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Best of South Italy Trip Report

Trip Report, Best of South Italy Tour, April/May 2022


  • The Blue Grotto/Island of Capri
  • The Water Buffalo Mozzarella Farm visit/lunch
  • The town of Matera
  • The hotel in Matera (Locanda di San Martino)
  • The view from our hotel in Vieste
  • Farewell Dinner in Naples
  • Sorrento Family Dinner
  • Gelato: Come il Latte (Rome), David (Sorrento), Casa Infante (Naples)
  • Riding scooters and bikes in Rome (not a tour activity!)
  • Pizza al taglio

Quick Overview

We arrived in Rome 2 days before the start of the tour. At the end of the tour, we stayed in Naples 2 extra days before returning home. This was our 3rd Rick Steves tour (Best of Italy and Best of Sicily were the others) and this time I wanted some extra time both before and after the tour. It was nice to have a couple of days to get over jet lag at the beginning. I think if I were to plan this again, I would plan only one extra day in Naples at the end of the tour.


The hotels in Rome and Naples are fine. Locations were good, and they were comfortable. These are typical Rick Steves hotels. They didn’t stand out, but there were no problems.

The hotels in Vieste and Matera were great. The hotel in Vieste seems to have great views from every room (at least, all our tour mates raved about their views). The hotel in Matera, though only 3 stars, feels more like a 5 star hotel to me: very nice. Some tour mates didn’t like that hotel since no A/C (the hotels cannot turn it on before May 1/May 15? Not sure if that’s just an excuse.) but I thought this was the nicest hotel on a Rick Steves tour - and I fully expect, as Matera becomes more well known, it to be priced out of the Rick Steves tours; but wow, I liked it. This hotel is built into the caves and they did a really nice job of it.

The hotels on the Amalfi Coast (Maiori) and Sorrento were my least favorite. The hotel in Maiori is new to Rick Steves and it felt a bit odd to me (they hadn’t quite finished construction in the part of the hotel where we stayed), and the rooms were not quite so nice in those places. Nothing bad, just not as nice (IMO) as the other hotels on the tour. I’m not complaining - just saying that these hotels were fine, just not special. We did have a balcony in Sorrento, not much of a view but it was nice to sit out there and have a beer one evening.

I guess the tours used to stay in Amalfi town (Edit: I think they used to stay in Positano, not Amalfi) but that’s either too crowded or too expensive and so they moved to Maiori, which was an “ok” town. I would say that the day off while on the Amalfi coast was probably our weakest day on the tour; we took the boat to Amalfi, and then the bus to Ravello, and we walked the “lemon trail”, but we just didn’t have that much to see, or we didn’t know where to go when there. I’m not sure why this tour gives you two days off on your own; the day off while in Sorrento was great since it gave us a chance to visit Capri. I wondered if maybe there isn’t that much for the tour to do on the Amalfi coast, so they just give you a day off. I do not remember having 2 days off on either of our previous tours.


You probably noticed that many of my “favorites” are related to meals and/or gelato. Food is a reason to go to Italy, and there were many food “wow” moments on this trip. I especially like the group meals where there are a number of different things to try, but even the restaurant meal at the end of the trip (the farewell dinner) was spectacular, and partially because all of the courses were surprises to me: none were things I might eat on my own, but I liked each one.


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Part 2

Favorite Activities

In addition to the activities mentioned, there are a few things I should add: I really enjoyed the visit to Hadrian’s villa. Very nice, and not very crowded at all. Pompeii was ok (I’m glad I did it, but it’s not a highlight) and in retrospect we didn’t need to visit Herculaneum; that was not part of the tour but some of our friends spoke very highly of it, so we visited it the day after our tour ended, and I would say it did not add anything; Pompeii would have been sufficient; I can see why the tour doesn’t go there.

We walked and walked on our two days in Rome (pre tour) and one day, while we were having gelato at a place that was at least a couple of miles from our hotel, I thought “Hmm, there are Lime bikes all over the city; couldn’t I sign up and then we ride bikes back to our hotel instead of walking?” - 5 minutes later, we were both getting on bikes and riding through town. Fantastic, but wow that traffic! They also have electric scooters (the kind that you stand on, not the motor bike type of scooter) and we tried those too! A lot of fun (but riding over the cobblestones is a bit rough). I really had fun with it. I think the rest of our tour mates thought we were nuts for wanting to ride bikes in that traffic, but hey, I just turned 60. What’s better than a 60 year old guy riding an electric scooter around the Coliseum?

