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Need Help with Amalfi Coast / Pompeii - What Town(s) to Stay In

We are planning a 14-day trip to Italy next October / Nov and I am overwhelmed trying to figure out our itinerary. My main concern right now is what towns to stay in and for how many nights - specifically in the Amalfi Coast area. I am seeking the advice of the many travelers on this forum who have lived or traveled to this area before.

We haven't purchased or reserved anything yet, so we have the freedom to move things around.

We plan on visiting the Amalfi Coast area, Pompeii, Herculeum and Rome and we have about 14 days (including flight travel days - we are coming from Boston, MA).

My confusion begins on where we should stay in the Amalfi Coast area. My current draft itinerary has us staying in the Amalfi Coast area and the Pompeii area for 8 days. Then we will travel to Rome to complete our vaca.

We don't mind bouncing around to different hotels (and we will only have carry-ons) in order to see and enjoy as much as possible in the Amalfi Coast area. Should we spend a couple of nights in the Sorrento area, a couple of nights in Positano, and maybe a night on the Isle of Capri?

I was then thinking we could take the ferry to Naples from Capri and then the train to Pompeii. My current plan is to spend a couple of nights in Pompeii area so we could enjoy visiting Herculeum, Pompeii ruins, and Mount Vesuvius.

Or do you think we should stay in Sorrento and visit all Amalfi Coast areas including Pompeii and Herculeum from one base hotel?

We are in our early 50s, in good shape, and I am planning this trip for me, my husband and another couple. I want to see as much as possible without feeling too rushed - but also not feeling like we stayed in one place too long. It's something I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge - I really appreciate it :)

Updated Note: We do plan on using private guides when possible and we do plan on staying in mid-level hotels/B&Bs that have private bathrooms. We don't need the Ritz - but we would like accommodations that are clean, safe, and mid-price range - preferably close to public transportation.

Posted by
70 posts

We only had a couple of days on the Amalfi coast - but spent them in Sorrento. We rented a private boat to take us (family of 5)
up the coast. A splurge but the MOST memorable day of our entire trip to Italy. We stayed at a hotel (I'll have to look it up and get back to you) but it was high up the mountain with a spectacular view of the bay of Naples and Mt Vesuvius. Breakfast on the balcony overlooking the bay - unbelievable - I remember they had a shuttle to take you to town. Hotel was recommended in Rick Steves book.

Hate to say it but be careful in Naples -

Posted by
628 posts

Thanks Pumpkin! I would love to know the name of the hotel you stayed in. I do have the Rick Steve's book - and it has been very helpful to date. Do you also remember the name of the private boat you took? Our trip is at the end of October so I'm also nervous that boats and ferries will be on a limited schedule.

You did make me think about your Naples comment. I had heard about being careful about Naples and I wasn't even thinking that we would be staying in Naples when I planned to stay in Pompeii. But I guess Pompeii would be part of Naples - thanks for pointing that out. I was wondering why the hotel was so inexpensive. :)

Thanks again for your response.

Posted by
351 posts

It's been several years since we were in that area, so I don't have much to contribute, but we did like the hotel we stayed at in Pompei - Hotel Diana - http://www.pompeihotel.com/

It was comfortable and an easy walk to some restaurants and the train station.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Motorgirl, thanks for your response. Hotel Diana was the hotel we were planning on staying at when we were in Pompeii. :) And I just noticed you are a Boston Girl like me (I'm South Shore) - Go Pats! Ha Ha

Although maybe I shouldn't post that I'm a Patriots fan - some Patriot's haters may give me bad advice. LOL

Posted by
372 posts

We just returned from 3 weeks in Italy and spent 6 days in Sorrento doing DAY trips into Amalfi, Herculaneum (enjoyed more than Pompeii), etc. Oct and Nov can be tricky because it is the end of the Season and much is closing down and the boats MAY not run. We stayed at a B&B in Sorrento. Sorrento was the perfect town to base out of . . . we loved it and some of our best meals in all our 3 weeks in Italy. We went to Positano, Amalfi, Ravello - and while we LOVED the towns and the drive there was amazing - we are glad we didn't stay in those towns because they were SO touristy. A wonderful Day visit, but Sorrento was great for the overnight stays . . . plus the train station is right in the heart of the city for Herculaneum, Pompeii, etc. We took at Rick Steves/Mondo Guide Tour of the Amalfi Coast for 50euros per person and it was wonderful. While we loved Venice, Florence, and Rome - Sorrento and Amalfi and Herculaneum were a fantastic surprise for us. You will have a wonderful time. Let me know if you need names of restaurants, best places to buy authentic Limoncello, etc.

https://www.sharedtoursmondoguideforricksteves.com

Posted by
628 posts

Hi ChinaLake, thank you for your response. I'm glad you had a nice time in Italy. Thank you for confirming that Sorrento would be a good base hotel for our Amalfi visit. Where did you stay, if you don't mind me asking? I would LOVE for you to share the names of your favorite restaurants and Limoncello. We went to London last year, and my biggest regret was not planning restaurants in advance. I do enjoy wondering and finding restaurants at random, but it is nice to have some planning in advance. And thank you for the link to the Rick Steves/Mondo Guide Tour of the Amalfi Coast - I will definitely add that to our itinerary.

