In Southern Italy, along its western coast, is the city of Naples. Founded by the Greeks more than 2,6000 years ago, this is a city with a staggering amount of history. Although Naples is one of the biggest cities in Italy, it has a more authentic, less touristy vibe than other places like Rome or Florence. Naples is packed with attractions to keep you busy, but it is also worth exploring beyond the city. These day trips from Naples are all wonderful options for exploring the best of Southern Italy.
To reach Paestum, drive about 90 minutes along the Italian coast. This ancient Greek settlement is a history lover’s dream destination, and it is where you can find the largest collection of Greek Doric temples in the entire world. Not all of Paestum has been excavated, but several ruins have been unearthed and are now open to the public. The Temple of Athena is the most popular temple to tour, but don’t leave without also visiting the Paestum Museum. The collection is small, but every exhibit and artifact is impressive. Be sure to see the Grace Chamber and its gorgeous frescoes on your visit.
An hour’s drive south of Naples will take you to Sorrento, a beautiful town with a scenic port, popular beaches and fantastic eateries. Work up an appetite at the Marina Piccola, the busiest and most sandy of the local beaches. Then, learn a little more about Sorrento with a stroll through the Museo Correale di Terranova, which is packed with an extensive art collection, or tour the local Duomo, or cathedral. Don’t leave without indulging in the filling baked pasta dish called Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. For dessert, a scoop of gelato is refreshing on a hot day, and the local specialty features fresh pieces of citrus fruits.
Off the coast of Italy, in the Bay of Naples, is the island of Ischia. This makes for a wonderful day trip from Naples that takes you away from the city and to a getaway destination. While it feels like a world away, it is actually just a short boat journey between Naples and Ischia. Once you arrive, you’ll want to see Castello Aragonese, a 15th century castle you can reach via a scenic stone bridge. The thermal springs of Ischia are known around the world, and you can tour some of these ancient springs or enjoy spa treatments featuring the mineral rich mud from the area.
Procida is another of the popular islands in the Bay of Naples. Although it is the smallest island in the bay, it still offers a lot to those who enjoy archaeology and ancient history. While Procida is part of Italy, it has a distinctly Greek feel, particularly when it comes to local architecture. In Terra Murata, you can see historic buildings, few of which have been restored or renovated. The port of Corricella is another popular spot, because it is still an authentic fishing port. Procida’s many seafood restaurants are filled with the catch brought in each day by local anglers.
A mere 11 km (7 miles) south of Naples is Herculaneum, archeological site with incredible significance. Nearly 2,000 years ago, when Mt. Vesuvius famously erupted and destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum was also destroyed. While it doesn’t have the same name recognition as Pompeii, it is just as fascinating to tour. Many structures are still unbelievably preserved, including ancient baths, the House of Neptune and Amphitrite and the College of the Augustales. Of particular note are the gorgeous, colorful mosaics in the House of Neptune and Amphitrite that would look at home in a modern museum, despite being nearly two millennia old.
It is not hard to spot Mt. Vesuvius from Naples. The volcano is easily visible from most places in the city, creating a dramatic backdrop to the Bay of Naples. Although visiting sites like Pompeii can be wonderful, don’t forget to actually check out the volcano itself. At Mt. Vesuvius, you can actually see the crater of Vesuvius, from which fumes and steam still rise. The summit is also one of the best places to photograph the Bay of Naples. On your way back down, try the local wine known as Lacryma Christi, which is made from grapes grown from the volcanic soil on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius.
Three miles from the city of Naples is Capri, a stunning island in the Bay of Naples. As far back as Roman times, Capri has been lauded as the ultimate getaway destination. Its Grotta Azzurra, or Blue Grotto, is arguably the most popular attraction on the island, and it is truly a magnificent cave where the luminous turquoise waters appear out of this world. If you’re hoping to escape the crowds, hike some of the paths that wind along the coast, stopping at landmarks like the arch called Arco Naturale as well as several ancient abandoned forts.
You can get to Pompeii in under half an hour from Naples, making it a quick but scenic day trip. The ruins of this ancient Roman city are world famous due to an unusual form of preservation as a result of a Mt. Vesuvius eruption. Today, you can walk along the original cobblestones and see ancient landmarks like the amphitheater, which was built more than 2,000 years ago and could hold over 20,000 people at its peak. The oldest ruins at Pompeii are found at the Temple of Apollo, which still boasts many of its original 48 columns and is the most important religious site at Pompeii.
Boasting Mediterranean fishing villages, spectacular beaches and access to the mountains, the Amalfi Coast is a clear choice for a day trip from Naples. Keep in mind that the Amalfi Coast is a region, so there are lots of small towns and villages worth visiting. There is a town actually called Amalfi, and it offers a gorgeous 10th century cathedral as well as a popular pebble beach. Nearby, in Positano, where the views are a major draw. From several spots, you can see along the coastline, with peaks creating a gorgeous contrast with the traditional architecture and the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.