Travel Guide

Naples Day Trips: Visit Pompeii & Amalfi Coast Independently

I’m sharing my full planning tips for one of the most exciting Naples day trips: to visit Pompeii, Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast on a fully independent trip. I’ve used no expensive tours or agencies and I now show you how you can do the same. This is the fun and adventurous Italy!

I just came back from a surprise trip I prepared to my SO to Naples, Italy. I do most of the planning in every trip I’m involved anyway, but this time was All. On. Me. And let me tell you, planning this trip was NOT an easy task.

Most of the information online is oriented for either organized tours – much of Naples tourism comes from cruise ships – or safety in the city. I seriously got the impression I was going to a war zone but it wasn’t anything like that.

Ah and don’t even get me started on public transportation. Navigating between obsolete schedules and sketchy websites in Italian was a logistic bitch.

It definitely took me more than I was expecting, but eventually I got everything in place to plan an independent getaway to Naples. And now I’m sharing all my juicy knowledge with you!

3-Day Trip Plan for Naples, Pompeii Vesuvius and Amalfi Coast

For starters, this was the exact itinerary we followed for our 3 day trip to Naples. Yes, it was action packed – specially with sweaty hot summer days – but also diverse and rewarding. It’s perfectly doable for a pair of active travelers.

I haven’t used ANY tour on this trip. Quality over quantity and we much prefer to explore places by myself and at my own pace.

Looking back, I wish we had more time to properly explore Amalfi Coast, but I knew staying there for a night or two would increase costs significantly!

DayWherePlaces visited
1Amalfi Coast- Sorrento
- Positano
- Amalfi
- Salerno
2Pompeii & Vesuvius- Pompeii
- Vesuvius Mountain
3Naples- Centro Storico (Old Town)
- Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quartier)
- Plebiscito

Where to stay: Naples vs Sorrento

The first question on my mind was where to base ourselves. I’ve debated between Naples city center or Sorrento, a seaside town further south.

Sorrento has the geographical advantage. If you’re coming to Naples, chances are you want to visit Pompeii, the Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento is right in the middle of these places. It might be more problematic to get from and to the airport, but in turn the must-see places are easily accessible by ferry or Circumvesuviana train.

But the advantages end there in my opinion.

Sorrento is in essence a touristy town full of expats and British middle aged couples (nothing against them, just a fact). Absolutely no authenticity here. My feeling is that it’s another seaside mediterranean town people choose to stay in because Naples is oh-so-scary.

I’m glad I chose Naples. It’s chaotic, urban, lively and yes, gritty. But it’s much cheaper, the food is great value – we’re talking about the world’s best pizza!! – and is the greatest opportunity to dive in the real Italian culture.

No, it’s not a memorable place, but neither is Sorrento. But on the other hand, it is a dramatic contrast to the real showstoppers of the region: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Vesuvius. On my view, Naples is worth to stay in just because of that.

⭐ Seeking a safe place to stay in Naples? (1/2)⭐

ToledoStation B&B
Located a 2-min walk from the gorgeous Toledo metro station, this B&B is perfect for a short stay in Naples. The travel-inspired dรฉcor is just awesome! Book now

Or just use this shortlist of the best-reviewed hotels in Naples (9+), with WiFi and in the best areas of the city.

How to get around Naples, Amalfi and Pompeii

To get around Naples city center, the best way is to walk or use the metro. Renting a car can be tricky in such a difficult traffic.

Naples and Sorrento are the terminal stations for the Circumvesuviana train. Trains are frequent and tickets are inexpensive. Along this train line, you’ll find the stations to Vesuvius and Pompeii.

For the Amalfi Coast, the trip has 2 stages. First, you need to get to Sorrento or Salerno. From there, a ferry or bus will take you to the main towns in Amalfi Coast: Amalfi and Positano.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast day trip - amalfi town from the sea
Amalfi town from the sea.

DIY Day trip to Amalfi Coast from Naples

My impressions on Positano

We’ve narrowed it down to visit only Positano and Amalfi in our day trip to Amalfi Coast. It felt like a mother having to choose between her children. I would have loved to visit Praiano or Ravello, but hey, quality over quantity!

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - positano amalfi coast
Look at this beauty!

The first town, Positano, was a charm. It might be too touristy for some – the town feels like an open-air women clothing shopping center – but it has incredible raw beauty. The way the village covers the Monti Lattari mountains and drops abruptly onto the turquoise sea is just gorgeous.