Besides the Amalfi Coast tour, did you mostly take buses to get from one town to another when in the Amalfi Coast area (besides the train to Pompeii).

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. :)

Posted by
4010 posts

Hi, Pilgrim: We were in that part of the world two years ago, and based ourselves in Sorrento. We stayed at the Ulisse Deluxe Hostel there. Disregard the name; evidently it has a few group rooms, so it calls itself a hostel, but it was a very nice, quiet hotel, within easy walking distance of the main part of town as well as the beach. We paid 80 euro a night for a lovely double, but breakfast was not included. That was our only gripe: according to Rick's book, the RS rate included breakfast, but the hotel would not honor that.

From Sorrento day trips to Capri, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano, and Naples are easy, by bus, train, or ferry. We signed up for the Mondo Pompeii tour, but not enough people showed up. So the guide gave us a free one-hour orientation to the site instead!

Some years ago we stayed in Positano, and from there made day trips to Amalfi and Paestum, as well as the places I mentioned above. I would settle in one central, comfortable place, then radiate out from there on day trips. Buon viaggio!

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Jane, thanks for your reply and the name of the place where you stayed. I'm glad you mentioned that breakfast was not included as I will keep that in mind. I do hope to find something that includes breakfast to avoid that extra expense. I like to eat a small breakfast - egg whites, yogurt, fruit. I like to save my calories for the delicious dinners. :) However, my husband sure can eat and he would end up spending the same amount of money for breakfast as for a meal at dinner. ha ha

Posted by
2427 posts

Quite a few years ago now, about 15, three of us based for a bit in Sorrento as well. It was pleasant, but it is a more of a resort town than the larger cities are. We took public transportation only. The train was easy to Pompeii, and the bus ride along the Amalfi coast was gorgeous (sit on the right side of the bus). We stopped in Positano only, as we were off season (February), but wanted a glimpse of the area. Even at that time of year, there was quite a bit open, etc. I was traveling with a 15 yo and a 30 yo. Sorrento was at the end of our trip. We did go to the archeology museum in Naples, but didn't explore the city, as I think my companions had sensory overload at that point and could not see beneath the surface. I so much wanted to explore Naples as it is built on Roman Roads and I can see beyond the gritty atmosphere…in fact I love it! I'm still trying to get back to Naples to explore it in more depth, but by the time I get there it will probably be all fixed up! Personally, views alone get old for me when I'm in a country with so much art and architecture to view so I would suggest more time in Rome, or to stay in Sorrento three full days (4 nights) and then move to another location with a view. In conclusion, I, personally, would add at least a full day (2 nights) in Naples for Naples proper, but preferable 2 full days, to enjoy the history, the people, atmosphere and relax, if gritty doesn't bother you and if you don't want to explore farther afield. Or include Florence. Our above trip was a 10 day school vacation week trip and we included Florence (Florence, Sorrento, Rome), but we only saw the Vatican/St Peters (for my Catholic stepdaughter) and the Borghese Villa(for more Bernini) in Rome, so with 4 more days, you would easily be able to include a decent stay in Florence or stay put for longer in Rome (not my favorite city, but others love it). Just my take on this. We are headed back Oct 2016 as I've never taken my H. to Italy, so I will return for a third time for more Florence, Venice and, new for me, Milan. Keep in mind I was an art history major in college so I might enjoy that portion more than other people. I'm sure you will have a great time no matter what you choose. Italy is just plain fun! Wray

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Wray, thanks for your reply! Another person in our group wanted to include Florence as well (and or Venice), but I was afraid I would be cramming too much in. Everyone in our group enjoys hiking, so I was hoping I could plan different day hikes in Amalfi area while we were there - but you are right - I may have too many days in that one area. I am trying to find the balance of enjoying Italy's beauty and also enjoying the history and sites that Italy has to offer. My thought process was to enjoy the beauty of Amalfi coast and then visit the historical sites in Pompeii and Rome. Getting my husband into a museum to view artwork is quite the challenge as he doesn't have the same appreciation as someone like you would have :) We are hoping to go back to Italy in a few years to visit Florence (Tuscany area), Milan and Venice.

Thanks again for your reply - I really appreciate all viewpoints and I will keep yours in mind. I may include a day trip to Naples with your suggestion. We're from Boston - we can handle Naples LOL (joking - Boston sarcasm)

Posted by
2427 posts

Pilgrim, LOL. I'm an art person that is very selective on museums, which might not make sense to most people. I'm only good for an hour at each, then saturated. Art is everywhere inside and out in Italy, including graffitti, so if you're hiking, you still can't miss it! If you don't want to go north, you might want to think of going thru the entire Amalfi coast to Paestum (Greek temple/ruins), maybe staying around there a bit might be worth it. Paestum is still on my list... I'm sure you'll have a great time and yeah, you're Boston, you'll be fine in Naples! (For the rest of you, it's about attitude, not danger...Boston is a great city.) Wray

