the area with Naples. The easiest way to here is via the Metrò de Mare, which runs from April to September. Boats call at Beverello. They stop at Sorrento and points beyond Salerno.
This area west of the city is mainly suburban, but features some nice seaside towns and archaeological sites. Pozzuoli offers a nice respite from Naples, as it is close by but retains a small town atmosphere. Pozzuoli also features a port, from where boats depart for Ischia and Procida. The town is the terminus of the Metropolitana line 2, and is also served by the Cumana railroad.
Further along the coast, there are decent sandy beaches that can be crowded on weekends. Capo Miseno offers a nice large stretch of beaches, and is accessible via the Cumana railroad to the Lucrino station and a SEPSA bus. The area is perfect for times when Naples becomes a bit overwhelming.
This is the capital of a rather large inland province. The trains leave regularly from the Stazione Centrale and are very reasonable. It offers a lot of things to do on the weekends and you can also visit “the Reggia” palace – the largest palace of the 18th century Kings of Naples and the Two Sicilies. This palace is extensive and it was built by the Bourbon family which at the time were the rulers of southern Italy. The gardens are enormous and well worth visiting in nice weather. The apartments occasionally host temporary exhibitions but on any regular visit you can view the lavishly decorated palace interiors, inlaid floors, gilded furniture.
While you’re in Caserta, if you have time, you can also take a trip up to the mountain, to Casertavecchia. It is the old medieval town that was the original city of Caserta before its population outgrew the location. If you go up on a good day, the view is truly incredible. Some people say that you can see all the way to the bay of Naples. But, even on cloudy days, this little town is a great place to walk around in and to get a great lunch.
If you like Greek ruins, but don’t have enough cash to venture over to the Greek Isles during your time here, then Paestum is for you! These are some of the best-preserved Greek ruins in all of Italy. And, because Paestum is not as near to Naples as Pompei and Ercolano, it is not overrun with tourists like the others are. An overall two thumbs up experience, which is very nice and not as expensive. Don’t miss the museum, which houses the famous sarcophagus depicting a diver [the Tomb of the Diver], one of the most remarkable extant examples of Greek painting.
The train from Napoli Centrale serves Paestum directly in just under an hour and a half. The excavations and museums are closed on Mondays and the excavations close two hours before sunset.
What are your thoughts on day trips? Do you like getting little tastes of places or do you prefer to wait until you can spend a significant amount of time somewhere?