The pebble beach is crowded, but the waters are crystal clear. Close to the place ranking #1 on my crystal clear waters I’ve swam on: Zlatni Rat in Brac, Croatia.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - positano pebble beach
Beach patterns.

From there, instead on getting the next bus to Amalfi, we opted for the ferry. Not only this saved us a hike all the way up to the station but the trip itself was much more relaxing and scenic. I highly recommend doing at least 1 ferry trip.

The best perspective of the Amalfi Coast is the one from the sea!

My impressions on Amalfi

I found Amalfi to be even posher than Positano. The same open-air shopping center feel, but when I saw a group of tourists pay 30 euros (!) for 3 lemon granitas, I knew this was serious.

The Cathedral steals the show. It’s an architecture delight standing high in the middle of the cobblestone streets.

The beach was a bit of a let down. Not even near as nice as Positano‘s, it was really a hard task to find a place to lay my towel in the beach. Amalfi may be more impressive on the mountain side though, the town backdrop is just stunning. Again, it reminded me of the scenery in Dalmatia!

Amalfi as seen from the ferry boat. 😍

There are 2 types of people in this world. People who prefer Amalfi and people who are Team Positano. I’m the latter. Both are touristy and even a bit pretentious, but in my eyes Positano has the edge in terms of uniqueness.

Btw, Amalfi is awfully similar to Monterosso in Cinque Terre. They even are specialized in fancy and hyper-expensive organic cotton clothing for some reason.

The last stop was unimpressive Salerno. We only stayed for a couple of hours the vibe here is of an bland touristy city with no particular highlights.

Amalfi Coast: Getting there and around

Getting to the Amalfi Coast from Naples by public transport always involves two legs. First, train to Sorrento, via the Circumvesuviana line. The journey takes about 1 hour, less if you take the Campania Express (see tips below).

The SITA bus station in Sorrento is conveniently located right in front of the train station. The bus departed 10 min after our arrival.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast day trip - amalfi town

From Sorrento, the cheapest way to get to Amalfi Coast is to get a day pass from the SITA Bus. These buses are frequent (every 40 minutes or so) and cover the entire coast from Sorrento to Salerno, stopping in the major villages.

There’s also another bus, the red hop-on hop-off buses from City Sightseeing company. A day ticket costs 15 EUR. However these only go from Sorrento to Amalfi/Ravello. To get back to Naples, you will need to go all the way back to Sorrento or get a ferry from Amalfi to Salerno.

In alternative, you can hop on a ferry directly from Sorrento to Positano or Amalfi. It’s more scenic, but ferries are less frequent.

Here’s a summary on how to get around the Amalfi Coast independently.

Get around Amalfi CoastTo SorrentoTo PositanoTo AmalfiTo Salerno
From Sorrento-Bus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
Bus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
Bus (SITA Sud)
From PositanoBus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
-Bus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
Ferry (TravelMar)
Bus (SITA Bus or
Busvia del Vesuvio). Around 40 min.
From AmalfiBus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
Bus (SITA Sud or CitySightseeing)
Ferry (TravelMar)
-Bus (SITA Sud)
Ferry (TravelMar)
From SalernoBus (SITA Sud)Bus (SITA Bus or
Busvia del Vesuvio). Around 40 min.
Bus (SITA Sud)
Ferry (TravelMar)

Tips for a Amalfi Coast day trip from Naples

  • Instead of boarding on the crazy busy Naples Garibaldi Central Station, go to Piazza Nolana. All the trains depart from there and you are guaranteed to have a seat.
  • Get on Campania Express instead of Circumvesuviana train. It’s cleaner, quicker and safer however it’s more expensive and there are only about 6 trains/day.
  • Don’t bite more than you can chew. It’s tempting to visit many other towns in Amalfi Coast – I wanted to go to Ravello and Praiano badly – but unless you’re willing to stay more days, choose 1 or 2 towns to visit per day.
  • There’s only one major road in Amalfi, notably known for being very curvy. If you’re prone to get sick in car trips, motion sickness pills might be a good idea.
  • Make sure you get a seat on the right side of the bus (if you’re doing the direction Sorrento>Salerno) for the best views of the coast.

DIY Day trip to Pompeii from Naples

Note: Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii can be easily done in one day (half-day each).

My impressions of Pompeii

Pompeii is one of those places giving you that amazing feeling of “I’m walking on history”. The highlights were definitely entering the ancient thermal baths and spas and the central Forum area, which is incredible not only because of the ruins itself, but also from the setting.