Posted by
4637 posts

Sorrento is an ideal base. We stayed in hotel Antiche Mura just one block from Piazza Tasso, the very center of Sorrento. Walking distance to Circumvesuviana train. It will take you to Pompei in about 45 minutes. Buses to Positano and Amalfi leave from there too. We went there by bus (sit on the right hand side) and back by boat. The ferry station in Sorrento is about 20 to 30 minutes walk from the hotel. You can also take a bus. The boats go to Naples, Capri and Amalfi. We originally planned 3 nights in Sorrento but liked it so much that we added 2 more nights.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Ilja, thank you for your reply. I will definitely check out that hotel as it sounds ideal for what we are looking for. I like the idea of taking the bus one way and the ferry the other way.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Wray, thanks for your suggestion on Paestum - I hadn't even heard of that area so I'll have to do some additional research. I didn't even notice that you are from Boston as well. We have a lot of Boston peeps on this forum. :) Yeah, Boston is a GREAT city especially this time of year. We are having a GORGEOUS fall - so for anyone who hasn't experienced Autumn in New England, you should add it to your Bucket List. It's ABSOLUTELY gorgeous!

Posted by
4010 posts

Do check out Paestum; it's amazing. I just want to mention that the Ulisse Deluxe does offer a breakfast buffet, but it wasn't included in the room price. I think it was an extra 7 euros or so. We didn't partake, but a lot of people did. And while we were there there was a RS tour staying, and they did get breakfast included.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Jane, I was just checking out the reviews on Hotel Antiche Mura that Ilja mentioned in an earlier reply. I will check out Ulisse Deluxe as well. It's good to know they do offer a breakfast buffet for a small set price. It's nice having a set price so we aren't surprised by the high bill after my husband has to try everything on the breakfast menu :) It's also good to know there was a RS tour staying there, so it meets their standards as well. We probably like the mid-range hotels. We don't want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a hotel, but we do like to stay in "nice" places that offer a level of comfort, safety, and are close to public transportation. Views are an added bonus - although that depends on the price too - ha ha.

I'll definitely check out Paestum. I'm getting the guide book out now for a bit of research. :)

Thanks again for your comments. I really appreciate it.

Posted by
2235 posts

Hi Pilgrim, I'll offer a few random ideas related to your questions and the comments of others: (1) With four of you traveling together, be aware that the costs of both taxis and private guides can make more sense than for just one person or a couple, when compared to four separate train tickets or group- tour fees; this could include a taxi from Naples to Sorrento, about 100 euros, for example. (2) Paestum is a terrific visit, with some of the best and most accessible Greek ruins anywhere, including Greece, three temples from different centuries right next to each other, set amongst less impressive Roman ruins, very few visitors at one time, and with a very nice small museum right there at the site; near Paestum are Salerno, a mid-sized city with a modern part on the coast, plus a lovely old city and very impressive church; also Vietri sul Mare, a small old traditional ceramic town on the coast, and buffalo and mozzarella ranches nearby, I understand. Worth exploring, or even spending a night or two at Paestum or Salerno; easily accessible by train from Naples or from the modern city of Pompeii, or from the Amalfi coast with more difficulty, by boat, bus or car. (3) Both Pompeii and Herculaneum are easily accessible by short train ride from either Sorrento or Naples, you can do both on the same day with a somewhat early start, and I don't see any need to spend a night in Pompeii for those visits; (4) I believe the Sorrento hotel mentioned above is Hotel Il Nido; I stayed there, and found both real pros and cons; the pros were very nice people, affordable prices, an excellent buffet breakfast, a top-notch restaurant also with reasonable prices, and a great view from the restaurant balcony and some of the rooms. The cons were: I stayed in an economy room with no balcony and I found that wing and my room quite drab and worn, OK but certainly nothing special, I would pay some more for a better room choice; and since the hotel was about a 10-minute drive from town, too far and hilly to walk really, I found myself too tied to the shuttle van schedule, about hourly in the morning and then mid-afternoon through late evening. It made it very difficult to stop off to drop things off, change clothes, rest for a few minutes, etc. Next time in Sorrento, I think I will stay in town. (5) I took the Mondo Amalfi Coast Tour when it had just begun; very nice for me, but with four of you x 50 euros each, I think you might find you could have lot more flexibility with a private guide, for not much more money; worth some research. Also, the Mondo Tour depends on them signing up 8 or more people on a given date. (6) And finally, I spent three nights in Naples (including a day trip to Salerno and Paestum), and really enjoyed it, lots to see and do and eat, even beyond the famous museum, but I realize it is not everyone's cup of vino, so to speak. Hope some of that helps.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Larry, thanks for your suggestion on private transfers or taxis versus individual tickets. That's something I never considered - and it's something I'll definitely keep in mind. I would rather save the money for more vino ;)

Paestum is on my research list after it was suggested from you, Jane and Wray. The area sounds intriguing and we will probably stay a night in that area since it's a distance from Sorrento. :)

My original plan was to take the train to the Pompeii area and visit Herculeum in an afternoon, enjoy a nice dinner that night in the Pompeii area, stay at a Pompeii hotel, and then get up early to visit the Pompeii ruins and Mount Vesuvius. I thought it would be a long day after visiting the ruins and Mount Vesuvius that we would enjoy another nice dinner in Pompeii area, stay overnight in Pompeii again, and then take the train to Rome the next morning. I don't want to take the train to Rome at night if we don't have to. But after some quick preliminary research, private tours of Pompeii don't start until 10 am anyway. So we don't have to be there too early. So maybe we won't stay in Pompeii after all. Still weighing the pros and the cons. It also doesn't help that I just watched a documentary on Mount Vesuvius and how it's overdue for an eruption (hikes!) I don't need my body to be added to the other Pompeii and Herculeum displays LOL (I mean that with no disrespect to the past victims).

