Whatever your time frame, these itineraries provide a starting point for the trip of a lifetime. Want more inspiration? Head online to www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree to chat with other travellers.
- 1 Week
Campania's coastline is one of the world's most beautiful, inspiring countless artists, romantics and bon vivants. This itinerary takes in its most seductive highlights.
Start with two days in Naples, spending one day exploring its World Heritage–listed historic centre and another in nearby Pompeii. On day three, catch a morning ferry to Capri, giving yourself two days to fall madly in love with this fabled island. Glide into the dazzling Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), ride up to Monte Solaro, and lose the hordes on bucolic walking trails. On day five, catch a ferry to Sorrento, from where buses and seasonal ferries continue to Positano. Base yourself here for your last nights, slipping on your Prada sandals and sauntering through its chic, labyrinthine laneways. Sup on fresh seafood, hire your own boat, or tie up your hiking boots and get a natural high on the Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods). From Positano, Amalfi is an easy day trip, the deeply historic town famed for its eclectic, centuries-old cathedral and cloisters. From Amalfi, buses lead up to sky-high Ravello, whose world-famous panoramic gardens make for a breathtaking epilogue.
Palaces, Ruins & Islands
- 14 Days
The greater Naples area is home to some of Italy's oldest and most impressive human achievements, not to mention some of its most outstanding natural scenery. Follow this route for an intoxicating mix of archaeology, artistry and soul-stirring beauty.
Base yourself in action-packed Naples for five days, savouring its World Heritage-status pizza and visceral street life. The city has an embarrassment of cultural riches, from frescoed early-Christian catacombs to soul-stirring baroque churches. Make time for top-tier antiquities at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, astounding 18th-century sculptures in the Cappella Sansevero and, in season, an evening or opera or ballet at Europe's oldest running theatre, Teatro San Carlo. Just leave time for a kayaking tour of the city's coastline, peppered with ancient ruins and anecdote-sparking villas.
Dedicate two days to day trips from the city. Options include Caserta, home to an epic, Unesco-lauded baroque palace that upstages Versailles, or Ercolano, home to the remarkably well-preserved ruins of Herculaneum. Another option is the underrated Campi Flegrei, a scattering of Graeco-Roman ruins and volcanic landscapes. Snoop around Italy's third-largest Roman amphitheatre in Pozzuoli, see where emperors soaked in Baia, or seek out the chamber inhabited by Aeneid's oracle at the ruins in Cuma. Alternatively, slip on a bathing suit and soak like the Romans in Lucrino.
Come day six, catch a ferry from Naples across to pastel-coloured Procida and spend a couple of days relaxing in stuck-in-time fishing villages and on secret beaches. From here, it's a short ferry ride across to the lush, verdant sprawl of Ischia on day eight. Take three days to explore the island's thermal springs, gardens, wineries and historic sites, among them a commanding Aragonese castle and an archaeological museum filled with local Hellenic finds.
From Ischia, high-season ferries offer direct connections to Capri. Outside this period, you will need to head back to Naples to catch a Capri-bound service. Either way, treat yourself to three days on the region's most fabled island. It's here that you'll find the scandal-riddled former retreats of Roman Emperor Tiberius and French poet, Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, not to mention some of Europe's most arresting coastal landscapes.
The Cilento Trail
- 9 Days
While the lure of Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast are irresistible, Campania heaves with lesser-known marvels. From Hellenic temples and cave-studded mountains to one of Italy's largest monasteries, this route leads down less-trodden paths.
Start your adventure in the underrated city of Salerno, home to one of Italy's most captivating medieval cathedrals. Head up to the Castello di Arechi for sweeping views, and to the revamped waterfront for a late-afternoon passeggiata (stroll). After dark, join the salernitani (Salerno locals) in the city's vibrant medieval heart for a little bar-hopping and movida (partying). On day two, bid Salerno arrivederci and head inland for three days in the rugged beauty of the Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni, Italy's second-largest national park and a Unesco World Heritage site. Base yourself at one of the park's agriturismi and explore the area's famous grottoes, namely the Grotte di Castelcivita and Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta.
Make sure you spend a morning or afternoon in Padula, famous for its mammoth Carthusian monastery, the 14th-century Certosa di San Lorenzo. Not far from the Certosa is the fabled Valle delle Orchidee (Valley of the Orchids), whose 70-plus varieties of orchid create a spectacular blaze of springtime colour. Allow a few hours to explore the shamelessly charming medieval village of Teggiano and make a stop at Roscigno Vecchia. A veritable ghost town abandoned early last century, it's one of the national park's more curious sites.
Continue west towards the coast on day five to gasp at the mighty Greek temples of Paestum, the oldest of which dates back to the 6th century BC. Spend the evening and the following morning in Agropoli, wandering its atmospheric centro storico (historic centre) before heading south to Santa Maria di Castellabate for superlative seafood noshing. On day seven, head up to the beautiful medieval town of Castellabate and wander its shamelessly charming laneways, then spend the afternoon exploring the ancient ruins of Velia. End your Cilento travels with a couple of lazy beach days in Palinuro, which, like Capri, lays claim to a dazzling Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto).