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First time trip to Italy

I'm 62 and going on my first trip to Italy, RS Heart of Italy tour Apr 17-25 2020 and could use some general advice. I'm planning on arriving one week prior to visit the Amalfi coast and staying one week after touring around Florence.

In the Amalfi area I want to visit Herculaneum, Pompeii ruins, maybe Capri. I want to travel along the Amalfi coast for at least one day. Any hints on what else to see and do? I like B & B's and hostels as I don't spend a lot of time hanging around the hotels. Anyone have experience doing the same thing? Places to eat? Sites to see? Etc?

I plan on using the Circumvesuviana to get around. How are the local buses?

From Florence I'm thinking about visiting Modena for a day or two to check out the Ferrari and Lamborghini factories, then trying the Balsamic vinegar production. Any advice on places to stay, eat, and visit?

Then I want to stay at an agriturismo in Tuscany for a few days. Heading back to Rome to check out some more sites. Then flying out.

Posted by
30770 posts


If you haven't already, I'd suggest having a look at the RS Italy guidebook. There's a lot of good information there that will answer a lot of your questions. You should be able to find a copy at your local library or larger bookstores.

Where are you flying from, and are you planning to fly into Naples to start?

As you may know, the Circumvesuviana basically travels between Naples and Sorrento (although they have several routes), so won't get you to Positano or other spots along the Amalfi Coast. You might consider hiring a private driver for one day to take you along the coast. You could contact -

As this is your first trip to Italy, there are some potentially expensive caveats to be aware of when using trains and other public transit. It would be prudent to do some research on that.

I normally stay in the budget hotels listed in the guidebook, but have stayed in Hostels on occasion. Many hotels also provide a breakfast with the cost of the room, so they're somewhat like a "B&B". Have a look at HI Hostels as they have properties all over the world. HI Hostels members get preferred booking and better rates.

As you're planning to stay in an Agriturismo, a rental car may be required unless you can find one that provides transportation to the nearest town. There are some potentially expensive caveats to be aware of with car rentals in Italy also.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks Ken. I received my copy of RS Italy guide book the day after I posted. It's great! So many ideas and very comprehensive.

My next question is where I should base camp to explore around the Amalfi coast from Paestum to Sorrento, Herculaneum, Pompeii, etc. I'm leaning towards Sorrento.

Posted by
1493 posts

Paestum is worth the time, but it takes forever to get to from Sorrento. Since you have a week, I'd consider using two bases. Naples or Salerno put you on the train line, but it is not hard to get to Paestum if you stay in one of the Amalfi coast villages near the mainland. Be sure to check ferry schedules because the buses get packed.

Posted by
1678 posts

I think you can visit the Ferrari Museum at Maranello, not the factory.

Posted by
3407 posts

Hi Rich, welcome to the forum.

Let's start you off with some info and pictures of the Amalfi Coast villages.

Not sure which day you arrive, so guessing on days.

Day 1. Travel.

Day 2. Arrive Rome? Travel by train directly to Roma Termini-Salerno. About 2H30m. Spend 1 night. Much softer introduction to the Campania area.

Day 3. Visit Paestum it's about 30 minutes by train.
Later that day transfer to Amalfi by ferry or bus.

Day. 4. Visit Amalfi Coast villages of choice.

Day 5. Amalfi-Capri by ferry. Luggage storage available by the dock. End of day ferry to Sorrento.

Day 6. Sorrento-Pompeii Scavi. 30 min by Circumvesuvian.

Day 7. Sorrento-Ercolano. 44min

Day 8. Sorrento-Napoli Centrale-Roma Termini.

Hope this helps. You're going to have a fantastic trip.

Posted by
13787 posts

Practicalities first. If you leave home on the 9th (Thurs), you get to Rome on the 10th (Fri) which is Easter weekend. Expect crowds everywhere. It's a very popular time for tourists. It's also less than 3 months away. The very first thing I'd do is see what lodging is available! The bargains go quickly. You may have slim pickings if you are watching your budget, so that may determine your options. The Amalfi Coast towns range from moderate to very expensive, and around Easter is probably high season prices in any event. Overall Sorrento is less expensive and Salerno less than Sorrento and Naples the least expensive.