Thanks for your comments and suggestions - they are always appreciated :)

Posted by
13958 posts

I stayed at Magi House, a small B&B, and loved everything about it (no balcony, though). Sorrento was the perfect place for day trips all over and I loved being there in the evenings. I did not go to Capri but others here have reported that it is much better as an overnight than a day trip. Traveling solo, getting to Paestum was too long and complicated. I would have spent a night there, but in February I couldn't find lodging. With 4 of you, a day excursion by car with a private guide makes good sense, though.

Do not miss the National Archaeology Museum in Naples. It is a wow. Maybe the idea of the adults-only rooms will entice your husband to visit :-).

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Chani, thank you for your reply and I will look into Magi House as an option. I too think we should stay overnight on Capri. I enjoy walking around a town in the early morning or late night without the crowds - it's a whole different experience. Plus we are going at the end of October so the ferries are on a limited schedule. I don't like to be bound by a schedule as I would have a difficult time enjoying myself without worrying about catching the last ferry. I would constantly be checking my watch.

Without telling my husband (ha ha) I had already planned on adding the National Archaeology Museum to our itinerary on route to Pompeii. I was reading your comment to my husband about the "adult-only" rooms - and he blurted out "we're there" ha ha - so either you know my husband or a lot of men have a similar thought process - ha ha.

I noticed you are from Tel Aviv. I hope to one day step foot onto your beautiful land. It's on my bucket list. :)

Thanks again. I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to reply. :)

Posted by
97 posts

Hi Pilgrim,

I may be in the minority here, but I think that 8 days is too long to spend on the Naples/Amalfi coast area. If this is your 1st trip to Italy, especially. I stayed in Sorrento this year which was my 4th trip to Italy. I have to say that the whole area lacks the charm and ambiance that other parts of Italy has. It's very nice and pretty, but it's not that unique. Plus, it's so overrun with people, that the physical beauty of the place is obscured. Just my opinion of course, but Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscan villages are all unforgettable. Wherever you decide, Italy doesn't disappoint.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Linda, thank you for your input. I too was thinking we may be staying a bit too long in Amalfi area. I think we jumped around too much on our last vaca that I may be overcompensating on staying too long in this one area. I still think we have narrowed down this trip to Amalfi Coast, Naples, Pompeii/Herculeum, and Rome - now it's just a matter of juggling how many days we stay in each area. After talking about this trip ad nauseam with my husband, he won't even consider adding Tuscany, Florence or Venice to this trip. He wants to focus on those areas on another trip. I hate to say it, but he's usually right on these things. Although I'm still considering squeezing in a couple of days in Venice at the end of the trip - if it works out with our Reward Miles for flights. :) I won't tell him for a couple of months - maybe then he'll be ready to listen to me again about this trip - ha ha.

Posted by
7124 posts

I also think 8 days on the Amalfi Coast in Oct/Nov is too long. I would spend time in Florence/Tuscany where you would get some autumn colour in the countryside by November.
Amalfi Coast - 5 nights
Rome - 5 nights
Florence/Tuscany - 4 nights

Posted by
13958 posts

I'm glad I could help with Naples :-)

I really don't think 8 days is too long. Take it slow. The days are shorter. Pompeii, Herculano, Paestum, and Naples are already 4 day trips. Capri is 1.5-2 days. Visit Positano, Ravello, maybe Salerno.

If you're thinking about Venice and flying out of there, check the plane schedules. It's usually a lot easier to start in Venice and end in Rome.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Chani, thanks for the follow-up reply. I'm also thinking we will be jet lagged the first day (or two) so I don't want to do too much those days. The first day we arrive in Sorrento will be our travel day, so we won't get much done this day after dealing with the overnight flight and then navigating to Sorrento. My husband can't sleep on planes, so he'll be a grumpy man this first day (as will I). Hopefully we'll have decent weather the first day we get there so we can do a short hike to try and stay awake and get on the new time zone as quickly as possible.

We spent a lot of time in London last year and we really were able to take the time to explore the city and really get to know the area. We hope to do the same in Amalfi Coast area as well. My plan is to have the first part of our vacation "detoxing" from work with casual hikes, nice meals and Italian wine. Then the second half will be more the site seeing aspect with Paestum, Naples, Pompeii, Herculeum, and Rome. I can't throw too much history, museums, or architecture at my husband too fast or he won't want to travel any more. LOL He would rather spend his vacation day exercising. His idea of visiting a museum is jogging past it during his 7-mile morning run - ha ha

Thanks for mentioning the idea of starting in Venice first and then travel south (if we choose to include Venice). I had thought about that but I was also nervous we were getting too late into October for Amalfi Coast. I wanted to visit Amalfi Coast first while the ferries are running as much as possible. But I will keep that in mind when we are checking flight schedules. We are also limited because we are using United Reward Miles for free flights. So I'm already bound by United's limited Reward flights (trying to keep it to 60K Reward Miles round trip can be difficult). I think Venice would add 3 days to the itinerary - one travel day and two days exploring Venice.

