Rising formidably beside the Bay of Naples, Mt Vesuvius forms part of the Campanian volcanic arch, a string of active, dormant and extinct volcanoes that include the Campi Flegrei's Solfatara and Monte Nuovo, and Ischia's Monte Epomeo. Infamous for its explosive Plinian eruptions and surrounding urban sprawl, it's also one of the world's most carefully monitored volcanoes.
About 3.5km east of Amalfi, or a steep 45-minute walk down from Ravello, Minori is a small, workaday town, popular with holidaying Italians. Much scruffier than its refined coastal cousins Amalfi and Positano, it’s no less dependent on tourism yet seems more genuine, with its festive seafront, pleasant beach, atmospheric pedestrian shopping streets and noisy traffic jams.
Sant’Angelo & the South Coast
Tiny Sant’Angelo attracts a voguish crowd with its chic boutiques, seafront restaurants and great beaches. Quiet lanes spill down the hill to fashionable Piazzetta Ottorino Troia, where tanned locals sip Campari and soda and take in late-night summer music concerts.
Sant’Agata sui due Golfi
Perched high in the hills above Sorrento, Sant’Agata sui due Golfi is the most famous of Massa Lubrense’s 17 frazioni. Boasting spectacular views of the Bay of Naples on one side and the Gulf of Salerno on the other (hence its name, ‘St Agatha on the two Gulfs’), it’s a tranquil place that manages to retain its rustic charm despite a fairly heavy hotel presence.
Ischia Porto & Ischia Ponte
Although technically two separate towns, Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte are bookends to one long, sinuous sprawl of pastel-coloured buildings, terrace bars and restaurants, and palm-fringed shops and hotels, all of which makes for relaxed and enjoyable wandering. The ferry port itself was a crater lake, opened up to sea at the request of Spanish king Ferdinand II in 1854.
Known to the Romans as Aequa, Vico Equense (Vico) is a small cliff-top town about 10km east of Sorrento and just five stops away via the Circumvesuviana train. Largely bypassed by international tourists, it’s a laid-back, authentic place worth a quick stopover, if only to sample some of the famous pizza by the metre.
Marina del Cantone
Round the coast from Massa Lubrense, a beautiful hiking trail leads down from Nerano to the stunning Baia de Ieranto and Marina del Cantone. This unassuming village with its small pebble beach is not only a lovely, tranquil place to stay but also one of the area’s prime dining spots: VIPs regularly boat over from Capri to eat here.
Acciaroli to Pisciotta
The coastal road heading south lacks the drama (views and traffic) of its Amalfi counterpart but is still prettily panoramic. It’s an area that Ernest Hemingway apparently rated highly, particularly Acciaroli, which – despite the disquieting amount of surrounding concrete – has a charming centre.
Just beyond Erchie and its pleasant beach, Cetara is a picturesque fishing village with a reputation as a gastronomic hot spot. It has been an important fishing centre since medieval times and today its deep-sea-tuna fleet is considered one of the Mediterranean’s most important. At night, fishers set out in small boats armed with powerful lamps to fish for anchovies.
A tiny, still relatively isolated mountain village, located beyond Montepertuso, Nocelle (450m) commands some of the most spectacular views on the entire coast. A world apart from touristy Positano, it’s a sleepy, silent place where not much ever happens and where the few residents are happy to keep it that way.
Marina di Furore, a tiny fishing village, was once a busy little commercial centre, although it’s difficult to believe that today. In medieval times, its unique natural position freed it from the threat of foreign raids and provided a ready source of water for its flour and paper mills.