Gerri suggests staying in 3 places the first week. That's quite a lot of moving around when you start out zonked. If you haven't been to Europe before, you won't know how much or how long jetlag will affect you. Coming from Iowa, you are going to have at least one plane transfer (do you have your flights yet?). Some people sleep well on overnight flights, many don't. I would limit it to 2 bases, Salerno for sure (for Paestum and the AC) and then either Sorrento or Naples for the Roman excavations and Capri). Naples has interesting sights and the archaeology museum is a wow. Sorrento is charming but has no sights. The Circumvesuviana will get you to Herculaneum, Pompeii from Naples or Sorrento, not much difference. I believe there are ferries to Capri from both. Naples is an acquired taste and is not for the faint-hearted, but she rewards the intrepid visitor.

If you'd been to Italy before, I'd recommend your starting with a few days in Naples, then Salerno, but Naples is a poor choice as an introduction to Italy. Salerno is definitely easier to get to than Sorrento - train from the airport to Termini (Rome) and get train to Salerno. Stay at least 3N. Friday is shot - you'll be exhausted by the time you get there and probably just struggling to stay awake until dark. Paestum is about a half-day (the bus may be better than the train). Make sure the Archaeology Museum is open on the day you plan to go. The temples are best seen in the late afternoon sunlight, sunset and then illuminated. The bad news is that in April sunset isn't until around 7.30. Salerno itself has an interesting medieval center to explore. The ferries to the AC start in Salerno, as do the buses. There are several ferry lines, SITA is the bus company. There are 3 bus lines, Salerno-Amalfi, Amalfi-Ravello, and Amalfi-Sorrento. The scenic stretch of the AC is pretty much from Positano to (almost) Salerno. You may be able to reserve ferries in advance. For buses, you just have to stand in line. They usually run about every 30 minutes and when there are crowds they fill up. For me, the AC towns are unremarkable to visit (lovely to look at from afar), the joy of the AC is the scenery.

I have no idea what it's like on the AC over Easter. Perhaps some folks here can give you more info. I'd try to do some online research by googling and using the forums which get a lot of locals.

Posted by
13787 posts

Are you planning to rent a car in Tuscany? Staying at an agriturismo is often difficult by definition - farmhouses aren't on bus routes. Driving in Italy comes with lots of caveats.

A week after the tour is a little vague. How many nights do you have after the tour before your departure flight? May 1 is a holiday, expect some sight closures. If you are flying out on May 1 (Fri), that's 7 nights. 2N in Modena is about 1-1/2 days, sounds like just enough for what you want. You'll want 3N in Rome at the end so you have 2.5 days (don't count 5/1 - you'll just be going to the airport). That leaves you 2N at an agriturismo. That's a lot of moving around and you'll only have had 1.5 days in Florence with the tour to see the highlights.

Posted by
3407 posts

Chani is absolutely correct, I had totally forgotten about Easter week.

Staying in Salerno will give you many more options for lodgings. Spend 3-4 nights there. You might want to rethink Capri, it will be very busy, although ferry service will be available, it will be from the Molo Manfredi port and will take about 2 hours. If you decide to do it anyway, purchase your return ticket (for an as late as possible return ) to Sorrento at the same time as your departure ticket. This will guarantee a place on the ferry.

You should have enough time on your trips to Pompeii and Ercolano to head to Naples for a peek at this amazing chaotic city that I keep returning to.

Look at for lodging that you can cancel. Sorrento would be an ASAP to me.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks everyone. I booked my flight to Naples arriving Sun morning 12 Apr. I'm booked in a Sorrento hotel for three nights. I'm not convinced Capri is worth the hassle. I'm mostly interested in Herculaneum, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Paestum if practical my RS tour starts 17 Apr so I may get there on the 16th or the morning of the first get together.
FYI I lived in Germany for four years in the 80's and took a three week journey in the UK, Brussels, along the Rhine four years ago. I'm pretty experienced in Euro travel and not worried about getting around there. It's just my first time in Italy. I really appreciate all your help though.
The agriturismo thing might not work out but there are many things that interest me. I'll probably stay a couple of days in Modena then Florence where I fly out on the 29th. I can always go back next year.

Posted by
614 posts

For your week in Tuscany, I would stay 3 days in Florence and 4 days in an agroturismo around Siena, Montepulciano or Gubbio (Umbria) and rent a car.
Enjoy your stay.