Thanks again for the replies :)

Posted by
628 posts

Hi djp_syd, thank you for your reply. I hadn't thought about the autumn color in Tuscany in Oct/Nov. I guess I thought the leaves would be off the trees at that time. I'm from New England where we enjoy spectacular foliage during that time of year, so I guess I'm already spoiled with autumn color and I don't think about that for other places. I will definitely look into that and keep it in mind.

Thanks for your response.

Posted by
13958 posts

I have friends who came back a week ago from a month in Toronto, including a few days through New England - caught the Berkshires at their autumn peak in early October. Fall in Italy is less colorful and somewhat later - late October should be a good time. But you aren't going to get anything like winter weather in early November - maybe not even in January.

The best way to see places like Positano is to take the bus to the top of the town from Sorrento, work your way down on foot and return by ferry. But if the ferry isn't running, you can climb back up for the return bus, not as easy, but not terrible.

Herculano will take less time to see than Pompeii because it is smaller, so you could combine it with a visit to the Naples museum if you don't want to spend a whole day in Naples. I would alternate days visiting the archaeological sites with days visiting the towns. If your husband liked the idea of the adults-only rooms at the museum, remind him that he gets to visit a 2000 year old brothel (complete with beds and picture menus) at Pompeii.

Posted by
7143 posts

I disagree with Linda's description of Sorrento... it's my favorite place in Italy. We enjoy Tuscany and Umbria, but love Sorrento more. It's a real town, with an old town center area that is charming... the whole town is charming. It's right on the Meditteranean with amazing views. We've been there 3 times, staying a week each time, and always hated to leave. We stayed at Hotel La Tonnarella each time. As others have said, Sorrento is the perfect base for the AC and all the fun day trips are easy from Sorrento. We never experienced Sorrento being crowded with tourists (unlike all the towns in Tuscany & Umbria we visited) even though we were there in the height of summer. Like any place, not everyone will like Sorrento, but we love it.

Posted by
11551 posts

...remind him that he gets to visit a 2000 year old brothel (complete
with beds and picture menus) at Pompeii.

Way back when I first saw Pompeii as a teenager, they had wooden shutters over the more, er, graphic images, and you paid a little man a few lira for a peep. Not anymore. I've advised parents traveling with small persons to expect some interesting questions. :O)

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Susan, thanks for your input and the name of the hotel where you stayed - I will check it out.

Posted by
211 posts

As someone in the early stages of planning a trip next Sept. that includes Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, I just want to say thank you all for this very informative thread. It reminds me why I love this site!
Cynthia

Posted by
7143 posts

Ilja mentioned Antiche Mura... I haven't stayed there but would love to! It's in the heart of town and looked wonderful.

Posted by
13958 posts

Way back when I first saw Pompeii as a teenager, they had wooden shutters over the more, er, graphic images, and you paid a little man a few lira for a peep.

When I visited Pompeii in February a few short years ago, that was the only place that was crowded - there was even a short line waiting to get in, while hardly another soul in any of the other places :-)

Posted by
11613 posts

Your husband will be able to get a run in every day - my nephew is a cross-country runner and ran every day in Italy. Good way to compensate for pasta and gelato.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Zoe, my husband will be happy to hear that he will be able to balance museums and exercise. :) They always say "Happy Wife, Happy Life." Well, in my situation, I can't be happy if I'm walking around with a grumpy husband who hasn't exercised that day. LOL

Posted by
1720 posts

Eight days in this area is perfect to my way of thinking because I am definitely a southern Italy fan, but I would try to get maximum experience out of it.

Certainly, Sorrento or Ravello on the A.C. is worth a few-day-stay. But we based in Salerno for 5 days in March at a great, funky B&B and got to see how a small Italian coastal city of 120,000 operates. Besides its historic Old Town and Duomo, and its fantastic restaurants & shops, it is logistically positioned perfectly for any archeological tour of Paestum, Pompei & Naples--all under an hour each way by train. Even our daytrip to Amalfi was only 55 minutes each way, by bus.

P.S.--if you visit Pompei, plan on a follow-up to the Archaelogical Museum in Naples as well, kind of a bookend to the Pompei ruins. We passed on it and shouldn't have.

Posted by
628 posts

Hi Jay, thank your for your response. Do you remember the name of the B&B you stayed at in Salerno? Also, we definitely will take your advice and visit the Archaeological Museum in Naples on our way to Pompeii. :)

Posted by
1720 posts

Pompei could be a day in itself. We spent 4 hours there & estimated we got through about 70% of the ruins. A couple more notes--almost nothing is marked, and the brochure they give you at the entrance is not good at all. Best to do your homework beforehand, maybe do what we did--downloaded Rick's Pompei podcast and played it in real time at the ruins--it was like we were in the show!