Pompeii‘s main square is backed by the Vesuvius on one side and by the Amalfi Coast mountains on the other. Obviously it’s not a coincidence but rather an urban planning masterpiece. It makes you dream awake, imagining how would it be to live there 2 millennia ago.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii ruins scavi
Ruins facing the Amalfi mountains.

Now for the negatives. Call me gruesome, but I was expecting to see more bodies and personal artefacts from the inhabitants. I only saw a couple in the Forum area. Apparently the National Architecture Museum in Naples has most of the items that were scavenged in Pompeii.

Which leads me to my next point. Why isn’t there a proper museum in Pompeii? The whole site, while impressive, is a bit monotone. Apart from the main squares, once you’ve seen 1 noblemen house, you’ve seen them all. There’s a lot of potential yet to be unlocked here I feel. But nevertheless, it’s a huge bucket list item for any traveler!

Getting to Pompeii from Naples

To get to Pompeii, the best way is to get on the Circumvesuviana train line and get off at Pompeii Scavi station. You can either get the local train – stopping at every station – or the Campania Express. This one will stop only on the touristic stops of the line.

The entrance for the ruins of Pompeii – Porta Marina – is just a 4 min walk from the station. Expect to be bombarded by touts telling that “the ticket lines are at least 1 hour wait” and that “you should get a tour guide” bla bla bla. Don’t believe them and do as below.

Get to the entrance in Porta Marina early – there won’t be ANY queuing at all. And instead of a tour guide, get an audioguide. You see, following a tour guide with 30 other people makes it hard to understand every single word said. And let’s be honest, nothing is better than exploring a place at your own pace.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - pompeii scavi ruins
Streets of old Pompeii.

Tips for a Pompeii day trip from Naples

  • Instead of boarding on the crazy busy Naples Garibaldi Central Station, go to Piazza Nolana. All the trains depart from there and you are guaranteed to have a seat.
  • Get on Campania Express instead of Circumvesuviana train. It’s cleaner, quicker and safer however it’s more expensive and there are only about 6 trains/day.
  • Get there early to beat the crowds. If you get there by 10am, you’ll pass through the ticket line in a breeze.
  • Once you arrive Pompeii train station, you’ll be approached by touts selling you group tours. An audioguide is just enough and allows you explore the site at your own pace.
  • A bottle of water and proper hiking shoes with good grip are essential. The ground can be slippery in Pompeii.

DIY Day trip to Mount Vesuvius from Naples

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii can be easily done in one day (half-day each).

My impressions of Mount Vesuvius 🌋

After a morning full of history, I got to hike my first active volcano, the only one in mainland Europe. The SITA public bus dropped us off at the ticket counter (entrance: 10 euros) and the rest was on us.

Contrarily to other private tour companies, you don’t have a limited time in the volcano with SITA. Just be aware of the schedules to go back and explore for as long as you want!

It takes a good 30-40 minutes to get to the summit and walk around the crater. There are no bubbling lava puddles or quirky lava rock formations like mountains in my homeland Azores. It’s just a rocky moon-like landscape – still impressive!

The highlight however are the views over the Gulf of Naples , just stunning. It’s delightfully quiet up there, a true chill pill compared to Naples. This climb is not for the weak, but it is an absolute must visit when you’re in Naples!

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - top of vesuvius crater
Walking around the Vesuvius crater.

Getting to Vesuvius from Pompeii ruins

To get to the almighty Vesuvius, there are several bus tours and companies right in front of Pompeii Scavi station.

  • EAV/SITA public buses: these run every 50 minutes, operating between Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. The cheapest and more flexible way to visit the volcano. There’s a stop near the Amphiteater in Pompeii and another one right in front of the Pompeii Scavi train station.
  • Busvia del Vesuvio: Hourly departures in professional AC vehicles. The trip takes 2h30 overall – this gives you limited time to visit Mount Vesuvius.
how to plan naples italy pompeii to vesuvius
EAV station in Pompeii with the schedules of the buses that go up Vesuvius.

They will take you to 1000m high and you’ll need to hike the remaining up. The cheapest option is to take the public bus. Look for the SITA bus station (picture above) and make sure you take a note of the schedules. A return ticket costs 5.90 EUR per person. Other companies quoted us as high as 12 EUR (!).

The bus will take you back to Pompeii Scavi train station, from which you’ll need to hop on the train back to Naples. I’m pretty sure I saw some companies going directly from the top of Mount Vesuvius to Naples, so I assume you can negotiate a more convenient one-way ticket with them.

how to plan naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - top of vesuvius
The Gulf of Naples on the horizon.