What else? Oh, the pizza: I love pizza, especially NY style pizza, so I was really looking forward to the pizza in Naples, but guess what: It was fine, but nothing special; it was as good as what you might get in a really nice pizza place in the states. Nothing bad - just nothing spectacular about it. But it’s an inexpensive meal, so no complaints!

BUT: one thing is this: it’s easy to overeat on these tours, and with about half the dinners included on the tour, what are you going to do on the other days? Most people just make restaurant reservations, but that’s just too many big meals for us, so my husband and I would just go to a shop/bakery that has those large rectangular slices of pizza, ask them to cut one in half, and split a slice of pizza. Perfect - especially since you then don’t feel guilty about going for a gelato afterward. And those pizzas - more like focaccia than pizza, really - were really great. In fact, there’s a place in Matera where the pizzas are like that, but round, and they cut them in slices. We liked it so much, we ate there twice. So maybe I am saying I like the pizza after all, but not the pizza I expected to like!

The town of Matera was perhaps one of my favorite places on the tour. The caves/old town really does look like it could be thousands of years old. This was unexpected - and that makes it even more special, doesn’t it? I expected to like Naples, the Amalfi coast, etc. I had no idea that Matera was going to be so special.

The Blue Grotto

I’m giving this activity its own section because it really was a highlight of the trip for us. The Rick Steves guidebook gives it 2 stars, I think, and is generally positive about it, though our tour guide gave it the thumbs down. I wonder if that’s because she lives nearby (in Sorrento) and so she knows it’s a touristy thing? Maybe the locals all hate it?

I don’t know, but it was a highlight for us, and also for the one other couple on our tour who went. Out of 26 of us, only 4 people went to the Blue Grotto! I wonder if it was because our guide didn’t encourage it? I just know that, yes it was a bit touristy, but so what? We are tourists. When I show people the photos, they all say “wow!”

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Part 3

So here is my advice if you take the South Italy tour.

One your free day in Sorrento, wake up and get to the hotel breakfast room the minute it opens (for us, that was 7:30 am). Then get down to the boats and get the ferry to Capri. Once on Capri, head straight over to the place where you can take the blue grotto boat. We managed to get on the 9:30 (or was it 9:00? It was early). Then go to the blue grotto, but don’t bother taking the boat that goes around the whole island (unless you want a longer boat tour.). After the blue grotto tour, then when you get back to the dock take a taxi up to Anacapri, one of the two towns on the island. (You can take a bus, but the taxi is inexpensive, so why not?) Once there, take the gondola/chair lift up to the top of Monte Serrano. The chair lift experience is very interesting (a little scary if you have a fear of heights, but fun). Look around the top, possibly stop for a coffee or drink if you wish, and then take the chair lift back down. Grab lunch in town (I found a bakery on google maps and we split a slice of pizza) and then take a taxi to Capri town. Get gelato at Buonocore Gelateria - or get some of their really nice-looking pastries. Then you can either walk or take the funicular down to the shore and get the ferry back to Sorrento. A perfect day.

Well, not quite perfect yet: that evening we had one of our group dinners, this time at the home of a family in Sorrento. Wow, what a meal, it was spectacular. Now it’s perfect.


As on our previous tours, the tour mates were all pleasant and friendly. We have noticed, on previous trips, that there is sometimes one “high maintenance” person on the tour, but this tour didn’t have that. Everyone was great. Our guide, Ann Long, was friendly and helpful. At the end of the tour, we asked her for advice about our extra 2 days in Naples and she was quite helpful. Also (and this is a really big plus for me) she recommended the “Casa Infante” Gelateria. I would not have tried it on my own since it’s a chain (local to Naples), but wow, their chocolate and pistachio gelatos are spectacular. In fact, we went back a total of 3 or 4 times during our 4 days in Naples.


I was kind of hoping that the mask mandate would not be enforced on the bus, but it was enforced and - in retrospect - I’m glad that it was. We did not have to keep the same seat on the bus (which I thought was going to be the case) but that didn’t seem to be a problem.