Also, with 8 days to work with, pick a non-rainy day to visit Pompei. Those ancient steps can be treacherous when wet. We visited on a cool 55-ish day and packed a sack lunch of panini's, chips & water. Dined al fresco next to one of the colosseums--fantastic!

Posted by
11551 posts

Jay, I am surprised that they allow any food outside of the cafe and picnic area. Most archeological sites in the U.S. ban food altogether, and Mesa Verde doesn't even allow sweetened or flavored drinks in the ruins; plain water only. I guess crumbs, food waste and sugar/flavorings - when dropped, spilled or thrown away - draw wildlife that do a lot of damage to fragile structures. I can't recall any signage at Pompeii that forbid noshing, though.

Posted by
628 posts

Jay, thanks for the idea of bringing a picnic lunch to Pompeii. I'll research a bit to make sure it's not taboo as Kathy mentioned. We definitely have Pompeii as a full day on our itinerary - which will also include Mount Vesuvius. The previous day we plan on Herculeum and the Archeological Museum in Naples. Great suggestion on avoiding a rain day in Pompeii - I'm sure the paved stones get slippery.

Posted by
1720 posts

Just to be clear, we were there in March--when there were virtually no tourists (wonderful!), went in the back entrance (not Porta Marina), and had our grub inside a backpack, which wasn't checked. But I don't know about any rules--in advance of our trip, we had heard of many people bringing lunch to the ruins, and it was relatively clean--there were plenty of garbage cans around, and what got dropped was usually eaten by any number of slow-moving, overweight but friendly dogs roaming the ruins and sunning themselves on the warm stones. The café area has food and gelato, but I did not see any signage barring food outside the area. Bottom line is this place has been there almost two thousand years. It would take another Vesuvius to do damage to hurt it.

I can't stress enough that Pompei is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But bone up on 79 A.D. and the Roman Empire before you go. Togas are optional...

Posted by
13958 posts

A fun read before Pompeii is the novel Pompeii by Robert Harris. I went to Herculano on a rainy day without problems (except being wet :-). They even wrapped the audio guides so that wasn't a problem. I had a picnic lunch in one of the ruins that had a roof. Parts of Pompeii are difficult to walk on a sunny day. I can't imagine how difficult it would be in the rain.

If you stop in Naples for the museum on the way, you'll have to store your luggage at the train station. I think you could probably see the museum and Herculano on the same day trip.

Posted by
11551 posts

Bottom line is this place has been there almost two thousand years.

Well, yes, but only because it spent all but a couple of centuries of those 2,000 years completely buried! An interesting note there? The city had been very badly damaged in an earthquake a couple of decades before the Big Blow. There was extensive reconstruction work going on when it met its final end.

And the ruins ARE in danger of very rapid deterioration now that they've been exposed to the elements. In fact, preservation efforts were being so badly mismanaged that in 2013 UNESCO gave them a two-year deadline to clean up their act or lose EU funding and valuable designation as a World Heritage site. Some background reading:

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/oct/22/pompeii-wrong-way/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/world/europe/italian-bureaucracy-threatens-pompeii.html?_r=0

http://www.france24.com/en/20150320-italy-pompeii-villa-eu-european-union-unesco-archaeology

It was a pretty big scandal at the time. But I wasn't being critical of picnicking; just find it interesting that it's allowed outside of restricted areas. There's a photo on Trip Advisor some tourists took of themselves munching away ON the walls of an ancient, crumbling structure that raises cause for concern.

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628 posts

Hi Chani, thanks for the recommendation on the book "Pompeii." I have just ordered a used copy from Amazon, so I'm hoping it will be read by the weekend. :) I'll pass it on to the others in my group once I finish reading it.

Also, thank you for the comment about storing luggage at the Naples train station for Herculeum and the Archeological Museum. I hadn't even thought about that. So many things to think about when planning a trip - ugh! Now I know why I've done group tours in the past - they handle the little details for you. LOL

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1720 posts

Kathy--

Very interesting pieces, thanks. Yes, there are various parts of the Pompei ruins that are closed off, now that I think of it, but I was under the mistaken assumption that this was a temporary fix, not a way of life. That is truly a shame, that the restoration and cleaning operations have come to a standstill, and more importantly that there isn't enough money to continue excavations, which started in 1848. There is so much more to be uncovered--unfortunately what would be exposed would cause extra strain on the finances for its upkeep.

Even more reason to visit...

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11551 posts

Glad you enjoyed the articles, Jay.
At least things are better than they were!

But no, there's really no good way to preserve it from the elements forever short of covering it all up again. Another good-sized earthquake could bring a great deal of what's left down as well so go now!

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628 posts

Hi Kathy, thank you for providing the links regarding Pompeii - very interesting articles.

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11551 posts

You're welcome, Pilgrim, and I sure didn't mean to hijack your thread!

