Sorrento is one of my favourite places in Italy. It has stunning sunsets, clear blue seas, delicious food and views for miles. But as well as being a fantastic place to visit in its own right, it’s also surrounded by some of Southern Italy’s best sights. You can easily base yourself there and take day trips from Sorrento to places like Pompeii, Capri and the Amalfi Coast. So here are eight of my favourite Sorrento day trips, all of which are possible by public transport so you don’t need to hire a car – and which have tour options if you don’t want to do-it-yourself.
Eight great Sorrento day trips
Pompeii is one of the world’s best-known Roman sites and a travel must-see that makes an easy day trip from Sorrento. This seaside city was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands of people and covering the city with 25-metres of volcanic ash. But it was this ash which preserved the city underneath, and 1800 years later Pompeii was rediscovered.
A whole buried city has been unearthed since then, and Pompeii’s now one of Southern Italy’s biggest tourist attractions. You can wander around its paved streets, bathhouses, temples and amphitheatres, and even spot original Roman graffiti. The ruins cover 160 acres so you’re never going to see it all in a day, but it’s enough time to see the highlights. It’s a good idea to get a guide or audioguide – hearing the stories of life in Pompeii really helps bring the ruins to life.
Go independent: To get to Pompeii, take the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii Scavi – Villa dei Misteri, which is the closest station to the ruins. The journey takes 30 minutes. You can book tickets for Pompeii online in advance for a specific date for €15 for adults (for EU citizens it’s free for under 18s or €9 for 18–24s). You can also get fast-track tickets to avoid queuing.
Pompeii might be Southern Italy’s most famous Roman town, but it’s not its only one. Herculaneum – just south of Naples – was destroyed in the same eruption as Pompeii. But instead of being buried by the ash cloud, it was covered by a pyroclastic flow (a super-heated avalanche of gas and rock). Like Pompeii it was hidden away and forgotten, but here a new modern town called Ercolano grew up on top, until an 18th-century local dug a well.
Instead he hit a Roman building and discovered Herculaneum. It’s about 50 metres below the ground level of Ercolano, so people live around the edge, looking down on the ancient city. The Herculaneum archaeological site is a lot smaller than Pompeii, but it was a richer town so its buildings are larger and more ornate, with mosaics, statues and frescoes. Its smaller size means you can really soak up the details rather than having to rush around to see everything.
Go independent: The Circumvesuviana train takes 45 minutes from Sorrento to Ercolano Scavi station, then it’s a 10-minute walk to the ruins. You can book tickets for Herculaneum in advance online for a specific date for €11 for adults (free for EU citizens under 18 or €5.50 for those aged 18–24). There are also skip-the-line priority tickets available which are good for busy times.
Read more: The ghost city of Herculaneum
3. The Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most stunning stretches of coastline in Europe, with pastel-coloured villages, lemon groves and pine forests perched on the cliff edge. It stretches for just over 30 miles with 13 villages. The narrow coast road that connects them is spectacular, but a combination of crazy traffic and even crazier driving means the best way to explore is by boat.
Positano is the most famous village on the Amalfi Coast, with its postcard-perfect good looks. Wander the backstreets, visit the ornate Church of Santa Maria Assunta and try a tasty delizia al limone cake made with local lemons. The other two big-hitters are Amalfi and Ravello, but there are also plenty of tiny villages, forts and beaches for you to explore. Or head up into the hills on one of the walking paths. The most famous is the Sentiero degli Dei, or the Path of the Gods, which runs for 4.8 miles from hilltop Agerola to Nocelle, just above Positano.
Go independent: Public ferries run from Sorrento harbour to Positano (40 minutes) and Amalfi (1 hour) from April and October, and cost around €20 each way. There are also local SITA buses connecting Sorrento with Positano and Amalfi, then you can change in Amalfi for Ravello.
Take a tour: There are full-day boat tours of the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento, which stop off in Amalfi, Positano and give you the opportunity to go swimming and snorkeling. Or you can take a minibus tour to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.
Capri has been a magnet for the rich and famous for centuries, attracting everyone from Roman emperors to film stars. With steep limestone cliffs jutting out of the blue Tyrrhenian Sea, this island is a real beauty. The prices are as A-list as the views, but you can get a taste of the luxury lifestyle on a day trip from Sorrento to the island. Capri’s two main centres are Capri Town and Anacapri, and both are filled with whitewashed buildings, cafés and boutique shops.
From Anacapri you can take the seggiovia – a tiny one-seater chairlift – to the island’s highest point on top of Monte Solaro. Another Capri must-do (weather permitting) is the boat trip to the Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra. This sea cave glows blue in the sunshine, with a tiny entrance that’s only accessible by rowing boat. And there are also Roman villas, lighthouses and beaches.
