Naples might not make the best first impressions on its visitors but there’s more to this gritty city than meets the eye. Head up and you’ll find yourself in the chic shopping streets of sophisticated Vomero, wander along the waterfront and you’ll come across the majestic Castel Nuovo, and delve underground to discover a honeycomb of catacombs and caves remaining from a chequered history.
For many, the arrival into Naples is immediately followed by a ferry to the island of Capri. Once the Italian hideaway of the rich and famous, a certain Blue Grotto has played a big part in this tiny island becoming a big deal with tourists, but there are plenty of other options available to those who don’t fancy the queue for the ferry.
Here are four of the best day trips to make from Naples next time you are in port instead.
Okay, we know it is an obvious one but people still visit Naples without giving this archaeological attraction the attention it deserves. The fate of this port town was sealed upon the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79, the resulting ash cloud preserving the town and its occupants in incredible detail. Pompeii is now one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and it takes less work than you might think to get there and go back in time.
Every cruise line offers excursions to Pompeii from Naples, but the trip is actually one of the easiest to make from city. The Circumvesuviana is a commuter train but with Pompeii and Sorrento on its route, its carriages carry as many tourists as they do locals. The train to Pompeii from Naples takes just over 30 minutes and costs €3.20 each way. One thing worth mentioning is that packed carriages tend to attract pickpockets, so – as is the case with any city – have your wits about you and keep your belongings close.
Pompeii is unmissable. Once an entire city, it is almost certainly bigger than you expect. Allow at least a couple of hours to see the must-visit sites, including the Roman Forum, the House of Vetti and the Anfiteatro, the oldest Roman amphitheatre in existence.
Mount Vesuvius, the volcano responsible for the eruption that buried Pompeii, is often overlooked in favour of its victim, but the two can quite easily be visited together in a day. The volcano is just 6 miles from Naples and despite being one of the most dangerous in the world, walking tours will take you right to its crater (don’t worry, aside from the odd rumble there have been no signs of an eruption coming any time soon).
Vehicles will drop you part way up and you’ll need to have a good set of legs and lungs on you to walk the rest. At the risk of sounding like your mum, sensible shoes are a must so leave the flip flops on the ship! A volcanology expert is on hand part way up Mt. Vesuvius for free guided tours as part of the admission price but the real attraction here is the views. After seeing the volcano looming large over the city, standing at its peak and seeing Naples and the Bay below is stunning.
If the queue for ferries to Capri doesn’t really appeal, give Ischia a go instead. The majority of visitors to this gorgeous garden island are Italians savouring the peace of a little-visited paradise, many of them Neapolitans from across the Bay. Take the hour-long ferry to find out why they’re so keen to keep this secret island to themselves.
Despite being the largest island in the Bay of Naples, Ischia has avoided the tourist takeover experienced by parts of Capri and has retained its Old Italian charm. If you’re looking for the blue waters, painted boats and cobbled streets dotted with lemon trees, this is your place. The food is divine, the beaches are fabulous – Maronti Beach is the largest on the island – and the island’s gardens are famously beautiful; La Martella is a must-see.
Hire a Gozzo boat and cruise the coastline like a living, breathing Dolce & Gabbana advert or cross the bridge to the citadel in the sea, Castello Aragonese.
There’s nothing more disappointing than arriving at a destination, only to find that it looks nothing like it did on the postcards. There is no chance of that happening on the Amalfi Coast, a place which somehow manages to look even better in real life than it does on photos. Stacked impossibly on the cliffside, the pastel pink, terracotta and yellow ochre villas will take your breath away.
Sorrento and Salerno are easiest to reach from Naples. The train to Salerno takes less than 40 minutes and from there you can take the SITA bus to other Amalfi towns such as Amalfi, Minori and Vietri Sul Mare. For towns south of Amalfi, take the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento (a 40 minute trip) and then take the bus on to Praiano or Positano. Ferries also sail from Naples to Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi, taking about 40 minutes and costing around €12. Feeling flush? Hire a driver to take you there in comfort for somewhere in the region of €120, giving you a chance to take in views that you will appreciate almost as much as the air-con.