Covid Concerns

I was quite nervous about the possibility of testing positive after arriving in Italy, but we got tested at a pharmacy and it was quick and easy - and only 15 euros. So that worked fine. Apparently one of the couples that was supposed to be on the tour did test positive - so they never even made it to the hotel; I don’t know what happened with them, but our guide told us that they were “taken care of”. It made the rest of us (26) grateful for testing negative. After the tour, I received an email from Rick Steves that someone on the tour had tested positive at the end of the tour, so we both took tests when we got home, but were negative.


All in all the weather was close to perfect in many ways. The forecast did often show rain in the forecast in various places, but it only rained a couple of times and not in any way that affected us greatly; we did get wet going to dinner once, but it was ok; and it rained in the late afternoon the day we were on the Amalfi coast, but we managed to be in the hotel at the time, and it didn’t last more than 30 to 60 minutes: it all worked out.


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Part 4 (last part)

The temperature was high 60s to low 70s, and was great for walking and getting out and about; but it was too cold for swimming. On our first Rick Steves tour, we swam in the Mediterranean (the Ligurian Sea) while in the Cinque Terre and we had hoped to swim in the Adriatic on this tour, but it was just too cold to do it. So that was a little disappointing but I don’t think I would change anything. The temperatures were otherwise perfect for a tour.

Final Thoughts

This was a great tour, and I’m so glad we did this. I was nervous about it before it happened, but after 2 years of the pandemic and life being odd, it was nice to get out and do this tour. I’m really looking forward to booking a tour for next year. Now we just have to decide where next…There are about 10 other tours that look interesting to us. Based on some feedback from tour mates Marianne and Rich, I think that might be the Eastern France tour.

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2102 posts

Thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough tour report. They really help future travelers and allow those who have taken this tour a chance to reminisce. I highly recommend the Eastern France tour.

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522 posts

We so enjoyed meeting and hanging out with you two! The tour was made that much better with you guys on it. I concur with almost all you did and advised, altho since we are ones who didn’t do the Blue Grotto, can’t report on that. But the day on Capri was indeed special.
Thanks for helping us relive the tour through the report! It was great.

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2444 posts

Thanks for sharing your tour experience. South of Italy was my first RS tour in 2019. My sister-in-law and I loved it, despite the unusually cold weather.
We stayed in Sorrento on our free day instead of going to Capri. Besides it being a drizzly day, I wanted to buy a cameo ring at Bimonte plus we did other souvenir shopping.
Our hotel was in Positano for the Amalfi Coast portion. We were told it was the last year at that hotel presumingly because the hotel could make more money from tourists than tour groups.
It’s a great tour.

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6471 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip report, and I appreciate the details you included! Glad to notice people traveling again!

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222 posts

Great report. We did this tour a few years back in April/May and felt the weather,although lovely for exploring, was too cool for swimming in the Adriatic. Some from our group did, but most just tested the waters.
When we were in Sorrento, the Blue Grotto was not open due to higher tides. We still went to Capri. It was very crowded, but it was a holiday weekend—May 1. The ferry over was 90% Italians on holiday. It was still beautiful and now I have an excuse to go back to lovely Sorrento

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170 posts

Thanks for the report. We'll be on this tour in September. Your report helps us to prepare.

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399 posts

Atjsfo, great review of our trip! And yes, we did not do the Blue Grotto because of continually hearing “tourist trap!” I am disappointed that the RS people did not report to the group that Ron also tested positive. We can only guess that because of the timing, it was a result of sitting next to the active Covid tour member on that long bus ride into Naples. Hopefully, no one else did. You guys take care!

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The Blue Grotto trip was a great adventure. Glad we got to enjoy the beautiful water and didn't listen to Ann. We did test when we got home but we were negative. Sorry Ron tested positive Margie. Hope everyone is doing well.

Until our next RS Tour.

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399 posts

Hey Buddy, glad to hear you guys were good. Ron just got home late Monday night, tired but feeling very happy to finally be home. Take care!

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So sorry to hear about Ron. It sounds like he is doing better now - I hope so.


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399 posts

Sitting in a hotel room for 8 plus days isn't something he wants to repeat but he’s fine and just happy it’s over and he’s home. We might be waiting till they lift the re-entry testing requirement before we travel to Europe again, though. This experience was costly and a huge inconvenience for a virus that’s been reduced to flu like symptoms in most vaccinated people.