Go independent: Ferries run from Sorrento harbour to Capri from April to October. There’s a choice of regular (30-minute) and fast (20-minute) ferries for around €20 each way. They get very busy in peak season so it’s a good idea to book in advance. When you get to Capri, you can get from the port at Marina Grande to Capri Town on the funicular (€2 one way, and runs every 15 minutes) or by foot, and there are public minibuses around the island.
Take a tour: You can take a full-day boat tour from Sorrento which sails along the coast and around Capri (including the Blue Grotto if it’s open) with four–six hours on the island.
Read more: Capri from above: The summit of Monte Solaro
Where Capri is all about the glitz and glamour, things are a lot more low-key and relaxed on neighbouring Ischia. This is where Italians come to recharge, and the island’s thermal waters and mud baths have been used since the Etruscans. If you want to soak your aches away, there’s a mix of thermal parks and gardens like the Poseidon and Negombo, as well as natural hot springs.
Other highlights of a trip to the island are medieval Castello Aragonese, a castle town built on a fortified island which is connected to the rest of Ischia by a causeway. And the Mortella Gardens, which were built by the wife of English composer William Walton. They are overflowing with colourful plants and flowers, and have a fantastic view along the coast to Forio. There are also some lovely sandy beaches where you can soak the sunshine up.
Go independent: The ferry from Sorrento harbour to Ischia runs from April to October. It takes around an hour and costs €22 each way. Once you get to the island, there are local buses (you can get a day ticket for €4.50) and water taxis to get you around.
Take a tour: There is a full day tour to Ischia from Sorrento which includes the ferry, a guided coach tour around the island and three hours at the Mortella Gardens.
Mount Vesuvius has left its mark on this part of Italy – from the giant eruption which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD right up to the most recent eruption in 1944. It’s classed as one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes as it’s so active and over 600,000 people live on the slopes around it. The area around Vesuvius was made a National Park in 1955. From the bus stop it’s a 20-minute walk up to the edge of the crater, with a path taking you right to the rim.
From the top there are views down into the heart of the volcano and across to Naples and the Bay of Sorrento. You can follow the path along the rim (though you can only go all the way around the crater if you’re with a certified guide), where steaming vents and wafts of sulphur show there’s still a lot going on below the surface. It’s not a tough walk but it’s a good idea to wear decent shoes as the path is pretty rocky, and take a jumper as it gets cold up there.
Go independent: To get to Vesuvius from Sorrento, take the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii then catch the EAVBUS from Pompeii’s bus terminal in Anfiteatro Square. The journey to Vesuvius takes around 55 minutes and costs €2.70. There’s also a shuttle bus from Herculaneum train station called Vesuvio’s Express for €10 return. Entry to the crater is €10 per person.
Manic and more than a little bit rough around the edges, Southern Italy’s capital is bursting with character and makes a real contrast to the area’s other day trips. The historic heart of Naples is the centro storico, packed with world-class architecture, from the dramatic Duomo to fresco-filled Baroque churches and palazzos. You can also see some of the archaeological treasures unearthed in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the city’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
As well as the sights above ground, there’s a whole network of tunnels 40 metres below Naples’ streets. You can the explore catacombs, water cisterns and wartime shelters that lie underneath your feet. And make sure you come hungry as Naples has some of the best food in Italy. It’s where pizza was created but also has tasty pasta, seafood and sweet treats, as well as wine which is grown on the fertile slopes surrounding Mount Vesuvius.
Go independent: The Circumvesuviana train takes around from Sorrento to Naples. There’s also a SITA bus between the two, which costs €2.80 one way and takes an hour.
Take a tour: There’s a full-day Eat, Pray Love themed bus tour to Naples from Sorrento which includes transport, a morning guided tour, lunch and a free afternoon. Otherwise you can make your own way to Naples and take a city tour – there are lots of different ones including a walking tour, underground tour and street food and sightseeing tour.
Long before the Romans made their mark on this part of Southern Italy, the region was home to the Ancient Greeks. And you can still see one of their most impressive monuments at, just south of the Amalfi Coast. This coastal city was founded in the 6th century BC and is where you can find three of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. They date back to between 600 and 450 BC and have been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
is an atmospheric place to walk around – and usually a lot quieter than Pompeii or Herculaneum. The biggest of the three temples is the Temple of Neptune, which is 60 metres long and is almost completely intact. Then there are the two smaller temples of Hera and Athena. The site is also known for its ancient tomb paintings from 470 BC. was eventually taken over by the Romans, and you can see the ruins of their forum and amphitheatre, before it was abandoned and overgrown until being found again in the 18th century.
Go independent: Paestum is a bit fiddly to get to by public transport but it is possible. Catch the Circumvesuviana train to
Take a tour: You can take a full-day bus tour from Sorrento to Paestum, which includes a guide to take you around the ruins as well as a stop at the nearby coastal city of Salerno.
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