There's so much to see in Naples, Italy, in the southern part of the country. But one you've seen Naples' major points of interest, you'll find that the city is also a great base for exploring archaeological and historical sites in the surrounding Campania region, as well as for seeing the beautiful islands of the Bay of Naples and the famous Amalfi Coast. Read on for our top 10 day trips from Naples, Italy.
The 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius left Pompeii, then a wealthy, bustling Roman resort town, buried for centuries under layers of ash and volcanic pumice. Excavations in the 18th and 19th centuries brought the ruins to light, and they've been drawing tourists ever since. A trip to Pompeii is a must-do for anyone with the remotest interest in ancient Roman history, and it's one of the most enigmatic archaeological sites in the western world. Expect to spend at least 4-5 hours here.
Getting There: Pompeii is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Naples, but this can be exacerbated by heavy traffic. If you're just going to Pompeii and back in a day, skip the rental car and take the Circumvesuviana, the local train that connects Naples to Sorrento. Be sure to get off at the Pompeii Scavi stop.
Travel Tip: Be sure to wear good walking shoes to traverse the uneven stone streets and sidewalks of Pompeii. If you wear sandals, they should be sturdy sport sandals. If you're visiting in the summer, bring a hat, sunscreen and bottled water.
Herculaneum, the other city destroyed by the same eruption that destroyed Pompeii, is smaller and less-famous than Pompeii and as a result, often overlooked by tourists. Yet visitors who do both often find Herculaneum more rewarding. Its more manageable scale, less-dense crowds and remarkably well-preserved buildings and interiors offer a more intimate look at daily life in a 1st-century AD Roman city. Interestingly, while Pompeii was covered in volcanic ash, Herculaneum was blasted by a pyroclastic surge of super-hot gas and debris, which essentially petrified wooden structures and left mosaics and frescoes remarkably intact.
Getting There: Herculaneum is less than 20 minutes' drive from Naples, not allowing for traffic, which can be slow and intense. Buses connect regularly from Napoli Centrale station, or you can take the Circumvesuviana (see above) to the Ercolano Scavi stop.
Travel Tip: While it's possible to see Pompeii and Herculaneum in a single day, we don't recommend it. Each site merits at least a half day visit, and squeezing both of them into one day is overwhelming and exhausting.
Sorrento is a popular seaside resort on the northern edge of the Amalfi peninsula and is considered the gateway to the Amalfi Coast. Surrounded by lemon and olive groves, Sorrento is a pleasant place to spend the day away from the city. It has a pretty historic center and many restaurants, cafes, and shops. Piazza Tasso is the grand public plaza that forms the center of the city, and is a fine place to stop for an espresso (or aperitivo) and people-watching.
Getting There: Sorrento is the end of the line for the Circumvesuviana train—the trip from Naples takes just over an hour. There are also bus connections. Driving should take less than an hour, but traffic might prolong the journey. You can also catch a 45-minute ferry from Porto di Napoli.
Travel Tip: If you want to include a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea as part of your day in Sorrento, the beaches at Marina Grande and Marina Piccola are both good options—though they're likely to be crowded in July and August.
The Amalfi Coast is flat-out one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Italy, or anywhere in the Mediterranean. Its string of charming, colorful and picturesque towns are known for their luxury hotels, stunning beaches and coves, open-air restaurants and carefree vibe. The waters off the Amalfi Coast are clean and clear—great for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking.
While a day trip to the Amalfi Coast from Naples doesn't give you nearly enough time here, it can give you a taste—one that will surely whet your appetite for more. This is one day trip where we definitely recommend a guided tour, either with a driver or by boat. if you do choose to go it alone, figure on having time to see just one or two towns, have lunch and take a swim before heading back to Naples.
Getting There: Driving the famous—and famously narrow and curvy—Amalfi Coast road is not for the faint of heart. We recommend leaving the driving to a professional. Positano, the first of the coastal towns, is just over an hour from Naples—if there's no traffic. You can also take the train to Sorrento, then catch a bus or ferry from there to several of the towns along the coast.
Travel Tip: If you're visiting in high season, most of the hours of your Amalfi Coast day trip will be eaten up getting to and from the coastal zone. So for July and August, stick with a day trip to Sorrento.
Capri Island, or simply Capri, has been the island resort of choice for the rich and famous, dating all the way back to the Roman emperors. You can see the marks they left on Capri, as well as those of 19th-century intelligentsia, who built elegant villas across the rocky island. Today, it's two towns, Capri Town and smaller Anacapri, are the haunts of celebrities, the Instagram crowd, and those for whom luxury shopping is a vacation priority. The most famous attraction on the island, the Blue Grotto, is reachable by boat. Everything else is a walk, a funicular ride or a bus ride away.