Tips for a Vesuvius day trip from Naples

  • Instead of boarding on the crazy busy Naples Garibaldi Central Station, go to Piazza Nolana. All the trains depart from there and you are guaranteed to have a seat.
  • For additional comfort, get on on Campania Express instead of Circumvesuviana train. It’s cleaner, quicker and safer – but it’s more expensive and there are only about 6 trains/day.
  • Weather is key. If you see Vesuvius is too misty or cloudy in the morning, don’t go up as you won’t see much. First do Pompeii and then climb the volcano in the afternoon.
  • A bottle of water and proper hiking shoes with good grip are essential for this day. There is a lot of loosen small gravel and rocks on the way up the Vesuvius.
  • Take the walking stick that is offered to you from the man at entrance. The only thing he asks is a tip on the way back – and trust me you WILL tip the man as the stick is really handy!
  • Every 10/15 minutes there’s a scheduled tour organized by a volcanology guide, starting from the hut right before the first viewpoint to the crater. This is FREE and part of the admission ticket.

Here’s a summary on how to get around Vesuvius and Pompeii.

Pompeii and Vesuvius Day TripTo NaplesTo PompeiiTo Vesuvius
From Naples-Train (Circumvesuviana or Campania Express). 30-40 min.Train until Pompeii (Circumvesuviana or Campania Express) + Bus (SITA Bus or Busvia del Vesuvio). Around 1h30
From PompeiiTrain (Circumvesuviana or Campania Express). 30-40 min.-Bus (SITA Bus or
Busvia del Vesuvio). Around 40 min.
From VesuviusBus (SITA Bus or
Busvia del Vesuvio) + Train (Circumvesuviana or Campania Express). Around 1h30.
Bus (SITA Bus or
Busvia del Vesuvio). Around 40 min.

Note: you can also get to Vesuvius from the Herculaneum ruins. However there are far less companies doing this route and usually you need to haggle your ticket down the 20 EUR (!) marl. One of them – Vesuvius Express – has terrible reviews regarding the logistics of the return trip. Just be careful!

The best of the city center of Naples, Italy

Naples suffers from a terrible reputation, but the reality is that most tourists will visit without any problem. You just need to take the same safety precautions you take in any other major city.

Sadly we only had 1 full day to explore the city center of Naples. We had to be smart of our time. The first cut was National Archaelogy Museum. Although I’d loved to see more of Pompeii artifacts and bodies, we opted for a more efficient use of our time.

The centro storico of Naples is absolutely packed with churches and cathedrals. Cappella Sansevero, Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno and San Lorenzo Maggiore are a short walk from each other but very different on the inside.

The tiny streets that form the Quarteri Spagnoli (Spanish Quartier) were my personal favorite, maybe because it reminded me a lot of the most typical neighborhoods in Barcelona. The more you go up via the iconic Spaccanapoli street, a better view with the Vesuvius as a backdrop you’ll get.

 planning naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - piazza piebescito

Further down, Via Toledo and Piazza del Plebiscito give a fashion and contemporary touch to a rather old historical town, but it’s slightly too souveniry for my taste.

On the other hand, Galleria Umberto I was a delight. Even though the inside is deserving of much better maintenance, the architecture intricate and stunning. Lots of potential to challenge the galleries next to the Duomo in Milan.

Tip: instead of entering Castel Nuovo like 90% of the tourists – specially the ones coming on cruise ships – take a stroll to Castel dell’Ovo. The entrance on this seaside 12th century fortress is free and the views over the entire Gulf of Naples are much more worth it.

Finally, it’s impossible to speak about Naples without mentioning the food. Authentic, delicious, cheap, it’s hard to go wrong. Find below some of my favorite places to eat that were recommended to me by locals.

Authentic places to eat in Naples, Italy

  • Pizzeria Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 32). Ask any napolitan for restaurant recommendations and this place will be mentioned. The best and most authentic pizzeria in town, with pizzas starting at 3,50 EUR. The tomato sauce was unlike any other I’ve tasted. This place is a strong candidate for the best pizza in the world.
  • Trattoria Da Nennella (Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo, 103/). Loud, lively and kitsch. Grab the indulging 10 EUR lunch menu from this restaurant in Quartieri Spagnoli for a dive into Italian food culture. The pastas were delicious, but beware this is not the place to have a relaxed lunch.
  • Tandem Ragu (Via Paladino Giovanni, 51). If you never heard of ragu before, it is a meat-based (veal, beef, lamb, pork or poultry) sauce with a small amount of tomato sauce added to it. Think of it as an enriched bolognese and this place is specialized on it.

