Hi Helpline, We are taking the train from Rome to Naples then to Sorrento in November 13. This is our first visit to points south of Rome. We are planning to make Sorrento our base for our 4 days in the region. We plan to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Vesuvius. We also plan a short hike along the coast and perhaps visit Capri. Is a car recommended for such a trip once we arrive to the region? We are traveling with our 10 month old. We are from an urban US city so luckily we haven't a need for a car so we are used to public transportation and all that it entails. Best, Javier
Can't see need for rental car, especially since you are used to public transportation. There is good bus service up and down coast, really nice, clean buses. We did not have a car but have heard it is difficult in some towns to find public parking. If going to Pompeii, it is only half hour via train to Pompeii and literally drops you off mere feet from entrance. I don't think you can even take car to Capri. Enjoy.
That area is known to be difficult to drive in. Some people locate cars with drivers to take them along the Amalfi Coast. The Truth: I just hope your 10 month old is well adjusted. Traveling with such a young child (or any very young children) can be quite a challenge. We always left our daughter with the grandparents for a couple of weeks per year. We needed a break and she needed a break (from us.)
No need for a car really. If you feel up to it, you could rent it for a day only just to go up and down the coast to Amalfi and have more freedom without having to deal with bus schedules. I've done both with public transit only and with car (with friend from Florence). The car adds some freedom for the aforementioned reasons, but parking is a pain in those small towns (Positano, Praiano etc). The best (and often only) option is to pay for attended parking (which I hate to do because we Italians have a hard time departing from money for parking and generally opt for parking illegally). Capri is forbidden to cars (except residents of the island), Pompeii you don't need it (you'd have to park it in front of the site entrance at one of the lots) and the Vesuviana train station is 100mt from the entrance. Vesuvius top I've never been, but I don't think you need it either. I'm sure they have buses or excursions of some kind.
If you have time and the inclination, an additional stop (you can get there by train or bus, or it might be the day to rent a car) is Paestum, south of Sorrento. There's an archeologlical zone with great Greek temples and ruins from the ancient town, a good museum, and a beach. There are also mozzarella farms that have tours.
Dear Helpline, Thank you to all who replied with wonderful advice. Based on all of your replies we decided to go with public transportation during this leg of the trip. However, as suggested, we are exploring the possibility of renting a car for a day to drive along the coast. The ruins are the highlight of our trip (and craftsmanship/artisans as well), we will definitely take a closer look at visiting Paestum. Look for my posts in December when we return from our trip.
Paestum is not to be missed! We stayed at Hotel Villa Rita for a couple of nights and loved it. Personally I would never want to drive in the Amalfi region - the roads are very narrow and twisty, with loads of buses and trucks. The local drivers know just what they are doing, but I think being a tourist with a young baby in the car would be very stressful. Buses were plentiful in October and affordable. The local train is fine, although covered in graffiti, which makes it look a bit scary and run down. We felt perfectly safe on the train, but never traveled at night. When you choose a place to stay in Sorrento, be sure you are within walking distance of the train station. This will make life a lot easier. Our other favorite visit was Herculaneum - much easier to get around than Pompeii and the buildings are more complete. But be warned that there is no on-site cafe so either pack a lunch or time your visit between meal-times. Also it is a bit of a hike from the train station, and the taxi situation is pretty crazy. Be sure you arrange a definite time for them to collect you that really gives you the time you want at the site.
Re: Paestum, I also stayed at Villa Rita last year. The front desk is not staffed 24/7, but will arrange to pick you up and drop you off at the train station. Another recommendation in Paestum is Hotel Poseidonia Mare, staffed 24/7, train station pickup/dropoff, will loan you bikes if you want, and has a great breakfast buffet (no extra charge for bacon and eggs, plus tons of local foods to choose from). They also have a restaurant open for dinner during summer, not sure about off-season. The ruins and the museum are fabulous (ruins open every day, museum closed on Mondays). One more thing about the train station: it is not staffed (except by enthusiastic TI people) and last summer had no ticket kiosk, so it's good to have your ticket to leave Paestum when you get there. (The staff at Hotel Poseidonia Mare helped me get the return ticket.)