One of the great attractions of a visit to Naples is the opportunity to explore the rich cultural and natural landscape of the surrounding Campania region. Seaside escapes, restless volcanoes, royal palaces and some of the most famous archaeological sites in the world; there is something for everyone, all within easy reach of the city.
Trek up Mt Vesuvius and explore Pompeii
A morning hike up Mt Vesuvius, the volatile volcano that entombed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, is classic Neapolitan adventure. The 30-minute ascent along a steep gravel path is suitable for most fitness levels. Peering inside the crater, you won't see any gurgling lava, but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views across the Bay of Naples.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the mammoth Unesco World Heritage Site of Pompeii. Don’t miss the Forum, with its chilling Vesuvian view, the vibrantly restored Dionysus fresco at the Villa of the Mysteries, the co-ed Stabian baths, the 2nd-century BC House of the Faun and the ancient stone Amphitheatre.
Lunch stop: Just outside Pompeii's amphitheatre gate, Stuzzicò by Lucius (facebook.com/Stuzzicò-by-Lucius) serves freshly made Neapolitan dishes in a small, authentic setting.
Getting there: Take the EAV bus (eavsrl.it) from Naples to Vesuvius and back to Pompeii. Return to Naples on the Circumvesuviana or seasonal Campania Express train.
Relax and rejuvenate on Ischia
A short boat ride from Naples is the bay’s largest island – Ischia, a land of thermal waters. Saltwater and thermal pools, private beaches, massage, mud and beauty treatments and onsite restaurants... You'll find everything you need for a day of total relaxation at Castiglione, Negombo and Poseidon, Ischia’s three thermal parks.
Alternatively, skip the beauty and wellness treatments in favour of a day at the Giardino Eden Beach Club (giardinoedenischia.it). Reached by motor boat from Ischia Ponte, Giardino Eden’s pools and views are postcard perfect. Reserve lunch at their Sea Restaurant upon arrival. The seafood is so fresh it’s practical wriggling off the plate.
Leave enough time to visit Castello Aragonese and stroll along Ischia’s main shopping street, Corso Vittoria Colonna, before catching the last ferry back to Naples.
Getting there: High-speed hydrofoils leave from Naples' Molo Beverello port, slower ferries from Porta di Massa.
Luxuriate in opulence at Reggia di Caserta, the Italian Versailles
Spend the day in the lap of luxury at Reggia di Caserta, Luigi Vanvitelli’s sumptuous 1200-room palace built for a Bourbon king. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the palace's monumental staircase, Palatine chapel and lavishly appointed royal apartments, including a capacious collection of presepi (Neapolitan Christmas cribs), are open for visitors to enjoy.
Outside, roam the palace’s equally grandiose royal park. Follow the 3km-long promenade with its water channels and fountains, by foot, bus, bike or horse-drawn carriage. At the top, visit the English Garden with its seductive Bath of Venus.
Lunch stop: Just a short walk from the palace, elegant Antica Hostaria Massa (ristorantemassa.it) serves elevated classics made from local produce.
Getting there: Near to Caserta's station, the palace is easily reached by train from Naples’ Central Station.
Spend a leisurely day in Sorrento
The sun-kissed town of Sorrento radiates old world charm. Meander the crisscrossing, cobbled shopping alleys of the old town, flush with leather goods, ceramics, limoncello and the town’s world-famous inlaid wood. Visit Chiesa di San Francesco with its charming cloister and breathe in the views from Villa Comunale park. An elevator here whisks you down to Marina Piccola and a smattering of beach clubs, or head to Piazza Vittoria and stroll down to Marina Grande’s small fishing village. Don't forget to sample a spritz at Bar Fauno on Piazza Tasso before you leave.
Lunch stop: For Neapolitan pizza and southern Italian dishes served al fresco, head for La Basilica (ristorantelabasilica.com).
Getting there: Come on the Circumvesuviana and seasonal Campania Express trains from Naples, by ferry from Naples’ Molo Beverello port. From Naples Capodichino Airport take the CurreriViaggi bus.
Ramble through ancient seaside villas
Wander three luxurious leisure villas built by wealthy Romans along the Campanian coastline. Start in the town of Torre Annunziata at Pompeii’s one-time seaside suburb Oplontis. Villa Poppaea here is said to have belonged to Nero’s wife, Sabina Poppaea. More than 20 rooms are open to wander; outside is a 61-metre-long swimming pool.
Next, head south to Castellammare di Stabia and the cliffside Stabian Villas: Villa Arianna, with its rich frescoes, and the 11,000-square-meter Villa San Marco.
Lunch stop: Stop off at Piazzetta Milù (piazzettamilu.it) in Castellammare di Stabia, which has Michelin-starred cuisine, stylish decor and an eclectic wine list.
Getting there: Oplontis is easily reached on the Circumvesuviana train, but the Stabian Villas are trickier to reach. Hiring a car or driver is best for this excursion.
Surrender to the siren call of Capri
Capri is one of the most popular day trips from Naples. If you can suffer the hordes (or visit off-season), Naples’ prettiest island will enchant.
Float on the luminous azure waters of the uber-touristed Grotta Azzurra (the lines are worth it), then glide to the island’s summit on the Monte Solaro chairlift, where sublime panoramic views await. Visit Axel Munthe’s eclectic Villa San Michele for more enchanting vistas or escape to Augustus’ Gardens with views of the Faraglioni rocks.
Lunch stop: Ristorante da Gelsomina (dagelsomina.com) in Anacapri serves homemade specialities like Ravioli Capresi on their panoramic terrace.
Getting there: take a high-speed hydrofoil from Naples' Molo Beverello port or a slower (and more scenic) ferry from Porta di Massa.
Venture to a volcanic land where few visitors go
Just west of Naples is the city’s best-kept secret, the volcanic land known as the Campi Flegrei (meaning 'burning fields'). See bubbling mud pits and steaming fumaroles at the Solfatara Crater and wander the remarkably preserved underground passageways of the Flavian Amphitheatre. Visit Greek ruins at Cuma or wander the remains of a Roman seaside resort at Baia. Start your day early enough and you might even be able to fit in snorkelling, a dive or a glass bottom boat ride at Baia's underwater archaeological area.
Lunch stop: Try the traditional, seafood-rich menu at lakefront Il Casale Bellavista (ilcasalebellavista.it) at Lago Averno.
Getting there: the Solfatara Crater and Flavian Amphitheatre sites in Pozzuoli can be reached on Naples Metro Line 2 or the Cumana train. The rest of the Campi Flegrei is quite spread out and not well served by public transport. Fixed rate taxi fares are available for Baia and Cuma. Hiring a car or driver would be another option.
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