⭐ Seeking a safe place to stay in Naples? (2/2)⭐

Grand Hotel Oriente
In the heart of Naples, this hotel boasts great views over the Vesuvius and Castell Sant’Elmo. The breakfast on the terrace is O-M-G moment. Book now

Or just use this shortlist of the best-reviewed hotels in Naples (9+), with WiFi and in the best areas of the city.

planning a trip to naples italy amalfi coast pompeii vesuvius - naples napoli sea
Naples sights.

How to get around Naples

Don’t even think of renting a car: traffic is borderline chaotic. Evne if you are walking around, be careful when crossing the road. Just because it’s red for cars, doesn’t mean they won’t advance.

Metro will also take you to most places in the city, even though getting a ticket from the machines can be a throwback to the 60s (worst I’ve seen, seriously). Make sure you visit the dreamy Toledo station on the inside, recently considered the most beautiful in Europe!

Useful links for a trip to Naples

  • Safety in Naples

  • Campania Express. A premium alternative to Circumvesuviana train. There’s hardly any queues, but you can buy the tickets online to save time.
  • SITA Bus. The cheapest way to move around the Amalfi Coast.
  • Naples Bay Ferry. Live schedules for the ferries in all the Amalfi Coast. I used their app to figure out schedules going to and from Amalfi town.

Did you visit Naples, Italy? How did you get around?
Let me know if these tips were useful for your planning!

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29 comments ๐Ÿ’ฌ

  1. Hello! It will be our first time in Italy this April 2020. We’ll be spending three nights in Naples then going to Rome. Do you have any advice on which train / station to take from Naples to Rome? It seems from research that there are many options. Thanks!

  2. I have been searching for day trips from Naples. This very much matches our plan. Thank you SO much for the information!

  3. Thank you SO much for this!
    I have been trying to plan a day trip to the Amalfi coast from Naples and it has been giving me such a headache until now.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I feel totally confident in building an DIY itinerary based on the the wealth of info you provided! Continue safe travesl ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I only have one thing to say – your travel guides are FANTASTIC!!!! Thank you for compiling all the useful information

  6. Visiting these islands in summer would make your trip a paradise destination. So long and detailed article always appeals to read it and makes a great memory.

  7. Hey Bruno, in regards to Sorrento to Amalfi ferry – why on their website says “via positano”? Does the ferry departure from Sorrento or we need to get in from Positano? Did you buy tickets in advance? Thanks

  8. will be in naples for 12 days in april. thank you for all this info; taking notes

  9. hey Bruno, thinking of staying in Sorrento as the accommodation is cheaper compared to positano and amalfi, and then exploring Amalfi coast and Positano by car as Iv seen car rental being really cheap. will also visit Naples city as well. how should I got about visiting these locations? start from Sorrento by staying and exploring Capri, Positano, amalfi and then end in Naples for prob a day or 2 and then flight back to UK

    1. Sufyan, did you ever hear back from Bruno? I too want to take my sons to amalfi coast, positano and perhaps pizza in naples from Rome. Any direction on whether exploring via car would be a good idea? We can stay north in naples and day trip back and forth? or stay in sorrento? or positano? thank you

  10. Wonderfully written and well explained article! Thank you very much, the blog is superb.

  11. Thank you for all of the insightful information. Can you give us your opinion as to what type of luggage is best to use, Osprey Back Pack or Roller luggage? Is there any place in Pompeii that will safely store you luggage while exploring?
    We’re planning on flying into Naples and immediately heading to Pompeii to look for a BB to stay. The following Morning doing Pompeii Ruins / Mt. Vesuvius (afternoon). Following day figure out how to get to Rome from Pompeii. Any information will be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

    1. I’m a fan of backpacks more than trolleys, but that’s very personal. In Pompeii I can’t recall any place for luggage, but it’s possible there is a luggage holder in the ticketing area itself.

  12. Wow. You are a great help as we are planning Italy in end sept 2018. Thanks. We are also planning to stay in Naples . We want to go to capri& blue grotto . Can you please guide us as how to go to blue grotto from Naples and return the same day. Thanks

    1. You’ll have to either:
      1) take the train to Sorrento + ferry to Capri
      2) take a direct ferry to Capri from Naples (more expensive I think)

  13. Thanks for all that in depth info. You’ve saved me a lot of time researching for our flying visit to N in 2018.
    Much appreciated.

  14. A very long and detailed article about the coasts in Italy. Italian food of these regions do not require any promotions. Amafali and Naples coast are best locations to spend your summer.