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628 posts

Kathy, you didn't hijack the thread. We plan on going to Pompeii, so all Pompeii info is extremely appreciated. I'll take any knowledge you want to pass along. :) Thanks for all your help

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2235 posts

Having tried to navigate around Pompeii with RS book and audio tour, I would highly recommend visitors take advantage of one of the human guides that gather around the entry. Their cost is quite modest, something like 10 or 12 Euros for a 2 hour tour I believe. You can talk with a few and link up with one whose personality you like and whose English you can easily understand. These guides know the site and the history, they know which areas might be unavailable that day due to repairs or other factors, something no book or audio guide could tell you, and the guides never get lost in this huge site, which I did constantly on my own. One thing that frustrated me was it seemed the street names in the RS material did not correspond to the street signs at the site. After such a tour, you can always continue for additional time on your own.

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1720 posts

Yes, 'human guides' are best. The canine guides just want to sun themselves and be scratched... :)

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2235 posts

Thanks Jay for that extra level of clarification. Actually, my own distinction was between "human" guides and written guides, like travel books and online descriptions. (:->)))

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11613 posts

Actually Pompeii was uncovered in 1748, so it was hidden for almost 1700 years. We've done a lot of damage to it since.

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1446 posts

We spent 5 days in Sorrento in September 2013 and visited the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Herculaneum. We loved our time there. I was very unsure as to which town to base in and really wanted to stay in Positano but opted for Sorrento and I'm glad I did! I did not think I would like Sorrento let alone love it as much as I did. It's a great town and as others have said, it's very convenient due to transportation options.

We stayed at Palazzo Montefusco Relais and loved it. It's right off the main piazza but on a pedestrian-only street. It's centrally located and close to shops/restaurants, the marinas, the train station, etc. It's the #1 rated B&B on Trip Advisor and it definitely lived up to its reputation. The breakfast buffet (included in rate) was incredible and included a different home-made cake/pastry baked fresh every morning. The staff was very helpful and couldn't do enough for us. The room was very clean, modern & comfortable. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!

We used several private guides/drivers for this portion of our trip and I really debated about doing so due to the cost but for this part of our trip, it made the most sense. In my opinion, the Amalfi Coast area is a bit cumbersome to navigate via public transportation and we were able to maximize the short amount of time we had in the area by utilizing guides/drivers. There really aren't any group tours in the area and for us, it was the right decision. If you can afford it, I would encourage you to utilize guides. You won't regret it.

We used a private driver and guide to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum; the driver picked us up at our hotel in the morning and drove us to Herculaneum where his brother (the guide) gave us a wonderful tour. Both brothers were wonderful; they spoke excellent English and were very professional. The guide brought Herculaneum & Pompeii to life and gave us a wonderful overview of what life was like in the day. After Herculaneum, the driver took us to a wonderful winery at the base of Vesuvius for lunch and in the afternoon took us to Pompeii where we again met our guide. There's absolutely no way we could have visited all 3 places in one day without being really stressed. Having the driver and guide made the day very stress-free and relaxing. Pompeii is enormous and it would not have been pleasant had I tried to navigate the site myself and read little snippets out of a guide book. My husband and I both agreed it was time/money well spent. If you are interested, the guide we used was Sasha Bianco (www.tourspompei.com).

We then used another private driver for a day trip along the Amalfi Coast. The driver was wonderful (Francesco Marrapese, www.francescomarrapese.com) and also made it a very stress-free, enjoyable day. We saw so much more than we would have on our own and the thought of trying to figure out bus schedules, finding the bus stops and then being crammed into a hot bus with standing room only was not my idea of a pleasant day. Francesco was a wealth of information and tailored the day to our tastes/interests. I was concerned about motion sickness as the coastal road is pretty curvy but Francesco was a great driver and I didn't feel queasy at all. We liked him so much that we used him for a transfer from Sorrento to Naples on our last day in the area.

Lastly, we visited Capri as a day trip and again used a private guide (www.toursofcapri.com). Our guide again met us at our hotel in Sorrento and walked us to the marina where we boarded the ferry for Capri. When we arrived at the island, a cute little car with a canopy overhead whisked us all around. Again, we saw way more than would have been possible on our own and it made for a really enjoyable day.

We were only in the area for 5 days (out of our 21-day trip) and I could have easily stayed a few days longer so I think your idea of spending 8 days there is good. You won't be as rushed. Enjoy!

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1446 posts

One more thing! As someone else suggested, the Archaeological Museum in Naples is worth a visit if time permits. We met a wonderful guide (Pina Esposito) there for a 2-hour tour before boarding a train for Rome (where we ended our vacation). Since we didn't have a lot of time to spend there, she focused our visit on the most important and interesting artifacts and it complimented our visit to Pompeii/Herculaneum nicely.

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628 posts

Sheron, thank you so much for taking the time to respond and your great suggestions. We will definitely look into those private tours. I'm glad you had a nice time.

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11551 posts

I'm thinking here that it's really helpful to know at the get-go what sort or budget/travel style someone is working with as that can influence how people respond?

For instance, very independent travelers may not want a lot of organized tours, private drivers, etc. Budget travelers may not be able to afford those sort of extras so will rely on public transport and books/podcasts. Others who enjoy having the details taken care of and have more resources to work with may have very different requirements.