While we find Capri's celebrity cache and high price tags a little off-putting, there's no denying its beauty—covered with gardens, lemon groves, and gorgeous villas and surrounded by a breathtaking sea.
Getting There: From either Molo Beverello and the Calata Porta di Massa in Naples, regular year-round ferries head to Capri, making the trip in either 50 minutes (for the fast ferry) or 80 minutes.
Travel Tip: If you're visiting in the summer months you'll find Capri Town very, very crowded. Heading to smaller Anacapri for a more relaxed vibe and fewer tourists (but also less luxury shopping).
Though just 20 miles separate Ischia and Capri, the two islands couldn't seem further apart. Ischia is the low-key answer to Capri and in terms of geography, it's night and day. The volcanic island known for its thermal springs, and even beaches where hot water bubbles up from the sand. A day here can involve sightseeing in Ischia town, with its waterfront medieval castle, or relaxing at one of the island's many thermal spas, which offer myriad pools for soaking and swimming.
Getting There: Ferries from Naples to Ischia leave year-round from three points along the Naples waterfront. The trip takes either 60 or 90 minutes, depending on whether you choose the fast (and more expensive) ferry or the slower one.
Travel Tip: Remember that like Capri and the Amalfi Coast, Ischia pretty much closes up from November to March. Don't plan a visit during those months.
The Reggia di Caserta, or the Royal Palace of Caserta, is an immense palace and estate that was once home to the Bourbon kings of Naples—when Spain ruled over southern Italy in the 1700s. Amazingly, the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte, is the biggest royal residence in the world—even larger than France's Versailles.
While the palace looks somewhat austere from the outside, once visitors step inside the front door, a Baroque riot of marble, gilt and frescoes seems to burst forth. Behind the palace, the formal gardens stretch for 3 kilometers. Plan to spend an entire day here.
Getting There: Caserta is 19 miles from central Naples. While there's plenty of parking at the palace, going by train or bus is still the easiest way to get there—the Caserta train station is right at the palace entrance.
Travel Tip: The palace and gardens are closed on Tuesday.
Procida: Postcard-sized paradise
Fans of The Talented Mister Ripley and especially the bittersweet 1994 film Il Postino (The Postman) will recognize Procida, the tiny island tucked between Naples and Ischia. Procida packs a lot into its 1.5 square miles. The densely populated island, which is still a fishing community but increasingly relies on tourism, is loved for its colorful harbor town, Marina Corricella, the fortified Terra Murata—the highest point on the island, its narrow streets and petite churches.
If you come for the day, do bring your swimsuit—Procida has several sandy beaches. Also don't miss out on an alfresco seafood lunch at one of the island's many quality restaurants.
Getting There: From the Beverello port in Naples, ferries and faster hydrofoils go back and forth from Procida several times a day.
Travel Tip: Once you're on Procida, municipal buses can carry you all over the island, including to its beaches. Each trip is around €1.50, or a day-long pass is about €4.
If you've visited Pompeii or Herculaneum, a trip up to Mount Vesuvius will give you a different perspective on the devastation the volcano has wrought on the Bay of Naples over the centuries. And the sulfurous steam belching from vents in the crater will remind you that Vesuvius is still an active volcano.
The Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio is the starting point for any exploration of the summit. The only way to get to the summit is on foot, via a challenging uphill hike that takes between 60-90 minutes. Bring sturdy, closed shoes, a hat, sunscreen, water, and a jacket to protect from wind.
Getting There: The drive to the national park from downtown Naples should take about 20 minutes, but traffic may not be on your side. By public transportation, you first go to Ercolano (Herculaneum), then catch a bus to the park entrance.
Travel Tip: A trip to Vesuvius works well in combination with Herculaneum. In hot weather, it makes sense to visit Vesuvius first, then stop at Herculaneum on your way back to Naples.
While so much of Italy's archaeology is all about the Romans, in Paestum, the Greek still hold court. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to three of the best-preserved Doric temples in Italy. In addition to these mighty temples, there's a very good archaeological museum, a wider archaeological area, and several painted tombs, including the whimsical Tomb of the Diver.
Getting There: There are direct trains from Napoli Centrale station to Paestum Station, which is located right at the entrance to the archaeological park. The trip takes either about an hour (on the Intercity train) or about 2.5 hours on the cheaper Regionale. Driving to Paestum from Naples is a 2-hour trip, depending on traffic.
Travel Tip: Paestum is a long day trip from Naples, but worth it in our book. But if you want to visit the beautiful beaches of the nearby Cilento, consider a night or two—to allow one day for ruins and one day for the beach.