Eight great day trips from Sorrento in Southern Italy you can do without a car, from ancient monuments to beautiful coastlines and glamorous islands.
Sorrento’s stunning sunsets, clear blue seas, delicious food and views for miles make it one of my favourite places in Italy. 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 stay 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 – with 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 coastal 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 Pompeii archaeological site stretches over 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 these extraordinary ruins to life.
Go independent: To get to Pompeii, take a Circumvesuviana or Campania Express (April–October only) train from Sorrento to Pompeii Scavi – Villa dei Misteri, which is the closest station to the ruins. The journey takes 20–30 minutes. You can book tickets for Pompeii online in advance for a specific date for €16 for adults (for EU citizens it’s free for under 18s or €2 for 18–24s). You can also get fast-track tickets* to avoid queuing.
Take a tour: There are lots of different tours available from Sorrento to Pompeii which include travel, entry and a guide. There’s a half-day Pompeii tour* if you’re short on time, or you can combine it with a visit to Mount Vesuvius* or Herculaneum* for a full day.
Pompeii might be Southern Italy’s most famous Roman town, but it’s not its only one. Herculaneum – located just south of Naples – was also destroyed in the same eruption which covered Pompeii. But instead of the town being buried by the ash cloud, it was covered by a pyroclastic flow (a super-heated avalanche of gas and rock).
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum 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 rushing around to see everything.
Go independent: Circumvesuviana and Campania Express (April–October only) trains take 40–45 minutes to travel 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 tours* with a local archaeologist 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 villages, lemon groves and pine forests perched on the cliffs. It stretches 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 Amalfi Coast’s walking paths. Most famous is the Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, which runs for 4.8 miles from hilltop Agerola to Nocelle, just above Positano. But there are plenty of others at different levels of difficulty.
Go independent: Public ferries run from Sorrento harbour to Positano* (40 minutes) and Amalfi* (1 hour) from April to October, and cost around €20 each way. There are also local SITA buses connecting Sorrento with Positano, Praiano and Amalfi, and you can change in Amalfi for the bus to Ravello. A 24-hour bus pass for unlimited rides costs €10.
Take a tour: There are full-day boat tours* of the Amalfi Coast departing from Sorrento, which stop off in Amalfi and Positano, and give you the opportunity to go swimming and snorkeling. Or you can take a minibus tour* visiting Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.
Capri has been a magnet for the rich and famous for centuries, attracting everyone from Roman emperors to Hollywood 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 at the 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 the neighbouring island of 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 unwind or ease any aches and pains, Ischia has a mix of thermal parks and gardens like the Poseidon Gardens and Negombo Spa as well as natural hot springs. Other highlights of a trip to the island are medieval Castello Aragonese, a castle town which is built on a fortified island connected to the rest of Ischia by a causeway.
There’s also the Mortella Gardens, 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. And the island has lovely sandy beaches where you can soak up the sunshine.
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 private tour* to Ischia from Sorrento which includes the ferry and a guided car tour around the island, including Castello Aragonese and Monte Epomeo.
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 its most recent eruption in 1944 – and it’s classed as one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes as it’s so active. Over 600,000 people live on the slopes around Vesuvius, which became Vesuvio 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. At 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 the path is pretty rocky, so it’s a good idea to wear decent shoes, pack a hat as there’s not much shade and take a jumper as it can get cold up there.
Go independent: To get to Vesuvius from Sorrento, take a Circumvesuviana or Campania Express (April–October only) train to Pompeii, taking 20–30 minutes, then catch the EAV bus from Pompeii’s bus terminal in Anfiteatro Square. The bus journey to Vesuvius takes around 50 minutes and costs €2.70 one way. There’s also a shuttle bus from Herculaneum train station called the Vesuvio Express for €10 return. Entry to the crater is €10 per person.
Take a tour: Most of the tours of Mount Vesuvius are full-day trips which also include a visit to Pompeii*. There’s also a half-day Vesuvius tour* which combines a visit to the crater with a wine tasting and lunch at a vineyard on the slopes of the volcano.
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 its centro storico, which is packed with world-class architecture, from the dramatic Duomo to its 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 the city where pizza was created but also has tasty pasta, seafood and sweet treats, as well as wine which is grown on the fertile slopes that surround Mount Vesuvius.
Go independent: The Circumvesuviana or Campania Express (April–October only) trains 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. Or you can travel by the more scenic high-speed ferries* from April to October, which take an hour and cost around €15 one way.
Take a tour: Most tours run from Naples to Sorrento rather than the other way around. But you can make your own way to Naples using the public transport options above or a private transfer* 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.
The temples 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 is 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 it was rediscovered and excavated in the 18th century.
Go independent: Paestum is a bit fiddly to get to by public transport but it is possible. Catch a Circumvesuviana or Campania Express (April–October only) train to Naples’ Garibaldi station (70 minutes). Then it’s a five-minute walk to Napoli Centrale station where you can catch the train to Paestum (1 hour 15 minutes). The train station in Paestum is 15 minutes from the ruins. Entrance costs €12 (free for EU under 18s and €2 for 18–25s).
Take a tour: You can take a full-day private tour* from Sorrento to Paestum, which includes a guide and stops at a nearby beach for a dip and a mozzarella farm.
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