It's just a nice thing to know to get the hammer closest to the nail. :O)

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1720 posts

Good point, Kathy--

With more trips to Europe, you learn.

In 2010, for 10 days, it was high-end hotels, planes & private tours, just because I did not under any circumstances want anything to go wrong. It went wonderfully, but I spent a chunk-a-change in the process.

This last time, 17 days in late February/early March, we decided to be as independent as possible and take public trans wherever we could, which meant trains from Paris all the way down to Salerno, booked early & cheaply. Intra-town, Metro in Paris, walking in Lucerne & Florence, bus in Salerno. Apartments & B&B's were the mode of lodging. Only private tour we took was to a remote mountain village in southern Italy to find out about my ancestors. Not ready to rent a car in Europe yet, that's really independent!

And I realized that--obviously--the more independent you are and the longer you stay, the less you're going to spend on a per diem basis. Of course, the devaluation of the Euro between 2010 and 2015 had something to do with it too.

Bottom line was I realized that not everyone in Europe were savages & out to steal from me the moment I turned my back on them, and also if something went a little awry, we would figure it out. And I learned to have a Plan B for everything as well. It heightened my sense of adventure & made the whole trip much more enjoyable.

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628 posts

Kathy - that's a great point. I probably should have stated our "level" of travel in my first post. I'll see if I can update it. We do plan on using private guides when possible and we do plan on staying in mid-level hotels/B&Bs. We don't need the Ritz - but we would like accommodations that are clean, safe, and mid-price range - preferably close to public transportation.

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2865 posts

I'm going to jump in here, without thoroughly reading all the previous postings. Apologies if I repeat others' advice.
Sorrento is a good base for much of what you want to do, except getting to Paestum. We haven't stayed in Salerno, but maybe it's worth considering for a night or two, as a gateway to Paestum.
"Mid-price range" is still a vague term; but I sense a kindred soul in you - - no bathrooms down the hall, thin walls, etc. I would add "a bit of charm" to the description of what I look for in accommodations. Some of the hotels being recommended here have reviews that set off red flags for me. I'll look for the name of our hotel in Sorrento and pm you if I find it.
I think a visit to Capri is definitely worthwhile, and spending one night is better than just a day trip Of course, all depends on the weather. If you go, be sure to visit the church of S. Michele in Anacapri, to see its amazing ceramic tile floor. Check ferry schedules. They are likely to be quite restricted so late in the year.
I consider Ravello to be another must-see on the Amalfi Coast. It's lovely, serene, and has two villas with beautiful gardens that can be visited. Its small duomo also merits a short visit. Because it's up high, it affords stunning views.
In my opinion, Positano is a quintessential tourist town. Lots of restaurants and shops selling beachwear and souvenirs, and nothing else. If it's not beach weather, there's not much to do except go to one of the other towns. It doesn't have the best transportation connections.
Speaking of tourist traps - - I noticed that you haven't mentioned the blue or emerald grottoes. If they are even on offer at the time you're traveling, my advice is to stay away. You would pay a lot of money for a very mediocre experience.

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11551 posts

There you go, Pilgrim! Nicely done and very helpful.

You had mentioned hiking several times but some museums and other interests as well so I wasn't sure what sort of tripper we were nattering with!

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628 posts

Hi Rosalyn, thank you for your reply. Yeah, I guess mid-range price is still vague - and "clean" can mean different things to different people - ha ha. We do want a hotel with a private bathroom - that's really important to us and an amenity that we won't budge on :) Someone else had mentioned staying in Salerno to visit Paestum - and I will take that advice and look into it. Thanks for the comment on the blue grotto. I will read more about it and consider your comment about avoiding it.

Thanks for your advice - I really appreciate it.

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1720 posts

Hiya Pilgrim--

Yeah, that was me about Salerno. I'd consider staying there a night or two. It's just a neat little city, and you can't beat a 35 minute train ride to Paestum that costs 2,70 Euro. It is, however, a 20-minute walk from the station to the ruins, about the same distance from the main Pompei station to the back entrance of those ruins.

I hope you're jotting all these tips down about how to maximize your stay in Campania. Time is money. By the time you fire in on reservations next spring or so, you should be in good shape indeed.

Enjoy your planning--it's actually half the fun!

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628 posts

Hi Jay, regarding your note about jotting all these tips down - I actually started a topic in the "Packing" section about "How Do You Organize Your Pre-Planning Notes" because I was getting overwhelmed with all the wonderful suggestions- ha ha. I decided I would start Word Documents by city and cut and paste suggestions in a bullet-proof format. I need to go back to the beginning of this Post and add all the suggestions to my newly created documents.

I'm going to put my trip planning on hold until after Thanksgiving as I need to start prepping for hosting 26 people on Thanksgiving. My house has begun the transformation to a small function hall - ha ha. I can't purchase our airline flights for a month anyway since we are using United Reward Miles, and the dates we want to go are not available to purchase yet.

Oh, and I'm starting to enjoy the pre-planning process. I'll enjoy it more once I get a system in place to organize my thoughts and suggestions.

Thanks for all your help. :)

P.S. I just noticed your "Hiya Pilgrim" LOL - you must be a John Wayne fan. ha ha